Doing your homework and researching will save you money and time in the long
run. Here are some information about our research and what we found important
along the way and some ideas that may help you in building your CNC Machine.
We knew that we wanted a new CNC Machine that could serve more than just one
function. We outlined the items that it must have:
Ability to machine: wood, plastic, aluminum
Table size fits intended products.
Various machine components are universal and will work with other products and are not proprietary (ie require you to buy only one brand or limit your options)
Reliable / Very Accurate
Easy to operate and maintain
Backed by reputable Company(s) with real support options ( be careful of the company that wants to charge you to call them and ask questions after you have spent thousands on a purchase. You are going to have questions so find out how there support system works.)
One mistake that people often make when getting into CNC Machines is purchasing a unit that does not to allow you to expand your production in the future. If you purchase a machine that can only produce one widget a day because that is all you need at the moment you may find yourself wanting on needing more in a very short time. Be sure that you look to the future and buy a machine that not only meets your current needs but exceeds them or find a machine that can grow and expand with you. Don’t Compromise!
When you are picking the components look at the total cost, sometimes the most critical components are not included. Make sure when you compare products you are looking at what it and is not included for the price.
How and Where to Research the components:
Internet / Google
Web Forums -
Trade shows -
Email Questions to the companies and ask questions, evaluate the time it takes to get an answer and the quality of the answer you get.
In person -
There are so many options and reasons to choose one part or brand over another. We do not know what your situation is and what is best for you so we are presenting some points to ponder, questions and ask and documentation of what we did and why.
When we started looking and doing our research for our new system we used every one of the items above except in person visits.
For the router table you can buy a ready to use table or you can basically build your machine from scratch by utilizing kits or sourcing all of the components from various manufactures.
What’s the difference and the benefit either way?
Building your own gives you the ability to custom fit and design the table to your every need. The pride that comes from building it yourself and often a cost savings by doing it yourself. Its going to obviously take more time and you are likely to run into a few problems along the way, but sometimes that is half the fun. Building it your self can limit your choice of materials. Most home built routers are often made of wood and other products that are easy to construct with common tools. Your not likely to see a home built machine made out of machined parts.
Turn key tables have their advantages as well. Time savings is obvious the ability
to take a product out of a box and hook it up speeds up the process. The tolerances
and build materials are often tighter and stronger than a home-
Info coming soon!
Router Bits Tooling
Info coming soon!
When we were looking for our electronics package we knew we wanted a one company solution for all of the electronics controls. We wanted integrated torch height control and we wanted a packaged that could interface with our plasma cutter and make use of all of the automation features built into the Plasma cutter.
We found some really high end system that were great but out of the range of a small fab shop like ours. We found that most were sold as part of a complete turnkey table option and not sold by themselves. When looking for an al a carte electronics package the one that was everywhere and had great reviews was the Dragon Cut system from CandCNC. Every forum we went to every one we talked to kept pointing us to CandCNC.
They had everything we were looking for: THC , CNC automation integration between our plasma cutter and their electronics. They used the same software we were already using it was a good fit. The table manufacture Precision Plasma was very familiar with the product and said it was fully compatible with their Z axis and floating head configuration.
To learn more about the Dragon Cut system from CandCNC please
We discussed software a little before. Basically there are three programs that you
use when working with a CNC Plasma Machine. A drawing / CAD program like the very
popular Corel Draw to design a part or an image. That file is usually saved in a
file format called dxf. Then another program called a CAM or Computer Aided Manufacturing
program comes into play. You import your dxf file into this program and it prepares
it to go from a drawing to tool paths that the torch will follow. You can program
in and control direction of cut, speeds, lead ins, pierce delays. You can array
parts and nest parts in your cutting area. After you complete this process with
the CAM program you export your work in the form of G-
While simplified that is the basic idea. Obviously there are many different manufactures of each of the three programs. There is a lot of personal preference and past experience that comes into which program you go with as well as how big is your budget.
You can purchase a CAD program for several thousand dollars or get Corel Draw for a few hundred and do most of the same things. One factor you have to consider is what type of work will you be doing? Home shop, or business? If you are dealing with industrial clients who are sending you parts designed and created in Auto cad or Solidworks it would be best if you had those programs. There are free options out there that work decent for some applications. for more info on software.
Our first CNC Plasma machine can pre installed with SheetCam for the CAM Program and Mach3 for the machine control program. We found these programs extremely easy to use, very inexpensive and capable of doing everything we needed. We wanted to stay with this programs to save from having to learn something else new and for the fact that they worked so well there was no reason to switch for us.
Make sure what ever programs you do choose that they work with the other components in the system.
We were fortunate that our Dragon Cut System from CandCNC was configured to run with SheetCam and Mach3.
One of the components in a CNC Plasma system is a dedicated machine computer. This is not just any computer there are some special requirements for this computer. Not really something you have to worry about in a turn key system but if you are building a system like we are make sure you know what work and what does not work.
Your computer should be a dedicated computer that is only used to control the machine. You should not be running your CAD or art software or games or other unrelated programs on this computer. It is also best to avoid laptops for this as well due to the way some of their ports are configured. Make sure to check with your electronics supplier and your cam and machine software supplier on what they recommend. Mach3 has some pretty specific requirements. For more on these requirements
Once you get a list of all of the components you think you want talk to each manufacture and ask does it work with these other components. If they don't know watch out! Do your homework check the forums and make sure before you buy anything. All of these components have to come together and work flawlessly for you to get good results. For more info on the product we choose check out the