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By Curt Carpenter
I bought a 3018 Hobby CNC machine from AliExpress for Christmas, and would be delighted to share experiences with others that are exploring these machines. Most of my time so far has been devoted to building tools for use with the machine ("home" limit switches, surface probe tools, work holders) and writing my own software for the machine (I use Lazarus/Free Pascal running under Linux.) I've milled a few very simple PCBs, and the learning experience has been great fun.

The PCBs I've done were laid out using LibreCad (they've been very simple boards), converted to Gcode code using dxf2gcode, then edited for use with my machine using my own programs to handle milling and drilling. The edited gcode is then sent to the machine using the "Candle" program that came with the machine.

My biggest discoveries so far: 1) ability to "home" the machine to a fixed, known position is absolutely critical, 2) to mill PCB's, the ability to adjust milling depth (Z axis) as X and Y vary is pretty important, and 3) I've crashed my machine by trying to move beyond its mechanical limits more often that is healthy :).