Maintaining Linear Guides

Hi everyone. This post about maintaining the linear guides on your LongMill. We’ve had a couple of people report to us that they’ve had their Z-axis get stuck or become rough especially when they have been running over a long period of time.

I and another customer who has experienced this issue have been investigating the cause of this for a few weeks and doing more research to help customers prevent their linear guides from sticking.

I’ll just fill everyone in on our recommendation for maintaining your linear guides to ensure they work flawlessly for every cut. If you want to hear more about what we’ve done to look into linear guide maintenance, scroll down past this section to read more.

Maintaining your Linear Guides

Although the frequency of lubricating your linear guides may vary depending on the type of cutting you do and the frequency of use, we would recommend doing this procedure every 20-30 hours. However, if you experience any grinding noises or roughness in your gantry, we recommend doing this procedure more often.

  1. Wipe your linear guides with a clean cloth, paper towel, rag, or shop towel to remove any dust that may have accumulated on your linear guides. Move your Z-axis up and down if needed.
  2. Apply a liberal of machine oil or grease to your linear guides. Move your Z-axis up and down to ensure that the bearings inside have a chance to get coated Most general-purpose lubrication options should suffice. However, it is not recommended to use dry lubricants or anything with particulates such as graphite in the lubricant.

Here are some links to more into about lubrication:

  • https://www.thomsonlinear.com/en/support/tips/what-should-be-used-to-lubricate-linear-bearings
  • https://www.hiwin.com/pdf/lubricating_instructions.pdf

We believe that most general-purpose lubricants such as the 3 in 1 oil should suffice since the linear guides are used in a relatively low speed, low load application.

These instructions are now a part of our Machine Maintenance page on our Resources.

Jumping into our other findings

One of our customers had reported having their Z-axis linear bearings seize several times, and with the help of this customer, we have investigated the issues further. Initially, this had been a fairly uncommon issue, with only 3 tickets in our system pertaining to these parts as well as a small number of users reporting this issue on our Facebook group so it hadn’t been top of mind for us to investigate. However, I guess it’s better to sort potential problems out than let them sit and percolate forever.

Based on research, the main reason for failure for linear guides is lack of lubrication. This is what I suspect happens.

  • Linear guides get coated with dust from regular use. This dust either sticks to the lubricant already on the guides and either falls off taking lubricant with it, the guides push it off, or the user wipes off dust and lubricant.
  • The chance of the ball bearings in the guide seizing goes up either due to the resistance between the balls rubbing against each other or dust making their way into the guide

To replicate the issue I first cleaned all of the grease and debris from a spare ZX gantry using brake cleaner. This provided a situation where the linear guides would have no lubrication. Then the guides were coated in MDF dust and were moved back and forth.

Although I was not able to create a complete failure of the bearings, were was a noticeable increase in friction, and over a longer period, I suspect that the bearings would be able to be coaxed into seizing.

After this testing, I applied machine oil to the guides as discussed in the section above and the linear guide returned to its original smooth movement. I believe that cleaning and relubricating the linear guides can return seized linear guides back to life, and maintaining them should ensure smooth operation for the years to come.

I hope that adding this helps improve the LongMill’s reliability and ensure that everyone’s machine keeps chugging along great!

Introducing the new Business Directory

Hi everyone, I wanted to share with everyone the new Business Directory!

Initially, we created the Business Directory because we would get a lot of phone calls and emails of people who were looking for us to do custom work. Although we were able to direct them to some of our customers who do custom work with their machines, we felt like it might be a good idea to create a directory that lets people find people in their local area for services.

It’s been great to have the directory in place to direct people to LongMill and Mill One users, it’s been difficult to maintain and update because every entry needed to be added manually. Also, there was no way to easily search for listings based on the name of the business or location.

Our new Business Directory offers a couple different functions that take it to the next level. These include:

  • Ability to search businesses based on location, description, name, and more
  • A user account system so that you can update and edit your listing at any time
  • Better security of email addresses and other personal info that are prone to being spammed
  • Ability to add photos and other details such as a description of your business

We also hope to be able to add new functions to this site as time goes on.

Whether you’re running a full time business with your machine, just doing things for fun, looking to connect with other users, or just want to browse to see a diverse community of CNC users, make sure to check out and list your business and work on our directory!

February Production Updates

Hello everyone, here is our February Production update. For previous production updates, please check our blog (https://sienci.com/blog/).

If you are looking for an update on where your order is on the waiting list, please check our list (https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215)

Please note that Feb 15 is a statutory holiday and we will be closed on that day.

Lead times for new orders

The current lead time for LongMills is 4-6 weeks.

Production has been going at a rapid pace. We have hired 7-8 new staff, 5 of which work in production, packing, and operations to help us catch up on the new backorders.

At the time of writing, just over half of Batch 4 machines have been sold and we are currently in the process of ordering parts for Batch 5.

The current lead time is expected to stay at 4-6 weeks as we expect that our production speed will be limited to a couple of different parts as they are in the process of being manufactured. At the current time these include:

  • Aluminum rails
  • ACME locking nuts
  • Steel gantries

Our manufacturers are working to produce these parts as quickly as possible and we expect to receive these parts in the next couple of weeks.

Some end mills and other add-ons are low or out of stock. We expect some end mills to be back in stock in the next week or two, and the remaining stock to be available at the start of March.

Commonly asked questions

If you are interested in ordering a LongMill please read this section.

Is there any way to skip the line/get my machine faster?

  • No. To keep things fair for all of our customers, we ship all orders based on when they were ordered. There are no exceptions. The only way to get a machine faster is to order one sooner. If we have updates to the lead time, they will be posted here and on the forum: https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215If you want to see where you are in the queue for your order, please check the forum.

Does it make a difference in when I get my machine if I pick it up?

  • The only difference it will make will be that you will not have to wait for the shipping/transit time for the machine to ship. Typically, machines take around 1-3 days to ship within Ontario. Otherwise, there is no difference.

When do you charge my card/take payment for my order?

  • Your card will be charged at the time you place your order. This is to ensure your place in line, purchase parts ahead of time, and have the most accurate estimates on production and delivery.

How can I cancel my order?

  • You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment.

Can I add other items to my order before it ships?

If you’ve ordered a LongMill and wish to add other items to your order afterwards before it ships, please choose “Local pickup” (for free shipping) and add your LongMill order number. Some items (such as the T-track sets) cannot be combined for shipping.

Production updates

We have been incredibly busy in the recent months, especially as we’ve had our team grow by over 50% since the beginning of the year.

Here are some changes that we’ve made to improve production:

  • Dedicated staff for inventory tracking, QA, and production using automated systems
  • Dedicated staff for each packing and assembly station
  • Redesign or re-engineering of parts, such as the shoulder brackets and drag chain mount, to alleviate load off the 3D printer farm
  • Dedicated staff to run the 3D printer farm
  • Use of new automated printing technologies to improve printing throughput
  • Reorganization and labelling of stations and parts to make things easier to find
  • Use of custom manufacturing certain parts to improve part quality and better control over lead times

We are also working on:

  • Improved systems to test electronics, as well as making improvements to our electronics themselves
  • New packing tools to reduce the chance of missing parts in kits
  • Redesign of machine components to improve manufacturability and performance

A big part of our effort is to improve efficiency, quality, and throughput of our shop to catch up to our backorders. Our goal is to scale our production to be able to handle up to 300 LongMills per month.

Here are some challenges:

  • The volume of parts that we are now asking from our manufacturers is reaching a point where we may need to have more than one manufacturer make each part
  • Shipping couriers are sometimes not able to handle the volume on their trucks on regular pick-ups
  • COVID 19 slowdowns with shipping have affected incoming parts as well as shipping orders. Additionally, shipments going lost or missing shipments have been higher than before

Meet our newest sponsored creator, Dana from Buckys Customs

Hey everyone, meet Dana from Bucky’s Customs! Dana is one of our first sponsored creators that we’re working with to create content using your LongMill. Whether it’s your first time using your CNC or your hundredth time, we want to make the journey of learning the ins and outs as fun and easy as possible.

As Dana says “My intent is to learn as I go and bring the viewer with me on that same journey. I know how lost I was in the beginning and I feel I should try to create and share content I wished I had when I started.”

Make sure to check out all of the other great stuff on Dana’s Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQffithtlX96uayLQ4fQlFg) and subscribe for more great content!

With me and Chris being so busy trying to keep machines going out the door and all the other projects done, we haven’t had a whole lot of time to get new educational content for all of our LongMill and Mill One users. This is why we’re working on getting other LongMill users to help share their knowledge and experience with the community. This is part of our effort to create a more complete base for new customers as they learn to use their machines. We believe that supporting video content like what Dana is creating is part of creating a community where people can learn from each other and become more proficient with their CNC machines.

Interested in becoming a sponsored creator yourself? Please fill out an application form below!

Or if you want to share it with another friend for a family member, you can give them this link: https://forms.gle/rsA3jwccD33PKt7eA

Bit Crashes and Incorrect Movements when Returning to Zero after Touch Plate Probing on UGS

Hi everyone, we have been working on a bit of a mysterious problem with touch plates over the last little bit and we finally figured out the reason.

If you’ve found that your probe does everything correctly, but when you press “return to zero” on UGS, your bit either crashes or moves to the incorrect location, please read this post as it may pertain to you.

TL;DR

If you don’t want to read all of the nitty gritty, change your units in the jog controller from “inches” to “mm” before running the probe cycle and pressing return to zero. Once you complete this process, you can change it back to “inches” for jogging if you wish.

Doing this before every cycle will ensure that your machine performs its probing cycle correctly.

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Please note that we are currently working on solutions to this bug, and we hope to have it fixed soon.

The nitty gritty technical details

If you are using UGS, there is a bug that can cause the touch plate to move farther than the expected origin of your workpiece, which can plunge the bit into the machine bed. This is due to how the probing module is programmed. When you press “Measure outside corner,” UGS enters the probe cycle process, where it sends commands to the machine to move at a specified speed until either the touch plate is contacted or the machine is done travelling the specified distance. This repeats twice for the X, Y, and Z axes, once fast and once slow.  

For the probe process, whenever UGS is specifying co-ordinates for movement, it dictates that the coordinates are in millimeters using the “G21” command. Immediately afterward, it will call the default units from the jog control with either “G21” (mm) or “G20” (inches), which is handy because if your probe cycle fails midway, you can still jog your machine the proper amount. This basic pattern of [mm] [action] [co-ordinates] [inches] continues but stops at the last few lines, where the co-ordinates of the measured offset distances were supposed to be in millimeter values, but because UGS did not put “G21” to call it out in millimeters, UGS assigned the co-ordinates to be in inches, as it was the last command to have been sent. Therefore if the machine was supposed to move 2 mm to get to the origin of the workpiece, then it will now move 2 inches.  

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January Production Updates

Hi everyone. I hope everyone had a restful holiday season. We have now returned from holidays on Jan 4th and are back getting into the swing of things.

We have started shipping general parts, end mills, and other supplies this week, but machines will start shipping next week (Jan 11). If you placed an order recently that isn’t a LongMill, please note that although most items ship within 1-2 days, there may be some variances in when items ship.

For more day to day shipping updates for LongMills please check https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215/

If you are reading this because you are planning on ordering a machine, I ask that you please read this update carefully as will provide important information and answer many of the common questions you may have. If you have any other questions that are not answered in this post, please check the FAQ. For any info not provided in this post or in the FAQ, feel free to get in touch with us.

LongMill production

With COVID-19 numbers rising, most of our staff are currently working from home. Our staff who went away over the holidays are working from home with the 14-day mandatory quarantine. Some of our core staff members on the operations team are currently working at the office to continue shipping orders out and running the 3D print farm.

Lead times for new orders

The current lead time for LongMills is 4-6 weeks.

We expect lead times to remain around this range for the next little while as we have had a large influx of orders come in during December and into January. We currently sell machines than we are able to build per week, which means that our lead times will not decrease until we are further able to scale production even more.

We are currently in the process of hiring additional staff to help us decrease our lead times, as our current bottleneck is from how quickly we can pack and assemble kits.

I am expecting some volatility in the lead time near the end of February and March, as we will likely be running out of gantries and rails around this time. We are currently working on producing more parts but there have been steel shortages and fluctuating aluminum prices that have affected the industry.

Once we begin to run out of these parts, lead times will likely change.

Besides rails and gantries, we have ordered 1000 machines worth of other stock, such as lead screws, electronics, motors, v-wheels, nuts, fasteners… so these items should keep us going until March/April.

Currently, about 40% of Batch 4 has been sold.

Current lead times

Orders #27725 and onward are expected to begin shipping Jan 11th. We expect to ship around 40-50 units per week until we are clear of the backlog of orders.

Orders #27725 to #27883 expected to ship week of Jan 11

Orders #27885 to #28016 expected to ship week of Jan 18

Orders #28017 to #28092 expected to ship week of Jan 25

Orders #28094 and onwards expected to ship after Feb 1st.

Commonly asked questions

If you are interested in ordering a LongMill please read this section.

Is there any way to skip the line/get my machine faster?

  • No. To keep things fair for all of our customers, we ship all orders based on when they were ordered. There are no exceptions. The only way to get a machine faster is to order one sooner. If we have updates to the lead time, they will be posted here and on the forum: https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215If you want to see where you are in the queue for your order, please check the forum.

Does it make a difference in when I get my machine if I pick it up?

  • The only difference it will make will be that you will not have to wait for the shipping/transit time for the machine to ship. Typically, machines take around 1-3 days to ship within Ontario. Otherwise, there is no difference.

When do you charge my card/take payment for my order?

  • Your card will be charged at the time you place your order. This is to ensure your place in line, purchase parts ahead of time, and have the most accurate estimates on production and delivery.

How can I cancel my order?

  • You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment.

Can I add other items to my order before it ships?

If you’ve ordered a LongMill and wish to add other items to your order afterwards before it ships, please choose “Local pickup” (for free shipping) and add your LongMill order number. Some items (such as the T-track sets) cannot be combined for shipping.

1/8″ Precision Collet for Makita RT0701 Routers now available

Hi everyone. I’m happy to announce that we now have 1/8″ Precision Collet Adapters for Makita RT0701 Routers available on our store. These collets are specially designed for Makita RT0701 routers which are commonly used on LongMills and other hobby CNC machines.

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1/8″ Precision Collet

This collet serves as an alternative to the popular 1/4″ to 1/8″ Collet Adapter that is widely used with routers that come standard with a 1/4″ collet only.

Having the ability to use 1/8″ shank bits is great as

  • It can save money from buying smaller size bits with a 1/4″ shank as 1/8″ shank bits are significantly cheaper
  • It offers a wider variety of bits you can use

In most applications, users should not see any perceivable differences between using the Precision Collet over the Collet Adapter, especially for woodworking where overall tolerances needed for runout are fairly low. However, here are some benefits of using the Precision Collet

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Some bunnies to test collets. With general woodworking both types work great.

Routers rely on a certain degree of concentricity when it comes to getting accurate cuts and lower vibration. This means that the center of the bit must align with the rotational axis of the router. We refer to the distance between the center of rotation of the router and the center of rotation of the bit as runout.

Runout plays an important role in how accurately your cuts can come out. Imagine that you have a 1/4″ (0.25″) end mill. If you were to drill a hole with this end mill, you should expect to have a hole that is exactly 1/4″ (0.25″) in diameter.

Now imagine that you have a run out of 0.005″. This means that your hole would cut 0.251″ in diameter instead of 0.25″. In the real world, we should expect a certain degree of runout from any rotating tool, and in some cases, may affect the accuracy of your cutting as well.

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Checking the runout on a 1/4″ end mill

I have measured and tested collets to see how they look in terms of runout.

I would preface that the measuring tools that I have aren’t great and aren’t the most precise, but they are generally good enough to get an understanding of the relationships between the different parts. I also have done some real world testing by running some projects with the collets to make comparisons.

Here are some notes:

  • All the measurements were taken on Makita RT0701 routers one was almost new, while the other one has been used for several hundred hours. Runout on both was around 0.0015″ (measured from the shank above the nut)
  • Measuring runout with the 1/4″ stock collet using a 1/4″ bit produced around 0.0015″ of runout. This was actually surprisingly accurate, as this means that there is almost no runout in the collet.
  • Measuring runout with the 1/4″ to 1/8″ Collet Adapter using the stock 1/4″ Makita collet produced around 0.0045″ to 0.006″ of runout.
  • Measuring the runout with the 1/8″ Precision Collet produced between 0.0015″ to 0.003″ of total runout.
  • The runout of both the Collet Adapter and Precision Collet was lowest with the shank seated over the complete length of the collet.

This means that the overall runout between the Collet Adapter vs the Precision Collet can have up to a 0.003″ difference.

In most situations, this difference will have no perceivable impact as 0.003″ is about the thickness of a sheet of paper. However, in some applications, the extra precision may make a difference for example with:

  • Precision metal milling
  • Small engravings and inlays
  • PCB milling
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Thickness of a sheet of paper

The other factor to consider is reliability. The Precision Collet eliminates the chance for a user to install the collet adapter incorrectly or in the wrong position. With the Precision Collet, there is no adapter that can fall, and as mentioned earlier, the better the “hold” on the bit, the less runout there is.

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The Precision Collet should also reduce the chance of the bit falling out during cutting or being pushed into the router with every plunge cut with its more reliable bit holding.

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Fully seating the bit in the collet decreases runout

Conclusion

The 1/4″ to 1/8″ Collet Adapter offers an inexpensive and relatively accurate way to use 1/8″ bits with your 1/4″ router. With most users, the difference will be minor at best. On the other hand, if you want to dive into cuts that require more precision, or want the comfort and convenience of a collet that can go directly into your router without an adapter, the 1/8″ Precision Collet is a great option.

Order yours here: https://sienci.com/product/1-8-precision-collet

Sienci Labs on Holiday from Dec 24th to Jan 3rd

Hi everyone. This is a quick notice about our holiday schedule this year.

We will be on holidays from Dec 24th to Jan 3rd. Our office will be closed during this time. Normal operations will resume on Jan 4th.

Cutoff time for shipping bits, parts, and other items that are in stock is Dec 23rd at 10AM EST. All orders that that come in after Dec 23rd will ship in the new year.

If you placed an order for a LongMill, we will be working to ship the cue until Dec 23rd, and continue shipping on Jan 4th.

During holidays,

  • Shipping will be on pause
  • Pick-ups will be on pause
  • We will not be taking phone calls
  • Email and Contact us queries through our website responses will be delayed or responded to after the break
  • Technical help tickets and general will be delayed or responded to after the break
  • Contact through our social media channels may be delayed or responded to after the break

Thank you everyone for a wonderful year, and we’ll see you in the next!

November Production Updates Pt 2.

To read the update before this, please visit https://sienci.com/2020/11/09/november-production-updates/

For more day to day shipping updates please check https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215/210

Hi folks, this is our November production update pt2.

If you are reading this because you are planning on ordering a machine, I ask that you please read this update carefully as will provide important information and answer many of the common questions you may have. If you have any other questions that are not answered in this post, please check the FAQ. For any info not provided in this post or in the FAQ, feel free to get in touch with us.

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Parts for the next 1000 LongMills

Since the middle of the year, the LongMill has seen tremendous growth, thanks to users all around the world. Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to recommend the LongMill to their peers and community.

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We have been struggling for the past year to keep up with the demand and have been working on scaling operations. Batch 4, our latest batch will consist of 1000 LongMill units and I expect this batch to last at least for the next 4 to 6 months, letting me have a breather (since I’m the one mostly in charge of ordering all of the parts for the machine) and finally shorten the lead time on the LongMill. Things have really come a long way since October 2019, when we first started shipping the first LongMills.

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The first production LongMill going out the door, back in October 2019

Current lead times

For a full, up to date list of shipped/machines to be shipped, please visit https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215. We typically update this page with orders that are waiting to be shipped to help customers see where they are in the queue.

If you have already ordered a machine, you can likely find an estimate on when your machine will ship.

New schedule —

Order #27081 – #27264: Estimated to ship Nov 26 to Dec 4

Order #27265 – #27354: Estimated to ship Dec 7 to Dec 11

Orders after #27359: Estimated to ship after Dec 14*

*Most orders after #27359 will likely ship the week of Dec 21st and beyond

Lead times for new orders

New orders for LongMills are expected to ship in 4 to 8 weeks. We will continue to update lead times as production progresses.

Some things that may impact the lead times:

  • Delays in shipping for incoming parts

We expect to have inventory to ship 800 units arrive by the end of December as well as enough stock to ship the remaining backlog of orders.

  • Holiday season delays

Sienci Labs Inc. will be on holidays from Dec 24, 2020 to Jan 4, 2020. We are currently working extra hours to pre-pack units to make up for the lost week. However, depending on our incoming volume of sales this may cause some delays.

Some staff will be available on reduced hours to assist with customers.

Shipping times during the holiday season also tends to be a bit dicey as well.

  • Quality checks

If the incoming parts do not meet our quality standards, we may need to remanufacture or reorder parts to meet these standards.

Current bottlenecks

Dust shoe brackets

Current stock: <60pcs

Incoming stock: 500pcs

Estimated arrival date: Dec 4 In stock

Router mounts and motor spacers

Current stock: <80pcs

Incoming stock: 1000pcs

Estimated arrival date: Dec 17 First batch of 75 has arrived. Remaining parts expected to arrive first week of January

Driver boards

Current stock: <180 sets

Incoming stock: <1000 sets

Estimated arrival date Dec 23 In stock

We will continue shipping machines with the stock available and resume shipping once new parts arrive.

Holiday schedule

Sienci Labs Inc. and our staff will be on vacation for the holidays between Dec 24, 2020 to Jan 4, 2021. Communication and shipping during this time may be limited.

For questions and inquiries, we recommend emailing us through our contact form as one of our staff may be available to help during this holiday season.

Commonly asked questions

If you are interested in ordering a LongMill please read this section.

Is there any way to skip the line/get my machine faster?

  • No. To keep things fair for all of our customers, we ship all orders based on when they were ordered. There are no exceptions. The only way to get a machine faster is to order one sooner. If we have updates to the lead time, they will be posted here and on the forum: https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215If you want to see where you are in the queue for your order, please check the forum.

Does it make a difference in when I get my machine if I pick it up?

  • The only difference it will make will be that you will not have to wait for the shipping/transit time for the machine to ship. Typically, machines take around 1-3 days to ship within Ontario. Otherwise, there is no difference.

When do you charge my card/take payment for my order?

  • Your card will be charged at the time you place your order. This is to ensure your place in line, purchase parts ahead of time, and have the most accurate estimates on production and delivery.

How can I cancel my order?

  • You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment.

Are there any holiday discounts coming up?

  • We will not be offering any holiday discounts such as for Black Friday/Boxing Day. We generally do not offer discounts since we prefer to offer the best price for our products so that you get the best deal for our products regardless of when you purchase. This also helps keep production levels stable throughout the year and ensure we produce products of the highest quality. So if you place an order now or later, be rest assured you’ll be getting the best deal.

Vectric VCarve Desktop vs Carveco Maker – Which Should You Choose

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Hey everyone, a quick announcement to make. Carveco recently got in touch with us about reselling and promoting their software. You can subscribe to Carveco Maker ($15USD/month) and get your first month for free. For more details, please visit the product page.

If you’re not sure if you should get paid software or free software for your CNC, please check out our blog post on this topic.

If you’re looking for paid CAM and design programs for your CNC machine, Vectric VCarve and Carveco Maker offer excellent options for beginner users. Today we’ll be comparing the two options to help you decide which software to go with. Aleks and I (Andy) have been using the software for several weeks now and we hope to offer a good comparison between the two.

Please note, we make money from each sale of software. That being said, I will aim to be as unbiased as possible for both of the software we will be discussing today. We also try to be as accurate as possible to compare the two programs,

We will be primarily focusing on Vectric VCarve Desktop and Carveco Maker as we feel like they are the most applicable for hobby use, but will touch on other versions that are available.

Introduction

CNC software traditionally focused heavily on industrial applications, which came with large price tags and very complicated features. Software like HSM and MasterCAM cost thousands of dollars per seat but power the machines that make car parts and airplanes. Even though full-featured software is compatible with LongMills and other hobby-level CNCs, they are generally too complicated and expensive for most people to use.

Having recognized that, software companies have moved to offer lower cost alternatives to their industrial software for use with hobby and semi industrial machines over the last couple years as smaller, budget-friendly machines become more popular.

Independent developers and CNC manufacturers now offer a wide range of free and low-cost CAM software that are generally very simple and are designed for hobby level projects. Some include Kiri:Moto, EstlCAM, and MakerCAM, which are free or very inexpensive compared to industrial software, but come with limitations that would make it unsuitable for industrial applications.

On the other hand, Vectric and Carveco are offshoots of an industrial-focused software created by Delcam called ArtCAM. From there, both companies created their offshoots from their flagship software to other software better suited for beginners to capture a larger audience, thus containing higher-end features originally found in industrial software that has been simplified for consumer use.

I expect that there will continue to be growth and additional competition in this space as CNC becomes more popular with hobbyists especially as CNC hardware continues to improve over time.

Features

Both programs have similar basic software feature sets such as:

● Easily switching between 2D and 3D views
● Importing vector and raster 2D files (with automatic image tracing)
● Importing a wide variety of 3D files for relief carving
● Full 2D vector creation and control (lines, text, graphics)
● Basic manipulation of imported 3D files (moving, scaling)
● Include a library of premade relief models
● A variety of milling toolpath types – profile, pocket, v-carve engrave, drilling, inlaying, chamfering, fluting
● Fully animated toolpath simulation with a variety of materials

Overall, both software provide a full set of features that you should look for your CAM.

For full details for each software, please visit:

https://www.vectric.com/products/vcarve-desktop

https://carveco.com/carveco-software-range/carveco-maker/

Some of the unique features that each software offers that the other does not include:

VCarve Desktop

  • 2 sided machining
  • Thread milling
  • 4th axis machining
  • Laser module (extra $50USD)

Carveco Maker

  • Vector doctor/repair
  • Laser toolpaths

There is a major limitation to VCarve Desktop, at least in our opinion, that may contribute to your choice between the two software, which is the 24″x24″ size limitation. While Carveco Maker does not impose a size limitation, the maximum project size that VCarve can do is 24″x24″, which means that everyone with a LongMill 30×30 will lose a small chuck of their working area.

This is something I have talked to Vectric about and something that they are considering, but it may be some time until an alternative comes out.

If you like VCarve Desktop, but need the extra inches, you will have to upgrade to VCarve Pro, which does not have any size limitations. The price for VCarve Pro is $699USD (double the price of VCarve Desktop).

Price

VCarve Desktop: $349USD

Carveco Maker: $15USD/month or $180USD/year

One of the major differences for Vectric Desktop and Carveco Maker comes down to not just the price but the pricing structure.

Vectric offers their software for sale as a perpetual license that can be used as long as you’d like without ever paying another cent. Vectric offers free upgrades to the latest version of your software for 12 months from the date of your purchase. You also can easily upgrade between higher tier products by paying the difference.

Carveco on the other hand provides both monthly subscription options as well as perpetual license options, but for the Maker tier option, only a monthly or annual subscription option exists. The lowest cost perpetual licence, the Carveco Maker Plus, costs $1200USD.

It should be noted that you get all updates for free while subscribed to Carveco, which is great if you want to stay up to date with new features and bug fixes.

If having a perpetual license is important to you, Vectric generally offers more options for perpetual licenses, and their two higher tier options, VCarve Pro and Aspire, run for $699USD and $1995USD, which may be worth considering over Carveco Maker Plus for $1200USD.

Otherwise, Carveco Maker at $15/month offers a very affordable option that is within the budget for most hobbyists.

Trial Period

VCarve Desktop: unlimited trial, with limited saving and export options

Carveco Maker: First month free with a subscription that can be cancelled at any time

Vectric highly recommends their customers to try out their software before purchasing by allowing you to evaluate the software for an unlimited period of time. However you are limited to being able to export their own trial projects and there are some restrictions on being able to save and export projects.

Carveco Maker on the other hand only offers a 1 month free subscription, which requires you to sign up with a payment method, and if you don’t cancel within the first month, you’ll be charged with another month’s worth of subscription at $15USD/month.

I feel that one month of either software provides more than enough time to evaluate which program you like better, which I would recommend folks to do.

Ease of use

From our initial use, we found both software to work very similar to each other, especially in workflow.

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Both programs start with asking you to choose your material/working size, then allow you to either design and upload designs in 2D and 3D.

Generally I have preferred to use the 2D vector tools on VCarve, but working with 3D reliefs was a bit smoother of an experience with Carveco Maker. Overall I feel that the differences are minor, especially if you are going to be using outside programs to do your modeling.

The general online consensus (just from our research) seems to indicate that VCarve is a little bit easier to use. It also offers more online resources and tutorials, likely due to being on the market for longer than Carveco Maker.

Conclusion

These are my personal opinions of each software and my recommendations for each of them. I still highly recommend downloading both programs to test run them before choosing one. Both programs are excellent and there are many happy customers for both.

Overall, I have preferred the experience working with Vectric software, as overall it feels more intuitive and better laid out, especially with some of the toolpath creation and vector editing. Some exclusive features are nice to have, such as flip-milling. There are also a lot more tutorials and other resources available which I feel should help improve the user experience for beginners.

However, due to the 24″x24″ limitation with VCarve Desktop, I feel like for LongMill 30X30 users, using Carveco Maker may be a better option since I find that often times my projects extend all the way to the full working area of the machine. Alternatively, consider getting VCarve Pro to utilize the full extent of your machine.

so…..

If you’re on a budget and want the lowest cost option

Go with the Carveco Maker subscription for $15USD/month. It should provide you with most of the features you need to get started, and you can cancel anytime if you want to switch software or decide to upgrade. However, if you are going to use the same software for over 2 years, it will cost less to buy Vectric VCarve Desktop in the long run.

If having a 24″x24″ size limitation doesn’t matter to you

Then get Vectric VCarve Desktop. It’s easy to use with lots of resources. If you eventually want to work with projects larger than 24″x24″ (without tiling), then you can upgrade to the VCarve Pro later by paying the difference between the two products (around $350USD).

If you want the full 30″x30″ working area but don’t want to spend $699USD

Carveco Maker is the way to go as it does not have size limitations.

Buy VCarve Desktop here: https://sienci.com/product/vectric-vcarve-desktop-v10/

Subscribe to Carveco Maker here: https://sienci.com/product/carveco-maker-subscription/