For a while I had been wanting to expand into CNC manufacturing of model parts following experiences with 3D printing.
David Cowley had very generously lent me his CNC milling machine to experiment with and I had managed to produce foam ribs and ply parts without too much trouble.
This was a typical ebay Chinese hobby machine and it worked well, the main problem I found was simply due to the size limitations - I could not cut a decent sheet size.
I handed the machine back to David and put the project on hold until I sorted out my garage and put in a second bench.
Move forward 18 months and now I was in a position to pick this up again so started to look around. Remembering the size issue I had three options -
- Buy a larger machine - raises the initial costs
- Buy a smaller unit and replace the frame - wasted materials
- Build from scratch - gives most flexibility and bang/buck
With regards to this question whilst laser was an interesting proposition there were two major problems. Firstly the cost, and secondly certain materials are problematical owing to their reflectivity e.g. white foam.
(There is a solution to the second problem in that the foam could be sprayed dark to begin with, or else covered with dark paper prior to cutting.)
On balance I decided to go for a machine where I could start off with a milling solution and then add on a laser module at a later date and so started looking at articles on this and this is when I came across the concept of needle cutters...