Article originally posted on Tool Girls Garage
If there was one tool that I would say is the “dream” tool for woodworkers, I would definitely say the CNC is among the top contenders. The potential a CNC can open up is phenomenal, but I was definitely intimidated to pick the right machine for me and to get started. Let’s walk through the first few months of my CNC journey in Getting Started with I2R CNC.
About the Brand
GETTING STARTED WITH I2R CNC
I2R is a CNC manufacturer based in Brooklyn, New York. When you start to research different makes and models of CNC’s, you quickly realize there is a huge range of options to consider. From size, build quality, and technical abilities.
What appealed to me initially about the I2R units is from first glance they mimic much larger, industrial-style units, and they manage to still fall into the entry-level category pricing. To me, my biggest priority was to have a unit I could grow into complexity-wise, without sacrificing a massive amount of space.
What Drew Me to the I2R CNC?
GETTING STARTED WITH I2R CNC
First for me on the I2R was the cutting space. I have the I2R-8 which comes with a 2X4 Cutting space. To me, this was a perfect size to allow me to tackle almost any CNC project I could want. Since I don’t often run bulk production, the 2X4 cutting area gave me the perfect size without taking up too much space in the shop.
I was really intrigued by the I2R build quality. To me, build quality was a big deal, most starter CNC’s seemed to lack any consistent build parameters and I worried about their lifespan and accuracy. Even after seeing videos and photos of the CNC I was set on, I could have never imagined it would have been quite as robust as it is. The base is made of welded steel, with casters that can be fully receded into the unit in place of set pads for perfect leveling and to minimize movement. As well, the working table and gantry are made of aluminum- a lightweight but strong material that gives the unit strength without additional weight.
The CNC has integrated T-slots which was honestly one of the biggest draws design-wise. Being able to replace the spoil boards as needed and clamp directly to the unit provides a lot of conveniences. You can easily re-level your work surface as needed, or replace the spoil boards when needed, something that really makes a difference in long-term precision.
One of the other major components of the CNC was the build components. I have had numerous friends who have quickly replaced a CNC because the model they chose wasn’t as accurate as they needed it to be. For I2R they placed a lot of importance on their spindle’s ability to move and handle higher feed rates. I2R uses ball screws, ball bearings, and linear guide rails to create a mix of motion that reduces friction and maintains incredible accuracy.
The Z-Axis Touch-off Tool offers the user a quick and accurate way to update your unit zero. This is combined with the UCCNC software to determine accurate bit length and offer perfect depth cuts.
Technology is key, right? The UCCNC software allows real-time controls during use and is compatible with a wide range of G-code writing software.
You have the option to add additional features like a 6W laser to expand your available materials and machines capability. As well, you can add a 4th axis rotary kit that could offer an incredible amount of potential to your shop.
GETTING STARTED WITH MY I2R CNC
The I2R machine itself is an incredible unit, and I have been overwhelmingly pleased with its performance and build quality. I have had to move it around several times throughout construction and the stand and unit have maintained their strength and accuracy without fail. Setting up is definitely something you will need extra hands with but it was still a fairly simple assembly. A lot of the day-to-day functions like bit changes and maintenance are straightforward and simple to get the hang of.
Like most people, the biggest obstacle I found as I start to explore CNC woodworking comes down to learning to use the software. While I have used quite a few design software systems in the past, the V-Carve system has a bit of an initial learning curve to work through. I have a lot to learn still on this front, but overall, with a bit of patience, you’ll find it’s fairly easy to get things going on simple projects. As I get more comfortable with it too, there is certainly a massive amount of opportunity with the software in general.
I got my CNC in at a crazy time in life. So, I still feel like I have a lot to learn in terms of advancing my skill set and applications with the I2R. Between the pandemic and the shop expansion, it has been difficult to dedicate as much time to the CNC as I had hoped. However, one thing that came from the time period though, is a bevy of new ideas for projects I hadn’t considered before.
As we head into the next phase of Tool Girl’s Garage, I am eager to do more experimenting on the CNC. It doesn’t take long to see the wild amount of potential in the I2R unit as a whole and I can’t wait to share more along the way!
For more detailed specs and purchase information on the I2R, check out their website here!