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Cutting any material along multiple axes manually is an incredibly arduous task that has a high chance of failure. That’s why in this guide we are going to show you how to find the best CNC machine that will enable you to cut, sculpt or contour any piece of material you want to work with.
These machines enable you to process different materials but you should keep in mind that only industrial-grade CNC machines have the capacity to shape hard metals. So, which types of tasks you will be able to perform with your CNC machine largely depends on the model you choose.
There are hundreds of CNC machine models to choose from, which can make it difficult to determine which type or model is the right choice for you.
Our guide will provide you with the information that will make it easier to find the best CNC machine and it’ll take you through some of the most popular CNC machine models on the market.
Top 10 CNC Machines Upfront
|Best for Novice Users: MYSWEETY 3018 PRO||Check price|
|Best for DIY Workshops: Yofuly CNC Router Kit||Check price|
|Best for Wood Processing: BobsCNC Evolution||Check price|
|Most Affordable: Titoe CNC Router||Check price|
|Best Overall: JFT 3040 Milling machine||Check price|
|CNC Piranha XL||Check price|
|Mostics CNS Router||Check price|
|Genmitsu CNC 3018 Pro Kit||Check price|
|Vevor CNC Router Kit||Check price|
|Taishi 6040 CNC Router||Check price|
The types of CNC machines
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and it denotes a machine’s ability to work with a CAD (computer-aided design) or CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software products to process a workpiece.
There are five common types of CNC machines, and you can choose between CNC Grinders, CNC Lathes, CNC Drilling Machines, CNC Plasma Cutters, or CNC mills. Each of these machines has specific features that are adjusted to the purpose for which the machine was designed.
Check out guides to how to find the best wood lathe and how to find the best metal lathe if this is the tool you want to add to your workshop. Also, you can read our Die Grinder vs Angle Grinder comparison to get more information about the differences between these tools.
In this guide, we are going to focus on different versions of CNC milling machines that are suitable for both DIY and professional use.
CNC milling machines
These machines are capable of processing both soft and hard materials while providing a high level of accuracy. One of the primary characteristics of these machines is that they move the material and the spindle to broaden the range of cutting angles.
Besides the standard X, Y, and Z axes you can increase the number of axes you’re working with as most CNC milling machines come with more than five axes. The machine is equipped with an end mill that resembles a drilling bit and it uses it to make accurate cuts within a 1000th of an inch.
A CNC milling machine doesn’t rotate the end mill at a high speed, as most models have the maximum end mill speed of 1000RPM. However, their engines produce a high amount of torque which enables them to cut or shape materials with high tensile strengths.
Also, you should keep in mind that some CNC milling machines are better suited for particular shapes than others, so which one you’re going to choose depends on the parts or objects you want to produce.
A CNC router is perhaps best viewed as a light version of a CNC milling machine as they commonly don’t have the capacity to process materials like stainless steel or titanium. That’s why these machines are used to shape wood, plastic or different types of PVC.
Also, the piece that is processed with a CNC router remains stationary, while the router bits perform cuts along the X, Y, and Z axes. Router bits are available in a broad spectrum of shapes and sizes, and you can use molding bits, chamfer bits, or straight bits to shape a material according to the design.
CNC routers rotate bits at speeds that are muchigher than the speeds at which CNC milling machines rotate end mills. Consequently, it takes considerably less time to complete a piece with a CNC router, which makes these machines an excellent choice if you want to produce large quantities of identical objects.
The work area on CNC routers is usually large enough to hold a large piece of wood or any other material you’re working with, but some models can have a limited range of the Z-axis.
The most common applications of CNC machines
Initially, all types of CNC machines were used almost exclusively in industrial settings as these machines were too large and too expensive for small, privately owned workshops.
Over the course of the last decade, the size and price of CNC machines, particularly CNC routers and CNC mills have started decreasing significantly.
Currently, there is a huge selection of affordable benchtop CNC routers that can fit on any work surface which makes them an irreplaceable woodworking tool that is suitable for DIY workshops.
Performance capabilities of CNC machines vary, and you must check if the model you’re interested in can process materials you want to work with. However, most CNC routers can engrave, cut or shape materials such as aluminum, plastic, or wood.
The cut types
You can perform the following types of cuts with CNC router machines:
- Cut-outside line
- Cut-inside line
- Engrave online
- Chamfer online
- Fillet online
- Pocket-inside line
- Pocket-outside line
- Dog bones
You’re going to need different router bits or end mills to make any of these cuts, and you must learn which cutting tools can be used for a particular type of cut.
Also, you should keep in mind that cutting tools become dull and consequently less accurate over time. To maintain the CNC machine’s level of accuracy you need to check regularly if the cutting tool you’re using is still sharp.
Read our Bevel vs Miter cut comparison for more information about these cuts and the tools you can use to make them.
The advantages of CNC machines
- Complete automation of the cutting process – Instead of cutting the material on your own, you can design a product you want to create in CAD or CAM software and use a CNC machine to produce it.
- Allows users to work with different materials – Most CNC machines can process more than just one type of material which extends the range of applications for which you can use them.
- However, CNC machines have a limited cut depth capacity, and they often cannot process heavy gauge materials.
- Highly accurate cuts – Even a CNC router that prioritizes speed over accuracy can make only minor deviations from the programmed cutting route. Large and heavy CNC machines are more accurate than the benchtop models as they dampen vibrations more efficiently.
The disadvantages of CNC machines
- It takes time to learn how to use CNC machines – Learning how to operate a CNC machine isn’t necessarily a short process, especially if you want to create your designs as CAD or CAM software products can be difficult to master.
The most important aspects to consider while choosing a CNC machine
The budget can be the greatest obstacle to getting a high-quality CNC machine, as industrial-grade models cost thousands of dollars. Less expensive options are available but they are not as efficient and accurate as the CNC machines designed for use in professional settings.
However, even the least expensive CNC routers that can be purchased for a couple of hundreds of dollars are still versatile tools that will satisfy the needs of most DIYers and hobbyists. Let’s take a look at some of the factors you need to take into consideration while searching for a new CNC machine.
The CNC machine’s size
A CNC machine can be a bulky piece of equipment that requires quite a bit of storage space. You should estimate how much free space you have at your disposal before you start seriously considering purchasing a particular model since it may be too large for your workshop.
Also, larger CNC machines handle vibrations better which translates into higher accuracy levels so getting a larger model may be a great decision if you are planning on using the machine to make intricate cuts.
A benchtop CNC router is not as powerful or versatile as CNC milling machines, and they are better suited for users that don’t have a lot of experience with CNC machining.
Drive and motor systems
A CNC machine can have three different types of drives, and you can either opt for a lead screw, ball screw pinion, or rack drive system.
The ball screw pinion drive system is probably the most powerful of the three as it has the capacity to process vast amounts of materials while maintaining the same accuracy level. The speed at which the machine’s tool is rotating depends on the motor’s torque and maximum power output.
However, the high rotation speed of the cutting tool can be misleading, since a CNC machine that can rotate a router bit or any other cutting tool at high speeds, doesn’t necessarily offer a high degree of accuracy.
Vacuum and ATC features
Both of these features enable you to use a CNC machine more efficiently, although in different ways. The Automatic Tool Changer or ATC is a feature that enables the machine to work with several different tools simultaneously.
The ATC is equipped with a magazine that stores a number of cutting tools, so you don’t have to spend time changing the bit you’re using and installing a new one.
The CNC machine’s vacuum system ensures that the material you are processing remains firmly in place during the cutting process which eliminates the unwanted movement of the piece.
OS and software compatibility
All CNC machines are controlled by a computer, and they depend on the coded instructions to perform their task.
However, these machines may not be compatible with all operating systems, and the computer you’re using to control them must meet their minimum technical requirements. Also, the CNC machine you choose must be compatible with the CAD or CAM software you’re using to provide the instructions.
The manufacturer equips the machine with the software you can use to integrate it with software installed on your computer. You should only use a licensed version of that software as a CNC machine is not going to work properly if it encounters any compatibility issues.
Materials a CNC machine can process
Although versatile, CNC machines cannot cut all types of materials. CNC routers are only suitable for soft materials such as wood or plastic, while some models have the capacity to process aluminum.
However, if you want to work with materials like stainless steel you must get a CNC milling machine as a CNC router is not powerful enough to cut through such hard materials.
The availability of spare parts
Finding a spare part for a particular CNC machine model can be nearly impossible, and often the only option is to contact the manufacturer. Choosing a CNC machine that has easily obtainable spare parts will enable you to repair the machine quickly and continue using it in a relatively short time frame.
MYSWEETY 3018 PRO – The best CNC machine for novice users
Newcomers to the world of automated machining will benefit from getting the MYSWEETY 3018 PRO CNC machine that is both easy to assemble and use. In fact, you can control this machine without connecting it to a computer as it features an offline controller that has a 1G capacity.
Also, the MYSWEETY 3018 PRO is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems which enables you to pair it with most CAM or CAD software products. This model utilizes open-source GBRL control systems that allow you to send the code to the machine effortlessly.
The machine’s spindle can rotate at the maximum speed of 9000 RPM and you can use it to process plastic, wood, PVC, or PCB materials. In addition, this CNC machine offers the possibility to create spindle milling cutter engravings on acrylic materials.
- Simple and quick assembly
- Compatible with all major operating systems
- Spacious work area
- Accuracy can be an issue
- The machine’s frame is made of flimsy materials
Yofuly CNC Router Kit – The best CNC machine for home-based DIY workshops
In case you’ve been running your workshop for a while and you have a pretty good idea of how CNC machines work, you should consider getting the Yofuly CNC router kit. The machine features a 5500mW offline controller and it offers the option to upgrade to the 1G storage capacity.
This CNC router has dimensions of 15.75 x 9.84 x 7.09 inches while the dimensions of the work area are 11.8 x 7.1 x 1.8 inches. Although it doesn’t provide you with ample room to handle large pieces of material you can still use this router kit to carve paper, wood, plastic, iron, glass, and other materials.
The motor can rotate the router bit at the maximum speed of 10000 RPM which indicates that you can complete any design quickly. However, you shouldn’t expect a high level of accuracy from this CNC router as its frame doesn’t dampen vibrations effectively.
- Capable of creating engravings on soft and hard materials
- Low storage space requirements
- Supports all image formats
- Ships with 20 router bits
- Works only with Windows OS
- Small work area
BobsCNC Evolution – The best CNC machine for wood processing
Woodworkers in need of a machine that allows them to work with different types of lumber automatically should consider getting the BobsCNC Evolution CNC router. Despite having a frame that is made entirely from laser-cut wood, all of its components are sturdy.
The BobsCNC Evolution is equipped with GT2 belt drives on the X and Y axes, while the Z-axis utilizes the ACME TR8 belt drive. You must connect this CNC machine to a computer that has a Windows, Linux, or Mac OS since it doesn’t feature an offline controller.
The router bits receive the code through the Arduino-based microprocessor that is paired with GRBL software, while the SG20U rail support system provides the router bits with sufficient space to operate.
Despite being able to rotate router bits at high speeds, the BobsCNC Evolution CNC router lacks the accuracy required for highly detailed work.
- Equipped with the Makita RT0701C router with ¼-inch collet
- Compatible with both Macs and PCs
- Relatively large work area
- Features a USB communication port
- The GRBL software isn’t installed on the machine
- The machine’s frame is made from wood
Titoe CNC Router – The most affordable CNC machine
The broad range of features the Titoe CNC Router offers is almost surprising in this price range. The CNC router’s frame is built from sturdy materials that dampen vibrations to boost its accuracy, but you should bear in mind that this is a lightweight and compact machine that can only engrave soft materials.
If you opt for this CNC router you will also get a collection of router bits that enable you to adjust to the demands of the task you want to perform. The 775 spindle motor lets you operate the Titoe CNC router at the maximum speed of 10000RPM.
You can adjust the X, Y, Z axis manually or using the GRBL software, but you should keep in mind that attempting to use the offline controller and a computer simultaneously can cause communication issues.
Furthermore, you can only use a PC that runs on Windows to control this CNC router, as it is not compatible with Mac or Linux OS.
- Excellent features for an affordable price
- This CNC router can be controlled manually or with a PC
- Highly accurate for a CNC router in this price range
- The quick and easy assembly process
- Performs only engraving tasks
- Narrow work area
JFT 3040 CNC Milling machine – The Best CNC milling machine
The wide spectrum of materials the JFT 3040 CNC Milling machine can process, makes it a suitable choice for workshop owners that don’t work exclusively with soft materials. It features a 3.5A motor and a spindle that can run at 2400RPM.
This milling machine is compatible with all operating systems, but it doesn’t come with built-in CAD or CAM software. The offline controller is not included, and you can only control this CNC machine through a computer.
In terms of performance, the JFT 3040 CNC Milling machine can perform all assigned tasks with utmost precision, although completing a complex design with this machine can take a lot of time.
Its 24 x 14-inch cutting area prevents you from machining large pieces of wood or metal. This model cuts materials along three axes, but it also offers the possibility to add the fourth axis if you want to extend its range of cutting angles.
- High cutting accuracy
- Compatible with most CAD or CAM software products
- Fast USB communication port
- Can remain operational for a long time
- More expensive than most benchtop CNC routers
- Small cutting area
CNC Piranha XL
With 12 x 30-inch table dimensions and 12 x 24 x 4 inches of XYZ travel, the CNC Piranha XL is arguably one of the best benchtop CNC routers on the market.
In addition, the machine features the VCarve Desktop Design and Vector Art 3D Sampler pack that allows you to turn your ideas into highly detailed designs. You can control the CNC Piranha XL through the Touch Screen Pendant Controller System, and use the hold-down clamps to keep the material in place.
This CNC machine also offers homing capabilities along the X and Y axes which enables it to acquire the reference point the controller utilizes to determine the exact location of either of these two axes. Consequently, The CNC Piranha XL can create engravings or 3D carvings with utmost precision.
The tool comes fully assembled and you just have to connect it to a computer or insert a USB drive and select the file that contains the design you want to create.
- Suitable for intricate engravings and 3D carvings
- Features a color Touch Screen Pendant Controller
- Equipped with a 3D model library
- The machine has a V router bit
- The palm router must be purchased separately
- Not compatible with Macs
Mostics CNC Router
Besides combining the features of a CNC router and a CNC milling machine, the Mostics CNC Router also features a 5.5W laser module. Each of these features enables you to engrave materials with different hardness levels.
The Mostics CNC router can either run on Candle 1.17 or LaserGRBL v3.010 open-source software which enables you to choose which control software you’re going to use. An SD card reader is also available if you want to write G-Code or NC files directly into the machine’s root directory.
Like most CNC routers with similar performance capabilities, this Mostics’ model features a 775 spindle motor that can rotate the router bit at 10000 RPM. Accuracy is probably the biggest downside of this benchtop CNC router as it may struggle to perform tasks that require a great level of precision.
Even so, the Mostics CNC router is a great addition to any home-based workshop as it enables DIYers to carve or engrave wood, plastic, or acrylic materials with ease.
- Features a laser module
- Files can be loaded from an SD card
- Allows for manual X, Y, Z axes adjustments
- Equipped with circuit protection
- This CNC machine is only compatible with the Windows OS
- Can’t process hard materials
Genmitsu CNC 3018 Pro Kit
A powerful 1.3A 12V step motor or the 775 motor spindles are among the reasons why the Genmitsu CNC 3018 Pro Kit is such a popular choice for home renovation projects. This machine is an affordable option for anyone who wants to gain some practical automatic machining experience.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on this CNC machine as it costs only a fraction of what you would have to spend on a professional CNC router. Besides, the Genmitsu CNC 3018 Pro-Kit is compact so you won’t have much trouble finding space for it in your workshop.
The assembly process is straightforward, but the manufacturer also provides detailed instructions for each step that guide you through the process from start to finish. You will get a set that includes 10 router bits that enable you to perform all standard types of cuts.
- Affordable and versatile
- The kit includes an offline controller
- Compatible with Mac and Windows OS
- Straightforward assembly process
- Users must install software on their own
- Limited X, Y, Z axes travel
Vevor CNC Router Kit
If you are searching for a CNC router that can run for hours without any difficulties, then the Vevor CNC Router Kit may be the right solution for you. This CNC router is equipped with four rotary axes which enable it to perform 3D stereo engravings.
It also features a 2A two-phase stepper motor and a 300W spindle motor that enables you to make cuts at 8000RPM. However, the high speed of the router bit tool suggests that the router may struggle with accuracy.
The Vevor CNC router can be connected to a computer through a USB port, and it comes with the preinstalled Mach 3 control software. However, you can only control this CNC router from a PC, as it isn’t compatible with Linux, Raspberry Pi, or Mac operating systems.
The machine’s engraving area has dimensions of 11.8 x 7.9 x 2 inches and it is spacious enough to enable you to perform most engraving tasks.
- Excellent learning tool
- Highly accurate CNC machine
- Available in several different sizes
- Comes with the preinstalled Mach 3 software
- Aluminum frame construction
- No offline controller
Taishi 6040 CNC Router
The Taishi 6040 CNC Router offers 0.04mm engraving accuracy as well as 0.03mm spindle precision, which makes it one of the most accurate CNC routers on the market. The device is equipped with a 57 two-phase 3A motor that is designed for low noise operation.
This CNC router utilizes an air-cooled 0.8kW spindle motor that can develop the maximum speed of 2400rpm, and it features a PWM stepless speed regulation feature that enables you to adjust the speed of the router bit to the material you’re working with.
You can issue carving instructions in the form of G Code, TAB, NC, or NCC files, and you can use software products like EMC2 or Mach 3 to control the CNC router. This Taishi’s model has an emergency shutdown button that allows you to switch the CNC router off immediately in case an accident occurs.
- Offers a high degree of accuracy
- Adjustable spindle speed
- Allows for 3.9-inch material thickness
- Utilizes a ball screw drive system
- Low portability
- Finding spare parts for the CNC router can be challenging
Answer: You should always use a CNC controlling software that is recommended by the machine’s manufacturer. However, some models are compatible with a broad spectrum of software products so that you can choose the one that you feel the most comfortable using
Answer: Yes, they do, but the warranty period is often as short as 12 months. That’s why you need to check how long is the warranty period provided by the manufacturer of the CNC machine you’re interested in.
Answer: Yes, technically it is possible to sharpen router bits or end mills on your own, but you are going to need the sharpening equipment that will enable you to preserve their geometry
Answer: Most CNC machines have dual voltage capacity and they can be plugged into a 120V or 240V power outlet. Their power consumption depends on the motor and it can vary from a few amps to more than ten amps.
The Verdict: How to pick a CNC machine that meets your demands
CNC machining enables you to automate the cutting, carving, and engraving process and produce large numbers of items from the comfort of your home.
Consequently, you no longer have to use woodworking chisels to carve different types of lumber as a CNC router enables you to speed up this process without having to sacrifice the accuracy, but you should bear in mind that the precision level of a CNC router largely depends on the model.
Benchtop CNC routers like the BobsCNC Evolution, CNC Piranha XL, or the Vevor CNC Router Kit are a great choice for experienced woodworkers who are familiar with automatic machining, while models like the MYSWEETY 3018 PRO or the Titoe CNC Router are best suited for novice users.
Woodworkers often use CNC machines in combination with miter saws, table saws, and other woodworking tools, but CNC machines can be used to process a wide range of materials. That’s why your choice of the CNC machine depends on the materials you want to carve or engrave.
We hope that our guide to finding the best CNC machine has provided you with the information you needed to pinpoint the model that fits your needs.
Which CNC machine are you going to choose? Let us know in the comments or check out our guide to the best dust collectors that will help you collect the dust generated by your CNC machine.