For the past year and a half I’ve been putting the Axiom AR8 PRO+ CNC machine to work in my shop. I’ve used this machine WAY more than what shows in videos. It’s a problem solver, a prototype maker, a work horse, and an employee that never shows up late or drunk. It’s a great machine and was perfect for my last shop space. The instant I knew I was getting a much larger shop I also knew I would eventually upgrade to a CNC machine with the capacity of cutting a full 4×8 sheet. The time has come for the new machine but before the Axiom leaves my shop I wanted to document my time with it in the form of a “tool talk.”
I don’t like to call these tool reviews as I’m really not reviewing the machine. I think tool reviews are borderline pointless as all the specs can be found from the manufacturer and talking about experience with a tool is far more valuable than talking about what a tool can do. With that said, the video I shot about this machine was primarily just answering questions and general CNC talk and did not focus on the specific features of the machine. So the rest of this article will just be some basic considerations I made from when I got the machine. Also, keep in mind that these are just “generally speaking” comments from me. The XCarve, Shapeoko 3, and similar machines are plenty capable. But they do have limitations in size, performance, and long term durability.
Rack and pinion or ballscrew movement is stronger, requires less maintenance, and is more precise. Even the sun coming through a window can warm up a belt and expand it enough to affect performance. My previous CNC was the XCarve right after it was launched. It wasn’t nearly as polished and refined as it is today, it was buggy, and the browser based software was limiting. The belt drive system was finicky and I remember quite a bit of frustration trying to stop the drive belts from slipping. I liked the hardware features I saw on the AR8 more than what I sawn on any of the machines in the XCarve price range.
I wanted a true spindle and not a router. I don’t have any long term experience with a spindle but all of my research tells me that a true spindle is more precise and longer lasting than a router. And MUCH quieter. Even though the dust collector will always be running, I don’t want to imagine being around a screaming router for a 2 hour 3d cut. I will recommend to try and get a spindle and not a router.
Attached computer or pendant? Either will get the job done but that’s a situational decision. In my last shop I was already crammed for space. I did not want to have to put a computer in the shop so I preferred the pendant control and stepping out to the next room for the computer work. That perspective was based upon my last shop. In this shop it doesn’t matter as I have my office computer in the shop. Regardless, it’s something to consider.
Cutting size. This was another situational factor. The 2’x4′ cutting envelope of the AR8 was perfect for my last shop. There was no need for me to even consider anything larger for that space. Now that I have a larger shop I am able to utilize a larger machine.
Cutting speed. I’m impatient. The faster something can cut the better, assuming the quality doesn’t suffer. A typical hardwood cut for me on the AR8 is with a .250 two flute end mill cutting with a .255″ depth of cut at 157 inches per minute. That’s not blazing fast but we’re talking hardwood with a good resulting cut quality. The machine is stable and solid at these speeds.
The Axiom company. I work with tools on a daily basis and for a tool that costs as much as this I want to know the company is going to stand by their product and be there to assist if something goes wrong. I’ve read a lot of great feedback regarding the Axiom team. When I went to the 2018 International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, GA, I saw a wide range of CNC offerings. Most of them were full production beasts but there were a lot more than I expected in the sub $10k range. I never spoke with any of the company representatives but made sure to listen when they were talking. My takeaway from that event was that Axiom stood out.
The closest value I could find at the time to the AR8 was the Stinger I SR-24 by Camster. At it’s base price it’s about $1k more than the Axiom AR8 Pro+. The Stinger has a faster movement and allows for over the bed cutting on one side. But it has a router instead of a true spindle (can always be changed), requires a computer to be connected to it, and physically takes up a lot more shop space for the same cutting capacity and even more space for the computer. There are probably other slight technical differences but at the time I’d rather have a slightly slower cut (which is still pretty darn fast), a 3hp liquid cooled spindle, and not have to take up even more space in my shop with a dedicated computer that won’t be used all the time.
That pretty much sums up my experience with the AR8. It’s a great machine and hard to beat at that price point. For someone looking for a turn-key CNC setup with extremely minimal setup and is limited with shop space or just doesn’t need a large cutting capacity then I have no problem telling them to consider the Axiom lineup. If you are looking for more than a 4’x4′ cutting capacity and want to stretch your money even further by assembling a CNC yourself then you just have to look elsewhere.
For those who fall in that category I suggest looking into Avid CNC. That’s what my next machine will be. I’m actually sitting next to six boxes of 80/20 extrusions for the next machine as I right this article. The next machine will have a 4’x10′ capacity (more on that later) and will allow me to make a vertical table and cut on the end grain of material.
I hope the information in this article is based upon my research and experience and the opinions are my own. Hopefully it is able to help someone out there. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by my website today :)