Stepcraft 2: a milling, carving, cutting, engraving and 3d printing machine

I was surprised that I had not seen it here. I think it is a wonderful machine to have.

Quote from the Kickstarter page:
Stepcraft 2 is the world's first universal desktop CNC solution designed to turn your ideas into reality.  It is the only machine that can Mill, Carve, Engrave, 3D Print, Laser Engrave, work as a Vinyl/Craft Cutter, Plot and more...  Stepcraft 2 will be the ONLY desktop CNC system with an ATC (Automatic Tool Changer), making complex jobs even easier.
The Stepcraft is available in 3 sizes and plenty of pledges to choose from. The project has reached it's target on Kickstarter already (by 3 times). More at the Kickstarter project page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/224743317/stepcraft-2-universa...

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Comment by bigkahuna on April 10, 2015 at 6:13am

I've been torn between getting a 3D printer or desktop CNC, guess this would solve that problem!  ;)  

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 10, 2015 at 8:43am

I'm pretty interested in this machine, but not because it can 3D print.  It's probably pretty mediocre at that.

I was actually just about to order a Stepcrafter 1, when I saw the 2 announced.  But, I didn't want to have to wait until June to get it. It's really not clear to me what the difference is between the 1 and 2 and if it's worth waiting.  Also, the Kickstarter package I would have to order to get the bits I need, also come with a bunch of stuff I don't need.  So I'd be looking at about $3000 for a SC2, vs $2000 for the SC1 package I want.

Comment by F. C. Bearsch on April 10, 2015 at 9:18am

good summary Rob

Comment by Gary McCray on April 10, 2015 at 9:34am

Hi bigkahuna,

Generally it is easy to convert a gantry type CNC into a 3D printer.

It usually won't work the other way around.

Most 3D printers are designed to apply zero force and as soon as you start using them to route or mill, the force that they exert is translated into backlash in inadequately designed components.

You need to use low tolerance antibacklash ball screws and zero tolerance ball bushings / bearings and rigid components to make a CNC machine.

3D printers (and plasma cutters) can often get by with timing belts and unsecured bearings and bushings.

So if you want both, get or build a gantry type CNC with a switchable head.

Like mine:

Best,

Gary

Comment by benbojangles on April 10, 2015 at 9:53am

What about the Unimat 1?

Comment by MarcS on April 10, 2015 at 10:15am

People should not think they save buying two dedicated machines in the end with this one...

It is a nice hobby cnc mill (but there are many on the market).

As a 3D printer it might not be nice to use. Speeds are too slow compared to dedicated (belt driven) printers and the spindles not really like the back and forth a printer needs to do and will wear out.

So I would second Gary´s comment. Get a good cnc mill, you can convert it later.

My personal experience is that milling gets you more parts usable for planes and copters than does printing :-)

Comment by Gary McCray on April 10, 2015 at 10:21am

You get what you pay for and at $200.00 for what claims to be a complete machine shop (albeit a teeny tiny machine shop) in a box I wouldn't expect too much.

Also it is entirely manual.

A usable, decent Mill / Drill unit by itself starts at about $1500.00.

And Proxxon makes really high quality mini tools.

You might want to take a look at my CNC Is Fun pages.

http://cncisfun.com/index.html

And the KISS Methods page

http://cncisfun.com/KISS_Methods.html

And if your looking for bits I recommend ToolsToday's Amana carbide bits.

http://www.toolstoday.com/

and

Precisebits.com s bit and collet selection.

http://precisebits.com/

McMaster Carr also has some great priced carbide tooling including microcrystalline diamond coated end mills (really good on G10 and Carbon Fiber.

http://www.mcmaster.com/#end-mills/=woz2ho

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 10, 2015 at 10:43am

Ah, good group of guys to discuss this.

I agree with Gary's Kiss page.  I'm quite skilled in manual tools, have a pretty full shop.  I also have a 3-in-1 lathe/mill/drill that has always been a POS and is currently broken.  I have since bought one of these which is a pretty decent machine.

http://www.busybeetools.com/products/milling-machine-with-digital-r...

I'm sure some will recognize it as it's rebranded many times.  

I'm also looking at getting a 3D Printer, to be able to easily produce complex shapes in lightweight material. Just about to purchase the Zortrax M200, nice price (and on the plastic too) and seems to be very high quality.  But, I also was wanting to get one of these CNC Routers to be able to cut out frames and such out of CF and Aluminum plate, maybe up to 4mm thick.  If I could also cut frame bulkheads out of 1/4", maybe even just the rough cut before finishing on the manual mill, that would be even better.

But I've seen discussion from some other professional machinists, who say these machines are junk and not suitable for cutting anything other than wood.

What's your opinion?

I have considered converting my CX601 to full CNC.  But there's two problems there.  First, I'd hate to lose the ability to manually operate it, which I assume happens with the CNC conversions?  Second, I really do not have time to take on another hobby.  I need to take the machine out of the box, set it up, and put it to work.  If there was a comprehensive conversion kit with step by step instructions, that would be one thing.  But the conversiondiydrones.comve sourcing various parts, fabricating others, etc etc.

Gary, are you cutting metal in your study?

Comment by F. C. Bearsch on April 10, 2015 at 11:01am

The rigidity of the machine is what typically comes into question, limiting the speeds and feeds to reduce and hopefully eliminate chatter. There is a running argument of what is the best equipment for tolerance and general usability. We use a series of HAAS mills and lathes to produce now however they are not the quality of something like a DMG/Mori. Ultimately it always comes down to budget, as Gary is right most times specifically to these machine tool solutions you get what you pay for...

Comment by Gary McCray on April 10, 2015 at 11:41am

Hi Rob,

To answer your last question first - yes - aluminum - no problem.

And that's actually my attic electronic shop, my real machine shop lives in an insulated and wired 40' cargo container.

I use ZRN coated Amana carbide bits straight and ball nose and cut dry or sometimes with a light mist or spritz of lubricant.

I use a shop vac for clean up while it is running and if it is spitting cuttings too far I put up a few "dams".

I am working on a shroud to go over the router that will connect to my vacuum.

Usually if I get the feed and speed right it doesn't throw the chips to far though.

Modern coated carbide mills and routers are a truly great thing, couldn't cut dry without them.

Aluminum (even 6061 T6) is actually pretty easy for modern tooling, G10, FR4, fiberglass in general and Carbon Fiber are a lot harder to cut and what I am starting to work on now.

I'm lucky to have a really good diamond wet saw for straight cuts.

Tormach makes the best home shop grade (somewhat affordable and doesn't require its own building) CNC vertical mill:

http://www.tormach.com/

Building one from scratch is only a moderately painful experience because of the nifty aluminum 80/20 structural framing extrusions that are now available.

http://www.8020cnc.com/build%20CNC%20machine

But there are also plenty of companies that make gantry mills and router as well either as kits, partial kits or RTM.

CNC zone is a good web site to check out for this stuff.

http://www.cnczone.com/

You need something like the Tormach to do an effective job on steel and stainless, but an aluminum framed gantry mill can be made to work well enough with pretty much anything else.

I normally do not recommend converting conventional mills (short of a Bridgeport or good Bridgeport clone) even if you add ball screws, their conventional ways and gibs are hard to get tight enough without binding for consistent work.

However your CX601 looks like a very nice little mill and if somebody makes a conversion kit for it that could be worth while.

If you are planning on doing a from scratch (no precedent) conversion, that could actually be harder than just designing and building a gantry mill from scratch.

Installing ball screws in a conventional mill can be tricky and frustrating if you are really doing it from scratch (and you need ball screws).

Mill conversions can be designed so that you can disengage the steppers or servos allowing you to turn the feeds by hand, but that usually involves belts or gears and another source of potential backlash.

It is probably actually less work and will provide a more satisfactory outcome to build your own or a kit gantry project.

Watch out for gantry mills that are too light ly constructed though, no unsupported bearing shafting and sufficiently heavy ball bushings and ball screws to do the job.

Take a look at the specs for my machine on my CNC Is Fun Base Page, it is really strongly constructed.

http://cncisfun.com/CNCBase.html

At some point in the future I may change the primary X axis to be 2 motors - balls screws instead of one because it can get slightly torqued if you put too much force over to one side.

But that is basically it's only small fault.

Hope this helps,

Feel free to contact me any time about this Rob, I am pretty passionate about DIY CNC.

Best regards,

Gary

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