So, I have had a Sainsmart 3018 Prover for a few weeks now and I just got a NextWave Shark HD500 a week or so ago. Prior to this I have had ZERO experience with CNC machines.
My learning curve actually wasn’t as steep as I thought though since I have had a vinyl sign cutter for well over 15 years and have been 3D printing for about 7 years or so. I have a grasp on things moving round on an X, Y, and Z axis.
Ultimately, it ends up being about the software with these things. Sure, you need some hardware knowledge but once the machine is built and is sound it ends up being about the design of the file, and the sending of that file to your CNC via Gcode. Gcode is what tells the machine how and where to move from start to finish and everything in between.
The Sainsmart 3018 Prover doesn’t really come with software, except for Candle which is only a Gcode sending program. So I guess I meant to say it doesn’t really come with DESIGN software.
The Next Wave Shark HD500 comes with Vectric Vcarve Desktop which may be among the best in design software. But know this:
- First you draw a design
- Then you generate a Toolpath to carry out that design.
- Then you send that Toolpath via generated Gcode to your machine.
It is possible that those 3 simple steps each require their own software. Some software can do all, some can do 2 of those things, some can only do 1.
I bought a super cheap Genmitsu Sainsmart 3018 Prover CNC machine. It is amazing how capable that inexpensive machine is. It lacks a few important features though. Size, speed, and it comes with entry level software. Almost the first thing I learned about this machine was that I was going to outgrow it fast. Don’t get me wrong, it can do amazing things………..But it is the lower end of the CNC spectrum. And so was the software.
So I took a step up and bought the Next Wave Shark HD500 CNC.
With consumer CNC machines it seems the next jump up from a lower tier one financially is a mighty one. In fact it is AT LEAST a 10x’s or more jump. But with that jump comes a lot of improvements.
Next Wave Shark HD500 CNC
With the Next Wave CNC you are going to get a much larger working surface, improved bed and securing system. Also the axises move via lead screws instead of belts and the gantry moves instead of the table.
Accuracy and precision are improved, as is speed. Best of all it comes with Vectric Desktop software which is definitely not an entry level offering.
In short, this is a big boy machine replete with lots of bells and whistles.
Disclaimer: I’m by no means an expert. Yet. And your mileage may vary. These are my considerations.
UPDATE: I had to update this post as I had previously selected and ordered a Shapeoko 4. Their lead time indicated shipping in 5-6 days. After 10 days of hearing nothing I cancelled my order after hearing on a forum that others who ordered days before me were told (after they had trouble getting an answer out of anyone) that their units MIGHT ship in a week or two. John don’t play that shit. It’s one thing to have a shipping delay but it is an entirely different thing to have a delay and not inform someone who has dropped a couple of thousand dollars that there has been a delay. I simply CANNOT recommend to anyone to buy the Shapeoko machines. What if there is a problem? If they can’t deliver on the front end, they might not be able to deliver on the back end.
Well I bought a Sainsmart 3018 Prover CNC and while it is super cool about the first thing it revealed to me was that I was going to outgrow this thing FAST. I want to make big signs and in some respect I can do that now with simple wood working tools and my CO2 laser.
This is John 3:16 on about a 19″ piece of cedar.
Simple routed edge, then lasered, then wiped down with Butcher Block oil.
Looks magnificent. No complaints at all.
But I can CARVE exquisite details with a CNC. But how to choose which one? Let me tell you my choice and how I arrived at it.
Like the title says……..these are just my first observations.
I have been cutting vinyl signs for 15 or more years, 3D printing for 7 or so years, and using lasers for a couple of years, so I have some experience with computerized things moving along 2 or 3 axises.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control which just means a machine is automated by a computer. I started this because I was making cool stuff in my laser but was limited by my woodworking skills. I was given a real life wood router which really picked my game up and keeps me from spending extra money on pre-routed wood blanks at the hobby stores. Anyway, I caught the woodworking bug and invested in an entry level CNC machine.
Enter the Sainsmart 3018 Prover. I must have caught it just right on a Black Friday Sale or something because I paid around $250 and the price immediately went up about $50 – $100 depending on where you buy it from. Before I talk about the machine I’ll throw down some general impressions of CNC.