I have finished building the Workbee CNC machine and have created my first few items and I have to say two things from the off. The CNC is an invaluable tool and its also an expensive toy. I have spent hours watching the cutter head whizzing around pieces of wood creating some wonderful designs and shapes. So here are my observations which I hope you find useful. I would also add that I have no ties to Workbee or Vectric and these are entirely my own notes based on my own experiences.
The kit comprises two boxes filled with a number of smaller boxes and lots of extruded aluminium profiles. There are two methods to build, Reading the manual or following the video on the Workbee site. I chose a mixture of both as some of the construction was not immediately clear from the manual but easily understood from the video.
I took my time and spent about 3 days in all on the construction. I could have done it in less by working 8 hour days but I wanted to enjoy the build and also get it right first time. I was very pleased with the construction and all the parts were accurately machined and slotted together really well. There were spare screws and fixings in most of the packs and also spare profile retro fittings should you forget to install them during fixing. Overall it was a very enjoyable project and apart from a couple of times I never had to redo any of the build. The times I went wrong were when I was assembling one of the cross beams as I had used the wrong one and the second when installing some of the cables in the drag chain.
The wiring looms, step motors and electronic components were all clearly labeled and went together really well. There is no paper manual for the electrics and everything is online. I found it clearly written and in an good format. My one mistake was when wiring one of the step motors to the main processor where I had the cable the wrong way round. Once again all my fault.
Once finished I started it all up and was really impressed with all the LED’s on the processor and the way it all hummed away to itself just waiting to carve something. Unfortunately I could not get it to run although all the motors were working and I could manually move them around on the homing program. The problem was in getting my laptop to speak to the processor and I tried everything I knew to solve the problem. After a lot of trying to get it to work I called Workbee for some help. A very knowledgeable gentleman requested linking to my laptop and within minutes he was working away on my system from their office near Brentwood. He made a few changes to the programs and then set up a test piece from the Clip Art library and it all worked straight away. This was a moment of pure joy as the router began its task and started moving around along its programmed route.
Since then I have been designing all sorts of things and having a great time with it.
In summary I would make the following observations:
A really well made and engineered kit.
Easily constructed but make sure you fully read the instructions and understand the drawings.
Excellent support team who seemed really keen to help and were also genuinely interested in my plans.
Workbee had a real understanding of possible problems during the build and had covered most eventualities.
The 750 X 750 layout I chose gives more working area than I will ever need.
The accuracy of finished articles is superb and you can just keep on turning stuff out.
The Vectric software comes with all sorts of extras including a Clipart library and a user forum with many projects to try.
I had a problem with one of my designs when setting up a tool path. I emailed my design to Vectric who replied within minutes and had one of their support staff look at it and advise me how to proceed.
So, I am really pleased that I took the step to a true CNC machine. It has opened up many new possibilities for me without getting involved in commercial batch processing. I am still a hands on woodcrafter but CNC is going to be so useful. You can obtain a free trial version of the Vectric programmes on their website so give it a try and see how you get on.
If you have any questions I will be pleased to answer them based on my experience.