When we started Russell's Woodshed in 2016 I could not have imagined that it would become such a passion. It started with the scroll saw, which I still enjoy, and now has become a more exciting challenge. We got a freakin' CNC machine. In this post I will discuss everything that we have experienced in the first few weeks with our CNC Piranha FX.
There are other resources for technical specs on this machine, I will leave those reviews for the professionals. This is my experience with the machine, as a beginner.
The packaging of the CNC Piranha FX was excellent. It is nothing fancy. All parts were boxed tightly with no movement. This was my biggest concern. We purchased the Piranha (made by Next Wave Automation) because it was pre-assembled and almost "plug and play". Honing and tinkering with a machine that I don't understand was not my idea of a fun weekend. Luckily we chose the Piranha, not a kit, but a pre-built machine. One box contained the entire setup.
Stop, read all of the documentation that came with your machine before assembly. This machine is not cheap. We spent some time studying the paperwork and spreading everything out. Here's my description of the setup process. First plug the servos (x,y, and z) into the "power brick", they are labeled accordingly. Second, plug the pendant (touch screen) into the "power brick". Third, plug the "power brick" into the wall outlet. That's basically it, three steps to get this thing moving around.
The router we chose is the Bosch Colt trim router. The Piranha comes with a mount for the Bosch Colt. You can substitute the Colt for a Dewalt router. Rockler offers an adapter "mount" that accepts the Dewalt trim router.
Bits, bits, bits, where to start. Up cut, down cut, end mill, spiral, single flute, double, flute, v-bit with different degrees, ball nose, round nose, engraving bits, and then, then there are different sizes. Holy moly, like I said, where should I start? We did what any self respecting beginner does, we guessed. We purchased the Freud #87-208 8-Piece General-Purpose CNC Router Bit Set, 1/4'' Shank. Item #: 51594 on the Rockler website. The 1/4" shank is important to remember. That's the bit shank size that the Bosch or Dewalt routers accepts.
Completing the setup:
Place the router into the mount and tighten it. The first time we did this, our router was not set into the mount properly, it wasn't low enough in the mount. Make sure to review the instructions the router and the cnc when setting it up.
We chose a Lenovo M900 tiny desktop computer with an intel i5 processor and 8gb of ram. It has a 128gb ssd. This is a small for factor computer perfect for the shop. If you decide to go this route, you need need a external dvd drive for the v-carve software installation. We also got an Asus monitor. Nothing fancy, this computer is more than capable and does not lag with the v-carve software. Windows 10 is the operating system that we are running.
The software that comes with the machine is called v-carve made by Vectric. It took us a little while to get the hang of it, but it is easy enough and has a nice library of 3D art. One thing I must disclose. I have spent the last 5+ years using Autodesk Fabrication MEP. I work for a sheetmetal contractor that fabricates and installs HVAC duct. So, I have used CAD/CAM software and am familiar with the basics. The learning curve wasn't too bad. With time and patients anyone can learn the software.
From the computer to the CNC
The Piranha FX uses a 2.0 jump drive for the file transfer. The workflow: design some awesome artwork and create the tool paths in v-carve, save the paths to a thumb drive, then plug it into the pendant connected to the machine. Chose the the file that you would like to cut with the touchscreen, turn on the router, and run the job.
Make sure you have a compatible jump drive (FAT32 format Sandisk thumbdrive), the manual has all of the information on this.
Look at the slideshow below, it has some of the projects that we made with the machine. We also cut up a lot of wood and tossed it to the scrap pile. The machine and the many router bit choices take time to learn. We broke one bit and burnt up a couple more. My recommendation, start at a slow speed and work up from there. You can hear the machine when it gets into a bind or is moving too fast.
So, am I happy with the purchase? Yes, Absolutely 100% satisfied with the machine, the software and the new experiences we are having. This thing is amazing.
Ok, now a question for you. Did you enjoy this post? Are you thinking of getting a CNC machine? Leave a comment on this post, or you can leave a comment on the YouTube video, and while you are there Subscribe so you don't miss a project. We have a lot more projects coming. I post pictures on Instagram every time I get in the shop. If you are interested in the Piranha FX CNC, or some of the other tools mentioned in this post, click on one of the links above to go directly to the page on the Rockler website. Thanks for stopping by, see you next week.