Sometime last year we tentatively voted through a budget for a sheet router, which was going to be revisited when we had the room and an extended lease.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and that style of sheet router has some limitations for us:
- cost - by the time you include electrical works, shipping, customs duties, GST, transport, etc we’re not getting much change from $15k (I got 3 quotes for our ideal machines, and all were in this ballpark figure). This would wipe out approximately half of our savings, which isn’t ideal when we are still in limbo with our lease.
- room - there is room in the woodshop for a full sheet CNC router, however there is no way of getting it in there without taking a wall out or adding a roller door, further adding to any costs.
- users - there are currently only a few people who could use a machine with an ATC/etc, meaning it gets underutilised, or one or two people get a massive workload.
- unknown quality - we’re still talking about imported Chinesium, with sketchy aftermarket support and probably needing a lot of work to getting it up and running.
I know of a guy from the GC who owns Sharp Software, and they sell a half sheet router kit for approximately $3k to our door with everything you need to run including a 1.5kw spindle and VFD. Now, this is definitely not the ‘ideal’ kit for us (steppers instead of servos, speed limited due to frame stiffness/spindle power, would need a table/spoil board built for it, no dust extractor), but it does have a few big benefits:
- it’s approximately 1/5 the cost of the other options we were looking at
- it’s simple enough with a big enough community of users that there are a large number of members who could successfully use it now
- it’s from an Australian company, with a legit warranty, and who carry spares/consumables
- it can be plumbed into our current dust extractor easily
- it can be moved into the wood shop, installed onto a table and be up and running in a day
- the owner of the company is a maker, and is super keen to help our communities like ours
My current thoughts are to get this kit as it wouldn’t significantly impact our finances, and to help show:
- somebody will take charge of it
- we can run workshops with it
- there are a number of people who will learn how to use it
- we really need servos/ball screws/racks for our applications
- we can justify giving up 15sqm for a limited use tool
David has also mentioned they have a new kit coming out within the next year which has all of the nice stuff we were looking at, and it is within our already voted on budget. If this is the case, the half sheet kit can reasonably easily and inexpensively be retrofitted with a plasma cutter head, and we’d have a half-sheet CNC plasma (a VERY useful tool for us to have).
If all of the above things are true, then in that time frame when we come to upgrade it would have already paid for itself and we’re no worse off financially than we are now - only we’ve got a community of users, we’ve gotten rid of a bunch of our speakers, and we can be known for having a CNC router available for members (a massive drawcard for membership).
I know people are going to be against the idea as it’s not -their- idea of what we should spend money on, but I really think it’s the most logical step for us to move towards having a industrial-quality full sheet router in the future.