Works pretty well. I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. Make sure you get a machine with a big enough working area for the panels you want to make.
Things to know:
- Aluminum is generally harder to work with than wood, but it’s that way no matter what CNC tool you choose. Lubrication and chip clearing are mandatory, not optional. That isn’t specific to the SO3, but the Shapeoko doesn’t include any lubrication or chip clearing out of the box. Pretty easy to add something workable. (added note: if you’re only doing a little, doing so by hand works ok)
- If you can cut it with a router, you can cut it with a shapeoko. You won’t necessarily get a finish like you can off a $30K machining center, but it generally looks pretty good, and goes reasonably quickly.
- I think good clamping is actually the hard part. The t-track kit goes a long way there. There are plenty of methods people use, some work better with thin material than others.
- Getting the right speed/feed for what you’re trying to do can be a little tricky because it depends on the endmill, the exact alloy you’re cutting, and a little bit of phase of the moon. That’s not unique to the shapeoko, it’s just the way things are. Use a coated 1/4" endmill anywhere you can
- Setting up the machine flat and square (which is easier if it’s level too) is really important for working with sheet material like you would for enclosures, and >especially so for engraving<. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it. Plenty of examples and how-to’s here on the forum.
If you are expecting to unbox, assemble, and be up and running in an hour, that’s probably going to be disappointing. It will take a few hours to assemble, and a few more to work out the kinks and get things aligned properly. If you’re unfamiliar with the workflow and tools, expect to need some time to become comfortable there too, but again, that isn’t unique to the shapeoko.