Are there folks who utilize a CNC router to add additional geometry and functionality to their Glowforge creations?
I’ve started out with 3D printing and I do a lot of embedded magnets, sliding lids, etc. As I’m trying to move more of my designs to laser cut items I’m running into barriers around these kinds of items.
The ideal solution would be the ability to create channels and slots that other pieces slide and slot into. For example, I use small 2mm thick neodymium magnets for many of my items. I’d love to be able to easily carve out holes for these to cleanly insert. I’ve played with using engrave but digging so deep into the material has a variety of other issues like excessive charring.
Has anyone had success with pairing a CNC router to add these kinds of functional cuts to laser cut pieces? If so, does anyone have a recommendation for a small desktop machine? Something that could process smaller material after a Glowforge cut (no bigger than a sheet of letter paper in most cases).
Yeah I did dig through a bit but there’s not much from the last 2-3 years, which is often the case when I search. That’s a long time for new machines to come out, software to change, etc. I’ve had a few instances where the only potentially useful threads provided out of date info, dead links, etc.
I’m imagining my workflow to be cutting and engraving with GF, taking the cut pieces to a small desktop router and using that to cut the geometry pieces like channels for sliding lids or inlets l for magnets.
Basically all of my designs use some measure of these kinds of items (particularly magnets). I’m trying to determine if this use case is/isn’t worth a whole additional machine.
I have barely touched by Nomad 883 since getting the forge. I have used it to mill out 2 aluminum parts (what a pain that was, the 883 is really not up to the task) and cut some carbon fiber plate which is not G forge friendly. Like you, I find the Gforge a quicker, quieter tool. My mill has become the exercise bike of the garage (it holds stacks of other stuff and never gets used).
Before that, I had avoided machining anything in 3-d due to how long it took and how loud the machine was and how much care and feeding it took. All my design thinking had gone in the direction of what could be done with a waterline cut. That was good prep for getting the GF.
I have a Shark CNC (I forget the exact model) from Next Wave that I’ve been pretty happy with. The software is a bit clunky, and like any complex tool, it takes practice and experience to get to the point where you can use it well, but I’d still recommend it. It might be a bit larger than what you’re looking for though.
I’ve found that while the laser cutter and CNC router seem similar in what they can do, the use cases for each are actually different. I think the GF can cut some materials up to 1/2", it’s generally ideal for thinner materials, and I haven’t used it for anything above 1/4". With the CNC, I regularly cut things 1/4"-3/4", and it can go up to ~ 2", depending on the bit. The laser is great for cutting acrylic, but can’t cut polycarb; the CNC is the opposite (acrylic will just shatter). I’ve also cut 1" aluminum on the CNC router, which you’d never be able to come close do doing in the Glowforge. The laser is great for tight corners, while the CNC is great for removing large sections of material, and for getting different depths.
I think the challenge you’re having is learning to alter your designs to fit your tools. The fancy term for this is “Design for Manufacturing”. You can’t use the laser to make a pocket for a magnet, so how about using layers, one solid on the bottom & one with a hole on top? Since you say “charring”, I’m guessing you’re more working with wood than plastic. If you don’t want the thickness of two full layers, look at veneers. Maybe you use a layer of 3mm wood, which you cut a hole through, then add a veneer layer to be the bottom of your pocket. Consider switching from 2mm magnets to 3mm ones that exactly (or at least more closely) match the thickness of your material, so you don’t need a pocket of a different depth than your material thickness.
Another solution that might work, for at least some designs, is to etch the edges of your pockets with the laser, and then use a drill-press with a Forstner bit and a stop to set the depth.
Good luck, and please share some photos of your creations!
Sometimes discourse search results can be a little hard to deal with, they default to “relevance” instead of chronology. You can use the advanced features to force it to show you more recent stuff like this: “cnc in:first order:latest”
This will show you topics where CNC is mentioned in the first post of the thread and then sort by newest first. Using this trick shows quite a few fairly recent discussions. Maybe still not showing you exactly what you’re looking for, but a handy trick to know if you didn’t already.
I have not bought this yet, but I’ve been looking at it because it’s super cheap and I can pick it up locally. I’m not entirely sure I really want or need or have the mental capacity to learn another machine right now, so this was the one I was going to get to see how I like it and if I cared to invest in something larger.
Working with MDF core ply I engraved a pocket for magnets just a hair smaller and pressed the magnets in using those vice grips with the swivel pads on the jaws. No glue, but you would have to dig it out.
I switched from a Shopbot Desktop to a OneFinity last year I’m going to carve overlays for the new house’s front door and I needed the extra width of the OneFinity (4ft). Now I’m fussing with my wife about the overlay design. I’m more of a “carve all the things” style so wanted to include birds, trees, the lake, racoons, bears, etc. The door is pretty big (8ft + an overhead light and two on the side) so I think I’ve got lots of room for a “canvas”. My wife is more minimalist and wants to constrain me to some cat tails & reeds at water’s edge and a heron with a possible small mammal somewhere in the mix and maybe some birds flying way up high.
So we’re going back & forth. I’ve got awhile to get the design settled and do a test carve or two. (In the meantime I’ve been designing & carving 3D wall plates for switches.)
I have a desktop CNC and use it all the time with the GF. different strengths. can’t beat the GF for accurate cuts and engraving, but 3D carving beats the heck out of laser 3D. Here’s a notebook I put together for a friend’s son who is a lineman serving hurricane restoration duty. 3D Carved inlay set into a living hinge notebook with engraving.
I use CNC, Glowforge CO2, fiber lasers, and vinyl cutters as part of my workflows.
What I’ve learned is to index any piece of material or object that will be utilized between machines. Personally, I’ll use a series of registration marks to index and mark X,Y reference points. This helps me get the alignment correct.
For example if I cut a piece out on my CNC I’ll leave it attached to the source material using tabs. I’ll then use a Vbit to engrave registration marks into the source material.
Then I’ll transfer the vector file into the Glowforge and use the camera to get close and then lightly burn over my registration marks to ensure I’m aligned.
If I’m doing more than one item then I’ll build a jig that will speed up the process.
It would be super cool if @dan and team could use machine learning to detect the registration marks and “automatically” align objects for us. Perhaps take lessons learned from Pro pass though feature and tweak the code to support this.