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2017-06-03 15:42:02 views:
1. What’s the difference between a stepper and servo?The basic difference between a stepper and a servo-based system is the type of motor and how it is controlled. In a servo-based system, there is constant signal feedback from the encod…

1. What’s the difference between a stepper and servo?

The basic difference between a stepper and a servo-based system is the type of motor and how it is controlled. In a servo-based system, there is constant signal feedback from the encoder (or motor) to the servo drive. This feedback tells the servo drive exactly where it is within its move. Thus, the servo drive can adjust its power output, as needed, to complete the move. The servo is much more powerful, has quicker acceleration time and quicker positioning speed.

A stepper based system runs on an open loop meaning it sends out the number of pulses to the proper axis to get to the programmed location. Because of their simplicity, steppers are less expensive than servos and are the most affordable solution to producing CNC motion. They have the limitation that, if overpowered, they can lose synchronization with the computer controlling their motion. But when configured correctly, they will produce great cuts on a consistent basis. All LEEDWEECNC machines that come with steppers are programmed to specific specs to ensure that they never lose synchronization at any point so that you can load your CNC router day after day without a second thought.

Our Cobra and Panther lines come standard with servos and our Stinger line comes standard with steppers.

2. What’s better, rack-and-pinion or ball screw?

The short answer is that both are good based on which is best-suited for a particular axis or application. Each has its pluses and minuses. LEEDWEECNC uses both systems on all of our machines.

Ball screws are best known for being smooth and friction-free. Over a long axis however, a ball screw-driven system is susceptible to “screw whip”, which is vibration that worsens the faster a screw rotates. This is because of the critical speed of rotation needed over a long axis. To alleviate this, a ball screw driven system requires more gearing or larger motors to compensate for the weight and need to maintain the rapid positioning speeds. This makes the use of a ball screw on an axis over 4’ in length not ideal. That being said, for shorter lengths, this is rarely realized which makes the use of a ball screw a good choice for the short axis. LEEDWEECNC machines comes with a ball screw on the Z axis – our short axis.

Rack-and-pinion drives are best known for being rigid and not limited by length which makes them ideally suited for the long axis. When mounted properly, they provide years of use with minimal wear and are virtually impervious to dust and debris. A rack-and-pinion drive is geared more aggressively to better utilize the torque of the motors providing an appreciable difference in speed between the two systems. Rack-and-pinion’s shortcomings include higher friction and potential backlash if the pinion is not properly engaged. At LEEDWEECNC, we use the Self Adjusting Pinion Engagement Drive System that delivers zero backlash and positional accuracy of ±.002″ throughout the entire travel distance of the machine. LEEDWEECNC machines comes with rack-and-pinion on both the X axis and the Y axis – our long axes.

Perhaps the best way to impress on you the rack-and-pinion vs. ball screw question is to look at CNC machines costing $100,000 to $300,000. You’ll notice that most of these machines use both rack-and-pinion and ball screw on the same machine. In summary, rack-and-pinion is best for a long axis – it will be faster and will alleviate trouble with whip and vibration. For the short axis, ball screw is best.

3. Do I need to learn a programming language like G Code to operate a CNC router?

No, you don’t. The design software titles available today allow you to design your files, import pictures and drawings, manipulate them and the software will in turn generate the code that the machine will use to cut out you parts.

WinCNC, the motion control software we use, is based on standard G-codes. The G-codes provide a source code comprised of inches/mm and axis movements, which can be edited and understood by others. It is a good idea after you get more accustomed to your CNC to learn some simple lines of code just so it can help you look for errors, but it is by no means necessary.

4. How fast will my machine go? How fast can it cut my parts?

The speeds vary depending on which model. Each model’s speeds and accuracy are published on our website. However, your cutting speed (feed rate) will depend upon various factors, including:

Machine set-up —Variables that affect every machining application are spindle horsepower, rigidity and runout, collet condition, hold down system and tool sharpness.
Number of flutes — Single-flute tools should generally be fed at a slightly higher rate (approximately 10%) than double-flute tools.

Bit diameter — A 3/8″ bit can be fed 10% faster than a 1/4″ bit. A 1/2″ bit can be fed 20% faster than a 1/4″ bit.

Depth of cut — Your feed rate should be decreased approximately 25% for each multiple of the depth of cut. (If depth is two times, reduce by 25%; if depth is three times, reduce by 50%.)

Spindle speed — The faster the RPM of your spindle, the quicker you can cut your parts.

Tooling catalogs will typically provide CNC machining feed charts as a reference tool. When buying tools, these guides can prove to be an invaluable resource. US Router Tools, Inc. is our preferred tooling provider. They offer a 10% discount on tooling purchases to LEEDWEECNC customers as well as free shipping. (Minimum order applies. Ask for details.). You can find them at

5. What software do I need?

This all depends on what you want to do with your CNC router. Each type of work has more than one software title that will work for you. It is important to understand what it is you want to do and what machining methods you will need in order to produce your work. The reason being that when it comes to software, there is a significant difference in both features and price on the multiple software titles out there. Depending on what type of work you are doing, you may be able to get a simple low or mid-range title that will do everything you need.

If you plan on making V Carved Signs or 2D parts Vectric’s V Carve Pro is as good a program. This title comes standard on all LEEDWEECNC CNC Routers with exception to the Stinger I which comes with Vectric’s Cut 2D Pro. This title even has great manufacturing tools such as nesting, tabbing, engraving and lots more.

If 3D (2.5D) is what you are looking for, Vectric’s Aspire software is a good choice. Aspire is laid out just like V Carve Pro but offers a modeling package with standard tools for producing top quality 3D artwork. Vectric offers an upgrade path from VCarve Pro to Aspire.

These options from Vectric a great fit for 90% of non-production users.

Other software options with more robust tools and features are Enroute and ArtCAM.

For cabinet makers, there are a number of offerings to choose from. One that stands out for the small 1-3 man shops is Mozaik. It is a pay by month title that offers a lot of the capabilities that the larger more expensive packages have, though not all. One place that it lacks is in its rendering feature for cabinets and rooms for submittals which is limited. If you need a more streamlined and feature rich software, KCD Software is a great option. Another option is Cabinet Vision.

Can I use AutoCAD? Yes, AutoCAD drawings can be imported into most software design packages as a dxf. This makes it simple if your shop is already using CAD drawings. This will keep you from having to redo all the work you already have invested time into. WinCNC, the motion control software, can also import a dxf and run directly from your CAD file. This is not recommended as you will have to know the tool offsets. It is always better to bring these drawings into your CAD/CAM software to produce the code. This gives you more control as well as a visual aid.

6. How do I hold down my material?

The size of your part, type of material and production goals will determine the most-suitable method of holding your material in place. Generally, a vacuum system is the most-efficient method of holding down your material. You can also mechanically fixture your material with clamps, screws or double-stick tape or use a jig system.

7. What’s the difference between a spindle and a router?

There is really not much comparison between the two. Both tools are similar only in that fact they both hold a router bit and can rotate it to cut material at high speeds. A router is a 110V consumer grade tool that is rated for intermittent use while a spindle is an industrial motor that has been manufactured to run all day long, day in and day out for exactly the purpose you want to purchase it for – CNC cutting. Spindles are more powerful (note that hp ratings between routers and spindles are not comparable) and will maintain their full torque down to much lower RPMs than a router. Spindles have precision bearings, which means less run-out and thus smoother and more accurate cutting. The bearings on a spindle also stand up to continuous use better than those of a router. Bearings in a heavily used router will need to be replaced every three-four months, while a similarly used spindle should be good for a few years between bearing replacements. A spindle is also much quieter in operation than a router.

That been said, if you don’t need a heavy cut and noise is not an issue, then a router is a safe choice. In production situations, we highly recommend a spindle. In addition, the full performance capabilities of our machines are fully realized with a spindle because a router will bog down in heavy cutting at higher cutting speeds.

In making a decision, the real dividing line between the two is on how you make your money. If your paycheck comes from someplace outside your shop, then buy whichever you feel you can afford. If your paycheck is generated inside your shop, and your living and reputation is on the line, you need the security and substantially higher cut quality that comes from a spindle.

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