Mini CNC iCarver
Computer controlled machines used to be very expensive and difficult to operate. I know; I’ve been using them for 25 years. But things have changed and now you can have one in your workshop for less than $7,000. I’m talking about the Mini CNC iCarver from Geetech, sold through Beyond Tools.
I’ve had a good look at this machine twice now and I’m impressed by its simplicity to set up and use. In its basic format the machine is a carver. How good it carves will depend on the software, but the supplied i-picture program will keep you happy for months.
Eventually though, you’re going to want smoother carving and more functions and higher-level software is available. Out of the box the iCarver comes complete with a 381 x 508 x 101.6mm worktable, overhead gantry, stand, tools, 21,000rpm brushless motor and i-picture software. It plugs straight into a 240 volt power socket. You can carve wood, plastic and acrylics and you won’t need a degree in mechanical engineering.
The ‘control’ panel has a mere ten buttons, mostly for moving the cutter to its starting point and navigating the very simple menu. Most of the ‘work’ is done on the software. Your carving can be a picture from a camera or phone, the internet or a scanned image. The software accepts all common picture formats. Simply start the i-picture software and drop your picture into it. Set the size of the carving; the starting point and type of tool, then click the ‘preview’ button to see what it’s going to look like. Save it
to the USB stick, load it into the machine and you’re almost ready to start. Install a cutter, use the machine keypad to move the cutter to the start point and press enter. It’s really that simple.
The wood is held onto the table with clamps set into T-slots in the table. Depending on the carving, the job may take several minutes to several hours. The action is sort of like an inkjet printer; the tool goes from side to side as it creates the carving.
Upgrading the software will allow you to make smoother carvings and also to do free-form routings where the tool follows any shape you’ve drawn. So, instead of the cutter going left and right, it will follow the lines. Beyond Tools currently bundle ‘ArtCAM express’ with the machine and this opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I haven’t bought one yet, but I’m seriously
Reviewed by Philip Ashley
For more information see www.beyondtools.com or phone (08) 9209 7400.