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Pocket-sized progress

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There seems to be a big boom in little CNC machines and I’m curious as to how they fit – if they do – into today’s professional shops.

In an article by John English in the current (Feb. 2013) issue of Woodshop News, a couple of benchtop CNC machines caught my eye. These are nothing new, as there have been hobby and DIY versions of these for a number of years. But these new CNC machines aren’t toys, and are being marketed as serious machines for serious shops. Their specs (and the result of their work) seem to back that up.

The manufacturers of the Shopbot Desktop, CarveWright, Rockler Click-N-Carve and CNC Shark, the Velox Desktop, the Zenbot Mini and others are fighting what may be lingering notions of those extremely light-duty hobby machines of years past. But the real question is whether pro shops are ready to embrace these new little workhorses. Obviously, if you’re turning 5x10 panels into cabinet parts, your needs are far different. But what if you’re not?

There are plenty of pro woodworkers who earn a good living making things smaller than 24" – box makers, sign makers and high-end crafters come to mind. Then there are those shops that make larger items that incorporate smaller components, such as decorative panels and inserts, who might benefit from this growing market segment.

So my question to you pros is this: Are these machines ready for prime time, and are you ready to for them? I’d like to know how you might use them, whether you’re considering one, or what’s holding you back. And I’d especially like to hear from those of you who already have one and are seeing results.



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