Desk­top CNC

Model Airplane News - - AIRWAVES - GY

I read with in­ter­est the re­view you did of the desk­top CNC sys­tem in the last is­sue of MAN. I am in­trigued. Can you tell me the ad­van­tages of a hobby-grade CNC ver­sus a laser cut­ter? Thanks for the great tech­ni­cal ar­ti­cles—keep it up.— Scott Michaels, Boul­der, CO

Scott, thanks for writ­ing. I had a lot of fun as­sem­bling and learn­ing how to op­er­ate the desk­top CNC sys­tem from Stepcraft. I’ve run sev­eral test jobs with it, and you can see them on­line at ModelAir­planeNews.com/stepcraft. First off, as with any rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive piece of shop equip­ment, you first have to de­fine what you ac­tu­ally want to ac­com­plish. If you sim­ply want to build some mod­els, I would not rec­om­mend spend­ing the money if, in the end, you could do the same tasks with a band saw. If, how­ever, you are in­ter­ested in pro­duc­ing mul­ti­ple pre­ci­sion parts, then the in­vest­ment is valid. Hav­ing both a 40-watt hobby laser cut­ter and the CNC, I’ve learned that both are use­ful and each has its own ad­van­tages. For thin wood stock, like balsa and light ply­wood (up to 1/4 inch thick), the laser cut­ter can pro­duce a lot of parts quickly. To cut thicker wood, you need to in­vest in a more pow­er­ful laser cut­ter in the 90- to 100-watt range. Also, it is great for en­grav­ing wood and cast-acrylic awards and plaques. If you want to do more and pro­duce much thicker parts—like 1/2-inch-thick fire­walls, 1/4-inch ply­wood for­m­ers, 1/8-inch ply­wood wing ribs, and other load bear­ing parts—then a three-axis CNC is the way to go. Plus, if you want to cut and ma­chine other ma­te­ri­als like car­bon fiber, alu­minum, and brass sheet ma­te­ri­als, then the CNC wins hands down. My hobby laser won’t even dent these ma­te­ri­als.—

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