Should I do this?

I have a 13-year-old son who is interested in STEM and is an aspiring engineer. The family got a 3d printer for Christmas and we’ve been printing lots of stuff from Thingiverse but neither my son nor I have designed anything to print ourselves.
I’m interested in woodworking and CNC machines have intrigued me since I learned they existed. I also want my son to keep interested in STEM and engineering. We’ve been busily printing the parts for the MPCNC but as we are getting close to finishing, I question whether going through with it is a good idea before I buy the bundle.
I played around with Fusion360 and it is pretty intimidating having zero experience in this area. I’m not sure where to start and being a busy dad I’m not certain I will be able to devote a lot of time to learning.
It seems like the MPCNC is plug and play to an extent but besides using a PC the only experience I have in meshing computers and physical parts is building a MAME arcade. I’d appreciate any advice you can offer whether I should go through with this.

I’m new to CNC. I have the bundles from Vicious. My experience is that it’s plug and play as long as you stick to the instructions on the vicious site.
Based on my limited experience, there appear to be two main types of CNC woodworking.

  1. flat items, such as sign carving or part cutting (think puzzle piece)
  2. 3D items (or rather 2.5D)

It took me a while to get familiar with how the mpcnc + estlcam + repetier host work together, but now I’m much better at it. I do mostly 2D carves and cutouts so I use inkscape + estlcam + repetier. Inkscape is much easier to use than a 3D modeling program like Fusion or Tinkercad.

My point is, you can do a lot of fun things with “flat” items, then branch into 2.5D CNC at a later time after you are more comfortable with the 3D tools.

If you have not already done so, purchase Estlcam. Not only does it work great, but the nag screen will kill you after a couple of days :slight_smile:

Good luck!

Definitely. Take it step by step, starting with making it move, then drawing with a pen, then cutting some things out, then doing some engraving, some multiple bit stuff. At that point, you’ll find fusion 360 and other 2.5D stuff a logical next step.

If you take it slowly, the CAM learning curve isn’t that steep.

To give you some confidence/understanding, check out the EstlCAM videos on youtube. You can also get a ton of info from “Some old guy coding” on YouTube.

For CAD, there are many easier programs to learn too. You can try libreCAD, or inkscape. I like libreCAD for simple geometric things, like boxes. I like inkspace for artsy things like text, shapes, converting images.

I’m probably going to be the odd one here.

You already have a 3D printer… why not start with designing your own parts for printing?

The easiest way to do that is to find something in your house and try to make a bracket for it. Some of my first designs I did was to make holders for some electronics so I could mount them on a wall that didn’t have mounting holes on the bottom. Grab a set of cheap calipers. Measure out the device. and make a 4 sided box for it to go in with holes for LED’s cables, etc.

I always find designing for CNC slightly harder than printing. With printing, all the sides are printed. With CNC I typically have to figure out how to cut flat stock and then how I’m going to attach them together.

Now… with that being said. With printing, you do have to worry about capabilities of the printer. Overhangs, limiting supports, etc.

Thingiverse has a ton of things to print, but it’s more limited when it comes to finding things to cut on a CNC.

If you’re main goal with the CNC is to cut signs and stuff like that, then maybe the Inkscape/ESTLCam route would be easier than Fusion360. Either way, it will take some time to learn the software to go with the hardware.

Good luck and remember, we’re here to help.

I’ve had my MPCNC for just over a month, and before that I couldnt tell you what CNC even means. Now im starting my own CNC business. If you can already wrap your mind around things like 3d printing then cnc is the same thing really. I personally found the CAD and CAM was easy to grasp and my projects got better and better. I love my CNC way more than my 3d printer. In the time I could print the parts for a new MPCNC I could design and cut new custom cabinet doors for my kitchen. The only down side is unlike a 3d printer you need a propper place to keep it, it will be very loud and make tons of very fine sawdust. but other than that i see no reason to not go for it i tell you, you will not regret it!

If your that far into the printing of the parts you may as well keep going. If you don’t have the time to devote to it to learn certain things your son may.