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Regardless of the kind of profession you’re into – there is no denying that every part of our lives have felt the massive influence of technology, and manufacturing is not left out. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining seems to be the latest awe-inspiring technological invention, and with the endless perks it promises, every industrialist needs to own the best CNC machine available. Being a system where precision machine tools are controlled by computers, CNC machining makes production quicker, faultless, and more economical.
However, since CNC machines are new inventions, buying the right model is never easy. As professional reviewers, we know the usual plight of buyers, so we’ve compiled a list of the best CNC machines the market has to offer. To facilitate our selection, we considered vital factors like the working area of each machine, which determines its capacity. We also considered the spindle motor used in each model as it is the core component of any CNC machine. Among the other important features we considered are the software included and the overall dimensions of the unit.
In our typical nature, we’ve invested tens of hours into this guide, reading product reviews and scouring the web for product specifications. Ultimately, we were able to include a succinct but precise comparison table, alongside an all-inclusive buying guide in which dozens of tips have been included. Sandwiched between the comparison table and the buying guide is a product review section in which five top CNC machines have been extensively described.
Lightweight and high-performance are two words you don’t often see together, except when you read about top products like the MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO. While this router can’t be used to cut metals, you can’t take anything away from its generally high performance. If you’re a newbie and searching for a straightforward wood-engraving tool, then you can’t go wrong with this model as it is one of the best wood CNC machines. It also does a perfect job when used to cut plastics as well as woods. Besides its high performance, it is also effortless to assemble, thanks to the comprehensive instructions included in the package and the fact that it comes partly assembled.
Furthermore, the parts of the machine don’t have to be positioned significantly, which reduces the intricacy of the assembly and improves the machine’s working accuracy. For optimum stability, the base height can even be raised to four centimeters. And since there is an integrated custom software and mainboard, there is seamless communication between the hardware and the software, which allows this machine to complete your tasks in a very quick manner. Moreover, the machine is compatible with several operating systems, which explains why this particular model is our Editor’s Pick.
When it comes to the software, the machine runs on Arduino and utilizes GRBL, which is an efficient, open-source program to control movement. GRBL is incredibly simple to use and is very reliable, which makes it an industry standard. Apart from the fact that some of its vital components are plastic and that it can’t cut metal, there are not many things to dislike about this machine.
Extra features: GT2 belt drive on X and Y axis; home switches on all axes
With an elegant design and a generous working area of 24 x 24 x 3.3 inches, the BobsCNC E4 is definitely one machine you can’t joke with. Apart from its large working area, this model is equipped with a powerful DEWALT 660 rotary tool, which enables it to do plunge cuts, drywall, freehand cuts, laminate flooring, solid surface, sheet metal, granite, ceramic tiles, plexiglass, cement board, and more. The gantry and cutting head also run on a rail system that supports SG20U, and the control is done by Arduino and GRBL, which make it really efficient.
Generally, this model is an exciting machine – putting it together is a quite intricate and enlightening experience, but the additional effort you will need to put will be worth it considering the value it possesses. But while the machine’s solid wood construction comes with many benefits, it also has some drawbacks – you can’t detach the flex from the gantry and bed, especially since there are many joints and fastening connections there.
On the flip side though, wood is eco-friendly, and users who like making modifications will like working with it. Moreover, this CNC router is compatible with a wide range of operating systems, which include Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and OSX. As long as you are fully aware of what you’re getting into, this is an exciting machine for people who are just starting out. Plus, the company reportedly has excellent customer support, which should give you some peace of mind.
Extra features: comes with 10pcs PCB cutter and 4 set plates
Having crafted some of the best CNC machines over the years, MYSWEETY is a company that has successfully earned a reputation as one of the best brands in the industry. If you’re looking for a reason why the company is so referred, the MYSWEETY CNC Machine 1610 is a good example. Despite being affordably priced, it comes with all the attributes that are usually seen in more expensive kits – an excellent spindle motor with remarkable speeds, a large working area, and a high performance that is rarely seen in this price category.
When it comes to durability, this machine is one of the most reliable models in our review. Since it is designed to engrave anything and everything from wood to plastic to PCB to PVC materials, it sports high-quality construction, and the steel screws are rather firm and attached tightly to the frame. The double copper nuts it’s equipped with are able to effectively eliminate backlash when you’re working. But while this particular model is relatively compact, it is easily one of the best tabletop CNC machines on the market.
Like the best models, this one too is compatible with a variety of software. And for maximum control, it utilizes GRBL, which is open-source software that helps to control the unit during drilling and milling process. Besides, it is compatible with Artcam2008 and Coppercam, which are excellent tool path creating programs. Although the control board of the unit is a bit difficult to understand and the unit comes with no instructions on how to use the software, you’ll soon forget about these difficulties once you get the hang of it.
Extra features: can be upgraded to 7×12 low gantry; F8 leadscrew with ball bearing end support
If you are in the market for a compact CNC machine that perfectly fits into the smallest of workshops, then you might have to look at the Zen Toolworks CNC Carving Machine. Despite being one of the least expensive products on this list, it delivers a lot of punch for its price. Running on a DC spindle 400-Watt brushless motor, this machine is capable of cutting an extensive variety of materials. While the working area of the unit is comparatively small, you can’t blame the manufacturers, especially when you consider its low price tag.
The machine’s body is built with high-density PVC boards, which allows it to stand up against high degrees of rough usage. The moving parts are constructed with linear bearing and stainless steel lead screws and a steel guide rod, which gives the machine a lot of strength. Moreover, it comes with an anti-backlash brass nut design, which eliminates nearly all backlashes. Assembling this CNC machine is also exciting and takes only about three to four hours to complete, and when it’s assembled, you will be stunned by the endless capabilities of this product.
Keep in mind that you can’t start using the machine straight out of the box – you will need a couple of extra components to really get things going. Nevertheless, this is one of the best kits on the market for a beginner, and assembling it offers an excellent way of learning more about its operation.
Extra features: emergency stop button; aluminum alloy frame materials
The Feiuruhf CNC Router Engraver is another budget-friendly option with high performance on our list, and what an incredible CNC machine it is. While this model doesn’t run on the Arduino like most other models, it does run on the Mach3, which is a high-precision software that brings more accuracy to engraving. Apart from that, it has a decently large working area, which is another reason why this particular model can’t be taken off the lips of CNC hobbyists.
For optimum security and safe operation, this unit is equipped with an emergency stop button, which allows you to stop the process in the event that an emergency situation emerges. Durability-wise, the manufacturers have not left anything for chance – it has a thickened and reinforced body, which doesn’t deform easily and is perfect for long time usage. It’s also been outfitted with aluminum alloy frame materials, making it more steady and strong.
Apart from being compatible with a wide range of programs, this machine is also perfect for a variety of materials, such as plastics, wood, MDF board, PVC, and composite board plywood. The only shortcoming we found is the fact that the software it comes with is only the demo version, so you’d need to spend extra money on the full version.
What are its best features?
Thickened and reinforced body
Steady and strong
A decent working area
Compatible with a wide range of programs
Suitable for a wide range of materials
What could be improved?
Comes with a demo software
Things to Consider
Now that we have reviewed some of the best CNC machines you can find on the market today, we will now proceed to the part where you’ll be armed with several handy buying tips.
Benefits of CNC machining
Saves on manufacturing expenditures
Using a CNC machine allows you to make the most of all raw materials involved in the process of the manufacturing. Due to how precise CNC machines are able to work, they reduce waste significantly. This lets the operator of the CNC machine minimize the losses they may suffer and, in this manner, increase profitability and productivity over time.
CNC machining is a very efficient process, so using a high-quality unit reduces the number of steps producing a particular part usually takes. Consequently, you can make several items or parts in a shorter amount of time than utilizing other techniques of manufacturing.
The whole production process in CNC machining is automated. Therefore, the operator of the machine doesn’t even need to have any involvement in the process. This aids a safe working environment as the machine does all the work without requiring the presence of anyone. Some manufacturing involves possibly dangerous materials such as steel or metal, and CNC machining reduces safety risks connected with their not careful usage.
Increased production efficiency
Perhaps, a CNC machine is thought of as the most efficient component-designing system. This is due to the fact that most of these machines usually have measures to protect quality assurance built into them. As a result of that, whenever the machine detects a problem in the manufacturing process, it automatically shuts down in order to prevent the problem from getting worse or fixes the problem internally.
As soon as a design has been registered into the software and a flawless prototype has been produced, the program can effortlessly recover the design to autonomously run and create it again. Irrespective of external factors, the master file makes sure that the machining process creates an accurate match without fail. In addition, there is no compelling reason to stay aware of adaptations of the design versions that may exist on a disk, a flash drive, a paper, other PC or somewhere else.
Reduced costs of production
A CNC machine that is functioning correctly ought to work perfectly over an extensive period of time with no need to fix components or repair the device in any other way. With a smooth production process set up from the start and insignificant repair work as a result of rare issues, production expenses are extremely low. While manufacturing normally can consume a company’s budget tremendously, a CNC machinery can help cut down the money consumed by this process considerably.
The software will update itself automatically when required, and CNC machines normally don’t need much service than carrying out some insignificant cleaning and changing the cutting tools at regular intervals. The regular maintenance doesn’t require professional service which helps save some extra money.
Features to consider when choosing a CNC machine
While it may seem otherwise from the outside, buying the right CNC machine is not the easiest task anyone could be faced with. With that in mind, we have compiled some crucial factors you need to consider when looking to buy the right model for your needs.
Of course, the working area is one of the most important features of any CNC machine, so you need to take it into consideration when making your purchase. The working area determines how large your designs can be, which is why it’s vital. The model with the largest working area on our list is the BobsCNC E4 Machine while the one with the smallest working area is the MYSWEETY CNC Machine 1610.
Spindle vs. router
A spindle machine is more ideal for industrial or heavy-duty applications. They’re powered through an inverter by three-phase lines. This way, they are able to generate more cutting power than a router regardless of the speed at which they are running. Additionally, spindles feature precision bearings which give their cuts more smoothness, accuracy, and beauty. Besides, their parts are produced using strong materials to aid durability and reliability. Mind though, that they’re costly.
On the other hand, CNC routers are affordable and are built to work with spindle kits, so that you can effortlessly initiate the upgrading whenever you want. Ultimately, it depends on the purpose for which you are buying as CNC routers are capable of handling only light-duty jobs, unlike spindle machines which are ideal for heavy-duty and commercial applications.
Software it’s compatible with
Before you buy a certain model, you must make sure you know its software compatibility and the control software it utilizes. It’s vital that you go through the list of the different operating systems that the machinery is compatible with in order to make sure it is capable of working with the operating system that your laptop or desktop is using.
The weight is another crucial factor you must consider when making your purchase. Heavier models are usually better built and provide you with tougher performance. Usually, that means more precise cutting and lesser vibration. You will, however, need to consider if you require to transport your machine frequently. If that is the case, you may need to opt for a lighter model so that you won’t be encountering many difficulties when taking it from one place to another.
The dimensions of the machine is another important factor you must think about when shopping for the right model for your needs as it’s determined either by your workshop space or what you’ll be utilizing the machine for. Meanwhile, industrial-sized CNC machines are generally large and usually more space-consuming.
However, the benchtop models are compact and can be comfortably placed on the table. In terms of versatility and power, the best small CNC machines can’t be compared with the industrial-sized models. The benchtop models like the MYSWEETY CNC Machine 1610, on the other hand, are more suitable for home usage as they can easily connect with your laptop and desktop computers.
Apart from the core features you need to look at, there are also some extra ones you need to consider when buying these machines. Firstly, consider the warranty so that you could make sure the model you are gunning for comes with a warranty. You also need to check if the frame is made with high-quality materials.
Depends on the particular model and its type. While most spindle machines are sure to cut aluminum or copper with ease, some CNC routers may struggle to do so. But by matching the materials with the proper feed rate and endmill bit, you can easily make cutting copper or aluminum with any CNC machine a breeze. Always check which materials are recommended to use with the machine if you’re not sure it will cope with your intended ones.
While most CNC machines are rather tricky to assemble, manufacturers usually include comprehensive instructions to make it easier. We don’t want to say they are exactly challenging to assemble, but they involve some intricacy.
In general, Mach3 is the most suitable software for beginners. Apart from being relatively cheap, it is also very easy to use, especially since it offers a demo version that allows you to get the hang of it.
MYSWEETY is a company that leads while others follow when it comes to the manufacturing of CNC machines, so we don’t think anyone will actually be caught by surprise that their MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO is our Editor’s Choice. Despite being lightweight, this machine is also powerful, quick, and compatible with a wide range of operating systems, which explains why we chose it as the number one.
We also recommend you take a look at the BobsCNC E4 and the MYSWEETY CNC Machine 1610. While the former’s most significant upside is its sizeable working area, the latter’s strength is its seamless combination of high performance and affordable price. In general, all three are decent options for any industrialist or just a hobbyist alike.