3Dtek.xyz have been busy prototyping a new heavy-duty hobby CNC router.
We don’t know if it's a tough hobby mill, or an entry-level shop mill but it does slice up everything we throw in it.
Tired of turning away hobbyists and small shop customers who wanted to work a Shapeoko 2 like it was an industrial mill (because they didn’t have a spare 30-200K for an industrial machine) we decided it was time to develop something that hit the spot for a hobbyist who works with harder materials or a small shop who just can’t justify the big spend yet.
3DTek's new machine is un-named as yet, but as it weighs a lot in comparison to the Shapeoko and other hobby mills we have around here, its known as ‘heavy mill’ around our shop. The X Axis pictured is 8kg for the rail alone and each linear block is 2 tonne static load rated. As you can see it doesn’t have the Shapeoko’s X Axis flex issue, we've made a point of not standing on our Shapeoko 2, though we're pretty sure it wouldn’t appreciate it as much. We estimate the mill at 75kg’s and climbing so we made its own custom rolling table with braked castors.
Currently the Hobby CNC kit market includes some excellent routers like the Shapeoko 2, The Ox, and the new X-Carve. All of which are difficult to get our hands on in Australia and come with their own intricacies and abilities. We have owned them all (clearly not the X Carve as its not shipping yet but lets call it an upgraded Shapeoko 2) and they are all fantastic. 3DTk coupled our Shapeoko 2 kit with some of the awesome user community developed upgrades and some of our own to make a pretty handy CNC mill, however our Shapeoko 2+ and the others mentioned are perfectly designed to be a cheap entry to hobby milling, they are simply that and not more.
The Heavy mill or whatever it will be know as when its ready for consumption isn’t designed to compete with the cheaper hobby mills so its not better, its a different machine. The parts cost alone for Industrial rail and bearing blocks, heavy alloy extrusions, the t slot bed, 3 phase spindles with variable frequency drives easily exceed the retail cost of a Shapeoko 2 before any work has been done to make it a mill, add electronics, motors, drivers (geckos for this one), pumps and controls etc. The rigidity in its frame and the load capacity of its linear motion exceed these and other hobby mills by maybe 100 times. This along with increased spindle power and spindle bearing load rating is what will make the difference when it comes to cutting at production speeds, running plate alloys and other non ferrous materials. These abilities coupled with G-code controlled water cooling for the spindle and work coolant/lubricant spray for the cut, homing cycles, remote manual spindle speed override and more make short work of jobs the Shapeoko and similar would struggle with. Having Y axis bolted to the bed rather than suspended on feet, and a super strong X axis rail allows this mill to be produced with a full 1200*2400 sheet cutting area without flex issues.
So it's in a different market, we are not looking to compete (with one of our own products;) on price clearly. But we do hope that this machine will bring more capability to a small shop that otherwise might be unaffordable. A small production run of 10 units of this mill kit are underway, with feedback from the couple out in the wild at the moment we have some small updates that we will test out and then it's ready for sale. 3DTek.xyz plan to release the detailed plans, bill of materials and a part-sourcing guide to the open source community ASAP in the hope that the community can reign in the costs further and add to it in ways we haven’t considered yet.
Anyone with some CAD/CAM experience who would like to put it through its paces is invited to drop in and test it out them selves.
More info on the so-called ‘heavy mill’ soon.