Inventables Community Forum

Still on the fence

Hey gents -

So, I’m still on the fence w/ the XCarve - cart is loaded, thought I was good to go on the 1000 mm, and then after joining a FB page for CNC/Luthiers, I was met w/ some comments as follows:

“…if you get the x carve the cool factor will wear off quickly and you will be wanting to upgrade.”

“…And you will want to upgrade it. I have had to make plates to stiffen up the y axis, I have also done the z axis upgrade as well. These have all made a big difference but I feel it still lacks compared to any machine using ballscrews and linear guide rails. I’m going to sell mine and go with an Axiom machine. I can’t stand the constant attention to the belts and v wheels.”

“…for a starter entry level CNC it’s a good starter, but there are others, for a little more will do you much better in my opinion.”

Some recommendations that came in were:

CNC Parts Desktop
AXIOM Precision
STEPCRAFT
OPENBUILDS

Thanks in advance. The last thing I want to do is be messing around unnecessarily, AND/OR once the honeymoon phase of owning a CNC machine ends, wishing I’d had a more robust machine.

Is there validity to the above comments? Like any tool in my shop (and it took me a while to learn this), I’d rather spend a bit more upfront in view of satisfaction and longevity.

Looking forward to what you guys have to say.

It all depends on what you want to achieve with this kind of machine… The points made by others above are valid but lacking context. What are they trying to achieve, and are their goals the same as yours?

And from another angle: I enjoy upgrading my XC. Half the fun! :grinning:

I feel there is no simple go/no-go answer to give you here regarding the XC…

And in other news - I believe this will be my next cnc:

http://rawcnc.com

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of the listed machines, I can say that several of them will be stiffer in theory (vertical depth in the rails adds to that), but I can’t say whether that extra stiffness will translate directly to accuracy (there is a limit). Out of all of them none will come close to matching price for what you get in an X-Carve except Openbuilds which is probably the closest in price.

I’m not familiar with the company practices, or associated communities behind any of them so I can’t speak for them, but my brief experience here has shown me both Inventables and it’s community are extremely helpful and responsive, which is a must for those just entering CNC.

I’d need a lot more time to compare things like firmware or software options, since none of them list them directly (but whomever got the deal with Vectric here is a bloody genius, considering they pretty much NEVER give discounts)

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If you can afford an Axiom, get an Axiom. I love my little X Carve, but it took over a year before it finally got dialled in, and just by the nature of belts over ballscrews, it will never be robust enough to seriously make guitars with. Sometimes it just stops mid-carve, which sucks when you have a $200+ blank on there, it needs tweaks and adjustments… it’s cute if you want to do cute little projects, but it’s not a pro machine. I’m buying an Axiom next year.

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I’ve had my XCarve for almost two years and it is completely stock. Never had an issue other than self imposed problems. If you take your time and build it correctly the first time, it will work great and is a lot easier than trying to fix problems later. Don’t have any experience with the other machines listed. I knew nothing about CNC when I started.

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That may have been your experience, but it isn’t everyone’s. My machine shipped with a trapezoidal gantry, and it took forever for customer service (who were patient and as helpful as I could have hoped for) to finally diagnose and rectify the issue. I take exception to your suggestion that I didn’t put my machine together correctly, because it’s factually incorrect.

Simply means I did not experience a problem. I was missing a couple of parts, customer service sent them immediately. Yes I had to wait to get the entire machine shipped because it was shipped in several boxes at different times. I also did not have damaged parts. I’m only sharing my experience. Take it for what it is and nothing more. Others will share their experiences or they will not. It’s an open forum.

It is factually correct for me. You had a defective part. I’m glad customer service was there to help

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It is just my opinion, but the experience you get from building your first CNC is worth it. Buying a fully assembled machine is nice and it will work great for a while, but without the knowledge of how all the components work, how to tune and maintain it correctly. The machine will gradually get worse over time.

The $1,000 bucks you will spend on the X-Carve is like paying for an advanced class in CNC design and function. Plus you really do not want to make the inevitable rookie mistakes on an expensive machine. Trust me, the first time you plow the the tool collet deep into your waste board you will be very happy you did it on your X-Carve that you know how to fix.

So buy the X-Carve, build it, use it, learn what it can teach you, Then sell it for 80 to 90% of what you paid for it and buy a bigger/stiffer/more powerful machine.

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I’ll add my 2 cents to the discussion. About 15 years ago I built my first machine from scratch. I had purchased plans from a guy named John kleinbauer( @ crankorgan.com). At that time he was using window extrusion. There weren’t resources available like there are today. I bought his plans for a design that used pipe and skate bearings. It was Ok, but 1/4-20 allthread makes for a slow moving machine. I purchased a Maxnc controller and motors for it. Fast Forward a year or so, and I decided to build a bigger machine using drill rod and the skate bearing design. I utilized HDPE for plates. The bed was MDF. I also bought a Maxnc controller for this unit with their motors. I made a lot of guitar related parts on that machine. A few years later, a company called PCNCautomation advertised on the CNCZone for a machine around 4000 dollars. I took the plunge. You can read all about the machine at the cnczone, but the machine had a lot of slop.

Another year or so I found out about K2 ( Now Velox) machines. They had a smaller desktop with unsupported linear guides that cut a 15 x 25 work area. I bought a probotix wired controller and 280 oz in motor system for it. The bare bones system was maybe under 2000 dollars. I have used that machine as my main router for a number of years. It is pretty accurate but I wanted something a bit longer. The Shapeoko2 came out and I bought one with the idea that I could expand it to about a meter. I did that but the GRBL power was just too simple for me compared to Mach3 and I was using it with a bogus grinder for tooling. frustrated, I mothballed it for 4 years until I did the X carve upgrade the past couple of months.

I think the X carve is a pretty neat piece of engineering, but it isn’t in the same league as a machine with industrial type parts. It’s apples and oranges. My K2 holds a Porter Cable 620 router and that takes .5"diameter cutters. That means it has some oomph to it. The Xcarve will take more time to do the same work. If the X controller can handle all the code without screwing up, it should be able to do the same work, although, I’m not sure how I can go any deeper than 1" with a smaller cutter.

So to summarize this, If money isn’t an object, I’d go for something with supported linear guides and antibacklash screws. Ballscrews aren’t a total necessity in my opinion. If you are planning on becoming a guitar factory, I’d save your money and get your last machine first. If you are doing a variety of craft items, I can see the sense in the x carve. My goal was to be able to do some lawn art for a friend of mine and I decided to upgrade for something to do. I am planning a body and neck for it, but I’m not sure I’ll do more than one, unless the neck comes out really nice.

If you want to build a small cnc to learn the ropes, there are plenty of plans out there and you can do it for a few hundred dollars. Check out instructables and crankorgan.com. The other idea is to buy a used x carve and then move up. I suggest that you go over to tdpri.com and do a search for the cnc guitar threads too.

Marty

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I think Allen Massey’s comments are pretty much spot on. You will feel yourself outgrow the xcarve, but the experience you get from it is very much worth it. Xcarve definitely gave me a headstart into cnc, you just can’t get a better package that goes right off the truck into your shop and carving. You will have problems, but that comes with the territory.

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I looked in to CNC routers for a few months before I finally pulled the trigger just over a year ago and bought my x-carve. For the money, you won’t find anything like it for the size. I never actually looked at the open builds machines, but have heard good about them, I do have a few tiny parts from them and their customer service seems good. As for inventables customer service, excellent. I’m in the middle of doing a few upgrades to my 1000mm, and even with what I’m spending on the upgrades I couldn’t buy a machine with the same quality and these upgrades will make the x-carve solid as a rock from what others that did similar work say and show.

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Imagine if you went out and spent $60,000 on a new Porsche. A week into owning it, you accidentally drop a box of heavy items on it and you dent it pretty bad. Repairs are outrageously expensive because well, it’s a Porsche. That’s how you’ll feel if you buy an expensive machine and make a mistake that we all eventually make and ruin a part of the machine.

Now imagine buying a $10,000 10-year old car. Same scenario, something heavy drops on it and dents it. You take it to your friends garage, he hammers out the dent and it just costs you a case of beer. That’s how you’ll feel if you buy an Xcarve and make that same mistake that we all make.

I’ve stripped screws (I hate those stupid button screws), replaced Vwheels, replace spindle mount, belts, etc. All for various reasons that I probably could have avoided but learned that the hard way. I’ve upgraded my motors, new Hitachi router, my Z axis, dust boots, Y rails, etc. I’ve gone from a Raspberry Pi to a Mini PC to control it. Added a monitor, new workbench, etc. If you can think about it, I’ve probably either broken it or upgraded it. I push my Xcarve more than most do (1/8" DOC at 100 ipm into walnut w/ a 1/4" EM, 1/16" EM at 160ipm into pine) and plan to keep pushing it because I’ve not actually reached that “slow down” point. I wanna push it till it breaks then back up a little.

I still haven’t spent more on my machine than what most of those others you listed will cost you.

CNC Router Parts? Expect to easily spend $5-6k when you include electronics, spindle mounts, spindles, etc. and then throw in MACH3 ($150), Vcarve ($350, $700, or $1400 for Aspire…unless you go Fusion 360), bits, etc. And that only gives you 24"x24" of space. If you want larger, that price tag goes up some.

Axiom? Easily $6k again excluding the SW needed to run the machine and do CAD/CAM design, bits, etc.

Stepcraft? Probably $3-4k and then any CAD/CAM, bits, etc.

Openbuilds? I believe the Openbuilds machine is in a similar class as the Xcarve and a bit more expensive.

Remember also, those making comments otherwise may have older machines. The latest generation of the Xcarve has come a long way concerning a lot of those pain points mentioned.

Will the Xcarve work as a stock machine? Yes, absolutely.
Will it be the quickest machine? No, but it’ll work.
Is a new Z axis linear slider better? Yes, but it’s not required.
Are 9mm belts better? Yes, but it’s not required.
Is Inventables customer support amazing? Yes.
Is the forum an invaluable resource for your Xcarve journey? Yes. There are a lot of very helpful people doing amazing things with their machines.

In the end, the choice is yours. If you want to spend the money and risk a pricey repair, then go for it. Or, as Allen stated, get the Xcarve, learn on it, get better, and then upgrade to the better machines and sell the Xcarve.

If I had to get a machine right now given what I know now, I’d buy a 1000mm Xcarve, a CNC4Newbies Z slider, 2 pieces of wide makerslide, order true Gates GT belts (stock 2mm pitch, 6mm width), go get a set of Charley’s 1" lift plates with holes for the wide makerslide in them and build the machine using wide makerslide for all rails. That should be Inventables next upgrade (along with a Z slider) in my opinion. It’s an extra $300-350 for those 2 upgrades and they would make a huge difference, in my opinion.

In the end, it’s all about what you are comfortable spending and doing. My Xcarve fits my needs well but it may not fit your needs.

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Here’s my experience with the X-carve. It will do just about anything you need it to, just a little slower. When I feel it’s time to upgrade, I will be building my new CNC, because now I understand everything I need to in order to take a project like that on. I could not have done this prior to owning an X-carve. I can tell you I will definitely be spending less than $4-12k that Axiom charges to do it, also.

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One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that with the X-carve Inventables has done the leg work to identify compatible components and put them all in the kit. Almost all of the other CNC kit offerings are not complete. You have to add this part or that part to make a working machine.

For me this was a huge plus to have for the first machine that I got. And I also had the “learning” mode that Alan mentioned. I had totally enjoyed getting to know something about the CNC world by building the X-carve.

When you are adding up your cost, consider how much your time is worth. If you spend hours and hours researching components you will quickly eat up as many resources as it would take to just buy the X-carve.

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Thanks Ebr -
The questions I posed to the FB group were in reference to guitar building. I hear you RE no clear-cut answer and as evidenced by this thread, opinions vary (as opinions do). It’s good to get some feedback from experienced users / those who’ve been down this research phase. Thanks again.

I hear you, Nox. I’ve learned that the ‘kits’ are nothing more than the frame so prices add up quickly when you start adding the controllers and so forth. The quote from CNC Parts (while a beautiful looking machine) came in around 7-8k USD (add 30 points for us CDNs)… pretty steep. A few thousand more than the XCarve for a machine I can grow into for many years sounds reasonable as far as budget. 8K is a bit rich for me at this point.

Other points made from sales reps I spoke with were that the XCarve is essentially using ‘printer parts’ and simply didn’t compare to a ‘true CNC machine’.

Anyway - this is all providing food for thought. I appreciate your input.

That’s my fear, JV. While affordable by comparison, it’s still a chunk of change. The last thing I want to do is be spending more time ‘tweaking’ than I am creating or, as you say, ruin workpieces due to parts that need to be upgraded.

“…it’s cute if you want to do cute little projects, but it’s not a pro machine.” - this line is resonating as I don’t want to just create house number signs. I need accuracy and consistency I can depend on. Thanks man… taking all this info in ;).

Thanks Phillip - can I ask what type of work / volume you typically use your machine for?

Points taken, Allen. Thank you.

Would I be incorrect in my thinking that every machine would come with a waste-board that would ‘absorb’ all of those rookie mistakes? I think all the machines listed require some assembly (I could be wrong).

I hear you RE the value of building / understanding the ins/outs of the machine assembly. I’m not 100% sold on buying with the intention of selling and buying something else. However, given the prices out there for a more robust unit, it’s looking outside of my league. Lots to think about.

I found a CDN CNC this morning at a more reasonable price point. I’m going to post that in this thread to get some feedback.

Cheers, Martin.

I wish I could say money wasn’t an object, but it is, hence my fence-sitting and research. Buying my ‘last machine first’ speaks to me and reminds me of my '69 MGB (now long gone). When I was in the market to purchase, all the ‘seasoned’ fellas said, “Spend as much as you can upfront because you’ll end up spending it anyway in time and parts to make it what you want.” There’s value in putting in a bit more upfront, I think.

RE building one from scratch, that’s part of the appeal of a ‘kit’ for me so that I can get it assembled, tweak it, and get back to building what I love versus taking on a project that may require constant upgrading, fine-tuning and updating of parts. I don’t really want another ‘project’ and would much prefer a tool (noting of course that anything will need some maintenance).

I’m guessing that the guys who purchased the first gen of the XCarve thought it was a Gucci piece of gear as well. No doubt things have evolved quite a bit / become more sturdy based on the contributions and recommendations of this community. My guess is that things will continue to evolve – I’m just not 100% on where in the evolution I want to jump in. The price-point is appealing, without a doubt – as is the community here, which I’m already getting a sense of. Thanks.