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CNC recommendation for school

Aaron Hooks Member

I am a new industrial tech teacher at a small school. I am interested in adding a CNC router to our shop. I want to give students experience with CNC programming.

Uses would be projects for manufacturing classes and support for entrepreneurial classes.

I don't think we would need 4' x 8' capacity. What are your thoughts on having turning capacity included?

Thanks for your help.


12/22/17       #3: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

By the way, I said in the heading but not in the body of text that I am interested in recommendations for a school environment.



12/22/17       #4: CNC recommendation for school ...


Total Cut CNC would be happy to put together a proposal for you. Please email me your contact information so I can have someone get in touch with you.

12/22/17       #5: CNC recommendation for school ...
rich c.

Do you really plan to teach programming? To teach them how to do it from scratch may have some merit, but a skill seldom used today. An operator may have to change a few lines of code, but they sure don't need to know full programming. What is your background with CNC? I'd guess they might do more 3D carving compared to "turning" with a 4th axis. But I imagine 3D printing would be a better use of funds.

12/22/17       #6: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Rich - thanks. We have a 3D printer. Yes, my intention is to teach (at least some of them) to program the machine. I appreciate your thoughts on the 4th axis.

Jim - I will touch base. I am looking for money right now so having a quote will be a requirement. Thanks

12/23/17       #7: CNC recommendation for school ...
tom Member

I know there are a lot of Shopbots in schools and they do give a school discount.

12/23/17       #8: CNC recommendation for school ...
james e mcgrew Member


Both CAMaster and Shopbot have long term experience in providing machines and software to school programs from public programs to major institutions, i would not pass up on listening to their experience in this area,

12/23/17       #9: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Tom and James -- thanks for your valuable input!

12/23/17       #10: CNC recommendation for school ...
Tom Gardiner

When considering a CNC supplier, I think your prime considerations are user friendly control and customer support. There are a number of good machine builders out there. I have a FMT Patriot the has worked flawlessly for seven years.
If space allows I would think a 4 x 8 is a best choice. Cutting sheet goods will yield cabinets that students will be proud to own and provide skills that are in demand.
I will also give a plug for V-carve Pro for cad/cam software. It is versatile and easy to learn with excellent support and user forum.

12/23/17       #11: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Thanks Tom. I will think about the 4 x 8 size. I agree that these skills are in high demand.


12/24/17       #12: CNC recommendation for school ...
rich c.

Why would you train them to program? It sure won't help them get an industry job. I can't imagine any shop wanting to pay someone for all the labor to program from scratch. You didn't mention your CNC or industry experience.

12/24/17       #13: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Rich - our area is known as the orthopedic capital of the world. The industry is starving for employees and will pay high dollar for kids with some CNC experience. This is not metal machining but I don't care. I will teach them that on manual equipment for now. If I can get them thinking in code, they can use it. The shops I have talked with move their people into "engineering" positions that model parts, set up equipment and adjust code at the machine. Anyone who shows capability can move into a number of positions.

Why would you say it isn't relevant for these kids?

As far as industry experience I most recently ran my own shop for ten years. Not much CNC experience but getting training now.

12/24/17       #14: CNC recommendation for school ...
rich c.

It's not relevant to write code since the software can do it in seconds. I didn't write a single line of code in 12 years running a Motionmaster 5 axis CNC as lead modelmaker in an industrial design group. I can't imagine a CNC machine operator, cutting orthopedic parts, that would adjust code at the machine. There is nothing to adjust without altering the profile of the part. There could be 150,000 + lines of code to machine a small 3D part on a 5 axis machine. And if you really want to supply people to that industry, talk to the industry about sponsoring your CNC machine and get something that would give the kids real experience. See if one of the companies has something they are about to update. It would be sad to train someone to hand write code on a small 3 axis Shopbot making signs and mdf parts, and then send them out to try and get a job using high end software on a 5 axis Haas that is machining titanium.

12/26/17       #15: CNC recommendation for school ...
Jared Emery

Aaron, what you are considering teaching would have been relevant 15 years ago, but the other contributors to this post are correct: knowing how to program in Gcode is no longer a skill that businesses need. In fact, plenty of CNCs currently on the market don't even speak Gcode. A more worthwhile endeavor would be to teach CAM with a number of different applications: AlphaCAM, Enroute, CimTech, whatever, just find the most commonly used apps that businesses in your area use: Solidworks with Sigmanest, Autocad with RouterCIM, whatever the businesses are using, teach that.

12/27/17       #16: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Rich and Jared - thanks for your responses.

12/28/17       #17: CNC recommendation for school ...

In school we had a 2x4 CNC Shark. It was simple, came with safety glass, and worked as we would have expected. It had pretty decent software for beginners as well, easy to understand but you could get it to do what you want.

12/28/17       #18: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Thanks Tyler

12/29/17       #19: CNC recommendation for school ...

3d and 5-axis machining you definately need cad/cam software. However, there is nothing wrong with teaching students G and M code structure and how its used. I work at one company full time where its all driven by cad/cam software but we still need to know a little bit of code. I also work for a company part time where i use cad/cam for some items and straight G, M code programming for other parts. When i learned cnc in the late 1990's we started with coding.

12/29/17       #20: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron Hooks Member

Alex - thanks for your feedback. I was thinking that having some background in how the machine is controlled would be a plus.

1/5/18       #21: CNC recommendation for school ...
Rob Young  Member


I believe you would want to provide your students with experience that would translate to a job after they graduate. My sister has taught at the high school career center level as well as currently at the college level so I'm familiar with some of the challenges you might face. There are pros and cons to a small machine like a shopbot but I view them as a hobby type machine. You'll find them in low production facilities but those aren't the type of shops that will offer a career in CNC machining.
I also agree with what another poster stated. You really won't write G and M code programs for production work but being able to edit those programs is necessary. There are a lot of considerations when selecting a proper machine and cam program for your school environment. Feel free to give me a call or email me. My phone and email are on my website. I may or may not be able to give you a quote based on your location but I'm more then happy to offer some guidance.

1/13/18       #22: CNC recommendation for school ...

Rich is wrong, . Yes software does create code with one click, but there are many times when it is very handy to be able to read the code and edit in modifications. This is what separates a programmer from a button pusher. You a button pusher Rich?

1/13/18       #23: CNC recommendation for school ...
rich c.

Like I said earlier in this post. I was the lead model maker for Caterpillar Industrial Design. I ran a MotionMaster 5 axis router with a Fagor controller for 12 years using Surfcam. All the 3D files were generated by Industrial Designers or Engineers. I made the parts in rigid urethane foam to create full size construction machine cabs that were sent to the virtual reality cave, and/or installed on machines for operator evaluation. Never wrote one line of code in that 12 years. Button pusher? Don't think so. I had a 30 year career at Caterpillar, starting as a draftsman, then designer. I left Caterpillar for 11 years to operate a custom woodworking business and got my CNC feet wet on a 4x8 Digital Tool CNC kit. Did that for 8 years, then closed that down to be the project designer and builder for Woodworker's Journal Magazine. I'll stand by my comment about operators making orthopedic parts on 5 axis machines. Very unlikely the piece designers would like the operator changing code at the machine. I know the Caterpillar designers would not have appreciated me changing their designs with random lines of code changed.

1/13/18       #24: CNC recommendation for school ...
Aaron H. Member

I don't have the experience with CNC that you guys do. I did spend a day the first week of this year training at a local Orthopedic company. They had me bring our Haas simulator and we went through code most of the time. This shop at least would like people who can look at a program and have an idea what is going to happen.

The trainer told me that there are some designers he trusts more than others. The designers are at different levels in their careers and some are better than others.

Thanks again to everyone for their input.

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