Want to start a conversation on cnc? OK, here goes. Not about
Jewelcad especially, but cnc in general. First off, I think you
guys selling this technology greatly oversimplify the learning
curve. Even the “experts” I talk to finally admit that it took
6 months before they felt really proficient. I have been using
ArtCam Pro for the past 6 months, and still talk to technical
support. True, it actually doesn’t take long to produce
something, but I didn’t buy my system to do basics all the time.
I need to do what my customers want, and more often than not, I
need to go way beyond the basics. Not only does it take time to
learn the software, but only by trial and error (more time) can
one learn what will actually be produced from what is on screen.
Magnified 3D relief images may look perfect on screen, but when
an actual size live model is produced, it can and does contain
spacing, size and other problems that can only be discovered when
the actual model is seen and critiqued. Then it’s back to the
drawing board for refinements and another round of production
time. So, don’t tell me that I’ll be ready to take on the public
in just a few weeks.
For most people interested in this technology, it becomes a bit
of a task to learn it while trying make a living at the same
time. For those folks, the time to learn cnc technology is for
the most part done “after hours”. A lot of after hours . It can
become quite difficult making a living and getting to the point
where this stuff starts paying for itself at the same time. This
stuff ain’t cheap!!
Now for the good news - it is mucho cool!! Once you get past
the frustration and finally begin to understand what is going on,
there are lots of things one can make - just let your imagination
run. It is great to be able to design something and then watch
it being produced with much greater accuracy than doing it by
hand. Most of the software is pretty user friendly with a lot of
calculations automatically computed for you.
Just be sure you do your research and know the limitations of
the different types of systems. Know the difference between 3D
engraving systems and rapid prototype systems. Can your computer
handle the system, or do you need to add more ram or hard drive
space? Is some other software necessary to do preliminary
artwork before importing into your cnc software? Do you need
another computer because your present computer will need to be
dedicated to your cnc equipment once it begins an operation? If
you want a 3D engraving system and want to produce metal molds,
are you prepared to spend an additional $4000 for the plastic
injector? Do you have the “extra” time to devote to learning the
system? Can you make the payments for a few months until you are
truly ready? Just simple questions that need to be answered
before jumping into cnc.
It’s just that there is so much to learn all at once, while at
the same time finding a market for the machine so it will start
paying for itself - and earn a living at the same time. From my
experience, if you want to take the plunge into cnc, be ready to
devote a lot of time learning the software and any other
additional software necessary, and be ready to pay for the
system for a while before it begins to pay its way. Don’t expect
to start making tons of money right away just because you have a
new toy. This stuff is expensive and it takes a while to get to
the point of making money with it.
Right now having something done by someone already up and
running with cnc equipment is a bit expensive, especially for the
small mom and pop store. But, in the future, I believe prices
will become more competitive as many others come on line with the
equipment and competition for business starts to be a force in
My thoughts (requested) on cnc equipment.