Section 1: Before Buying a CNC¶
Section 1a: Introduction¶
A CNC is not a small purchase for most people and there are many factors that go into the decision including:
- What vendors exist?
- What is the usable cutting area?
- How much space does it take up
- How rigid is the machine?
- What do you plan to cut with it?
- How well supported is it?
- What components differentiate it from others?
- What type of controller is it?
- How expensive is it?
- How quickly can it cut?
All of these and more should be questions you should be asking when thinking about which platform is right for you. When you understand your needs clearly it is much easier to decide on which CNC is the best fit for you.
Section 1b: Vendors¶
When looking at CNC options in the $1500-$3000+USD range your major players are:
- Carbide 3D - Shapeoko 3 and Shapeoko 3 XL
- MillRight - Carve King, Power Route, Mega V
- Onefinity - Machineist and Woodworker
- CNC4Newbies - C4NminiTK, NewCarve, C4N4836TK
- Inventables - X-Carve
- BlueCarve CNC - Bluey and Turbo
There are tradeoff’s to all of these machines. Since this site is focused on MillRight Mega V I’m going to be just briefly touch on them to give you starting points. All have active Facebook groups as well as dedicated forums of their own which you should review prior to making a purchase. This list is also not comprehensive and you will find many other options with some searching. I’m showcasing well reviewed and supported platforms that should be approachable to the majority.
Carbide 3D A long time vendor in the CNC space, Carbide3D stands out in that that innovate in both the software and hardware spaces, producing their only G-Code Sender called Carbide Motion as well as a range of accessories for their base CNC’s. The accessories can add up in cost though, so be sure to factor them in to pricing decisions. At present the Shapeoko line of CNC’s leverages belts and v-wheels for moving the gantries in the X, Y, an Z directions. Upgrades are sold by Carbide3D to make the Z Axis be lead screw or ball screw based. There are countless 3rd party upgrade options as well and a large user community. Carbide3d is regarded very highly for their customer support.
Onefinity A new CNC that is shipping in the fall of 2020. It launched with a large marketing campaign and based on posts by influencers has a lot of potential as a viable CNC for home. Noteworthy features are it is Ball Screw driven in the X, Y, and Z directions, does not require limit switches, has a plug and play controller with a tablet user interface and a gamecontroller, and is highgly portable with a super fast setup. It will be interesting to see how Onefinity does with scaled deliveries and managing a large customer base suddenly.
CNC4Newbies This is a terribly named company that makes very soild machines of their own and also makes upgrade kits for the ShapeOKO and X-Carve CNC’s. These are the most expensive in this class but the machines are extremely rigid, use linear bearings, and use ballscrews for motion control. CNC4Newbies decouples the electronics from the physical components so you can pick whatever best fits your needs. If you are new to the CNC world this can be a big hurdle to getting started. CNC4Newbies is based in Canada which works can add to delivery times and shipping costs but they are known for excellent customer service.
Inventables The X-Carve CNC and the Shapeoko products started from the same open source roots and have evolved into their own unique platforms. Inventables, like Carbide3d, develops their own software plaform called Easel which is a cloud based, extremely user friendly design platform and G Code sender all in one. Like the ShapeOko the X-Carve is belt driven and uses v-Wheels for movement control. The cheif negative of the X-Carve is that it is the least rigid of the platforms being discussed.
BlueCarve CNC While not sold in the US, the Blue Carve is native to Australia and uses an impressive design with top of the line balls screws and linear bearings to make for a very precise platform. People in the Asia/Pacific region should give it a look given freight times and costs from North America.
Section 1c: Should I Buy a Mega V?¶
Like many things in life this isn’t a straightforward question. I bought it as have hundreds of others so there must be some reason why we have spent thousands of US dollars on a 150+ pounds of metal and electronics. The Mega V started out as a Kickstarter by an established company in the CNC space and was wildly successful in getting people to sign up. Between an avalanche orders, labor issues, supplier issues, shipping issues, and the “minor” detail of a global pandemic many folks in the Kickstarter had challenging deliveries. In recent months many of these issues seem resolved for new buyers thankfully, but when folks are evaluating the Mega V they do need to be aware that most of the comments from before May 2020 are based on experiences impacted by the pandemic. On the MillRight Mega V CNC Facebook Facebook group I recently posted the following reply to a person exploring if the Mega V was right for them. In looking at my comment I still believe all points are valid and that this is a great machine for many people.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I like tinkering? This is a beta grade product that is under continuous improvement and you will need to tinker to get it dialed in.
- Am I ok with imperfections? MillRight has improved the machine since the Kickstarter but it still has warts. All of these are fixable, but if the idea of it arriving not perfect would enrage you then don’t buy from MillRight.
- Do you like friendly customer support? MillRight is responsive, but at least some customers have had very bad experiences dealing with them. Clearly the Internet echo chamber magnifies things but there have been enough comments to note it may be a challenge. Recent people who have reached out to MillRight have had good experiences so it may have been related to Covid and Kickstarter stresses as well.
I then went on to not the following which were issues I personally experienced:
- I was part of the kickstarter and my powdercoating was a joke, it flakes off constantly and I’m soon to replace all of it so the machine doesn’t look bad. My understanding is recent machines have much better powder coating and if anything it is now too thick.
- My homing wires were too short and poorly soldered. I just ordered some 18/2 shielded wire and made my own which is shockingly easy to do and maybe $30 in parts. In August 2020, MillRight has stated they are extending the length of the limit switch wires, but it is concerning that they shipped for 6+ months with parts that were unusable without modification.
- Shipping damage. MillRight really messed up packaging the Kickstarters and a lot of us had damaged extrusions. I was lucky in that the damage was not in functional areas so I just filed the scratches off and moved on with life. Others had serious damage and did struggle to get replacements. MillRight has greatly improved shipping with new staff and much better packaging. I haven’t seen damage reports in a while from shipping.
- Missing/incorrect parts - My kit was missing screws and had the wrong washers. I just got replacements from Amazon and McMaster Carr. I see regular posts of this still being a problem but MillRight seems to be handling replacing major items well now. See the next section for my list of things to buy while waiting for delivery.
- Dust Boot was useless - The Kickstarter shipped with an aluminum dustboot that honestly just didn’t work without modification. I gave up on the mods fairly quickly and when I learned that recent sales included a KentCNC boot I contacted MillRight and bought 1 for $159. Its worth it and I’d suggest it be considered.
- Control Box issues - Loose wires and broken solder joints on wires caused issues. I cleaned up the issues and my box works fine now. I still see reports of control box issues but these are usually fixable with a bit of troubleshooting and MillRight has helped folks with the situation.
- Long term stability - This thing is a BEAST and can literally shake itself apart. If you don’t loktite everything it will fail on you. The pinion gears are especially slip prone and several of us have gone so far as to JBWeld them to the shaft. Most of the issues are caught if you follow some standard pre-cut checks just like a pilot would on an airplane.
- Cables for stepper motors only allow the control box to be in the back left. The fix is to make your own replacement cables or build/buy extensions if you want to put the control box anywhere but the back left. This is still an issue.
- MillRight chose to operate 2 Y-Axis steppers off of 1 driver. It works for most people but for some the Y burned out. You can buy a second driver from Millright (I did) or a vendor like StepperOnline to avoid this or just ignore it since it seems to only impact a small number of machines.
- My linear rails in my Z were binding. It turned out to be metal debris in the bearings. Another member posted how to fix it and I was able to clean it out so now its super smooth. This was the most annoying of the whole list to address as taking apart bearings and cleaning them is nerve wracking and if you loose a bearing you are ordering replacements.
If you can look at this list and not be intimidated by making fixes like this or others then please give the Mega V a chance. The machine especially with the Aluminium Bed is a very solid, rigid CNC machine that uses rack and pinion and V-Wheels for X and Y motion and lead screw and linear rails for Z. The machine is very modifiable and nearly all components can be replaced with off the shelf parts guaranteeing a long usable lifespan.