Nowadays, you can find CNC machines in many shops, online or physical, which offer excellent quality products for engraving wood, PVC or aluminum. The applications are limitless and the personalization is only limited by your imagination.
Like many high-tech tools, it is difficult to navigate when it comes to its first purchase or to renew its equipment after years of missing out on innovations in the sector. We have analyzed the market for you: here is my selection of the best CNC milling machines for individuals of the moment!
The Best Cheap CNC Machines
1. 3018Pro-MAX Metal CNC Router Kit
Yofuly already has several CNC milling devices to his credit. With the 3018 Pro version, you can go even further than with its little sister, the 3018. This CNC milling machine kit is designed to quickly obtain a professional rendering.
For those who don’t know, the first step is not powering on or installing driver on your Windows computer. Upon receipt, you will have to go through the “assembly” box. Yofuly did an amazing job getting everything up and running in under half an hour. The structure is very stable to give you full confidence for your further work. You immediately feel the quality of the materials used and the ingenuity shown by the brand in the design.
On the technical side, the CNC 3018 Pro offers a work area of 300 mm x 180 mm x 45 mm, enough to give free rein to your imagination to design personalized parts. This is the Rolls of DIY CNC milling machines.
It has a 24 V spindle motor capable of rotating at a speed of 10,000 revolutions per minute. As a reminder, a high speed of rotation is essential to engrave correctly, especially in the hardest materials.
This CNC milling machine offered by Yofuly allows you to undertake precision work on different types of materials:
- Wood and composites
- PCB (electronic board)
Be careful with the drill you use, the original one proposed is not suitable for working with metal because of the level of hardness.
In the kit, you will find everything you need to quickly start your work, 10 drills of different sizes, the manual, the controller, the pliers or an extension rod. Everything you need to calmly undertake the personalization of many pieces, to make the series or production unique.
For the homemade CNC, nothing beats the HomdMarket milling machine. It is used with open source software that relies on the support of known entities, such as Arduino and GRBL. With a few searches on Google, you will quickly find tutorials, free training, and YouTube videos that will teach you everything you need to know to produce your own parts and let your imagination run your engraving machine.
The improved control card compared to previous models incorporates a new chip to increase responsiveness and precision. It is equipped with a new heatsink to extend its life, as well as a fan to increase the air flow and make it easier to maintain the operating temperature. The machine also has short circuit protection similar to a circuit breaker in the event of a problem.
This 2 in 1 machine allows you to switch between a classic engraving or a laser module which will give you the opportunity to try out the finest and most precise patterns you have in mind. You can use an area of 300 mm x 180 mm x 45 mm to engrave. Suffice to say that many projects are feasible!
This versatile CNC milling machine will be satisfied with most of the materials that you will make available to it. Wood or plastic will not offer any resistance. It is possible to burn PCBs for the production of electronic boards and even paper.
Its only flaw will be quickly corrected. Indeed, the assembly after the purchase is briefly documented. The more do-it-yourselfers will see no problem, for others, you will have to ask yourself a few questions before arriving at the desired result. In view of its excellent engraving performance, we may regret a small lack of power for cutting a thick plate.
Like many other brands, Vogvigo started from the very good foundation of the 3018 Pro mini CNC milling machine. With this way of doing things, the quality remains at the rendezvous and it becomes possible to slightly evolve the design to obtain an ever more efficient project and closer to the needs of the customers.
Whether you are looking to discover CNC machines or want to modernize your equipment, you will find what you are looking for here. It integrates the free software GRBL and it has a large work area 30 cm wide by 18 cm deep. For the height, the dimension will obviously be smaller with 4.5 cm, but in the case of engraving, this parameter is much less important than the other two.
The small 24V motor spins at a speed of 10,000 RPM to let you engrave in any material besides metal and hard materials. For wood and plastic, which are the most widely used for these applications, you won’t have any problems.
Thanks to the offline controller, you won’t have to connect a computer to operate your CNC milling machine. It is also possible to make fine adjustments on the three axes (X, Y and Z) to specify an unusual starting point for engraving.
Some shadows on the board. For laser engraving, an additional module will be needed, which will increase the final bill. For beginners, we are talking about people who have never touched a CNC machine, the dive can be a bit complicated, it will then be necessary to spend several hours (many hours) to search for tutorials and YouTube videos who will explain everything to you. Fortunately, this information is easy to find.
How To Use A CNC Machine?
The use of a CNC milling machine is within the reach of all DIY enthusiasts. If you are reading these lines after a few failures, do not despair, you will soon be able to be proud of yourself. A little more perseverance and everything will be fine.
A project to make a part with a CNC machine breaks down into two main stages:
- The project drawing
- The cutting / milling of the part
For the drawing, you will have to trust your artistic talents and implement what you have in mind in software compatible with your milling machine (this in order to export a file with the necessary extension for the controller machine). Some software is free, others are chargeable, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do.
You will have to take into account the technological constraints of your CNC machine. This is about removing material, the exact opposite of a 3D printer, so you will have to think your part accordingly to make it feasible. Sometimes it even takes several pieces to put together to get what you want.
If your software does not manage the file export for your milling machine (with the necessary information for each milling layer), you will have to go through a CAM software which will provide you with the file in question.
You then have to upload your file to the controller of your machine. To do this, refer to the user manual, but it is most of the time a command in the software once connected to your device.
Place your block of material on the platform and secure it using the clamps or the clamping system supplied with the machine. Be sure to respect the place defined as the three-dimensional origin of the part so that the engraving begins at the planned place. Turn on the power and go, admire the passage of the strawberry in each layer. Magnificent!
Which CNC Milling Machine To Choose?
To choose your machine, you must first know the type of part you are going to work. Indeed, the main characteristics of the CNC milling machine of your dreams derive directly from the parts to be produced.
The first and most obvious point is the material to be worked on. Most good quality home milling machines work on all types of material except metal which will require much more cutting power, often reserved for the professional setting.
Then it’s up to you to imagine the largest part possible and see if it would fit on a milling bed. Note that it is quite possible to imagine a system of interlocking or assembly of several parts to get around this problem, you will simply have to spend a few hours to train yourself on CAD software (computer-aided design and milling techniques).
Define the number of axes. Most have three axes, X, Y and Z which define the position of the nozzle in space. You will then have three dimensions which are:
Note that there are 5-axis versions which allow the nozzle to turn on itself and thus be able to mill at an angle. These models are obviously more expensive and more difficult to implement.
You will be able to purchase models compatible with laser engraving. For this, it will be necessary to change the original module to place the one containing the laser. The operation is often well thought out and done quickly, but it has a cost, not always useful depending on your use.
These days, operating systems are rarely limited in use, especially if you are using Windows. In another case, such as Mac or Linux, consider checking software compatibility, as well as the drivers for the controller. You will always find software that allows you to design and switch to CAM, but the controller drivers must be compatible with your hardware.