When I decided to finally build my CNC router I took a lot of time to research and plan it out. After looking at all the options I decided to build one from metal as they seemed sturdier and required less maintenance than the MDF wood ones. The wood was tempting though as I saw some that were put together for less than $ 900. But in the end I decided to put out the money and get something that would be solid and last a long time with a lot of use. For those reasons I chose the 2 x 4 CNC router from Fine Line Automation (or FLA). It is built primarily from 80/20 extruded aluminum which is readily available and really strong. This kit is by no means for everyone as it is a little on the expensive side of CNC router kits.
Here is a list of what I ordered from FineLineAutomation:
The kit was complete and very well thought out. It was almost over engineered in places to be solid and strong. Every nut, bolt and piece was clearly labelled and it all went right together. I would say the total build of the base CNC machine took me about 10 hours. The kit consisted of 80/20 aluminum extrusion pieces which had been drilled and tapped where needed, custom aluminum plates, heavy steel running plates and racks for the gears and all the nuts, bolts and even a tube of lock-tite.
The only real issue I had is the process of working with FLA. The website says if it's listed there it is in-stock and will ship the next business day. That was clearly not the case. I ordered it on a Saturday and it shipped on the next Wednesday. I also saw some indication from other peoples posts that communication may also be an issue and indeed it has been. They have a phone number but it just goes to voice mail and I never got any responses from messages left there. They have an email and that seems to get very poor response. I asked questions three times before I purchased trying to clarify things. Finally after the third one I got an email response but it only addressed a portion of my questions. The same spotty communication continued as I had questions and issues. After numerous emails I'd get a response and it seemed to only address a portion of my questions. It seems as though FLA is a one man show and his focus is on engineering and not on delivering great customer service.
But like I said, I suspected that going into this and that is what I got. The kit however did not disappoint. It went together well and was of sound design. I only had a few little things come up that I had to deal with. They were:
Other unexpected things:
In spite of these issues, I can highly recommend this kit. It is amazingly strong and goes together well. I am hopeful that FLA will figure out the customer service part of their business and become more responsive. It shouldn't take a customer that much work and time to get simple answers and basic documentation. Also if they can't ship the same day they should remove that statement from their website.
Once the kit is assembled then you will need to figure out all the other stuff. That is what the rest of this write-up is about. This is an expensive endeavor. Buying the kit and the electronics is only a part of what you'll need. I wanted to build the complete CNC with all the bells and whistles I need to use it effectively. So for my machine I upgraded from the NEMA 23 motors to the NEMA 34 motors which are much stronger. I also decided to use the Porter Cable 892 Router which is a strong 2 1/2 H.P. router. These decisions added more cost to the basic setup.
I also needed to build a base stand for the table. Since the CNC was made of 80/20 I decided to be consistent so I made the base out of the same material. I also wanted to build a monitor and keyboard stand on it so that also required more 80/20 material and parts. I also had to figure out how to make my work surface so I looked at a lot of other systems out there trying to find the best options. Below are my results.
Limit and eStop switches
From Amazon I purchased an eStop button and six limit switches (2 for each axis). These all took a little thought but they went in easily. I had to buy some aluminum strapping and some nuts and bolts but all these were available at a local hardware store. I already had the wire already laying around. I soldered solid terminals on the wire ends and I joined the switches in parallel for each axis. So in the end I had four sets of wires, one each for the X, Y and Z axis and one for the eStop button.
I built my base from pieces ordered from 80/20. If you do this be prepared for sticker shock.
The 80/20 pieces are a bit expensive. They have a great catalog on their website and you can
order almost everything from their Amazon store. I got all the aluminum and connections from there.
I bought some nice wheels from Harbor Freight and welded up some cups to join the wheels with the base.
I also made wheel chocks as I couldn't find any locking wheels of the right size at Harbor Freight.
I also built a shelf on the base to hold all the other equipment. Here is a list of the items
I had to order to build it:
December 2014 Update
I thought I'd update this a little with where I'm at now. I have been using this now for just under a year. Everything has been working well and I've been learning little by little. Here are a few of the big things:
Some Working Samples