CNC routers at this smaller end of the scale are available from quite a few manufactures, mainly in the USA, Germany and, of course, China. The Chinese products are widely available on the internet (eBay and the like). Importing one directly from China seems a little daunting with the risks associated with service, support and perhaps quality control. The web is awash with sad tales of poor quality products from China and the difficulties of getting support. The chance to buy locally (in Australia, that is – even though I am 3500 km way from Melbourne) was a risk-reducing strategy, though probably adding AUD$1000 to the price for the privilege.
Many of the smaller CNC routers provide controllers driven through parallel (LPT) ports from a PC. This type of connection was developed before the days of USB communications and was necessary to achieve the required high speed two-way communications required between the CNC machine and the host computer. With the advent of USB and the more sophisticated windows operating systems there is a move towards supporting USB communication interfaces. It is still true, however, that the most common control software (e.g. Mach3 and LinuxCNC) only support LPT type interfaces out of the box. There are a number of USB/LPT converters available, and also some comments that some work better than others. These allow the computer's USB port to be connected to the LPT port provided in the controller box and thus allow a computer without a LPT port to be used. This also reduces the complications of using a modern Windows OS (W7 or W8) where access to the LPT port (perhaps via a new add-in card) is more difficult to achieve, or using a notebook computer that may not support an LPT card.
My 6090 controller comes standard with a USB interface and the appropriate drivers for Mach3. It is the AKZ250 Mach3 USB Motion Card from leafboy77.com (a Chinese supplier). It comes with the appropriate driver that, once installed, works with no problems on my Windows 7 computer. This USB-based motion controller seems to work quite well, I have not detected any communications problems.
My machine had to be shipped from Melbourne to Perth, and it arrived safely after a week or so after transit across the Nullabor.
Here it is in its packaging box as delivered:
It was bigger than expected, even though the supplier indicated that it would weight 170 kg. It is a “4-man” job to unpack, move and install it, though with a bit of technology support 2 people can do it. Here is how it looks with the top of the box off:
I did not make any specific plans for installing until I had it to measure up, so the first task was to build a table to place it on. This table is half home grown. One must be creative and opportunistic. After looking for a “proper” workshop bench I decided to use a rather cheaper IKEA wooden kitchen table with some modifications to increase its rigidity. These also provide a useful bench for the controller and water tank, as well as strengthening the whole unit. I also added locking casters as a means of moving it about as it is too heavy for one person to move. To improve the stability, once in position, I have added four heavy duty lifting levellers (these can be found in the internet); these jack the table up off the casters when operating.
The only part of the supplied package that looked “poor” was the water tank used for the cooling water supply. A rather flat container with a large removable lid was provided. While this might have worked well enough I decided to get a somewhat larger and more robust water container from my local hardware store:
Here is the controller, front and rear views of the controller box:
At the rear we have the 3-axis motor cables, a power cable for the spindle, a power cable for the light, and another for the Z-height calibrator and one to the water pump that goes inside the tank. All these cables are collected into a single umbilical cable that goes to the rear end of the machine. There is a spare spot for a 4th axis. There is a socket for the USB cable from the host computer.
On the front there is a power on/off button and an emergency stop button (that has been used a few times already). There are on/off switches for the spindle, light and cooling water pump. Also, the spindle motor speed controller control panel. This comes pre-configured for remote operation and seems to work as required with no intervention.
I am sure that as my experience grows I will find many more ways to configure the set up to make the operations run more smoothly.
Some initial observations:
Some initial additions have been:
There are many products available that assist with creating the graphics and the cut paths. What you need depends very much on the type of work.