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.
Enclosure – with a mini cnc mill, if you are going to be cutting something like metal at a high speed, you may want to consider having an enclosure. An enclosure will provide more safety and an easier clean-up.
Bed size – Depends on what you are planning to make with your mini cnc router. Wood and foam are fairly easy to glue together. With repeated use for making larger metal objects, you will need a larger bed size. Most mini cnc milling machines for sale have a minimum 100 x 100mm bed size, so enough to make thing like cellphone cases.
Usable cutting space – Depending on spindle and drill size, you have to consider how high an object can be that can be placed onto your cutting bed. Sometimes the advertised area of usage isn’t correct once you add a drill piece onto it.
Software – Most mini cnc engraving machines have software that comes with. Others you will need a license for e.g. Mach 4 to change your .stl or .dxf file into gcode. If you’re only doing stuff on a 3 acis machine, the software is normally fine – especially for home use where you don’t have to worry about tight lead/ production times as much for clients.
Options for mini cnc machines
A step up from its lower model 3020T 3-axis machine, which is also a great machine.The 6040Z cnc mini mill has a larger bed size at 750 x 480 x 20 mm, compared to the smaller 3020T at 200 x 300 x 15, so over 5x the space. Coming in at $1500 the extra money is worth the upgrade.
In terms of shape dimension, you’re looking at 880 x 670 x 530mm, so this machine is larger than some of the other desktop mini cnc machines we will be talking about, but its still small enough to sit on a desk. If you need smaller at close to $500 we recommend going with the 3020T.
The downside to the Sanvn mini cnc machines is that there is no enclosure. You can always make your own pvc/ plastic shield to put in front of the machine, or relegate this machine to the workshop where you aren’t around while you are doing any cnc cutting/ engraving.
This 3 axis 7 x 7 x 2 inch working area router comes with a 300w spindle and is also a great budget cnc router. At under $400 ($390.99) the accuracy on this machine is good – less than 1/10 of a mm. Probably wouldn’t use this to cut much meta, mainly wood, plastic and foam.
Although made in China, the producers of this cnc kit are actually pretty responsive, sending an English guide in many of the reviews we’ve seen in place of the Chinese guide that came with this machine.
We’ve mentioned this machine a few times before and are mentioning it again as the Oliver 1013 is a solid machine, but comes at a higher $2000-$500 price bracket. The machine has a large bed size of 13×18 inches. You also get pretty amazing accuracy, down to 0.004 inches – which for wood requires no hand sanding to finish your cnc’d product, however the mention does step its curved requiring hand sanding to finish on curved objects.
The Oliver 1013 mini cnc mill ccomes with software included. The I-Picture is pretty easy to use, it comes with a video to get you up and running with the software and machine.
Sherline has been around for a while now, so we are comfortable in recommending these guys. In particular we like the P/N 8540/8541 as the mini cnc mill comes with a computer, keyboard, and mouse.
The machine is a 4 axis machine and comes with EMC2 control software pre-installed (EMC2 is a linux gcode output program). The 8540/8541 complete cnc mill package comes in the $2500 – $3000 mark, costing approx $2700. If you’re looking for the full package without having to tie up your own computer, then this is a good way to go (you’d only need to pick up a cheap pc monitor – around $100 to $200 for a good 22″, under $100 for a 19″ easy).
Made by the folks over at Neo7cnc, this mini cnc machine (transitioned to the 2.0 version in November 2015) is a solid option.
Featuring a 12″ x 12″ aluminum plate for cutting on the 1.0 (9.5″ x 9.25″ x 4″ of machine travel) on or a 16″ x 16″ for the 2.0 (machine travel not yet published for the 2.0), you have a lot of space to cut or engrave larger items. Prices on this varies as you can buy parts on ebay, however this machine does have a good community behind it.
Note: Makerbot used to abe a good go-to with their Cupcake cnc machine, but looking on their website, their focus has shifted to 3d printers – we have a guide here for those.