We’re all about the 3D printers here at All3DP, but in the “desktop” and maker space, there’s a wealth of other machinery that uses the same principle of guiding a tool head along several axes, that are worthy of attention.
CNC mills and routers are two such subsets of tools, distinct in their own regard with specific purposes. Ideal for precisely cutting through or into woods, metals and other materials, the CNC mill and CNC router are popular tools, but typically they come at a cost.
Helping alleviate this is the DIY CNC kit, condensing down the CNC mill and CNC router into flat pack projects that result in high-quality tools fit for carving and cutting in relatively little time.
Here we summarize the differences between the two and present 10 of the top DIY CNC router kits on the market today (ordered by price).
This CNC router kit is a stunner with its low price and high quality results. The frame is laser cut plastic, but all the connecting and bearing areas are reinforced with steel. The tool is clamped in aluminum and driven in X- and Z- axes while the cut plate moves Y. The kit includes the complete controller board and uses Autodesk’s free Fusion 360 as controlling software.
The DIY CNC router kit comes with a ll you need to get cutting right out of the box, and starts at $499. Extras like homing switches and further frame reinforcement packages can be configured into your kit or purchased later as extras.
Naturally, as a kit this DIY CNC router comes in parts and must be assembled by yourself, but MillRight’s customer service has proven as highly competent in many cases, should you run into any problems.
You can buy the M3 Kit bundle on MillRight’s website.
This laser-cut wooden DIY CNC router kit is a complete set; it comes with a milling motor, software, and electronics. It is great for engraving and cutting wooden or plastic objects. The frame comprises laser-cut plywood, with the tool head running on belts, so do not expect the highest accuracy.
Considering the price, large work space and the inclusion of a milling motor, the E3 it is a great first kit for those looking to get their feet wet in DIY CNC engraving and cutting.
Originally launched on Kickstarter, Stepcraft has burgeoned into one of the first names in modular CNCmachines, offering a variety of DIY CNC kits and ready-to-run machines out of its base in Germany. The Stepcraft D-Series is one such kit, coming in 5 different sizes to suit different workshop spaces. It is one of the cheaper, lighter and smallest CNC routers on this list.
The series comes as a complete set albeit with one pretty important omission — the milling motor itself, so you‘ll have to procure a compatible motor yourself (Stepcraft also produces them). The Stepcraft D-Series comes with control software for Windows, has end stops on all axis and a big red emergency stop button.
This DIY machine is great for engraving and working with softer materials. It can even cut 10mm aluminum sheets.
For more information and to buy, visit Stepcraft.us
This small and compact DIY CNC router kit offers great small-scale work for modest price. It does not include a milling motor, but it has ball bearing-mounted precision spindles for quick runs and a repeat accuracy of 0,03 mm.
It comes with LinuxCNC included, but can also be controlled with CNC Studio, WinPC-NC, and many other programs. The T-Nut work plate allows the attachment of clamps. It is suitable for machining soft materials, electronic circuit boards and small-scale work on non-ferrous metals.
Find more information about this CNC kit: GoCNC
Boasting a large work area, the Inventables X-Carve is geared toward signage and other larger objects. It comes with its own software and has a thriving community around it. When buying this CNC router kit you can configure it to suit your particular usage.
The basic machine starts at $999 and comes with a machine head, toolkit, clamps, and electronics all wrapped around a 500 x 500mm work area. The axis is driven by belts and the machine is mounted on a wooden board. Due to its low cost and configurability, the Inventables X-Carve is a great DIY CNC router kit if you’re just getting started with the tech.
Featuring a larger work area than its , the Nomad 338 Pro, the Carbide 3D Shapeoko is all about versatility.
Compatible with a wide array of router bits and eminently hackable, it’s DIY CNC router kit for restless makers. A DeWalt 611 router (provided in the kit) powers the cutting and is capable of carving out woods, plastics and Aluminum.
Carbide’s own Carbide Create and Carbide Motion software make working with the Shapeoko a breeze, allowing for maximum creativity across the machine’s 406 x 406mm work area.
XL and XXL versions are available, with work areas of 406 x 838mm and 838 x 838mm respectively.
This DIY CNC router kit features a novel approach to handling the stream of sawdust and woodchips generated by milling, with a ring of bristles surrounding the cutting bit catching it all for a controlled carve.
The consensus for this DIY CNC router kit appears to mostly be positive, indicating it is great for milling chipboard and plastics. You can also lengthen the cutting space as the driving motor sits in the gantry. Furthermore the tooling clamp offers a free spot for installing a CO2 laser head. This allows for laser cutting as well and because of the brushes around the tools it is secured. You will still have to wear laser safety goggles for your own protection.
Made from wood and constantly improved upon to imrpoe stability and sturdiness of the machine, the blueChick is currently on version 4.2., a revision improving the arrangement, drive method and structure.
You can buy and find more information on the BuildYourCNC website.
The Nomad 833 Pro from Carbide 3D is a complete package containing everything you need to be milling professionally in no time. In addition to a ready-to-run desktop CNC mill, you get a software solution with CAM and G-code interpreter.
Thanks to the high accuracy and stiffness of the mill you can cut materials from wood to aluminum and brass. Carbide 3D even claims that some users have managed to cut steel with it.
An overall rigid construction and high accuracy make the Nomad perfect for engineers, jewelers and makerspaces alike.
This powerful full Aluminum router is MillRight’s top spec machine. The router tool is mounted with precision ball screws on two axles for extra stiffness. In addition a stainless steel bearing shaft in combination with a high torque stepper motor is used to move to tool. The aluminum bed accommodates clamps and, due to the overall stiffness of the machine, it can also manage short cuts into steel.
The kit includes complete controls, homing switches and an emergency stop switch. Jobs on this DIY CNC router are controlled through Autodesk’s free Fusion 360 software. At the time of writing MillRight only ships to the contiguous 48 US, but you can contact them to discuss other shipping locations.
You can find more information on MillRight’s website.
The Pro Version of CNC Router Parts milling machines start with a compact and space saving design, that is subsequently configurable to offer a huge work space. It is designed with a bearing mounted Z spindle. The X- and Y- axis, however, are rack and pinion driven which lowers the overall accuracy, especially for larger builds. Its manufacturer promises however the milling of aluminum alloys.
The Pro kit comes with end stops for all axes, but no CNC control software, machine head nor electronics. The electronic solution is available prebuilt for $1,500 or as a kit for $765. It is mostly used for larger wood builds or foam.
Find more information about this CNC kit: CNC Router Parts
The CNC mill and CNC router are terms often used interchangeably. In actuality, they are two distinct machines with specific purposes.
A CNC router is mostly used for cutting wood, plastic, model foam or other soft materials. With some routers you can also machine aluminum, but this is mostly for engraving purpose.
The spindle of a CNC router can rotate up to 20,000 Rpm, a necessity in order to experience low torque when cutting into the material. Typically the frame and bearings of a CNC router are not configured for high stiffness. The upside of this high-speed low torque cutting is that a CNC router can do its work quickly, compared to slow CNC mills.
Another benefit of the CNC router is that they broadly tend to offer more working space in the X- and Y- axes, with a shallow Z-axis movement when compared to the CNC mill.
Despite being generally less stiff than a CNC mill, the stiffness and quality of a CNC router depends on the price tag. You can pick up a good CNC router with tools for less than $800.
Perhaps the most noticable difference between the CNC mill and CNC router is cost. A decent CNC mill can costs in the range of $10,000, and that’s before factoring in maintenance and tools.
The upside of such an expensive machine however, is that a CNC mill is capable of machining all kinds of metals such as (cast) steel, aluminum alloys and precious metals.
To do so, the spindle of a CNC mill runs at around 1,000 Rpm — much slower than a CNC router. Paired with a stiff frame and sturdy bearings, it’s possible to precisely cut to a tenth of a millimeter, though this of course depends on the quality of your tools, talent and machine.
Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below!
License: The text of "10 Best DIY CNC Router Kits of 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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