CNC 3018 Pro Router

I’ve got a few DIY projects, particularly some filmmaking gear. So I bought this cheap 3018 CNC Pro Router off eBay for AUD $233.22. This is sold under a number of different names but the model number is always mentioned.

I did some research before I bought it. Don’t let the Pro in the title fool you. This is definitely only a hobby level, beginners, tabletop CNC router.

I also considered buying a 3D printer, when I realised that my friend BigOz Productions has had one for over a year and I’ve printed nothing in that time.

I also know a few maker-spaces where I could get something printed if I needed it. Again, nothing grabbed me enough to rush out and make. Of course the thought of being able to make something whenever I want is more attractive than the actual projects I’ve considered 3D-printing.

So a CNC 3018 Pro engraver/router? That’s different. I have an immediate list of four projects to start with. Unfortunately two of those require aluminium parts and this machine is definitely not suited to milling aluminium out-of-the-box. I’ll need to spend about the same money as I paid for it on modifications before it can reliably cut aluminium. That said a bigger, more expensive CNC router to cut aluminium would probably set me back about $1,000 and I’m not willing to go there… yet.

Plus the learning curve of CNC milling/routing/fabrication means it would be cheaper to get that all fabricated by someone else. But what else would I do with my down time during all this social isolation? Write a screenplay? Yeah, sure!

The production space on this little desktop CNC router is 300mm x 180mm x 45mm so it’s not great for large projects. I’ll send anything bigger out to a fabricator.

Seriously though, as a producer, my initial reaction most things is “Why not?” and “How can this work?”. That’s the case even for film projects I pass on. Saying no is a skill.

Enough philosophy!

I didn’t get the laser cutter which is the default with this model. I don’t intend to do much engraving which is what the laser seems best at. Plus the wooden parts I intend to make will be too charred if I laser cut them with the default laser. I could upgrade the laser for a beefier model, but if I do that I may as well get a very beefy laser, more powerful than the 5500W version most people get for it. I also don’t want to deal with the eye safety issues yet.

The router will be used to make some models for a horror feature I’m developing. Static models will be cut out of foam, then the later articulated versions will be wood. This project is what drove the decision to buy the CNC3018 router.

Next I’ve been wanting to make some jigsaw puzzles out of clear acrylic. If I can get a good edge and sufficient reproducibility, I’ve got a couple of wickedly difficult puzzles in mind.

Lastly I am a nerd and the idea of paying crazy prices for camera cages and mounting gear irritates me. Now if you’re mounting an expensive camera with an even more expensive lens make sure it’s something engineered for the job. Seriously pay the money to the professionals for the professional gear. But for experiments, and crazy ideas? Well that’s how most of the amazing innovations and inventions in grips and lighting and even camera came about.

I’ll use it scratch my own itch. I’ll add photos once it’s fully set up and I’ve run a project or two.

Modifications planned:

  • 400W replacement spindle (arrived).
  • End-stop switches (ordered)
  • Spoilboard build
  • Z-axis extension to 85mm
  • Supported rails on the gantry to stop X-axis and Z-axis flex.

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