Wanted to post an update here, several months later. I ended up abandoning the Mini Motif Maker. It was just too hard to make multi-colored designs and get them to align perfectly. It wasn't impossible, but took a lot of time. I dreaded a tiny 50-shirt project when it had multiple elements. NOTE: THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM WITH THE MMM ITSELF, it is a problem inherent to this type of method of creating rhinestone patterns. Yeah, some people have more patience than me. I needed to put the boards down and get back to making some real money.
I started researching the automated/robotic machines and had even put a deposit down on the CAMS 6-head machine and purchased some supplementary equipment for it, when I thought I'd give Permaboss a call and see if they could help me sell the Mini Motif Maker (by giving me some more specs about it and such). BTW it IS a normal CNC machine.
The CAMS machine was over my budget (40k PLUS about $4k in a used compressor and refrigerated air cooler/dryer, AND I had to have 240v installed) but did what I needed, though I was unenthused about their software which seemed primitive. I'd been using RhinestoneWorx for some time and it was getting easier and faster to make designs.
Rob kind of stopped me in my tracks when he said he'd just launched a smaller version of the Libero automated rhinestone machine (did I buy version 1.0 again? Well, not really since it was simply a smaller version of their time-tested larger machine). It was $25k or so but he did 2 things to help me stick to my budget:
1. Gave me full credit (100% trade in) for the Mini Motif Maker equipment ($5k) as a discount off the Libero;
2. Helped me sell the MMM AND I got to keep all the money. I sold it for $1700 on ebay and the buyer, a sign maker, is still quite happy with it.
So that was $6700 back on my original investment of $9k on the MMM, AND I could still of course use the RhinestoneWorx software w/ the Libero which saved me new software costs (I had to convert my files over to the Libero format but they had a way to do this almost automatically).
The Libero single head machine has a single hopper for a single rhinestone element (color or size), and a single head that picks them up, unlike the CAMS which has multiple hoppers so you can't create a multiple-element design w/out work changing out the stones and/or head/tip between each new element. That can be a bummer BUT I purchased extra plates which hold the transfer paper. I now have 6 and can run usually about 24-30 designs one color at a time and it cuts down the switching by a factor of 6. I may even buy more plates in the future.
Also note I get by NICELY with a $500 Crafstman compressor that runs on 120V. It only runs for about 2 minutes, every 8 mins or so (25% duty). And instead of a refrigerated air cooler, I use a $150 dessicant dryer which does not use any power. The Libero itself runs on a 120v-240v step-up transformer.
After shipping and such I probably ended up spending about $21k or so + tax on the Libero, though I'm leasing it and there's interest (though it's great to have a low monthly payment and retain my capital).
I've been using the Libero almost daily for about 4 months. It is very well constructed, and this time really made in Europe (Austria). It is a sturdy machine and all the parts are high quality and well-constructed. A lot of thought and machining went into this. BUT to save costs and reduce the number of expensive things that can break, for example it doesn't use lasers like CAMS does to tell when a stone is positioned correctly in the hopper. It uses a vacuum after it attempts to pick up a stone. This can be a little slower since it has to try to pick it up before it knows if it's successful or not, while CAMS just won't try until a stone is in the right placs, BUT overall the Libero is a faster machine anyway. I get about 85 stones per minute compared to 60-65 the CAMS was getting when I was evaluating it in person in Fullerton, CA.
Let me continue to use the Libero for a few more months before I do a final report on my overall success with it. I am still trying to work out some minor kinks and still getting used to the FEEL of the machine (it just takes experience and use to know exactly how to position the tip each time for example). I have tried to train someone else to use it but no luck yet. The learning curve is high but I don't suspect it's any different w/ equipment like this. CAMS learning curve was pretty high as well. Even the trainer wasn't particularly skilled and had been running it A-Z at shows and doing training for years on it. Some days it runs for 20 hours in a row with nary a misplaced or overturned stone to be found. Other days I can't get it to make a straight line. I just finished a project that used about 200,000 Korean stones and I've decided I was quite happy with the results. It took about 40 hours of machine time for this project.
Again, I'll follow up in 6 months or so.