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cnc woodworking machine

Welcome to our ultimate guide on cnc woodworking. Cnc machines are typically used for cutting/ routing/ engraving three different types of materials – foam, wood and metal. This guide will focus on the wood part, which software you need, which type of machines are best, and what to look out for if you are looking to jump into the process of buying a woodworking cnc machine. The good news is is that there is a pretty large spectrum from the small diy kits all the way up to massive industrial machines.

cnc woodworking

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Hurco cnc lathe

Welcome to our top cnc lathe products/ brands. We’ve gone through various brands as well as different products to scout out which ones you should be taking a look at so you get the best value for your money. Check’em out below:

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cnc machinist

We get a lot of would-be or current cnc machinists browsing through our site a lot. Today’s article will go through what being a cnc machinist is all about, the ins and outs, salary, and general info as to what you need to do/ have to become a cnc machinist. 

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There aren’t too many options out there for cnc plasma kits. The focus seems to be on 3d printing, regular cnc routers and waterjet. However we’ve done a bit of a dig through to see what options are out there that you can explore when it comes to actually buying the parts required for a cnc plasma set-up, including the table, plasma cutter, and gantry.

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Zen Toolworks cnc machine

With the desktop 3d printing market heating up with some great options, there are still some very solid options for mini cnc machines that don’t require a lot of footprint or space. We’ll take a look at what the different options are out there including what you should be looking out for.

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While 3d printers have exploded in popularity recently, desktop cnc routers still have their place. You can pick up a pretty capable desktop cnc machine for under $1000 that has the major file support and software for your gcode. We think cnc routers, especially desktop ones are here to stay for the time being.

Heads up on the guide, in general cnc routers/ machines aren’t made for kids. They typically have an open bed (so parts are exposed) – would be dangerous to have a child near one of these machines.

Also due to the openness nature of these machines, noise can sometimes be a small issue. Best to test out in person to see if this is okay, you’ll laso get a feel for how much debris comes off the machine while cutting, so you may want to put up some sort of guard or place this in an area where noone would be close during the gcode to cnc cutting process.

We wrote a guide here a while back, but now we’ve reviewed and below are some of our current top picks:

Sanvn CNC router

Sanvn cnc router

Available in 3 or 4 axis the Sanvn cnc machine starts at $555.99 and runs all the way up to $1,685.99. The entry machine for $564 has a pretty good table size of 200 x 300 mm, and a relatively decent height of 50 mm. With a spindle speed of 300 to 8000 rpm, you’ll easily be able to carve out the soft materials like wood and foam, as well as working with metal and steel parts comfortably.

One downside is the older 6040 controller and software. Upgrading to a UX100 and an updated version of Mach3 will get you up to speed.

Zen ToolworksTM cnc diy kit

Zen Toolworks cnc machine diy kit

At a cost of $430 with free shipping on Amazon, the Zen ToolworksTM CNC carving machine diy kit (7×7 F8) is one of our faves and has been a solid performer and seller for a while. We mentioned this machine a while ago, and it is great to see that it still gets rave reviews on Amazon.

Featuring a 7 x 7 x 2 inch travel capacity, this machine has a bed size larger than most desktop cnc machine designs. To save on cost you are getting a pvc frame, but you get steel guide rods to ensure precision in travel.

Be aware you will have to pay for a copy of Mach 3 on top of this if that is the software you want to go with. The diy kit does take a little time to set up and calibrate (downside compared to say a fully enclosed 3d printer).


X-Carve cnc machine

The X-Carve really deserves some praise. For a pretty good price of $937.90 for the basic kit  or $1,399.90 for the fully loaded kit, you get a truly versatile cnc desktop router.  With the larger 1000mm railes, you can get a large working area of 800 x 800 x 65 mm, or even with the smaller 500 mm railes, you are still getting a sizable 300  300 x 65 mm in working area.

Packing a DeWalt 611 spindle, you’ll get between 16-27,000 rpm our of the spindle at no load. If you can afford something in the $1000 mark and want great flexibility and resolution (0.075-0.13 mm) this engraving machine is a great buy.

Nomad 883 Pro

Nomad 883 Pro

Coming in at $2,599 this is a fully enclosed cnc mill. With a cutting area of 8 x 8 x 3 inches and a weight of 65 lbs, spindle speed between 2,000 to 10,000 rpm. Support for Windows and MacOS with their own 2d/cam software.

Right now orders take 10-12 weeks, but the option for a bamboo vs white HDPE for the enclosure is a nice touch. You can get additional add-ons like a vise or extra cutters on your desktop cnc routers from Carbide 3D. Another great machine worth a look by Carbide 3D is the Shapeoko 3 – which is definitely worth a look as a good alternative.

ShopBot desktop

ShopBot desktop cnc router

XYZ movement od 24 x 18 x 5.5″ witha  cutting volume with a 2″ long cutter: 24 x 18 x 3.5″. This is one of the larger cnc router machines, but is still small enough to fit on a desktop, yet large enough to provide for meaningful project sizes.

For packages, you’re looking at $5,89,.95 for the regular desktop package with router ot $7,315 for the desktop package with an industrial spindle (both including a $350 shipping cost as the unit is over 100 pounds). The great thing about the ShopBot is that it has been around for a while and has a good community behind it.

PCNC 440

PCNC 440

One of Tormach’s newest desktop cnc machines, this thing is a beast – a fully enclosed desktop cnc router that produces huge results – with easily enough power to cnc carve or slice through metal.

Coming in at $6,995 for the basic package (no enclosure) or $7,495 for the basic package with a stand, as well as  deluxe packages around the $10k mark that include the enclosure – we recommend getting an enclosure for safety. For this price you ger a 10,000 rpm spindle with a  fairly sizable 10 x 6.25 x 10″ work envelope.

So there you have it, some solid options in terms of desktop cnc machines. While not cheap, if you’re willing to drop upwards of $5,000 to $10,000, you’re going to get a pretty amazing machine that will be able to cnc route through foam, wood, and metal fairly easily. However even at the sub $1000 level there are some good starter options.

Which desktop cnc router are you most interest in purchasing? Let us know in the comments below!

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3d metal printing

3d metal printing is set to hit 2.2 billion dollars by 2020 according to the Global Metal 3D Printers Market: Analysis and Forecast 2015-2020) report put out by Research and Markets recently. The technology out there combined with the need for more complicated metal structures in cellphones, tablets, cars, airplanes.

There has been a growing advancement in the industry when it comes to 3d printing in general, and this has spilled over to 3d printing metal.

We’ll start to see large changes in massive industries, such as automotive, healthcare, defense and aerospace. As the tech in these industries evolve, the cost of 3d printers and software will come down due to cheaper computing power.

Challenges ahead

There are still challenges though however. Aurora launched a kickstarter campaign to bring in a sub $4000 3d metal printer, however once the kickstarter finished, the official final pricing went from $4000 to $24,000. Unfortunately Moore’s law just won’t work here to bring down pricing, as electrons beam technology has been in use for a long time (tech used in 3d metal printers at the moment).

Lasers may be the way forward. With advancements in laser tech. Using laser is going to be a lot better as laser stays collimated. This is likely to bring down cost.


Traditional 3d printers using .stl files and printing in plastic (ABS or SLA) have fairly small bed sizes if we are talking about home use. By this we mean that most printing sizes are around the 100 x 100 x 100mm mark, which isn’t too much of a problem as you can glue plastic together.

With metal printing, you’re going to be stuck with smaller parts, unless you can somehow put them together – welding isn’t really a welcome option if you want the ease of a home-use desktop printer – so you will be limited to your print size a lot more with metal. Also we don’t really know for sure how high the resolution can go. 3D printers can already hit 25 microns, whereas most desktop options just aren’t there quite yet.


The use of 3d printers for violent weapons such as guns involve heavy regulation/ legal conequences. Most gun designs require the use of metal parts.

However one metal 3d printers hit mainstream – its going to be difficult to regulate/ control the printing of illegal items. Only time will tell as to how this may be handled.

metal 3d printed object

Outsourcing your 3d metal prints

A cool way to get your 3d printing done without forking over thousands for a machine is to go through a company like Shapeways. There are limitations for how big a steel product can be, ut it is possible to send your file away and get a 3d printed object back – pretty neat stop-gap solution until home printing machines become more affordable.

AS it stands, it seems metal 3d printing will really only be for commercial use as pricing in the thousands and in the hundreds for a releatively small amount of metal powder is expensive. We can’t wait to see the day – just like 3d plastic printing – where metal 3d printing will come down in cost enough to be able to buy one for use at home on your desk.

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So we have talked about 3d CAD development software in the past, with the recent rise of 3d printers, we though we’d dig into what the options are for your new 3d printer.

A lot of 3d printers even come with their own software as a stand-alone unit, to save you on cost. However here are all of the different 3d printing software options to look into:



1 year premium license for $149. This is slightly different where 3DPrinterOS is actually a cloud print management software. This is kind of like the Google Docs for 3d printing, where everyone can collaborate online, fix the design and then print to anywhere worldwide.

This is a great option for building/ reviewing files in a team setting, as it includes ways to fix your designs e.g. Autodesk Mesh Repair, NetFabb, and Magic Fix.


CraftWare g code generator

Free, you can get this along with their CraftBot custom 3d printer, but you can use this as it supports printers using the gcode command set. The tooling path/ slicing algorithm is really great here especially for a free program. Available for both Windows and Mac OSX

KISSlicer (Keep It Simple Slicer)

Kisslicer 3d printer g code program

Free program that is great for converting your stl file into g-code (path info). The free version supports anyone with a single-head machine. However you can upgrade to a pro version (paid) if you love the program or if you need the additional multi-model printing and if you have a multi-head cnc machine/ 3d printer.

KISSlicer offers adjustable printer speed, fast slicing and the ability to be efficient with material usage, with features such as adaptive support and adaptive sparse infill.


Simple, free, open source 3d program. Hasn’t been updated in a while, but still does the job nicely for creating g-code. Supports s3g, x3g, stl, GCode files.

Repetier Host

Repetier Host

Repetier Host is free and supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. The interface includes a nice preview feature before you print with printing stats. Uses either Skeinforge or Slic3r as the slicing engine.




Coming in at $149 USD, Simplify3D has a lot of features, and can actually be used as an all-in-one with its 3d modelling capabilities. This allows you to make changes to your file after exporting it, potentially making the print process more efficient (e.g. splitting up parts). The benefit here is that you get full support as this is paid software. There’s support for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux.


Slic3r g-code generator

Supports Windows, MacOS X, and Linux. Slic3r is a free G-code generator for 3d printers. The program is developed by Alessandro Ranellucci alongside other conributors to the community. With claims of Slic3r being 100x faster than Skeinforge. The software remains up-to-date with a good community behind it if you do get stuck.


Skeinforge gcode program

Skeinforge is a free program written in the python language, its a pretty basic bare bones program that gets the job done converting .stl files to GCode. You can download direct from the author’s page here.

Ultimaker Cura

Ultimaker Cura

Marketed as the world’s most advanced 3d printer software. This would be one of our top picks as the software is completely free and open source. Ultimaker has a great community behind it. The software supports Linux, Windows, and MacOS X, and is  kept up to date across all platforms.

Other software to look into that offer a variety of different options for your gcode conversion when custom 3d printing, such as networking, automation and peer based software options: OctoPrint, AstroPrint, PrintToPeer.

Well thats a round-up of the different options for 3d printing. For a free version, we recommend Ultimaker Cura, but for paid we think the Simplify3D software is worth the cost if you need the support and the extra features of an all in one.

Which 3d printing software are you using and why?

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With the advent of 5 axis cnc routers and 3d printers, one area that is showing some promise is 3d scanning. There is a myriad of different applications, from scanning objects to animate to whole interiors of buildings for historical mapping.

For medical, doing 3d scanning in a way that will help people’s lives. Then you have the 3d body scanners at airports that created some controversy when they first came out.

How 3d scanners work

A 3d scanner typically has a camera or multiple cameras that takes distance based data. A lot of these combined into points extrapolates the actual shape that is being scanned. Oftentimes multiple angles will need to be taken to get a detailed 3d scan of an object/ objects. From the data collection of points in a field of space to the actual whole model is called the 3D scanning pipeline.

3d scanning technology – Contact vs Non-contact

As the name suggest, contact machines actually touch the object to get a scan. A contact system looks a lot like a 3 axis or 5 axis cnc machine, you have an arm attached to a carriage that moves.

With non-contact, nothing physically touches the object. Light ot radiation is used. Examples include X-rays or ultrasounds. Sometimes these techniques use time-of-flight and triangulation to further get an idea of the 3d shape.

Another method that is a spin-off from non-contact is non-contact passive. This method does not use any kind of radiation, but actually detects a 3d object’s shape based on ambient radiation, such as a visible light source. Other methods used here are ones that are non-contact passive (without radiation) is infrared.

There are come cool contact-less method, which includes stereoscopic, which is kind of like your eyes, where 2 angles are put together (slightly apart) and that way it judges distance (hence the reason why its so hard to drive with only one eye – extremely difficult to tell distance).

CAD programs used after getting a 3d scan

Once a group of points is a gathered, this data can then be entered into a 3d cad program to connect the dots, or form surfaces. Common programs include Rhino3D, Inventor, Solidworks, Maya, MeshLab, 3D Studio Max. These programs are typically in the thousands of dollars due to the crazy things you can do with them. More on CAD programs here.

 3D scanners that you can buy for home use

Crazy as it sounds, you can actually buy non-contact 3d scanners for some diy 3d scanning at home. We’ve taken a look at what there is out there:

Matter and Form 3d scanner

Matter and Form 3d scanner

At $480, under $500 the Matter and Form Scanner is a truly welcome piece of gadgetry. The ability to 3d scan little objects with a really high resolution, this machine has a lot of great reviews on Amazon, and many people welcome this machine as an upgrade from previous ones.

One of the downside it seems is that you have to have really good lighting e.g. a spotlight or lamp, and apparently struggles if you have a shiny object and colors that do not stand out from the background.

XYZ Printing Da Vinci AIO (All in one 3d printer, scanner, editor)

da vinci 3d scanner and printer

At $550 the Da Vinci XYZ is an interesting choice. This machine does it all. scans, edits and prints for an extremely great price. Whats great here is theat the Da Vinci has a very large printing area:  7.8 x 7.8 x 7.5 inches, which is a lot of space especially hovering around the $500 mark. Down side here is the lowest micron level is only 100. while other dedicated 3d printers in this price range go down to 25 to 50 microns.

There are a ton of different models in the da Vinci line-up including a ‘Nobel’ that goes as low as 25 microns for printing. What we think is a neat feature is the scanner’s ability to scan more than once per item. You just scan, then re-orientate the object any way and scan again. This produces a much better 3d model.

 Up and coming 3D scanners

Much like 3d printers, there have been a range of 3d scanners that have been crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Here are a few of our picks. Remember many of these are relatively new, with not too many reviews. But if you want to dive into some of the latest tech at a very reasonable price, then you might want to check some of these models out:

The Rubicon 3D scanner – only $199 and uses a webcam to cut down on costs:

rubicon 3d scanner

Th Eora 3D – Incorporates the use of your phone to scan ($255 pre-order for just the 3d scanner)

Eora 3d scanner


Structure Sensor – 3d scanner, but more for larger rooms etc. for augmented reality (not precision scanning at super high quality resolution).

structure 3d scanner

Which 3d scanner do you think you’ll make a purchase on?

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cnc router machine

With the abundance of 3d printers and cnc routers now out on the market, from sub $500 options to more expensive options in the thousands of dollars price range, the question now becomes, when or if you should purchase.

We’ve recently put up some guides on different 3d printers here and here, and have talked at length on the different kinds of cnc machines you can get e.g. 3 axis vs 5 axis. Today we’ll take a closer look into whether or not it is worth buying or just outsourcing your work to a local cnc/ 3d printer or overseas to cheaper companies in China for example.

3D Printer

3d printers are pretty damn good these days. The M3D and the Form 1+ both do down to a very fine resolution (around the 50 microns mark). And pricing isn’t too bad.

The resin required for spooling and the nozzle maintenance costs are in the hundreds if not cheaper. This means you can definitely have a hobby 3d printer for under $1000 with materials needed for occasional printing during the year.

Eventually we will see 3d printers come down even more in cost. much like regular inkjet and laserjet printers have. We do think this will take a while though, so theres not point in really waiting a year or two. If this is the case, you might as well just buy now as there are some good options out already that have a minimum of 100 x 100 x 100mm work area and a good micron level in terms of print resolution for a tabletop 3d printer.

CNC Machine

While many 3d printers now come with their own screen for you to be able to plug and print, a cnc machine typically requires a computer/ tablet to run You can get tablets that run full versions of Windows, that will be able to plug into your cnc machine for cutting – many Chinese based tablets allow dual boot into either Android or Windows, including Xiaomi, Chuwi, and Onda.

Many cnc machines come open, as in there isn’t an enclosed space, allowing you to tinker a little more in terms of a tabletop cnc router (different table-tops).

At the end of the day, buying a small tabletop cnc machine doesn’t seem worth it anymore with all the different 3d printer filaments you can buy nowadays at a fairly affordable price – however if you’re looking into engraving/ cutting harder materials like wood or metal (which can sometimes be cheaper than 3d printer resin filaments), then the choice would be a classic cnc router machine with a potential homemade platform.

Other stuff to think about

Other stuff to remember when getting a cnc or 3d printer would be the following:

Application – which material will you be using?  If mainly plastic, then a resin 3d printer is the way to go. If pre-existing wood or metal then cnc machine

Warranty – Some of the new 3d printers out are still very young. They just haven’t been around for 5 years or more, so we really don’t know which will stand the test of time when it comes down to workmanship, quality of the parts and customer service.

Detail and size – Many cnc machines have diy bases – that means you can build a larger or smaller base to fit your needs. A closed 3d printer just won’t allow that sort of flexibility.

So what kind of machine will you or won’t you be buying?