End Mills and Cutters


Common Pre-Purchase Questions

Will the milling and laser tools work on other metals besides aluminum?

Yes, they will also machine brass and copper.  STEPCRAFT machines are only designed for machining of non-ferrous metals.  So you can not mill steel, stainless steel, etc.

Also note that the laser will NOT cut metals.  you can use it to engrave but it will NOT cut!

 

On average, if we have machines in stock, we can ship kits within 48 hours of purchase.  If machines are in stock, it will take an average of 5 working days to ship.

Where can I purchase STEPCRAFT in Canada, USA or Mexico?

All sales, service and support is handled for Canada, USA and Mexico out of our offices in Torrington, CT.  You can visit www.stepcraft.us for pricing and information.  Or you can email info@stepcraft.us.

If you live outside the USA, Canada or Mexico, please visit www.stepcraft-systems.com for a complete list of dealers around the world.

 

Please visit www.stepcraft-systems.com for a complete list of dealers around the world.

 

They are manufactured in Menden Germany.  If you would like to take a virtual tour of the factory, click www.stepcraft.us/menden.

There is really not much comparison between the two. Both tools are similar only in that fact they both hold a router bit and can rotate it to cut material at high speeds. A router is a 110V consumer grade tool that is rated for intermittent use while a spindle is an industrial motor that has been manufactured to run all day long, day in and day out for exactly the purpose you want to purchase it for – CNC cutting. Spindles are more powerful (note that hp ratings between routers and spindles are not comparable) and will maintain their full torque down to much lower RPMs than a router. Spindles have precision bearings, which means less run-out and thus smoother and more accurate cutting. The bearings on a spindle also stand up to continuous use better than those of a router. Bearings in a heavily used router will need to be replaced every three-four months, while a similarly used spindle should be good for a few years between bearing replacements. A spindle is also much quieter in operation than a router.

That been said, if you don’t need a heavy cut and noise is not an issue, then a router is a safe choice. In production situations, we highly recommend a spindle. In addition, the full performance capabilities of our machines are fully realized with a spindle because a router will bog down in heavy cutting at higher cutting speeds.

In making a decision, the real dividing line between the two is on how you make your money. If your paycheck comes from someplace outside your shop, then buy whichever you feel you can afford. If your paycheck is generated inside your shop, and your living and reputation is on the line, you need the security and substantially higher cut quality that comes from a spindle.

What type of warranty does STEPCRAFT offer?

STEPCRAFT offers a full two-year warranty on all STEPCRAFT brand products and accessories.

The full outline of what is covered is available on the following link: https://stepcraft.us/warranty/

Depending on your CNC system, you will need three different software programs.

  1. CAD/Design
  2. CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing)
  3. Machine Control Software

The CAM software is the one that you will most likely need to purchase in addition to your CNC machine. Some CAM programs like Vectric V Carve or Cut 2D have a design component included in the software, so one program meets both 1 and 2 above.

CAD/Design

Design programs like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel Draw.  CAD programs like AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Sketchup, Solidworks, etc.  STEPCRAFT supports these and many more of the popular CAD/vector design software programs on the market.  Depending on what you are looking to do will determine how much knowledge you will need to have on a CAD or design program

CAM

A CAM (computer aided manufacturing) program. A CAM program will take the vectors or 3D model that you have designed and allow you to tell the program which tools you intent to use as well as the material size and the speeds and feed rate that you wish to run for your project.  The CAM program will output a G Code file, which is basically common machine language for CNC machines. Vectric programs like V Carve and Cut 2D make this process pretty easy.  STEPCRAFT sells and supports the full line of Vectric programs as well as Deskproto Multi-Axis CAM software.

Machine Control 

Most CNC machines will come with machine control software.  STEPCRAFT, for example, comes with UCCNC when ordered from the USA office. They provide UCCNC as well as WinPC-NC in other parts of the world.  Mach 3/4 is a very popular machine control software program which is used with many commercial machines as well as the DIY CNC world. There are also programs line Linux CNC for Linux platforms and come manufacturers will include their own proprietary programs.

You can expect that many commercial CNC machines will come with software, as the machine is useless without it.  If you are making your own (DIY) CNC machine, then you will most definitely need to purchase software like UCCNC or Mach 3/4 for machine control.

What software comes with the machine?

STEPCRAFT, Inc (USA) includes UCCNC machine control software with each CNC system.  The only software you need to additionally purchase is a CAD/CAM package like Vectric Cut 3D or V Carve.  STEPCRAFT also includes a free one year subscription to Fusion 360 with each machine.

STEPCRAFT in other parts of the world gives you the option to purchase the machines with UCCNC, WinPC-NC or without any machine control software.




 

STEPCRAFT CNC machines have two parameters in the specifications for their machines: Clamping Surface and Travel Distance

Clamping Surface is maximum size of work material that you can place onto the machines bed.   Travel Distance is the maximum amount that the gantry and cutting bit will move.

As an example, the STEPCRAFT-2/300 has a clamping surface of 14.96″ x 8.74″ (380x222mm) but the travel distance is equal to 11.81″ x 8.27″ (300x210mm). This means that you can place a slightly larger workpiece onto the bed than you can actually cut.

The number that is most important when choosing which size STEPCRAFT machine to buy is the Travel Distance.

The following chart reflects these sizes as well as the overall dimension of the machines.  Clamping Distance is the middle set of dimensions and Travel Distance is the Lower Set of Dimensions.

The maximum speed for all Stepcraft V2 machines is 50 mm/sec (107 inches/min)

Keep in mind that there are very few materials where you will cut at full speed.  Many times you will run closer to half the speed but you will be able to take deeper passes. The actual speed that you will run at will largely depend on the material and the end mill (bit or cutter).

What is the maximum project height I can 3D print?

The maximum print height is as follows:

STEPCRAFT 420, 600 and 840 – 120mm (4.72″)

STEPCRAFT 300 – 92mm (3.62″)

If you are using the STEPCRAFT Heated Bed, then you need to subtract 17mm (.67″) from the total print height.

What is the maximum height of the work material that I can place on the work bed?

The total travel distance for the Z axis is 5.5″. However, you need to keep in mind that some of that height will be used up by the systemheld tool that you place on the machine.  For example, the HF500 spindle and collet stick below the tool holder by about 1.2″  This would reduce the total material height to 4.3″  From that you need to account for the length of the tool as well.

 

The main difference is in the physical size, specifically in the X and Y dimensions.  However, the model 300 does have a shorter Z axis dimension of 3.12″ versus 5.5″ on the 420, 600 and 840 models.

The speed, controller board, software and functionality of each machine is exactly the same.

What is the difference between the Kress, HF-500, Dremel and Dewalt spindles?

We made a video to fully answer this question.

NOTE: The new HF500 spindles NO LONGER come with an air pump as we use sealed bearings and the pump is no longer required. 

The level of accuracy that you will achieve with a STEPCRAFT CNC is based a lot on how well the machine was assembled and how well it is maintained. If your machine is setup with a lot of movement in the gantry and lead screws, this will equate to less accuracy at the bit.   However if you take the time to not only setup and maintain the machine properly, but also take the time to do the software backlash compensation, then you can see accuracies of .001″ or better.   On average a customer can expect .0015″ – .003″ of accuracy in their machine.

What is G-Code?

G-Code is the generic name for CNC machine control language. It is the way that you can tell a computerized machine (CNC machine) to make something. G-Code consists of instructions that tell the CNC machine where to move, how fast to move and what path to follow.  As the machine is following the G-Code, it is continually removing material (except in the case of a 3D printer, where it is adding material) leaving behind a finished part.

You do not need to know how to program G-Code to run many of today’s personal desktop CNC machines.  STEPCRAFT recommends using CAD/CAM software like Fusion 360, Vectric VCarve, Cut 2D or Cut 3D or Deskproto.  These programs have an intuitive graphical interface that allows you to set all of the parameters for your job and then the software will output a fully-formatted G-Code file that you can load into your CNC’s machine control program to run the job.

It is, however, not a bad idea to learn the basics of G-Code  so if there was ever a problem with a job, you can quickly reference the code and see and understand what the machine is doing (or supposed to do) for the given G-Code commands.

The short answer is that both will work, however, if you are looking for high accuracy then a screw drive system will outperform every time.

Belt-Drive Systems

Belt drive systems are much cheaper to produce and require less expensive components to make them work. A belt drive system is usually a one to one ratio between motor movement and gantry movement.  Meaning that there is no gear reduction so as the motor moves, the gantry will move an equal amount. Because of this, the motor on a belt drive system will usually be much larger than a same size lead screw driven system.  Belts are also more susceptible to  stretching and wear.  This will always affect accuracy.  If the belt stretches that will immediately translate into an inaccuracy at the bit into your workpiece.  Some might argue that a belt drive system will move the gantry faster, but keep in mind that moving faster into a material and having stretch on the belt will cause deflection and the belt will act more like a spring thus increasing the risk for lost steps and positioning.

Screw-Drive Systems

A screw driven system usually consists of a threaded rod (screw) that is either an Acme-type lead screw or a ball screw.  The motor will rotate the screw and the gantry is attached to the screw with some type of threaded nut (lead screw nut or ball nut).  As the screw turns, the gantry is moved in the corresponding direction. The number of threads per inch will determine how many rotations the screw must turn for the gantry to move one inch.  This gear reduction means that you can either use much smaller stepper motors to control the movement and still maintain a very high accuracy, or you can use a larger motor and move a larger mass as compared to using the same size motor in a belt driven system. You will find much better repeatability and accuracy in a screw driven system with minimal to no linear free play.  Due to the costs of lead and ball screws and components, you will find that these type of drive systems will cost more than a belt drive system.

Summary

If you are looking for high accuracy, a more rugged design, or if you plan to cut harder materials like hard plastics, hard woods and metals, then you will want a system that uses a screw-drive.  If you are just planning to cut thin, softer materials like soft woods and plastics and accuracy is not as important to you, and if you do not have a large budget, then a belt-drive system might be right for you.  Always keep in mind when looking at purchasing a CNC system what you might need in the future.  You might think that your immediate need to make model parts out of thin plywood, thin plastic and balsa wood might not require a screw drive, but maybe in the future you want to cut hardwoods, thicker plastics or metals, or you get a project that requires a high cutting accuracy – in this case you might be kicking yourself for not spending the extra few hundred dollars for the better drive system.

Fortunately there are not a lot of things that will break on the STEPCRAFT CNC, however from time to time, depending on how well you maintain the machine, you might have a part or two wear out and need to be replaced.  When this happens, simply call or email our support department and they will take care of sending you a replacement part right away.  There is a full two year warranty for all STEPCRAFT machines.  If you need assistance replacing the part, STEPCRAFT’s support department can walk you through it on the phone, send you a how-to video or arrange a video conference call to help you though the process.

In extreme cases, where a customer has a machine that has not been assembled properly and needs support’s direct assistance, you can send it back to STEPCRAFT and the support team will fix/adjust, test, repackage and send back to you.  This is a very rare scenario as 99% of the problems can be resolved quickly over the phone.

It allows you to automatically set the Z height to your workpiece top surface or your machine’s bed surface.

To use it, you simply place the sensor on top of your work material or on top of your bed, and then move the gantry so the tip of the end mill is just about the button on the sensor.  Then you can press the Tool Length button on UCCNC and it will automatically lower the bit until it touches the sensor.  Once complete you remove the sensor and when you press “Go to zero” on UCCNC you will notice that the tip of the end mill is exactly on top of the workpiece’s surface.

Here is a video that explains how to set it up and use it:

To be able to make your first CNC project, you need, at minimum, the following items:

  1. CNC base machine (STEPCRAFT 210, 300, 420, 600 or 840)
  2. A Spindle (HF500, Kress, Dremel, Dewalt, Proxxon, etc).  Please watch this VIDEO for an explanation of all our spindle options.
  3. Tooling (also know as “end mills”).  You will need an end mill for the particular material that you intend to cut/carve.  STEPCRAFT sells a Starter Tool Set that comes with an assortment of tools to get you started cutting and carving woods, plastics, aluminum, carbon fiber, composites and two bits are included for engraving.
  4. CAD/CAM Software.  STEPCRAFT includes a free year subscription to Fusion 360, which is a very powerful 3D design and CAM software system. However, Fusion 360, while powerful, is also time consuming to learn and become proficient at.  STEPCRAFT also sells Vectric programs (Cut 2D, Cut 3D and V Carve).  These programs are better suited for the beginner and will have you up and running with your first projects in a matter of minutes.

NOTE: Having a copy of a Vectric program is a good idea, even if you intend on learning Fusion 360.  Vectric programs are quick and easy to setup a job where Fusion will become quick once you learn how to use it.  Think of Vectric programs like a sprint and Fusion 360 more like a marathon when it comes to the end result with creating CNC projects. 

That’t it!  These are the minimum things you need to get started with CNC’ing.  You can also check out STEPCRAFT’s Complete System Packages for preconfigured systems that come with everything you need to get started as soon as you receive your new CNC system.

STEPCRAFT CNC machines are sold in an a la carte fashion were you purchase the base machine (210, 300, 420, 600, or 840) and then you can customize your system with any of the systemheld attachments, accessories, or software programs that we offer.

The base STEPCRAFT CNC machine will come with a UCCNC, which is our machine control software.  This program will allow you to configure, move, jog and setup the machine as well as run G Code files to operate the CNC. You can think of UCCNC as an “operating system” for the STEPCRAFT CNC.

Additionally, you will receive a UC100 Parallel to USB interface with your STEPCRAFT.  This device allows you to connect to your computer using a USB cable. The STEPCRAFT uses a parallel bus on its control board, which is very common in the world of CNC router systems.  Parallel busses are very fast in comparison to a serial bus system.  Since many projects that you could run on your CNC might contains tens or hundreds of thousands of lines of code, it is important to have a fast control board architecture.  The problem with this is that it is very uncommon to have a parallel interface in a modern computer.  USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt are the common interfaces of today.  So to make sure you can use your STEPCRAFT CNC with any modern day computer, the UC100 is used.

The UC100 is a coded device, which means you can not use it without a license file that matches the device.  Your STEPCRAFT CNC will come with a license file (either on a USB stick in the box or will be emailed to you).  This file will be placed in the UCCNC folder on your computer and it will automaticlly verify that your UC100 matches when you start UCCNC.

Every new STEPCRAFT CNC sold in the USA, Canada and Mexico will include a card which gives you a full year of Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD/CAM software for free.  Fusion 360 is a very powerful 3D CAD/CAM package that will really extend the limits of what you can create on a STEPCRAFT CNC. There is more of a learning curve for Fusion 360 than there is for other programs like the Vectric and Deskproto programs.

The STEPCRAFT CNC does not include CAD/CAM software (other than the free year of Fusion 360), a spindle, tooling or other accessories or attachments.  You will need to purchase these items separately or you can consider purchasing a Complete System Package, which will come configured with everything you need to get started as soon as your machine arrives.

 

What clamping system comes with the Stepcraft CNC system?

The Stepcraft CNC machines come with a White Formica hardboard table and a pair of cross clamps that fit into integrated slots in the inner frame of the machine.  These cross clamps have bolts in them which will allow you to secure material up to about  1/2″ in thickness.  Another alternative for fastening material is to use double sided tape and stick it to the white top.  This will securely hold the material in place while you cut it.  Another common practice is to cut a piece of 3/4″ MDF to the size of the word table and secure that to the white surface using double sided tape.  This will also act as a waste board and it will allow you to screw material into the board to secure it.

Stepcraft also sells a T-slot table option for all of their machines except the 210.  This will allow you to clamp the material using either Stepcraft Clamps or a variety of aftermarket T-slot clamps.

In most cases you will need some sort of waste board under your work material to prevent you from damaging the white table or T-slot table.

 

What are the differences between the 5 different STEPCRAFT Desktop CNC models?

The STEPCRAFT 210 is based on a version 1 of the STEPCRAFT CNC product line.  It will have a very small work area as well as a max speed of around 30mm/sec and a lower Z height (around 3″).  The STEPCRAFT-2/300 has the same specs in terms of speed and functionality as the 420, 600 and 840, but the Z height is slightly shorter (around 4″) as compared to the 5.5″ of the other machines.  The STEPCRAFT-2/420, STEPCRAFT-2/600 and STEPCRAFT-2/840 all have the same basic specs with the exception of the total work area size in the X and Y dimensions.   The following chart will help illustrate the differences between the different size STEPCRAFT desktop CNC machines.

 

Stepcraft desktop cnc machine sizes

 

 

All STEPCRAFT software, including UCCNC and Vectric products require a Windows-based computer system or a Mac running Parallels with Windows.

  • COMPUTER:
    • 2 GHZ multi-core CPU
    • 2 GB RAM with Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista, Windows Version 7, 8, 8.1, or 10
    • 300 Mb Disk Space (Vectric)
    • 100 Mb Disk Space (UCCNC)
  • DISPLAY
    • 1024 x 768 graphics display
  • OPERATING SYSTEM
    • Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista, Windows Version 7, 8, 8.1, or 10 with 2 GB RAM

If you wish to run Fusion 360, that can be run on both Windows machines and Mac computers natively.

STEPCRAFT offers financing through Crest Financial.  You can fill out the application at www.stepcraft.us/crestapp

Keep in mind that STEPCRAFT has no control over the financing approval process.  Crest will approve you for a specific amount of money of which you can apply all or some of it towards your purchase.  Your Payments will be made directly to Crest Financial.

 

Yes we have a chart that shows all 5 machines.   The bottom dimensions “Travel Distance” is the largest workpiece that you can use on each machine

 

STEPCRAFT’s  office is located in Torrington, CT.  We have a full demo room that you are welcome to come and visit during normal business hours or at other times by appointment.

STEPCRAFT sells direct only and not through dealers in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Our reason for doing this is so that we can maintain the best possible customer service for our customers.  When you call or email us, you are speaking to a representative that ONLY sells and supports STEPCRAFT CNC machines.

If you are located in an area that is too far away to visit, we will work with you and do our best to make videos, and test your files and materials to ensure that the system will meet your needs and expectations.

STEPCRAFT’s office in Europe is located in Menden Germany.  In addition to selling directly, they have an extensive dealer network in many different countries to best support and service customers in their native language and in reasonable geographic range. You can see the full list of dealers by clicking HERE.

Is the STEPCRAFT CNC system able to engrave or cut through carbon fibers?

 

Yes, the STEPCRAFT CNC will cut carbon fiber very well and very accurately.  However, due to the hazardous nature of the carbon dust, STEPCRAFT has a Milling Bath that can be used where you cut the Carbon in water and the water captures the dust not allowing it to become airborne.  You can see the Milling Bath here: https://stepcraft.us/product/milling-bath-840/  (They are available in sizes for the 420, 600 and 840 machines)

The following videos show you how well a STEPCRAFT can do with Carbon Fiber:

 

 

If I order a STEPCRAFT with an Automatic Tool Changer, will you pre-install the tool rack and setup the software?

Yes we can pre-install the tool rack(s) for you on your machine. We will ALWAYS put them in the rear right corner (when looking from the front of the machine).  Additionally, we will setup the tool locations in UCCNC and send you the Macro file that you can simply copy to your installation of UCCNC.  Once complete, all locations should be correct and you can start using the ATC right away.

If I order a STEPCRAFT CNC Ready To Run with a Tool Length Sensor, will the sensor be ready to use when I get the machine

When you order a Tool Length Sensor with your Ready To Run STEPCRAFT CNC, the tool length sensor will be wired and ready to use.  You will have to install the macro for the tool length sensor (see video below) into your computer to get it to work.  Depending on when you purchase your machine, the Tool Length Sensor will either be wired in directly to the machine, or there will be a headphone jack that you can plug it into coming out the back of the machine.

 

If I order a STEPCRAFT CNC Ready To Run with a 4th Axis System, will the 4th Axis be ready to use when I receive it?

The 4th Axis unit requires a board that must be plugged into the main circuit board on the STEPCRAFT.  This board will be installed on Ready To Run machines.  The only thing you will need to do is to mount the 4th Axis unit and Tail Stock on the T-Slot table and plug the serial cable from the 4th Axis unit into the board.

Note: it is recommended to maximum flexibility for stock size and ease of use that you purchase a T-Slot table for your STEPCRAFT CNC. 

No, Your order will ship from Torrington, Connecticut. Additionally, all post-sales support will also be done from our Torrington, CT office.

With well over 6500 STEPCRAFT systems sold around the world, there stands to reason that a small percentage of customer might have some trouble.  The instructions are very well thought out for any level of builder, but still, you MUST follow them step by step.  Additionally we produced a Assembly Training Course that is a video tutorial outlining every step in the manual. Between the manual and videos, the average customer should not have any trouble.

We find that many customers who you are reading about either do not have the skill set to understand basic assembly terminology or are skipping steps in the assembly process.  Many times a quick call to our support team has the customer up and running quickly.

There are no special tools or skills required to assemble a STEPCRAFT kit, but if you are the type of person who “skims” through manuals and are not detail oriented when assembling something, then you might have the same issues that some people post about.   While it is not a hard build, there are a few items that you must pay attention to due to the precise nature of the machine.

If you take your time and follow the steps in the videos and manual, you will not have any problems building your STEPCRAFT CNC.

 

I want to buy a STEPCRAFT Complete System package, but I want VCarve Pro rather than Desktop, how can I do this?

All of the complete system packages, with the exception of the ELITE comes with Vectric VCarve Desktop software which will have a 24×24″ size limitation.  If you are looking to order the 840 CNC, then you will NOT be able to use the entire work bed with a single file using VCarve Desktop.  So you would need to VCarve Pro.  You can click this link https://stepcraft.us/product/package-upgrade-to-v-carve-pro/ to add the “UPGRADE” to your order.  Please NOTE that this is ONLY the upgrade and can only be used in conjunction with a complete system that has VCarve Desktop.

It really depends on what you are using for a spindle, bit and what type of material that you are using.  Statistically larger diameter bits will produce more noise.  The same is true for using a router as a spindle instead of a CNC spindle like the HF500 from STEPCRAFT.  It also depends on what you are using for attachments.  For example, if you are using the 3D Printer, foam cutter, drag knife, engraving point or wood burning pen, then the only noise you will hear is the rhythmic whine of the stepper motors working in unison together.  If you are using a Dewalt DW611 router with a 1/4″ end mill then the noise will be much greater; about the sound of an electric hand mixer but not as loud as a blender.

If noise is a concern for you, then you can consider getting a STEPCRAFT Enclosure which will reduce noice by as much as 50%.

How much of STEPCRAFT CNC machines are “Made In Germany”?

 

Quality standard of STEPCRAFT products

The machine series STEPCRAFT 210, 300, 420, 600 and 840 grant the designation “Made in Germany”. With respective to the objective of value and origin of the individual components nearly 90 % comes from German suppliers:

 Value percentage %  Germany Switzerland, China
 Electronics & Software  33 %  3 %
 Mechanics  56 %  8 %
 Total  89 %  11 %

 

Most of the suppliers have their head office not far from Menden, the location of STEPCRAFT. The advantages are clear:

– Availability of replacement parts
– Quality assurance of the manufacturing process
– Short fabrication and delivery times
– Better transparency and value for money
– Optimization of logistical processes
– Quick response times

How much are STEPCRAFT CNC machines?

All of the pricing for STEPCRAFT products are located on the website at www.stepcraft.us.   Everything on the site is setup to purchase separately. For example, You pick the machine that you want (300, 420, 600, 840, etc) and then you choose your spindle, followed by other attachments and accessories.  To make buy easier we also put together some Complete System Packages that include the machine, spindle and all necessary software and accessories to get you up and running as soon as you receive it.

On average it takes between 6-8 hours depending on your skill level.  The kits are not hard to assemble and there are no special tools required.  We also have an online video training course that walks you though every step of the assembly process.

There are three basic software program types that you will need to have some knowledge of when getting ready to use your STEPCRAFT CNC system:

  1. A design or CAD program.  Design programs like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel Draw.  CAD programs like AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Sketchup, Solidworks, etc.  STEPCRAFT supports these and many more of the popular CAD/vector design software programs on the market.  Depending on what you are looking to do will determine how much knowledge you will need to have on a CAD or design program
  2. A CAM (computer aided manufacturing) program. A CAM program will take the vectors or 3D model that you have designed and allow you to tell the program which tools you intent to use as well as the material size and the speeds and feed rate that you wish to run for your project.  The CAM program will output a G Code file, which is basically common machine language for CNC machines. Vectric programs like V Carve and Cut 2D make this process pretty easy.  STEPCRAFT sells and supports the full line of Vectric programs as well as Deskproto Multi-Axis CAM software.
  3. UCCNC (or machine control software).  This program is used to setup, job and zero the STEPCRAFT CNC as well as loading and running the G Code file that was created from your CAM program.

So answer the question as to how easy it is to learn, really depends on what you are looking to do.

For example, if you are looking to do projects that are pretty complex and require that you design them in Fusion 360 or Illustrator, and you DON’T know how to use these programs, then you will have a longer learning curve since you will have to learn the design program as well.

Assuming that you already know how to use a design or CAD program, then the next program you would need to learn is a CAM program, such as Vectric V Carve.  The nice thing about V Carve (or Cut 2D) is that the interface is very easy to learn so you can be on the way of making your first CNC project in a matter of minutes.  However, as you progress, these programs have a lot of powerful features that will extend the limits on what you can create on your STEPCRAFT CNC machine.

As for UCCNC, this program takes about 15 minutes to learn how to use.  Much of what you see on the screen are buttons and features that you will not use (unless doing advanced features like automatic tool changing, etc). There are only about 5 buttons that you will need to focus on to successfully start creating projects on your STEPCRAFT right away.

This video gives you a basic overview of the software programs and how easy it is to get started right away.

How does STEPCRAFT provide UCCNC to the customer?

UCCNC comes on a disc inside the machine box.  There will be an orange USB drive in the box that will contain the License file for UCCNC.  In the event that you lose the disc, you can download a copy of UCCNC from our website on any STEPCRAFT machine page under the Downloads tab.

 

Many CNC machines will offer a dust boot or adapter that surrounds the spindle with a brush or rubber gasket material that rubs along the workpiece. A vacuum is connected to this adapter and dust is extracted right at the end mill.  STEPCRAFT, for example, offers an exhaust adapter with a removable brush.

 


To get the most out of your dust collection system you need to make sure that the brush is contacting the work surface.  If not then only a percentage of the dust will be drawn into the dust collection system. Depending on the system you might need to use shorter bits to achieve this.

To extract the dust you can use a simple shop vac or an integrated dust collection system.

Using a CNC machine is like an artist painting.

The material you are working on is your “canvas” and the bits (otherwise known as “end mills” or “tools”) are the “brushes”

There are literally tens of thousands of bits available for a CNC machine from hundreds of manufacturers. Getting into detail on them all would literally be a book.  So for this question we will break it down into XX types:

2 Flute Square End Mill

Square nose end mill – These bits are the most common and are what you would likely turn to for all of your CNC cutting. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and spiral types.  If you are just starting out, you might want to have an 1/8″ 2 flute up spiral and a 1/8″ 2 flute down spiral end mill to get you started.  Both bits will work in most all CNC machines as an 1/8″ shaft diameter is very popular, even if you are using a Dremel tool as a spindle.

2 Flute is a common type since most CNC routers run at very high RPM, so you need fewer flutes to extract the chips from the material as you are cutting quickly.

Up Spiral bits will pull the chips away from the material, but can leave a frayed top edge of your workpiece, these bits are better for plastics and aluminum and harder woods.

Down Spiral bits will push the chips into the work material but will leave a very clean top edge cut.  These bits are best for softer materials and wood as they leave a better finish.  They also force the material down into the bed of the machine which is good for thinner materials, where an up spiral bit will tend to pull it away from the bed.

Ball Nose End Mill

Ball Nose End Mill – These bits have rounded bottom and are typically used for carving 3 dimensional projects.  When used properly they can leave a very smooth and detailed finish on your workpiece.

If you are just starting out, I would get a 2 flute 1/8″ and 1/16″ ball nose for your tool kit.  These two sizes are very common and depending on the level of detail, you would have a bit for most requirements.

Engraving Bit

Engraving Bits – These bits will have a V point on the end are used for engraving materials for lettering or designs.  Its suggested to have 1/8″ 90 degree and 60 degree engraving bits for your tool kit when you are starting out.  These will give you a lot of flexibility for engraving options.

1/2″ V Router Bit

Additionally, if you have a CNC that can support 1/4″ shank bits, then its suggested to get a 1/2″ V router bit with a 1/4″ shank.  These are commonly found at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes.  This 1/2″ V bit is perfect for sign lettering and when using a program like V Carve, you have the ability to do some really nice 3D lettering.

These are the most common bits that I suggest any beginner have in their tool box.  As you gain more experience, you can add many more bits to your system in a variety of shapes and sizes for different applications.  STEPCRAFT has a Starter Tool Set

that includes all of these bits which can be found HERE.

This is a question that can be answered in many ways.

Use A Premade Design

The easiest way to get a project made on the CNC is to buy a design that is already done for you.  You can find many for free on the internet, but a few VERY good commercial options for 2D and 3D designs are:

Bitmap Image Trace

Another option that is no as easy as just buying a file or downloading something that has been already designed, but is still easier than designing something from scratch, is to import an image or logo (i.e. from Google Images) and use the Image Trace feature in Vectric to create a vector from the bitmap image.  Once it has been converted into a vector, you can assign tool paths to it and proceed to cut out on your CNC.

Another way to convert your bitmap images to vectors is to use the site (or software) https://vectormagic.com/.  The online version of their program works very well and returns a vector that has excellent quality.

The following video shows you how to use Vectric’s Image Trace feature

Design Your Own

Sometimes you can not get exactly what you are looking to create from an online source that is pre-made, so you must turn to making your own design.  This is not as scary as it sounds, especially if you are looking to cut out simple things like letters, signs, etc.  The CAD (or design) part of Vectric programs make this easy.  Cut 2D and V Carve have a design component to their software and you can quickly and easily design many different projects and then switch to the CAM part of the program to create the tool paths and output the G Code to the CNC.

You can also create vector designs with programs like Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator, or if you need something designed to very specific dimensions, you can use a CAD program like Fusion 360 or Sketchup.

Hire Someone To Design For You

There are many outsourcing websites on the internet where people are looking for design work.  You will be find many very talented people from all around the world and many (depending on the country) are willing to work for very reasonable rates.

www.upwork.com is one site where you will be able to post your job and have people bid on the project.  You can read up on the applicant, discuss specifics and finally hire the person who best meets your needs.

You can go on websites like www.cnczone.com or the Facebook Group CNC Router Tips and put a post up with what you are looking to have designed and more often than not, you find people who are willing to do your design for a small fee (if not for free)

CNC Manufacturer

If all else fails, then contact the manufacturer of your CNC machine and ask them if they can help with the design or if they know anyone who you could contact.

YouTube is also a good source to find how-to videos that can show you how to make your designs or how to use various software programs.

STEPCRAFT CNC systems require that they are connected to a computer via a USB cable.  Having the machine connected to a computer may not be as convenient but the ability to make file changes and reset parameters of the CNC from the computer saves a lot of time.]

Does the 3D Printer attachment fit all size machines?

Yes, it will work with all Version 1 and Version 2 STEPCRAFT CNC machines.

Does STEPCRAFT have an online forum?

Yes, it is located on our German website at https://www.stepcraft-systems.com/en/service-and-support/stepcraft-forum-uk

There is also a Facebook group called the STEPCRAFT Crafter’s Club that is very active as well.  You can visit that at www.stepcraftcraftersclub.com

Does Deskproto Multi-Axis Hobby Edition have the ability to use the entire bed of the STEPCRAFT-2/840?

Yes, there are no size limitations to Deskproto Multi-Axis Hobby Edition. For more information on Deskproto Multi-Axis please click HERE

To Purchase a non-commercial hobby license please visit https://stepcraft.us/product/deskproto-multi-axis-hobby-license-non-commercial-use-only/

 

Yes we do.  Please contact our Education Sales Manager, Dawn Constantiello (dawn@stepcraft.us) for more details.

No, not at this time.

Yes, ALL Machines and most attachments come with a printed manual.  Some newer products or smaller attachments might only come with a PDF manual which you can download by clicking the “DOWNLOADS” tab from the product page on the website www.stepcraft.us.

Do I need to buy additional software if I am only buying the Machine and 3D Printer attachment?

No, since UCCNC is included with the machine to run the G Code and the 3D Printer attachment comes with Repetier-Host slicing software.  Those two programs are all you need if you are just going to use your STEPCRAFT CNC for 3D printing.  If you are going to use the machine for cutting (spindle, laser, drag knife, etc.) then you need to have a CAM software program as well.

 

Do I have to design my files in metric because I see that UCCNC is metric?

No, You can design in inches or metric.  If you are using Vectric programs, you can design in inches or metric because when you choose the post processor to create your file, the post processor will convert the G Code to metric.

For more information on which post processor to use, please see this FAQ: http://cncfaq.us/ufaqs/post-processor-use-vectric-programs-vcarve-cut-2d-cut-3d-photovcarve/

No, at this time you can not use it because the Exhaust Adapter wraps around the whole spindle, which will interfere with the tool changer putting the tool back into the rack.   At this time we do not have plans for a new exhaust adapter design that will be able to be used with the tool changer.

While we could do this, there will be an additional shipping charge to do so.  And if you live outside the USA, there will be customs and duties fees also associated with this.  If you wish to learn the Vectric software while you are waiting for your STEPCRAFT CNC to arrive, your best bet is to download a FREE full working trial copy of the software from Vectric’s website.

The trial versions will not allow you to save a toolpath for your CNC other than the special sample files that are included. However any files that are created and saved with the trial versions of Cut2D, VCarve Pro, Aspire or Cut3D can be opened and made fully operational once you purchase and install the full version of the software as long as it is installed on the same PC as the trial version software.

Important: Please note that the Trial version of the software cannot be ‘Activated’ with the license key you receive when you purchase a copy. The trial versions of the software are for testing and evaluation only. It is not possible to license them to become full versions. You will however be supplied with a CD with your order which you can install and overwrite the trial copy.

Can you scan your own design and create a tool path to cut the object out on a CNC (Image Tracing)?

 

Vectric software, such as Cut 2D and VCarve have the ability for you to import a bitmap image and then use a function called “Image Trace” to create a vector around the image.  You can then adjust and modify the vector to your liking.  From there you can select the vector(s) and create a tool path for the CNC machine to cut around.  You can also vary the depth of the cut to meet your specific needs.

The following video show you how to do this:

No, the STEPCRAFT is only designed to cut non-ferrous metals like brass, aluminum and copper.  You might be able to engrave steel with the right engraving bit and proper speed and feed settings, but you can not cut it.

Can I use Solidworks CAD/CAM software with a STEPCRAFT CNC?

Yes, you can use Solidworks CAD.  Simply output the files in formats that are compatible with Vectric software (DWG, STL, etc.).  As for the CAM part of Solidworks, as long as you can out put standard G Code, we find that it will work without problems.  If there is a post processor for Mach 3, you can use that and the G Code will have the proper formatting for Stepcraft.

Can I use an American Express card to buy a STEPCRAFT CNC?

Yes you can, but you need to select PAYPAL at checkout and then when you get to the PayPal page, there is a link at the bottom of the page to pay with your Credit Card.

You should be able to use Visa, Mastercard, AMEX and Discover.

 

Can I use a Mac with a STEPCRAFT CNC?

Yes! While the UCCNC and Vectric Software both run on Windows platforms, you can use a MAC as long as you run Parallels software which allows you to install Windows on your Mac.  You can not run UCCNC or Vectric natively on a Mac (without Parallels).  If you use Fusion 360 for CAD/CAM, then you can install that natively as they have a Mac version of that software.  However, UCCNC will still need Parallels with Windows.

NOTE: Since a Mac computer is typically much more expensive than a Windows system, and the fact that UCCNC does not need a powerful computer, we recommend using your Mac for the design work and then getting an inexpensive or refurbished computer (desktop or laptop) to use to run the CNC, since the area around the CNC can potentially have dust and chips that might get on or near the computer.

Can I use a 3D scanner to create 3D models to carve as well as 3D print?

Yes, models created with a 3D Scanner are typically saved in common 3D formats like a .stl.  These files can be imported into CAM programs like Vectric Cut 3D, Vectric V Carve and Deskproto where they can be assigned tool paths to carve the object out of a material.  This is commonly done with two tool paths: Roughing and Finishing, using a standard end mill and a ball nose end mill, respectively.

These files created from a 3D scanner can also be used for a 3D printer.

Here is a good article with a list of the best 3D scanners for 2017: https://pinshape.com/blog/the-11-best-3d-scanners-on-the-market/

STEPCRAFT also has a 3D Touch Probe which can be used for 3D scanning.  The following videos show how that works:

 

 

Yes you can download a full working trial copy for free.  Please see this FAQ

STEPCRAFT only accepts purchase orders from schools and government agencies at this time.  All forms of payment are accepted (Cash, Credit card and Paypal).  If you wish to pay by check, you can mail the payment to us, but we do require that the check clears before we will ship your order (3-5 business days).

 

Can I order a Complete System Package or Elite Package in a Ready-To-Run (RTR) unit?

Yes you can but we do not have an option for this on our website.  We only have an option on the site for the individual machine; to order as a RTR.  If you wish to order a package, please contact our sales department at 203-556-1856 or email info@stepcraft.us.

The charge for assembly, test and crate is $499.00

At this time, the only financing companies that we work with finance only to customers in the USA.   One option for Canadian customers is to use Paypal Credit.  If you have a Paypal account, you can apply online and get an approval right away.  You can also talk with your local banks or credit unions in your country.

 

Can I engrave a photograph into a piece of wood?

Yes, you can use Vectric’s PhotoVCarve program, which allows you to create an engraving tool path for photos.

Additionally, you can use the new Laser Engraving Head DL445 which can laser engrave your photos into a variety of materials.

Can I cut carbon fiber on the STEPCRAFT CNC?

Yes, you can.  In fact, carbon fiber cuts very easily on the STEPCRAFT.  The main issue with cutting carbon is the dust that is created is very hazardous to your health if you breathe it in.  To combat this, STEPCRAFT has a Milling Bath in three separate sizes for the 420, 600 and 840 machines.  You can find information on the Milling Baths here: https://stepcraft.us/product-category/accessories/system-accessories-accessories/cnc-accessories/

Additionally here are a couple videos that you can watch containing more information on using a STEPCRAFT CNC for carbon fiber.

 

 

Can I buy the STEPCRAFT Touch Probe for use with a non-STEPCRAFT CNC machine?

Yes, you can purchase the Touch Probe and it will most likely work with just about any CNC.  However, you be responsible for the correct software setup, macros and configuration for your system.  STEPCRAFT will NOT support the operation or configuration of the Touch Probe for non-STEPCRAFT machines.  The unit will, however, be warranted for mechanical defects.

Yes, you can buy the machine fully assembled, tested and crated.  There is an additional charge depending on the machine which ranges from $399 to $499. Since the machine is crated, the 420, 600 and 840 must be shipped via a freight company which will incur an additional cost over shipping a kit via UPS.  The 300 can ship in a crate via UPS which, on average, costs about 25% more because of the additional weight.

With STEPCRAFT CNC machines being in such a high demand around the world and the pricing on STEPCRAFT systems being very competitive, it is not very often that Soeca

From time to time around various holidays, STEPCRAFT will run a promotion and have a discount code available. This happens around Black Friday, Christmas and Mid Summer. These discounts could range from free shipping to a few hundred dollars of a complete CNC system. Be sure to check out Facebook page for details on any specials that we might be running.  www.facebook.com/stepcraftinc

Are there any specific 3D Scanners that work best with STEPCRAFT, or any other CNC?

Honestly, No.  Most 3D scanners are capable of generating and saving files in common 3D file format.  That is really all that is required for STEPCRAFT.  The resolution will vary, though, from scanner to scanner and typically the more expensive they are, the better the scan resolution:

Here is a good article with a list of the top 11 3D scanners for 2017: https://pinshape.com/blog/the-11-best-3d-scanners-on-the-market/

Are all of the machines capable of using the spindle, laser and 4th axis?

Yes, you can use all of these attachments on each of the machines.  However the small size of the STEPCRAFT-1/210 might make it tough to use the 4th axis with longer work pieces. Additionally, the 210 has a limited 3″ Z height, which does not leave a lot of vertical travel and will limit the diameter of material that you can use on the machine.   Additionally you really need a T-slot when using the 4th Axis so you can adjust the tail stock for the length of the work material and the 210 is the only machine that does not have a T-Slot option.