X-Carve Assembly and Operation

I teach at a high school and I wanted introduce my students to CNC. My question is does the x carve come assembled and how difficult is this machine to operate.

@NeilFerreri1 - you might have some input for Rod here, as you are a STEM teacher IIRC?

Neil will be able to offer you a lot of help but to answer you question, NO the X-Carve does not come assembled and the X-Carve is easy to operate.

The x carve has great instructions and that shouldn’t be any issue to somebody who can follow directions.

I was a shop and technology education teacher and built a cnc back in the day during my final few years before I retired. My biggest concern with any machine was durability, whether it was a cheap Asian made drill press or whatever.

The use of it is another thing. One has to have a basic knowledge of at least Easel or some other CAD and CAM program to really get the benefit out of it.

The X carve is not enclosed, so that should be a consideration in your purchase too.

If I were buying a cnc router for TechEd use, I would spend more money on a machine with linear bearings, anti -backlash or ball screws, and more ridged structural members. It wouldn’t be an X carve, Shapeoko2, or anything else like that unless the district couldn’t afford anything else. Kids are hard on tools and machines.

As an example, we brought in a computer modular lab, you know, the kids sit in pairs and work through a set program. The teacher in charge was constantly replacing parts… it just wasn’t up to the task of 25 kids in a class, 6 times a day. I’d expect the X carve to need constant tweaking if put into those situations. That’s just my opinion based on 30+ years in the classroom.

I own an X carve and it’s OK for some things that don’t require extreme precision, but it’s not my main CNC router that I go to first.

The X carve is a capable light duty machine and unless you are going to be standing by each time it is being used by kids, I’d consider something else. I’d try and find a grant or a donation from a local industry if that was the case.

I’m just in the beginning but just purchased one for my classroom. Not assembled but comes with awesome instructions. Had the kids put most of it together. Re-did a lot of it myself, but it was not bad at all. It took us probably 16 hours total with 4 of those being me diagnosing something I correct. Got stuck twice but over phone and email got it sorted out easy.
I’m so happy with it I’m almost to buy one for personal use. Bought it after a recommendation from an other Ag teacher I admire. I think its gonna be a great way for the kids to see some of the cnc process without the investment of a $10k+ machine.
Good luck!

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If you are considering a stronger machine consider the cnc4newbie new carve. It is about the same price and has no belts to break and no v wheels to have to adjust. I love mine a lot. I still use the xcarve but I really like the New Carve.

My 17 year old son assembled our first machine about 3 years ago. He did a great job and has since built a second one as well. He’s also been involved in a robotics team for 4+ years, so he might have already had some experience, but I see no reason why a high school class could not assemble.

Based on watching @PhillipLunsford’s videos if I could do it again, I would get the CNC4Newbie machine. But that wasn’t an option in 2015. It wasn’t hard to assemble and personally assembling it taught me a lot about how CNCs work (and I also built my first 3D printer - since then I have gotten my other Prusas assembled as I don’t need more “learning” and just want to get to printing. For students understanding how it works is a valuable lesson. As robots works very similarly in general (a bunch of steppers with driver boards). You could do a lot of real-life physics learning (inertia, momentum, resonance, voltage/current, etc). Now while the X-carve is not an industrial machine by any means, it’s certainly up to what most high-school students want (amazing what they can do with acrylic or plywood). Always cool to get the STEM folks making fancy CNC machined set pieces for the drama production or an art-class. Learning CAD is so valuable to students, as it makes a lot of geometry “real”. I mean when you do geometry in math it’s an abstract seemingly useless topic, then something actually uses it (computer graphics, CAD/CAM, etc) and suddenly it’s a useful real-world thing. My son didn’t give a crap about geometry, until he became a pilot, when suddenly navigation became a real life-and-death thing. In fact a project he did for geometry was demonstrating what a single degree of error meant when flying from boston to NYC with an acrylic wedge on a flight sectional map (you end up in Newark BTW). As for not being enclosed, it’s quite noisy so that’s an issue. As for dust a dust collection (I did my own with a shop-vac and the Dust-Deputy and 3D printed adapters to make a dust collection system that really works well (also a great way to teach about static electricity and dust explosions - carefully ground that thing!!!). The good news is with an x-carve it’s not hard to make some basic enclosure (just some acrylic walls to prevent kids from sticking their hands in). I would have it in its own room as it’s loud enough that it is disruptive to teaching nearby.

Then for a really useful teaching exercise have the kids write their own g-code. And if you want to see kids totally blown away make a pen plotter (@PhillipLunsford has a good video on that with sharpies). TO them it’s the coolest thing ever (because they weren’t the office intern getting overhead transparencies ready for the boss’s presentation on the HP pen-plotter. So then you get the math teacher to make lessons where they plot some function into g-code and voila everybody is learning. When the kids get really advanced send them to the titans of CNC academy on youtube. They building blocks series will teach them a lot. Sure an x-carve would really struggle on a lot of those, but hey, you can carve those out of pink foam if you want, and that’s just fine. (remind them that’s how CF structures for aerospace get made). At the high school my kids went to they had a 4x8 shopbot which was a monster but was so loud even with extensive sound proofing was too loud to practically use when classes were ongoing (plus how many projects are kids doing bigger than 750x750mm?)

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