Tool Talk #18: Axiom CNC + CNC Talk

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 :)

14 COMMENTS

  1. If you’re going big, why not 5×10 to accommodate Baltic Birch 5×5 sheets?

    Unrelated: Does your local building code require stair railings? Maybe not for “storage” loft.

  2. Very long but extremely informative video. At 5’6″ has anyone ever asked you to get something from a lower shelf ? Hahahahaha Or how’s the weather down there ? Hahahahaha . At 6’3″ I don’t want you to feel left out of the dumb questions.

    Watching the video with the stairs behind you. I kept wondering if you are still using your loft as you initially planned to. And do you still feel like a kid with his own fort when you are up there ? Sorry no CNC questions. I believe all those questions were asked and answered.

  3. Hey Jay – if you think 0.255 DOC at 157ipm is not blazing fast, then I guess I’m totally underestimating the art of the possible. The best I can pull off with my X-Carve is 0.125 DOC at 60ipm – and only for adaptive pocketing – profile cuts need to be more conservative. I’ve been considering upscaling my CNC and if I can get 3x the performance for less than 3x the cost, I might be interested. I have been considering adding screw drives to the X-Carve, but at nearly ~$1200, that’s the cost of buying an entirely new machine – so perhaps that money is best spent on a more industrial quality machine? But I do like my 1000x1000mm machine – something that big by Axiom would be quite expensive comparatively (~$5K). Thanks for posting and keep up the great work!

  4. interesting video and article, my issue with the machine and you comment of not needing a computer or screen is troubling to me. you just use the software make (you hope) a successful tool path that does not crash the machine or ram into a possible clamp or something. i come from the cnc world of making parts and they don’t rely on a pendant to run all functions rather they are there to move,jog and set tool offsets. i would be filling my pants running the machine blind like that and hoping it would run the tool path correctly and not just crash and ram or snap a cutter off. the machine you have is no cheap date. is this machine as foolproof as you make it out to be? relying on that pendant to move and do everything from this video and others i have seen is allot, i personally own and run a haas cnc machine in my garage shop and i always proof every program “on the machine” so as to not crash the machine, at the 10k+ of your machine i see there you crash this machine and i doubt it will ever run tru or accurate again. i really like you article and video BUT i don’t see how the machine can just go on v-carve or some other cam machine post process load it onto this machine use the pendant to find part origin G54 and push start and be so trusting it runs and you get apart and don’t pile the machine up especially without a screen there to preview cutter paths and keyboard or something to adjust feed rates ect. i really hope you can take the time and respond to this if you could please.

    • I’ve used this machine for a year and half. Probably averaged cutting something 3 or 4 days per week during that time. I’ve never had a toolpath failure. I’ve ran into clamps, broken bits, and even stalled the motors but all of that was my fault when either testing the limits of the machine or learning the machine. You always proof every program “on the machine”? Cool, good for you. Sounds like extra work to me. I’ve never had a program or toolpath fail. And if it did you think the machine wouldn’t run true again? That’s incredibly silly. Why would it not run true? You said you don’t see how the machine can just go on V-carve or some other cam machine post process load it onto this machine use the pendant to find part origin g54 push start and be so trusting. Sounds like a YOU problem trusting someone else’s machine. Your ignorance on this machine is showing. You said “especially without a screen to preview cutter paths and a keyboard or something to adjust feed rates.” You just don’t know what you’re even complaining about. Two buttons on the pendant are used to decrease or increase feed rates in real time by 10% increments. I think you’re just complaining about something you’re not familiar with. The pendant method is simple, it works, it’s efficient. And many companies use this method. Laguna offers full blown 4×8 CNC’s with integrated vac tables that use an even less feature rich pendant. Why? Because it works! And that’s all it needs to do.

  5. Hi Jay could you read my recent comment on Youtube of this video and comment on a couple of questions i had. Thanks Bob

  6. I have migrated over the past 20 years from Carvewright (I owned two of them and still have them in my shop as they can do some things that the CNC machines won’t then on to the Shark which is for hobbyists as I couldn’t ever get perfect alignment on the x and y axis…then finally to the Axiom ARPro6 which has performed flawlessly. The Carvewright uses bitmap technology and can carve 3D and comes with a “digtizer” which has allowed me to duplicate 3D objects extremely well…also it can handle any length up to a 14inch width. The Shark could not be adjusted on the x and y axis and it was off .03 from x/yzero . they sent a replacement deck which was off “only .01” after 12 inchs from x/y zero. Doesnt sound like much until you try an inlay and the slippage doubles. The only complaint I have with the Axiom (that the Shark had) was you can’t tell how long the program will take, and the description in the pendant is extremely limited. But hopefully Axiom will fix those small issues with an forthcoming upgrrade.

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