Other CNC machines/makerspace ideas

Hey guys,

I absolutely love my MPCNC and can’t wait to get home for the summer next Saturday and set it up again.

I have recently been selected to make a list of things that would be nice for a makerspace in the college of engineering, adding up to around $15k. I would like to build a MPCNC with all of the updated parts (building wouldn’t start until fall) but I feel like students would have a much easier time using the x carve. And when I graduate I wouldn’t be leaving behind a machine that might be harder to find documentation for (though I don’t feel like this forum is going to be lost forever).

Does anyone here have experience with any machine like a Shapeoko or x carve? What are your thoughts compared to the MPCNC? Either way I would go with nema 23 stepper motors for more torque and the x carve would probably get the router mount rather than their tiny quiet spindle.

Just think of all the MPCNCs you could buy for $15k… :slight_smile:

The CNC machine is only a portion of the budget. I know I could build a MPCNC pretty cheap, but I feel like students would screw it up easily. There is a much greater learning curve to it than the x carve.

There is a much greater learning curve potential to it than the x carve.

Screwing up is better for learning than succeeding every time.
It will teach them the importance of cutting speeds, rigidity, types of tools, backlash, it will teach them how to improve the machine, how to tweek it to get better results, you can easily switch the tool to do 3D printing, plasma cutting, laser or whatever…

Clearly, in my opinion, you should go for the MPCNC.
Actually, apart from the very beginning when I was a noob, I rarely screwed things up on the MPCNC, it works really well.

More expensive is not better!

If you break something on the mpcnc, it’s a print or a cheap part away from fixed. If you break the scarves, you’ll have to buy xcarve parts.

Also, when folks see how easy it is to create machines like the MPCNC, then they will want to make more things, like the mostly printed camera rig, or the attachments that cut foam planes or whatever. Plus, they can go home and have an MPCNC over the summer. You’re going to be doing them a great service.

I would make two. One bigish and one small, then people can experiment with one while the other is the workhorse. I highly doubt you will get 2x more reliable at 2x the price.

Let us know how it turns out, and don’t buy an ultimaker either. :wink:


I can only imagine what I could do with a 15K usd budget… Would have an epic workshop for sure!

I could have my whole garage built and kitted out for that. I sometimes wonder how people justify spending money that isnt theirs so easily. Also your students maybe inspired/enabled to make their own mpcnc, this isnt so for anything off the shelf. Imagine that, term 1 each student builds an mpcnc, term 2 they use them collectively to build something amazing in record time.

What type of Makerspace are you setting up? Full on shop?

Metal Lathe
3d printer

Will you have any tools for breaking down larger stock? Will you be working with wood?

Table Saw
Miter Saw
Band Saw
Dust Collection

Hand Tools?

Soldering stations
screw drivers


First aid kits
hearing protection
eye protection

Will you have enough room to keep wood area separate from electronic area separate from machining area?

How many kids will be working at one time? Will you need multiples of some of the above items?

Is this on a college campus with young 20-somethings? Be prepared for anything not bolted down to somehow go missing from time to time. I’m not saying everyone is a thief, but I didn’t realize it until 4 years after I graduated that while we were packing up the lab we were in a solder sucker or two ended up in my personal items box that I don’t remember owning.

I would go with name-brand hardware with warranties. Call up the companies and tell them what you’re trying to do. A lot of times they’ll sell hardware to colleges at a discount, or even provide longer/better warranties and coverage on the products knowing that they’ll be abused.

See if there are any colleges or towns close by that have one setup already that you can see and ask questions about. Ask them what they would do different.

Does that $15k include operating costs or materials?

$15k can go a good ways to making a really nice shop, but it will take some planning and figuring out what direction you want to take it.

Regarding the MPCNC… if you go that route, it would probably hold up ok, but you’d be rebuilding it when parts broke. Have spare parts on hand and if you have room, have more than one setup. You’ll want to mount it in an enclosure for safety. Last thing you want is a kid sending a 1/16" end mill full depth through aluminum causing something to snap off and embed itself in someone.

I had a Shapeoko2 that I built several years ago. I gave it away and it sits unused today… the novelty’s long worn off and there’s only so many things you can do with it.

But with $15k and just one of these…

[attachment file=35144]

you could build a few large-format foam cutters (on wall), a camera slider (background against wall), and new machine (table foreground)…

[attachment file=35147]

and a few more laser engraver/cutters…

[attachment file=35145]

and maybe resurrect/rebuild some useless something or other that has been sitting on a shelf for several years…

[attachment file=35146]

and still have money left over.

I’m a retired engineer and widower, live alone, don’t have to keep house, or answer to anybody… and am surrounded by at least 8 of these personally-built machines in my living/work space. I doubt there’s more than $2500 or so tied up in the lot… and that doesn’t include foam cutter machines I’ve built for a couple of RC-flying buddies.

I wish we’d had this technology nearly 50 years ago when I was in college… I can only imagine what a bunch of talented engineering students might be able to accomplish with it today. Shapeoko taught me little and has largely been forgotten… Ryan’s MPCNC and the ability to 3d-print, on the other hand, has kept me going and given this old man a new lease on life.

1 Like

@dkj4linux, Thanks for sharing. That is quite the workspace! Maybe we should start a thread where we share tours of our workshops. I think that would be quite interesting. I am constantly rearranging mine, trying to make it work better, so I always appreciate seeing how others have solved problems. Your creations were the ones I was thinking of when I was talking about sparking new creations. Sorry I didn’t reference them directly.

@nerdyrcdriver, Sorry that no one is going along with your question. You asked a pretty direct question, and we are all sidetracking you, fantasizing about how much fun we would have had in college with an MPCNC and the copious free time we had. That’s sort of the risk of asking about other CNC machines in the MPCNC forum, eh?

I keep thinking about $15k divided over an entire makerspace. It will go a lot faster than you think, that’s for sure. Another way to save money is to go to craigslist in your area, find used tools that are pretty cheap, and ask them to donate them to your school. I bet you’ll get circular saws, drills, table saws, and miter saws for free. They won’t be perfect, but they will get you started. Spending $150 for each tool is going to get old fast. Also, if it’s cheap/free/old, people won’t steal it.

I visited my college’s “makerspaces” and they were filled with expensive Windows machines, proprietary CAD programs, and makerbots (5 or so, but only one working, go figure). Made me sad. But there was a club with some homemade 3D printers.

Not a problem, Jeff. My workspace is a continual source of frustration to me. As you can readily see, I’m terribly disorganized and live in clutter that I seem helpless to avoid, despite my best intentions. I’m just a lazy slob when it comes to cleaning anything up.

I’ve never really seen or visited a “makerspace” so really wasn’t responding so much to that as I was to the education value in building a few machines and seeing what makes them go. Having built several CNC machines completely (and rather painfully) from scratch using conventional methods, the MPCNC came along at just the right time and allowed me – for the first time – to make machines quickly and accurately… and with interchangeable parts! For me, it was the 3d printer – and what I learned building those first MPCNCs, needle cutters, and other goodies – that set me free, creatively-speaking, and allows me to be happier, more satisfied, and more productive than ever.

1 Like

I love the response that this thread has gotten recently, though a year late. I personally love my MPCNC, but the point of going with non-home-made equipment was to make it easy. The “makerspace” would primarily be for senior design projects. Frankly, it is just sad how bad most engineering students are at actually making and designing things. Not to just blow money that isn’t mine. I know how universal the MPCNC is and how to do the mods to make it do whatever I want. But for people just trying to get a group project done at the last minute it isn’t the right tool for the job without an experienced user there all the time. These students need something as simple as hitting print on a word document. Not jumping hoops through multiple programs.

This would have been a basic shop without machining or welding. We have multiple other shops that have those capabilities.

In the end it doesn’t matter anyway because of bureaucracy. The plans were cancelled because the initial fundraising amount was less than anticipated. A large sponsor was willing to donate a large amount (relative to the space) annually if the school would guarantee that the money would be used for the space and not get put into a giant bank account for general university spending. The school wouldn’t guarantee that so the sponsor backed out completely. With Illinois in the state that it is in, the fund raised money was likely moved to a general account just to keep the only supervised shop open for another week. Frankly, it would be better spent that way anyway. If we lost our only machinist senior design projects and design rso’s would have significantly lower quality parts.

Wow, I did not notice that at all! Haha, sorry it didn’t work out.