Chip Milling with a 3018 CNC

BSteck

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Hi all,

I've seen a couple milling setups (drill press, router table, big CNC's, etc.) but I don't think I've seen a thread using one of these small little cheapie CNC engravers. And so here we go with my toy CNC milling journey. I'll be posting updates as I go so I don't know how or if this is going to end up. Hopefully this might be of use if someone else decides to take this path.

First up is the machine.
I picked up one of these little guys off eBay. To me it seemed like they were all about the same as long as you were looking at the CNC 3018 'Pro' version. Here's an Amazon link for the model: https://www.amazon.com/Upgrade-Version-3018-Engraver-Controller/dp/B07MDG7R2J/. It's a small little thing and I'm probably looking at only being able to mill a single chip at a time. But hopefully it will have enough gumption to shave off .3 mm from a rack of hotstamps while giving me a little more control than I could get with a drill press or table router - guess we'll see. It arrived in about a week from the random eBay US based warehouse reshipper vendor I picked and I spent the morning putting it together. The assembly was fairly straight-forward - pictures only in the assembly PDF. I had a few head-scratching, wait-that-doesn't-look-right, back-it-up-and-reassemble moments. Here's a pretty decent video of the assembly process:
. FWIW, the machines from all these 3018 CNC vendors look about the same but Sainsmart definitely looks to have the best documentation available (http://wiki.sainsmart.com/index.php/101-60-280PRO). I got a good tip from a couple of members here to re-check for square and level before you tighten everything down. And so here's the 'Rosie the Router' on the workbench ready for testing. Hi Rosie!
2020-04-20 10.02.50.jpg

Now on to the software.
I tested two different approaches. The first approach uses a combination of freeware software that came with the router: Inkscape and Candle. First you create your design in Inkscape, go through some tweaks/conversions (I can describe if anyone is interested), and then import it into Candle for carving. I did a little test image. :)
1587399252433.png
Hooray! Test success! But the entire Inkscape to Candle process was a little convoluted. I could see how it might give you a little more control - especially if you want to get into editing the NGC file. But for this project I'm just basically milling circles into chips. So it's on to software approach 2: Easel (https://easel.inventables.com/). Easel is a web-based app and it took a couple tries to get it to recognize my little Rosie. But eventually I found the right help article to get the settings correct (again, I can describe what worked for me if anyone is interested). Easel can import SVG images from Inkscape without having to go through the couple extra configuration steps. Then you can set all the depth, material, bit variables right in Easel. The interface is simple and intuitive and the basic version is free. So for now I'm going to be working with Easel until it proves it can't do what I need.

Unfortunately, Rosie only came with some pointy little engraving bits. They were fine for this little testing round, but I think I'm going to need some different bits for serious chip milling. So I placed another eBay order for some bits like these and I'm in waiting mode. (https://www.amazon.com/SainSmart-Ge...m/dp/B07P7LGQJ6/ref=sr_1_6?crid=3N2DHVECNQV42)

I'll post an update in a couple of days when the new bits arrive.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward to seeing if anyone else has gone this route.
 
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One Eyed Dollar

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Very cool, and I look forward to updates! My Ender 3 printer is from SainSmart and their customer service has been good for me.
 

BSteck

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I made a quick little single chip holder jig yesterday. It consists of one of those rubber jar opener grippie things with a thin piece of packing foam on top - both just glued to a scrap board. It seems to hold the chip nice a snug but I guess we'll see if it's enough when the bit hits the chip.
2020-04-21 11.43.52.jpg

Feel free to make fun of my circle cutting skills. :)
 
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BSteck

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Hey @BSteck, any updates on this thread?
Sorry... I changed directions on the project that I was doing the milling. So I haven’t picked this back up.

But my last tests were going well. The new bits were working great. I needed to create a different jig setup that held the chip firmly because I was having trouble with the chips spinning during milling.

The other challenge was dialing in the depth. But once I figured out to use a consistent starting/ending Z position (something like +10 over the chip face) everything was working well.

All and all I think milling is doable with the small little CNC. If (when) I have a new project needing milling I’ll definitely continue down this path.
 
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Schmendr1ck

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Thanks for the additional info. I think I'm going to give @Eloe2000's method a try since I've got about 1800 chips to mill for a limit set, and it seems like a small CNC would work well but probably not as fast for a large quantity.

Still, those little 3018s are only about $200, so I might pick one up to try it out anyway.
 

BSteck

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Thanks for the additional info. I think I'm going to give @Eloe2000's method a try since I've got about 1800 chips to mill for a limit set, and it seems like a small CNC would work well but probably not as fast for a large quantity.

Still, those little 3018s are only about $200, so I might pick one up to try it out anyway.
Yah... I’m not sure I’d be up for tackling much more than a rack with the little 3018 but it was a fun little tinker project.
 
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