Building speaker cabinets with traditional woodworking tools or with CNC?

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Edgar77

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When I was young I did a lot of DIY work in the house and garage of my parents. And then I lived in apartments and played with computers and electronics but not with loud power tools anymore.
Now I am thinking about building my own speakers and amps which I couldn't afford some time ago.
And that is why I think about which tools I will need to build those speakers (and other things).

I know buying flatpacks is an option. And probably that is a good option because we can be pretty sure all parts will fit together. But let's pretend for a moment those flatpacks wouldn't exist. And let's think about a person who knows more about computer programming than traditional woodwork.

Is it a realistic idea to buy a good quality CNC machine and use that machine to produce all the parts for the speaker cabinets (and have a similar result like the parts from the flatpacks)? Or would it make a lot more sense to use traditional wood working tools like several saws and routers to build those cabinets?
Or is there not one or the other and even with a CNC machine some work has to be done with traditional tools?

What is your opinion?

I know it will also depend a lot of the different skillsets of different people. I.e. learning CNC and CAD/CAM would be a nightmare for many people. In my case I am pretty sure I can handle this because I work with IT and programming all my life. Currently I am learning Fusion 360.

jcsperson

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My issues with CNC are expense and space.

Are you planning to make a number of speakers? Would you also use the CNC for other (non-audio) projects? If so, you could justify the cost.

As for me, I might build only a couple sets of speakers in my remaining years. I can't justify the expense of a CNC machine and I already have a shop full of tools.

As for tools, I think you could build most speaker designs out there with a track saw, a router, and some clamps.

 


CaptainBill

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I worked with wood and metal cutting CNC machines in production environments.  Good machines are very heavy and use 480v 3 phase power.  I have not used hobby level machines.  They will sacrifice accuracy, spindle torque/power, work envelope and finish for cost and space. 

You will also need CAD/CAM software and post processing software to design, program paths and generate machine code.  The cost for production level equipment is probably $50k-$100k for a low end setup.  I was working on a $300k 4 head, multi-axis Shoda router with a 25hp vacuum table, large dust collector, PC, SmartCAM. 

You still have to buy the cutters and probably collettes. Good cutters start at $50 a piece for carbide.  Some carbide sucks, some are ok and some are real good.  Coated cutters are not as sharp and don’t cut as clean.  Some of the MDF has metallic trash in it like pieces of nails.  This trash will chip the cutters and they will leave lines on the cut edges if they don’t break.  Check out spiral & compression cutters.  The bottom of the cutters pull the material up and the upper portion pushes it down to place the edge of the cut in compression.  These cutters have a combination of down shear and up shear flutes.  It prevents blowing out the edges. You will also need to get clever with back cuts so material exits don’t blow out edges.  For pocketing, I used downshear cutters to keep the edges of the pockets clean.

CaptainBill

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I bought the flat packs.

Edgar77

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Thanks for your replies

In the moment I don't think buying a CNC machine would be cost efficient for me. But it's one of those things which looks fun to use and play with. And I will only buy it if I can afford to pay for it without having second thoughts about spending that money.
Probably once I have a CNC machine I will have ideas how to use it for a lot more than just speakers.

In the moment I have Shapeoko or Shapeoko Pro in my mind. The cost is roughly 2,000 to 3,000 USD for the CNC machine. Obviously there will be additional cost
https://carbide3d.com/shapeoko/

For hobby level work Fusion 360 is free and it seems to include everything from design to manufacture.
After I read initially about Fusion 360 I watch this 3 part video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/A5bc9c3S12g
And this one about CAM: https://youtu.be/Bd6-BQUCbVA
After watching these I started to use Fusion 360 and it seems like fun to me - mix with some challenges.







CaptainBill

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Sorry for the multiple posts. If you have a technical college that teaches machining and CNC (computer numerical control) machining, it would be worthwhile to take the courses prior to buying machines.  It’s a cheap way to learn and use the equipment before you make the investment.  I had 1 course for general machining using mills and lathes.  I had a subsequent course for CNC machining and programming (CAM - computer aided machining).  I had a separate class for CAD (computer aided design).  Over the years, I have learned AutoCAD, Pro/E, CATIA V5, MasterCam, SmartCAM and Pro/Manufacture.  Currently, I’m learning Siemens NX for work.  MasterCam was probably the best CAM software for the average person and business from my list.  Pro/Manufacture was the most customizable but it was way too expensive and slower to program with.  Pro/E, Catia, NX are all really expensive and geared towards large companies with large, complex products. 

For metallics and plastics, many home and small to medium businesses use Solidworks for CAD design.  It has powerful capabilities for design and working with 3D scanning devices and software if you want to get into reverse engineering.   Then use MasterCAM to program the CNC machines.

I have been considering starting my own business.  Right now, I would be more inclined to skip purchasing the production equipment and contract it out.  That way, you aren’t limited to certain systems.  Metallic printing is getting really advanced to the point you can commission businesses to print gears suitable for vehicle camshaft gears, aluminum intake manifolds and inconel exhaust manifolds.  Couple that with 3D scanning, you can disassemble engine parts, scan them into CAD and then modify the parts.  Depending on tolerance requirements, you may need to measure specific features with a caliper or micrometer but you can generally design and fabricate OEM fitting parts.

CaptainBill

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That shapeco is cool! 

I saw a plywood flat pack 3D puzzle at work that an engineer designed to hold a 40 foot by 25 foot aircraft subassembly structure.  He assembled it into crate-structured towers with tabs and slots to locate the pieces, followed by sheetrock screws to hold it together.  I have a feeling it wasn’t his first time using that construction method.

rklein

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  • My finest audio piece ever!!
My issues with CNC are expense and space.

Are you planning to make a number of speakers? Would you also use the CNC for other (non-audio) projects? If so, you could justify the cost.

As for me, I might build only a couple sets of speakers in my remaining years. I can't justify the expense of a CNC machine and I already have a shop full of tools.

As for tools, I think you could build most speaker designs out there with a track saw, a router, and some clamps.

Exactly.  While I now have a full fledged woodworking shop above my garage, I built the speakers below with a circular saw, a cheap track for the saw from H.D., a router, and some clamps.  Finishing was BY FAR the most time consuming part of the project.





Regards,

Randy


jcsperson

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^^^^ Those turned out great! ^^^^

Peter J

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  • Hmmmm
Here's my perspective as a lifelong woodworker and more recent CNC user. There is no magic within CNC in terms of what it can produce. Its a tool that can excel at precision and repeatability, but that's dependent on the machine's inherent precision and the programming that moves it round and round. The latter provided by people. Perhaps craftsmen of a different discipline, but people all the same.

There seems to be a view the woodworking sun rises and sets on CNC, and if we're talking about a mass production environment, that may well be true. But human borne craftsmanship is still necessary to make it go. No matter how long and hard I stare at it, the CNC router in my shop does nothing without me doing something first.

For me personally, CNC is about learning what I need to learn to make it do what I envision. In some cases, that's new ways of doing things but the woodworking background I gained before it came along is invaluable.  In many ways it's more about my education than the whatever I produce. Old dogs, new tricks and all that.

If I were to advise OP, I'd say learn to work wood if that's what you desire, CNC can be a part of that now or later or never. If it's the programming that's your thing, there's lots of opportunity career wise, but it's not a necessity to produce speakers that you can be proud of. It's really not an either/or question, but rather how to best approach to accomplish goals.



mflaming

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I'm a new builder with only basic tools. $50 circular saw straight edge, old Craftsman table saw with homemade crosscut sled and a fixed base router. The only real technical challenge I've come across is cutting perfect circles.

I built a router base jig designed by "TimCan The Jig Man" - this is the name of his Youtube channel. It cost me about $5 in parts and is dead accurate. I don't have a plunge router, so make cuts in 1/8" increments. It is slow, but cheap, accurate and safe. I also picked up some digital calipers from Harbor Freight. Total investment in new tools was around $20.

I like the challenge of scratch building, but there's no shame in buying a flatpack. MDF makes an insane amount of dust to deal with.