I think that the Shapeoko is probably too limiting, but it brings up a good point, given $800, would we rather have an $800 CNC router or $800 in a fund toward a $2-3k router. My vote would be to hold out for the $3k router, but I don’t want to be presumptuous.
I think the Solsylva 24×48 machine is going to be $1500-$1800 by the time we upgrade the part specs to something reasonably robust. At this level of funding, I would probably rather go ahead and build it than wait. At least the parts that we bought for this could be transferred to a more robust or even larger machine if we decided to upgrade the frame. The Solsylva 24×48 is not much more expensive than there 18×24 in.
So, I think that the requirements conversation can be broken down into two pieces; what is the minimum that we would live with and then where would we apply excess funds. For me, the Solsylva 24×48 would be close to the minimum. I would first apply funds to standard NEMA 23 drive components, ACME lead screws, rack and pinion or some type of linear bearing as these can all be used on more robust frames. Then I would apply the funds to a metal frame like the KRx02 or cncrouterparts models, then to support equipment like improved dust collection and dust collection and clamping, then to a beefier router or 2.2kw spindle. (I have a 1.5hp Craftsman router I will donate to get us off the ground.) After that, I would spend money on a vacuum table, larger footprint, larger drive motors, larger spindle, and more seats of more robust software. I would probably start applying excess funds to operational costs and other equipment at some point… before the 4th axis or the tool changer.
Kickstarter or just start a fund on the site… like United Way?