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
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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!