CNC routers have changed the way modern workers conceptualize, handle, and create metal/wood carvings. Any shape that enters your mind can be made in real life with a CNC router machine. Just use your computer to program the machine to allow it for cutting or creating various forms of metals, plastics, woods, and other materials.
I’ve been using this great help for over a decade now and I believe I have enough user experience on these cutting machines with the combined observations of the Drillly team and our volunteers. Hence, I’m here to suggest you the best CNC router list and I’m pretty confident it would be of great help for you.
First thing’s first; I believe everyone with a little understanding of the machine should get a proper explanation of its mechanism and uses because only then, the overall buying process will become easy and rewarding.
Why Follow Our Lead
As said earlier, I’ve been running a profitable carpentry business in my hometown over the past 12 years. I was first introduced to CNC routers when I launched my carpentry trade. Since then I have been using different models of CNC routers extensively at my workshop. So, you can consider me an expert user of these machines. And who can present you with more credential information regarding a tool or a product other than an industry expert?
Also, here at Drillly, we give unbiased reviews of metalworking and woodworking tools solely based on our product research and first-hand user experience. No particular manufacturer or brand sponsors us to promote their products and all we do care about is making your buying process easier and hassle-free.
We developed this platform around five years ago when we could not find some reliable power tool reviews online. Those that we came across were not informative and few of them were actually promoting certain tool manufacturers with the sole purpose of making money. We felt the necessity to establish an online platform to fill in the informational gap, hence the arrival of Drillly.com
Our Product Selection Procedure
Now let’s explain to you how we picked, tested, and reviewed these complex machines; and then prepared this Top 10 List. In fact, we followed the same testing procedure whether we reviewed the best dowel jigs or the best cloning machines.
First we spent 22 hours researching the existing products on the market and then we made a top 20 list. Then we tested these products ourselves to understand their basic features and we also looked into their comparative advantages over one another.
Since we could not try all these expensive CNC routers ourselves, we had to recruit a team of volunteers who conducted practical tests on those machines. Their feedback and reports helped us a lot in improving our understanding of these products.
During these tests, we focused on the specific features that are required of a good CNC router, including their dimensions, table size, software compatibility, ease of service, dust collection, motor system, automatic tool changing system, software, spindle, price, vacuum, availability of spare parts, and versatility of the machines.
But we did not stop there. We also took opinions from different CNC machine reviews online and examined comments and posts from various consumers of these products. To strengthen our ideas, we took the pain to contact industry experts and professionals who have had years of experiences with CNC routers just like us.
Finally, we gathered all of the information from the volunteers, online reviews, real-life consumers, and industry experts. By combining all the data, we were able to come up with our shortlist.
Our Top 10 Best CNC Routers for Woodworking
Here is a review of top 10 CNC routers on the market. They have been carefully selected and analyzed to help you spot the best for your budget and needs.
01 BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit (Best Overall)
Why Is This Our Top Pick?
Among so many models of CNC router available on the market, we picked the BobsCNC E3 as our top choice because of these reasons:
- After analyzing 24 of the most significant features of a CNC router, we found this as the top scorer of our selection and testing procedure. The performance and ergonomics of this CNC machine were the best among all other products we collected for testing and reviewing.
- Although this product contains the maximum number of positive features (based on our research), it falls in an affordable price range. It’s very much affordable considering the features it holds compared to other high-profile models on the market.
- On top of everything, we found this product as the highest rated product on Amazon. When testing, we checked and compared the verified reviews of each of the products on Amazon and we noticed it contained the highest number of positive reviews and got its verified ratings more swiftly than the other models we tested.
- The most noticeable features of this product that make this unique are: the laser cutting frame that holds multiple objects with ease and the arduino based microprocessor that can be connected through USB port to make operation easier. Another significant feature is its wide range of compatibility. It can be run on Windows, OSX, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. We made it our first choice because we found it suitable for all types of users.
BobsCNC E3 Detailed Review
BobsCNC E3 is the ideal choice to make the most of your productive time in your workshop. This is the finest choice for woodworking as it produces the needed cutting power for any type of wood.
It comes with an Arduino-based Microprocessor and DW660 router that can be connected to a USB port. The fortunate thing is that it is equipped with Java software which makes it compatible with Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and OSX platforms.
BobsCNC E3 CNC router is equipped with a DeWalt spindle and with collection ports of 1/8 inch and ¼ inch respectively. This implies it can accommodate straight and rounded bits provided their sizes are in the range of 1/8 to ¼ inches.
It weighs 26 pounds with dimensions of 25 x 19 x 25 inches that make it one of the best table top CNC router models in terms of portability and weight. In addition, it has a large cutting area that can accommodate materials of diverse size.
Also, this CNC router features a rigid laser cut frame that helps to enhance its stability, durability, and performance. You will find in the package motors, controller, and power supply kits for your usage.
If you’re a new buyer and would want to set up this product yourself, the assembly manual and instructions are available for download on the manufacturer’s website.
- Weight: 26 pounds
- Dimensions: 25 x 19 x 25 inches
- Size: 25 x 25 x 19 inches
- Material: Multiple
- Color: Birch
- Power source: ac
- Voltage: 115V
- Wattage: 600W
- Torque: 75in-oz
- Capacity description: 15.3 inches
- It has a user-friendly design
- It comes with a laser-cut frame
- The cutting area is large
- It has a tool changing mechanism
- Some of the users have had issues with the control system software
The E3 CNC Router comes with specs that meet the needs of professional and amateur users alike. It features a laser cutting frame with the capacity to handle multiple materials with ease. It is very suitable for both soft and hardwood projects.
Meanwhile, it is portable and lightweight enough to accommodate the needs of small shop owners. The software and the instruction manual can be accessed easily on the manufacturer’s website to enable you to maximize its usage.
02 MYSWEETY 1610 CNC Machine (Budget Buy)
What Makes It Our Budget Choice?
During our testing procedure, we found MYSWEETY 1610 very effective in terms of operation while it came within a low price range. In fact, it was the lowest priced router of all the products we tested.
In spite of being reasonably priced, it has all the necessary features that anyone needs for home CNC projects. It provides a working area of 160x100x45mm and can engrave a wide range of materials, like wood, plastic, acrylic, pcb, and pvc.
With the GRBL controller it supports Windows XP, 7, 8, and Linux. It comprises these significant features within a very low price range, which is why we ended up picking it as the ‘budget friendly’ option on this CNC router review.
MYSWEETY 1610 Detailed Review
The MYSWEETY is the workhorse of a machine that can handle light-duty tasks easily. It is so easy to set up and use. Interestingly, it is not only versatile, but portable and lightweight.
One of the things we liked about this benchtop CNC router is that it is equipped with a GRBL-based control and support system that can be integrated with Windows XP, Win 7, 8, and 10. Also, it can be operated with software like PCB processing and Toolpath Creation, but they are sold separately.
The MYSWEETY CNC router has an engraving area of 160 x 100 x 45mm and the plate is made from aluminum to enhance its durability and stability.
This machine can create shapes on wood, plastic, acrylic, and other materials of this kind. One of its greatest assets is that it comes with a stepper motor and spindle motor which runs at a speed of 7000RPM. It produces smooth and accurate cuts with speed and convenience.
This router is designed to be installed easily and its installation instructions are available for download on the manufacturer’s website. Also, its lightweight and ease of integration with Windows software make it the best home CNC machine for the money. With this device, your CNC router use will never go wrong.
- Weight: 11.2 pounds
- Dimensions: 14.2 x 9.2 x 6.5 inches
- Material: Aluminum
- Power supply: 24V/5.6A
- Voltage: AC 110V-240V
- Spindle speed: 7000RPM
- Support system: Windows
- Compact and lightweight
- Compatible with Windows and Linux OS
- Durable construction
- Comes with a spindle motor
- Can work on several materials
- Can handle light-duty tasks only
- Some of its components are made from plastic
For the price, this is the best small CNC router for the home. It is very compact and lightweight yet packed with features that make it the ideal choice for light-duty cutting applications.
However, it has a very small cutting area which limits its usage, but it can engrave on wood, plastic, acrylic, PVC, and PCB effectively. Meanwhile, you can set it up easily by following the instruction manual from the manufacturer’s site.
03 CNC 3018 Pro GRBL (Upgrade Version) Compact Choice
Why Is It Our Compact Choice?
Although compact in size, this CNC machine comes with the most useful features that make it a gem for any home-based project. It was the most lightweight device that we tested. It comes with only 15.35 lbs and provides a standard working area enough for any kind of DIY project.
The most notable feature of this unique mini CNC router is its offline controlling feature. For this feature, any project can be continued without connecting to computers or downloading files. Another amazing thing is the price below the 300-USD range. Also, a significant number of positive reviews made us enlist it as one of the top picks on this list.
CNC 3018 Detailed Review
Get the CNC 3018 Pro and you’ll get real value for the money. Of course, it is a great entry level device if you’re ready to spend a few more bucks to overcome your engraving challenges.
The CNC 3018 Pro features a GRBL control software supported by Windows XP, 7, 8, and 10 respectively. It has a working area of 30 x 18 x 4 cm making it one of the best small CNC routers for light-duty applications.
Still, on the design, this model comes with a spindle motor that runs at a maximum speed of 1000RMP to cut your work pieces with speed and precision. Also, it features a stepper motor that produces 0.25N/M torque. It can make accurate and smooth engravings on plastic, wood, PVC, acrylic, and PCB materials.
The CNC 3018 Pro comes with an offline controller that can work without being connected to a computer. The files are preinstalled on the controller, so you wouldn’t have to search for the software online.
However, the offline controller and the computer cannot be used simultaneously. You should unplug the controller to enable you to use the computer.
In the package, you will find a lightweight and compact product with dimensions 17.8 x 9.6 x 7 inches weighing 15.35 pounds. With such a size and portability, the CNC 3018 is among the best home CNC router models available.
However, it cannot be used on jade, metals, and other hard materials that could damage the drill bits.
- Weight: 15.35 pounds
- Dimensions: 17.8 x 9.6 x 7 inches
- Engraving area: 30 x 18 x 4 cm
- Spindle speed: 1000RPM
- Stepper motor: (fuselage length 34mm / Torque 0.25NM)
- Drill bit diameter: 3.175mm
- Software: GRBL control
- Comes with an offline controller
- Can also be used independently without the computer
- All actions can be controlled with the offline controller
- Can engrave with wood, PVC, PCB, and acrylic
- The computer and the offline controller cannot be used together at a time
- Cannot engrave on metal and other hard materials
The CNC 3018 Pro is a lightweight and portable router that is designed to be used on woods and plastic materials effectively. It features a plastic body that may seem fragile at sight, but you’ll soon realize its degree of toughness after use.
It can be used with or without the computer, thanks to the offline controller. However, it is not suitable to be used on metals and other hard objects.
Finally, this product can be installed and used easily making it one of the best CNC routers for beginners.
04 NEXT WAVE AUTOMATION CNC Piranha XL
The CNC Piranha XL is designed and made in the USA to meet the needs of professional and amateur engravers alike. You will be amazed at some of the benefits you stand to enjoy with this machine.
One of the greatest advantages of this machine is that it comes pre-assembled already, all you should do is to plug the machine and start using it. In addition, it features an LCD touchscreen that lets you operate this CNC machine without the computer.
The technology is so simple yet so advanced that you only create your designs on the computer, save it on a USB flash drive, and then plug the storage device on your CNC router to commence the carving operation.
The CNC Piranha XL has table dimensions of 12 x 30 inches, large enough to accommodate medium-size projects. This model can carve smooth and beautiful designs on woods, soft metals, and plastic materials effectively.
In addition, this machine features the Auto Edge and Rotational Technology to allow you to make engraves on any part of the material. Also, it comes with an XYZ travel of 12 x 24 x 4 inches which helps to produce smooth carvings in the materials.
With overall dimensions of 19 ½ x 30 ½ x 24 inches, the CNC Piranha XL is the best wood CNC machine for sale.
- Dimensions: 19 ½ x 30 ½ x 24
- XYZ travel: 12 x 24 x 4 inches
- Table size: 12 x 30 inches
- Material: multiple
- Can handle wood, plastic and soft metal materials effectively
- Very durable and reliable
- The difficulty in assembling the machine is eliminated
- Quite easy to use
- Not compatible with Mac computers
The CNC Piranha is one of the best CNC routers for woodworking for both amateurs and professionals alike. It can be used with ease and features a touchscreen which allows you to control the settings comfortably.
It should interest you that this machine uses the drive screws instead of belts to ensure that you get the best from various woodworking projects. However, it may not be among the inexpensive routers, but its advanced specs have covered the cost.
05 BobsCNC E4 CNC Router with Engraver Kit
You must remember our top pick BobsCNC E3 for its remarkable efficiency and overall reliability. This is the following model (E4) of the same lineup from BobsCNC, a famed brand that manufactured some of the most exclusive power tools in this segment.
The reason we couldn’t put it in the first position was its higher price point. Yet, for its amazing features and technical ability we couldn’t keep it away for long.
It features the same DW660 router as its younger brother E3 but its cutting area is almost double than that of E3. The rail system of this machine also supports SG20U. We found a home switch on every axe that made working simpler.
We found that it housed the same Arduino based microprocessor for adapting GRBL firmware that could handle industrial heavy duty for a longer period. Besides, the ergonomics and capacity blew our mind as did E3.
When connecting it with our computer we used the Java-based sender platform called Universal Gcode. The manufacturer also recommended this platform for the most optimum output.
Our experts suggest that this router for larger scale manufacturing, for which it’s rigid build could be a great boon.
- Weight- 42 pounds
- Z-axis housing 5/16-18
- Length- 30 inches
- Height- 18.9 inches
- Width- 37.2 inches
- Rail system supporting SG20U
- MDF SB (Spoil Board) for T Slot
- X- 24 inches
- Y-24 inches
- Z- 3.3 inches
- Hardened frame for laser cut
- Rigid GT2 belt covers X & Y axes
- Designed for GRBL firmware used on Arduino Uno for optimum performance
- DeWalt router included (DW660)
- Some users faced slight z-wobbles, shouldn’t necessarily affect the performance
We were impressed with this fine machine that comes in under 1000 USD but serves like those pricey units that will set you back over 5000 USD. Bobs CNC expertly showcased the American ingenuity in this machine. More satisfyingly, when we faced a bummer, we contacted the manufacturer and Bob’s crew immediately responded. We recommend that you go through the assembly manual as it’s meticulously written to help solve any unexpected installing issue.
06 NEXT WAVE AUTOMATION CNC Piranha
Coming in under 2000 USD, the CNC Piranha FX may not seem so affordable for the avid home-based woodworker, leading many DIYers to build their own CNC routers. But it has the capacity to make perfect carvings on woods, soft metals, and plastic materials alike. One of the major advantages of this model is that it comes with its parts assembled already.
Being one of the most expensive models on our list of top CNC routers, it certainly has much to offer. It comes with a large work area that can accommodate materials of 12 x 18 inches comfortably. Also, with a weight of 58.9 pounds, it is ideal for working with heavy materials.
One of its greatest assets is the 3D carving capability that allows you to make beautiful carvings and engravings just the way you have them on your design. It is one of the best CNC routers in terms of accuracy and convenience such that it can allow you to make engravings on customized PCB circuits with ease.
It features the VCarve Desktop V9 Design software which is used to make designs on computers. On completion of your design, save it on a USB flash drive. Plug the drive on your router, locate the design using the LCD screen and launch your work. That is just how easy you can operate this machine.
The CNC Piranha FX’s 23” x 16” x 16” dimensions allow you to make all engravings and cutting without taking much of your workbench space. Thus, it is among the best tabletop CNC router models on the market.
- Weight: 58.9 pounds.
- Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 16 inches
- Table size: 12 x 18 inches
- LCD touchscreen
- 3D carvings capability
- Can produce accurate 3D carvings conveniently
- Can work without being connected to the computer
- LCD touchscreen
- Comes fully assembled
- Mastering its operation takes time
- Relatively expensive
This highly-priced model is constructed to meet the daily needs of industrialists and professionals who intend to get their soft copy designs realized in 3D carvings. It features a touchscreen that allows you to monitor the process without using the computer.
It is heavy yet compact enough to occupy the extreme portion of your workbench while the rest of the spaces would be reserved for other things. Finally, unlike other CNC routers on the market, the CNC Piranha FX is delivered completely assembled and thus eliminates the inconvenience you may experience with a DIY machine.
07 Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit
Usually, pro level CNC machines would cost you thousands of dollars. Here is a mini Genmitsu model that costs only around 250 bucks and if you look at the specs sheet, it won’t disappoint you.
The name 318 refers to the machining size meaning 300 on the X, 180 on the Y. It’s an upgrade from the 3018 non-pro version. It also supports a laser module for precision cuts. We were able to cut all types of plastic, woods, soft aluminum and PCVs.
We also found the plugin offline controller very handy. During testing we found it easy to assemble. The instruction manual looked sharp and elaborate. It took us barely an hour to assemble this completely.
The overall frame was sturdy and you cannot possibly flex any of the parts with bare hands. The spindle was 36V and moved at a rate of 9000 RPM, which was enough to get going.
You will find a disc coming with the package for fast firmware upgrade. The machine packed global control software with which you can play around with the test file from the CD. It was really useful as we could even control the motor’s speed with soft buttons.
The only complaint we have is the clamping system. It appeared cumbersome as you need to unscrew the bolts every time before application and removal. Make sure you use a reliable USB connection or else it might freeze in the middle of the job.
- Engraving Area– 11.8 x 7.1 x 1.8 inches
- Frame Material– Aluminum
- Frame Size– 15.7 x 13.0 x 9.4 inches
- Component Material (Z-Axis) — Nylon
- Bracket Material (Axis) — PF
- Spindle– 9000 RPM (36V)
- Rated power– 60 (Watts)
- Maximum power– 120 (Watts)
- Supported OS– From Windows XP to Windows 10 and MAC OS
- Software– Candle (GRBL Control)
- Power Supply–24V/4.75A
- Amazingly portable with mini frame
- The cuts come fairly clean
- Ideal for DIY projects
- The price is highly affordable
- The software coming with it is only for sending G-code to the machine, you can’t generate new ones
For around 250 bucks this CNC machine does deliver. If you are into DYI projects and looking for a low cost machine to get you through, we strongly recommend Genmitsu 3018-PRO. Just use a better USB connection cable and get a G-code generator, and that should be it.
08 DIY CNC Router Kits 3018 By MYSWEETY
The CNC 3018 router is a great choice for wood carving and other engraving projects. It is powerful and comes with some important features at an affordable price. It is equipped with a powerful spindle that runs at 10000RPM to cut through plastic, wood, acrylic, PVC, and PCM conveniently and accurately.
It features the GRBL Control system which ensures that it can easily be interfaced with other programmable devices. In addition, it comes with working area dimensions of 30 x 18 x 4.5cm which allows you to work with a variety of materials conveniently.
The CNC 3018 router is equipped with drill bits of a 3.175mm diameter so you can be guaranteed of a smooth and comfortable cut any time. The aluminum body enhances the durability and reliability of the machine.
The unit has a weight of 16.52 pounds and dimensions of 17.7 x 9.5 x 7.4 inches that means it can be moved easily and can be used in small workshops. However, you should have some mechanical knowledge before attempting the DIY assembly.
- Weight: 16.52 Pounds
- Dimensions: 17.7 x 9.5 x 7.4 inches
- Working area: 30 x18 x4.5 cm
- Drill bit diameter: 3.175mm
- Spindle speed: 10,000RPM
- Material: Aluminum
- Control software: GRBL
- Large work area
- Can work on various materials
- Comes with high spindle speed
- Can be assembled easily
- The parts have to be installed by buyers
The 2418 CNC Router is recommended for persons who intend to develop their woodworking skills. It features a spindle motor that runs at 10000RPM while being lightweight and versatile enough to cut through wood, PVC, acrylic, plastic materials. However, it cannot be used for cutting metals and other tough materials.
09 VEVOR CNC Router 3020T
This is a multi-functional machine that is suitable for research, art, teaching, and industrial purposes. It has a compact design making it the ideal choice for home use. Interestingly, it is updated to support standard G-code files like X carve, SW, UG, PW, that are used to generate tool paths.
We personally enjoyed the speed of the spindle that can run between 300 to 8000RPM which is needed to engrave in diverse materials to obtain your expected result.
The VEVOR 3020T CNC Router comes with a 3D capability that lets you create building prototypes, signs, artwork, RC models, aircraft models and much more. The cutting area can accommodate workpieces with dimensions of 200 x 300 x 50mm and keeps some spaces to handle small-and medium-sized tasks effectively.
Equipped with a USB port, you can connect it to your computers and laptops to control the engravings. With a weight of 47.3 pounds, the machine remains stable on your workbench to produce a smooth and accurate design on the material.
The VEVOR 3021T CNC Router can create engravings in materials like steel, metals, stone, Plywood, solid wood, and MDF Board using the spiral bits. You can also try it for engraving on metals, stone and other hard materials.
- Weight: 47.3 pounds
- Dimensions: 21 x 16 x 16 inches
- Spindle Speed: 300 – 800RPM
- Carving speed: 0 – 2000mm/min
- Max workpiece dimensions: 200 x 300 x 65 mm
- Work area: 200 x 300 x 15 mm
- Spindle motor: 200W dc motor
- Repeat accuracy: 0.05mm
- It supports spindle switching control.
- The spindle speed can be varied to suit the workpiece material.
- It supports breakpoint carvings.
- It supports customized keyboard shortcut features.
- It can offer more precise engravings.
- It can use the spiral bits.
- Cannot be used without the computer
This model is highly versatile and flexible. It can engrave on wood, metals, stone, and other hard materials with ease. It is highly-priced but comes with many benefits that you will always enjoy. It works smoothly and flawlessly on any material.
This is recommended for hobbyists, professionals and industrialists with loads of designs to implement on a daily basis. Its compact design and flexibility make it suitable for personal and office use.
10 Taishi 3 AXIS 800W 6040 Desktop CNC Router
This CNC router is the perfect choice for professionals and industrialists looking for advanced features with the capacity to produce creative engraves on thick and hard material types. Although it is relatively expensive, it boasts of various features that make it the ideal option for industrial applications.
Although the frame is made from aluminum alloy, it is rigid, strong and can withstand heavy-duty cuts. In addition, the body of this machine is thickened to make it safe for transportation and to enhance its durability. It really is heavy weighing 121.2 pounds, making it rugged and stable to handle heavy-duty tasks smoothly.
It features the Mach 3 control Software which is more intelligent than most of the software used by other CNC router brands. However, it can only be controlled by a desktop computer. Meanwhile, it often produces accurate and smooth engravings in wood, PVC, MDF board, and acrylic materials.
There is a stepping motor knob which is needed for positioning adjustments to stabilize the machine and workpiece. All the parts of the CNC router are constructed with the best materials available to enhance its durability.
You will notice that the chrome shaft remains sturdy and undeformed regardless of the number of times it is used. In addition, the cover plates help to prevent the screws and shafts from being polluted.
It comes equipped with ball screws to produce more stable and smooth cuts. Also, the high-torque stepping motors help to make the engraves accurate and beautiful.
Another important feature of this model that we cannot ignore is the 0.8 KW VFD spindle that can work for long at a maximum speed of 24000RPM without failing. This is because it comes with an air cool mechanism that helps prevent its overheating.
Moreover, it can engrave in both hardwood and aluminum making it one of the best CNC routers for the money. It features a large work area making it suitable to handle large materials conveniently and effectively.
This model is the best wood CNC machine available on the market if you can afford it. It comes with an emergency power switch that helps to stop the motor if it senses any fault. It has a carving speed of 300 to 3500mm per minute to allow you to work on different materials based on the needed speed.
- Weight: 121.2 pounds
- Dimensions: 880 x 670 x 530 mm
- Working travel: 400 x 580 x 75 mm
- Table size: 750mm x 480 x 20mm
- Spindle motor: 0.8KW
- Max spindle speed: 24000RPM
- Carving speed: 300 – 3500mm/min
- Carving instruction: G code
- Material: Steel
- Color: Silver
- Very powerful device
- Can be used for both light and heavy-duty tasks
- Durable with a large work area
- Air cooled spindle motor to prolong lifespan
- The stepper motor runs at a very low-noise
- Can only be used with the desktop computer
- Too large for some shops
This unit is highly-priced but offers a good value for the money. It comes with advanced features that make it the delight of professionals and industrialists alike. It is very powerful and reliable and can run for a long time without fail.
It can be used for commercial and research purposes. However, it is not suitable for laptop computers and is not compatible with most of the popular computer operating systems available.
Other Tested Products
Other than our top picks, there are more quality routing machines offered by popular brands like –
Laguna (Swift & IQ Series), CAMaster (Stinger), Shopbot, Ooznest (Original WorkBee), MultiCam, Onsrud, Komo, Blue Elephant, Thermwood, Powermatic, Maslow (4×8 foot Z-Axis kit), CarveWright, Probotix, AXYZ, Goliath, Zenbot, Legacy (Maverick), T8, OpenBuilds (OX), General International, Grizzly, Dremel, Avid CNC, Axiom, Makita, Biesse (Klever), Omni CNC, Craftsman, BCAM CNC, SCM, Techno CNC, Flexicam, Unitech, and Trend UK.
Understanding CNC Routers & Their Applications
A Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router is a computerized cutting machine that can be used to create cuts and shapes on wood, steel, glass, plastics, foams, and alloy materials. It can also be used by carpenters for various woodwork applications like sawing, spindle molding, and drilling.
The concept of a CNC router is almost the same with a vertical or horizontal milling machine. The only difference is that CNC is designed to work with a computer.
One of the greatest advantages of using the CNC router is that it produces beautiful, smooth, and accurate work with consistency. Unlike other routers and cutting machines like the drill press machine, the CNC router can produce the same cut repeatedly without any error. It can produce shapes in record time while waste is minimized, productivity is maximized.
Now, let’s discuss how CNC routers can be used for various purposes.
1. Cabinet Making
The best cabinet doors, boxes and shelves can only be made with the best wood CNC machine. Most of the components needed in the production of these wood projects are to be produced en masse and each design must be correct in all forms. Such level of precision can only be obtained with a CNC router. Also, you can alter the designs as you deem it.
2. Sign Engraves
One of the most difficult carvings to make is signs because of the complexities in its design. With the help of a CNC router, you can carve out the most complex 3D designs on anything from aluminum to plastic, wood or foam.
CNC routers are used to create various woodcarvings like instruments, game pieces, and toys that would have been carried out by hand only. These projects are completed with utmost accuracy and speed by using a CNC router.
Gone are the days when prototypes were carved by hand and one of the disadvantages of handmade prototypes was the delay and lack of flexibility. With the help of a CNC router, you can create a working prototype in a few seconds.
Best CNC Routers Buying Guide
1. Capabilities of the Machine
The first question you should ask yourself is what you’ll be using the machine for and what you intend to achieve with it. Once you’ve answered these questions correctly, you are on a good path to buying the type of product that will match your goals. Sometimes, we went on blaming the machine, and discovered that the faults were with our techniques, not with the machine.
2. Availability of Spare Parts
One of the things you should consider when buying a CNC router is the ease of finding its spare part. This is very necessary especially when any of the parts gets deformed and needs to be replaced. Some of the most sensitive parts of the router that requires replacement more often are the router bits, drill bits, and profile cutters. Ensure that the manufacturer has these parts for sale, especially when you will be needing them hastily.
3. Software Compatibility
You should buy a CNC router that is equipped with software which is compatible with your PC. These routers are made to be integrated with Window, Mac, or Linus operating systems. If your PC is running on Linux OS, you should buy a CNC router compatible with Linux OS. With the help of an open source software control system, you can use your CNC router to create the desired shape on your work piece.
The size will be determined by either what you will be using the machine for or your workshop space. Meanwhile, industrial sized CNC routers are usually large and often consume more space. However, the benchtop CNC routers are small and can be placed comfortably on the table.
5. Table Size
Not only is this an important factor for this machine but for other tools with tables as well, such as the cabinet table saw or the drill press table. The size of your CNC router table should be large enough to accommodate the material you’ll be working on. Thus, the size of your material should determine the size of the machine you’ll buy.
6. Spindle vs Router
A spindle CNC tool is more suitable for heavy-duty or industrial applications. They are powered by 3-phase lines through an inverter. With this, they produce more cutting power even at lower speeds than a router.
In addition, spindles have precision bearings which make their cuts smoother, accurate and more beautiful. Moreover, their components are made from solid materials to enhance its reliability and durability; but they are expensive.
CNC routers, on the other hand, are affordable and most of them are designed to accept spindle kits so you can easily initiate the upgrade any time. All the same, it depends on your purpose of buying since routers can only handle light-duty tasks, unlike spindles that are suitable for commercial and heavy-duty applications.
7. Drive System
The only three drive systems that can be found in a CNC router include ball screw, lead screw, rack and pinion. Ball screws are the most expensive because of their ability to handle various materials accurately.
8. Motor System
The torque and cutting speed of the router is determined by the motor system. CNC routers with high motor ratings can perform faster and better than others with a lesser motor rating.
The part of the motor that handles the actual cutting with the help of a cutter is the spindle. Some of the outstanding features of the spindle to watch out include torque, input power, and Revolutions Per Minute (RPM).
10. Automatic Tool Changing System (ATC)
This feature is very important if your project requires you to combine with more than one device. The best CNC router should be equipped with an ATC system. With this system, you can change tools easily and effectively. Also, it minimizes delays and errors with the work.
CNC routers work with a careful integration with computers. The software should be advanced, free of bugs and should be able to receive updates directly from the manufacturers. The complex applications do require the advanced software.
The part of the CNC router that holds the work piece is known as the vacuum. Heavy materials can only be accommodated by a strong vacuum. The ability of a vacuum to cling to the material can be measured by its pressure.
13. Dust Collection
This is very important as it helps keep your work environment clean. You should buy a CNC router with a dust collection port. Also, check for the power and capacity of the dust collection system.
14. Ease of Service
It is important to consider the type of maintenance that will be required by the product and the ease at which it would be maintained. While some machines are designed for DIY maintenance or assembly, others are not. Moreover, most of the CNC routers come with a warranty which you can always confirm with the manufacturer before and after buying the product. Also, some do come with aftersales repair services.
15. Price-to-Quality Ratio
Price is another important factor to consider when shopping for a CNC router. You should get a product that lies within your budget. If your purpose of buying the product is to handle simple tasks, then you can get one of the cheap CNC routers.
CNC Router Maintenance
Regular maintenance of a CNC router will help prevent downtime and improve your productivity and profits. We have recommended this maintenance activity schedule to help you care for your CNC router and maximize its useful life.
- Clear off the debris after use
- Clean the tool holder and the internal taper of the spindle motor
- Check the oil level
- Empty any water in the regulator
- Clean the blower filters
- Lubricate the lead screws
- Store all machine data online
- Create copies of machine data on a CD or USB drives and keep them safe
- Inspect pneumatic location against leaks or excess oil
- Inspect the power cable connector and insulation
- Check for the tension in the belt and pulley
- Clean or lubricate the gear assembly
- Clean all screws and nuts by brushing or flushing with WD40
- Inspect and clean dry assemblies
- Check for calibration errors on the axes
- Inspect the brush terminals of the DC motor
- Inspect all the machine wiring connections
- Adhere strictly to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Power off the machine when carrying out maintenance operation except for work that requires the running of the machine parts
- When cleaning with pressurized air, ensure that it is completely dry
- Don’t use the wrong size and type of material with the CNC router
- Ensure that the software is compatible with the computer
- Cover the machine with a thick blanket after use to prevent dust
A Word from Drillly
A CNC router is used to make engravings and 3D designs on wood, plastics, metals, PVC, PCB, and acrylic materials. It can be used on construction sites, industries, academic environments, workshops, and homes. It has become the delight of professional artisans and hobbyists because of the ease with which it reproduces the computer designs.
Your choice of a CNC router depends on the task you want to handle. Buying the best CNC routers can be difficult if you’re unaware of the comparative features of these products.
BobsCNC E3 is our overall best because of its good price-to-quality ratio. It can be used for both commercial and domestic applications. You will notice that it produces fine, precise, and beautiful engraves on different types of materials.
MYSWEETY 1610 features as one of our most budget-friendly CNC routers. It is lightweight and portable yet capable of producing smooth and accurate cuts on wood and plastic materials. It is not suitable for commercial purposes and should not be used in metal engravings.
CNC Piranha XL, once set up successfully, performs pretty much fairly in line with the manufacturer’s claims. It comes completely assembled by the manufacturers and can be operated without keeping the computer plugged in. It features an LCD touchscreen that allows you to choose the preferred design easily. In addition to its portability, it can engrave on both wood and soft metal materials conveniently.
While some of these machines are expensive, there are still affordable choices and many even try to own a fixed or moving gantry homemade CNC router. You might be surprised but some consider using robot arms to replace CNC machines. The fact is, the ball is in your court but don’t make a quick decision.
1. What can I do with my CNC machine?
Ans. You can use your CNC router for cutting different materials like wood, steel, aluminum, glass, plastics, foams, granite, and composites.
2. How much will a CNC router cost me?
Ans. They really are some expensive machines. 3-axis routers that’re considered the basic type will cost you anywhere between $3000 to $10,000. The mid-range 4 axis or 5 axis ones often used for signage and panel processing will be from $20,000 to $50,000. The high-end CNC routers will set you back nearly $50,000 to as much as $150,000.
3. How long will a CNC router last?
Ans: Around 10-15 years or more, depending on the frequency of use and the quality of maintenance. If you use your machine well and take proper care of it, it can even last for decades.
4. What materials will the CNC router cut?
Ans: CNC routers can cut anything from plastic to titanium. Here are some of the most commonly used materials in CNC routers:
5. Do I need to know a programming language?
Ans: No. You don’t need any kind of programming basics to operate a CNC router. The machine has integrated software to convert your designs and edits into a G-code program. However, having a basic idea about the G-code is certainly beneficial.