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wood laser engraving machineBuying a new laser engraving machine can be daunting. There are a lot of solid brands and machines out there, but there is no one place where you can go and get some solid, gathered advice. So this is where I will try and cut some of the work down for you.

Below is a guide on what the best laser engraving machines are to buy:

Top Engraving machines (in no particular order) – This list goes by supplier/manufacturer so you can choose what particular machine is best for your needs.

Universal laser systems (U.S.) has a lot of variety in terms of models. As of Jan 2012, they have 12 models of engraving laser machine for sale. There are a few models that are even small enough to fit onto a desktop. Great for both a laser wood engraving machine and small laser engraving machine for your work-shop.

Epilog (U.S.) have a solid selection, with three different series: Epilog Zing starter series, legend elite series and the FiberMark industrial series line of laser engraving machine models for laser engraving wood. These are all worth checking out.

Epilog has been around since the late 1980’s so are a trusted company to deal with. They also have a solid comparison chart so you can compare the difference between their laser engraving machine models.

RedSail also have some good models over at (contact details to Canada or China). They have two larger models, the M700 and the M900 that do laser engraving with a C02 laser tube.

Trotec laser engraving machine

Trotec has a solid range of C02 laser engraving cutting machine units. As of Jan 2012, they have 6 in  their collection of laser Co2 machines, from desktop laser engraving machine to larger machines definitely worth checking out.

York Laser (Europe and China) has 8 laser engraving machines at the time of checking, with one being able to be used on a desktop, once again, they have a solid range.

Jorlink – (U.S. and International) has a really solid range of machines and laser engraving machine prices.

Jorlink has 7 specifically designed for laser engraving, and a whole range of other machines designed for laser marking and other production needs.

WK Laser (China, but ships to U.S.)

Top Software for laser engraving

Coreldraw: Coreldraw has Graphics Suite X3, which is a pretty solid package that includes the ability to engrave and draw

Gravograph: Gravostyle 5 is definitely worth checking out from Gravograph

Xentech Global: Xentech Global has a software package called XGW-32 which is designed for both the beginner and advanced user

Kern lasers: Kern Lasers have developed their own package for 3d laser engraving which is worth a look

Things to think about before buying

laser wood engraving machine

– There is a difference between a Co2 laser  engraving machine compared to a laser engraving cutting machine. You need to decide what you will be doing more, marking, etching, engraving or cutting with your laser and go from there. It is better to get a more specialized machine to your needs.

– If you choose to import a machine, you may save money if done right, but you will also lack local support which sometimes can be a huge factor.

– Remember to factor in cad/cam program costs. CNC software can get really expensive. A single licence for a top end 3d cad program can cost over $10,000. For a free open source vector based piece of software, try Inkscape.

– You could go the used laser engraving machine route. Finding one for sale can be hard and will require a lot of patience. You could head on over to the cnczone forum and see what advise the community will give you there.

-For 3d laser engraving machines, check out this earlier article.

-Start with the manufacturers above. Remember that the best machine isn’t any one particular machine. There are always trade offs. Things like maintenance costs, upfront costs, size, extra features can sway anyone any way. Choose what is best for you, not what others say is best for them.


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Are you on the market for a mini cnc mill? Well getting a mini cnc mill does not have to be hard. The guide below will give you some pointers into what the best mini mill cnc is and what you need to look out for, so please read on.

Buying a new or used mini mill cnc

mini cnc mill

Well there are advantages and disadvantages to both. While some cnc machines can do some things, others can’t and it all comes down to application as well as money. I always suggest to buy a new mini cnc mill for sale.

Some good new models include the Dyna 2100 cnc mini mill or the new Haas, Sieg, Proxxon, Shop Fox, and Grizzly mini cnc mills. A good option is to look into diy, with the mini cnc mill cm-20 mach3 3d pcb diy kit being a great option.

Buying new means you get a good warranty as well as a machine that will work nicely almost out of the box (remember you may need training for specialist cnc software).

Buying used means you get a bit of a discount, but may have to deal with an older machine that comes with older software. Older software means you can not update as easily or you may have to pay a premium to do so.

Mini mill cnc conversion

Of course, you can always try to convert a smaller mill to cnc conversion mini mill. This means you will have to buy a cnc controller and you will have to get the right cad/ cam as well as the right cnc software. Cad software will allow you to make your project on the computer in a 2d or 3d virtual environment. While cam software will convert that 3d or 2d file export from a cad program into cutable milling paths for your cnc mill.

mini mill cnc

Getting both of these can be free, but the better 3d cad software such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Rhino, Pro Engineer, or Inventor will cost you a fair bit of money to buy upfront and update in future. Getting a great cad program will be your hardest job, as you can get cheaper, free alternatives for cam software fairly easily. If you are willing to splash out, I’d recommend going with Gravograph’s new MasterCAM X5.

You could also look at doing a mini cnc mill diy, where you can do the mini cnc mill conversion yourself or get a kit. Start with some of the links below to see what the mills from big name companies have and then figure out what you like or don’t like about them and apply them to your own diy mini mill.

Cnc mill mini vs large

The benefits of size can be huge. A smaller, cnc mill is easy to carry around, but will also be less to maintain and can be put away when not needed, creating more work space. Portability is also huge if you need to take the machine to and from different job sites and work on a variety of projects.

Best mini cnc mill to buy and the best mini cnc mill manufacturers

My favorite cnc mini mills would be from as well as Shop Fox, Grizzly and Proxxon, so be sure to check them out. Here some more mini cnc mills that I recommend as well as some solid resources to consider:


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3d laser engraving is a great process for getting smaller objects, such as crystal engraved. 3d crystal laser engraving has blown up recently and people are using laser 3d engraving to get the job done. Below is my guide on this whole process, the best machines to buy and use, and what to look out for when getting into this process.

Below is how my guide will be split up. Feel free to jump to the sections that best suit you.

3d laser engraving

1. 3d laser engraving process

2. Using cnc laser engraving

3. 3d laser engraving crystal

4. The best 3d laser engraving machine

5. 3d laser engraving software

6. Final Thoughts

The 3d laser engraving process

Laser engraving, also called laser marking, uses a laser to 3d engrave an object. There are no tool parts that directly touch the object. Everything is done with a laser that gets fired through a block of material, such as crystal.

The process involves 3d laser engraving equipment such as a laser engraver. The appropriate material is then chose and put onto the engraving machine’s bed. This is then held securely using either clamps or vacuum suction. The laser then comes through and engraves or marks the object. The machine is usually controlled by a computer program. The computer program or cnc program usually produces the final results in a virtual environment, so you can preview before cutting into expensive material.

Using cnc laser engraving – laser engraving 3d

3d laser engraving machine

Cnc, otherwise known as Computer Numerically Controlled, means to use a computer to control your manufacturing process combined with a machine. It is essentially a computer program that runs the 3d crystal laser engraving machine.

There are huge advantages to this as opposed to operating a machine by hand. Some of the advntages include being able to predict and see what the final end product will look like in a virtual environment. The computer can also optimize your cutting and engraving paths, to make sure you minimize on material usage. This is seen a lot in the sheet metal cutting industry, where nesting programs are used to minimize material loss.

Cnc laser engraving is seen in many different industries, such as the toy, jewelry, crystal and glass industries. If you are reading this, then maybe you come from one of these industries yourself, or want to jump into one of these industries. Not to worry, read on to find out my favorite picks for machines to use for your 3d laser crystal engraving.

3d laser crystal engraving

What seems to be all the rage these days are 3d laser engraved photo crystals and gifts. I’ve seen crystal engraved books, wedges, plaques, portraits, ornaments and tons more. If you are looking at engraving, try to think outside the box to see what you can really come up with. Some of the above ideas make for some pretty cool gift ideas.

The best 3d laser engraving machines

There are many different laser engraving machines out there, but finding the right 3d laser engraving machine for sale can be tough. Below are some of my recommendations. Click through for more information and the exact 3d laser engraving machine price.

If machines are not what you are after, check out some of these awesome 3d laser engraved gifts:

3d laser engraving software

There are actually quite a few options, check them out:

Gravograph: Gravograph have a solid program called Gravostyle 5

Coreldraw: Check out Graphics Suite X3 for a good package that includes the ability to draw and engrave with the right machine

Xentech Global: They have a software package called XGW-32 which is fairly easy for the novice to pick up

Kern lasers: These guys have their own 3d laser engraving software package for 3d laser engraving that may also be worth checking out

Final Thoughts

Finding the right 3d laser crystal engraving machine can be daunting and the whole laser engraving process can be a little unknown. But it certainly is making its mark on many different industries right now, so get among it. Grab a machine or go and get yourself a souvenir using this cool process.

For further reading, check out our guide on how to get the best 3d laser engraving machine.

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Are you looking for a good wood cnc machine? Well getting wood milled with a good cnc machine for an important project is key. You will need to make sure you have the best possible wood cnc machine for your purposes. Below are the best cnc machines for cutting wood as well as my guide on everything to do with getting a great cnc wood machine.

Here’s how this article will be broken up into:

1. What you need or don’t need for a cnc machine for wood

2. Buying used or new, which one and what to consider?

3. Best brands for a cnc machine for wood carving

4. My favorite cnc wood carving machine

What you need or don’t need

wood cnc machine

Well there are a lot of different cnc machines out there for making or designing wood products. A good cnc machine wood mill really depends on what you want to achieve with your particular project goals.

So first you will need to figure out your project goals as well as budget and then go from there.

Here are some things you will need:

1. Area for the machine to determine wood cnc machine dimensions

2. Good cnc software

3. Easy maintenance

4. A good motor and controller

5. Good cnc software training or knowledge

Good cnc software can be expensive and the biggest thing you will find is that it costs a lot to upgrade older software to keep up with the almost yearly release of new cad and cam software. I’d pick software that will be able to be a little futureproof, such as industr-wide used MasterCAM.

cnc machine wood

You may also have to consider cad software as well to change different models or view different 2d or 3d models. For 2d, I would recommend the lighter weight option of AutoCAD LT as opposed to the full version.

The only massive difference after using regular AutoCAD and the LT version is that one is great for 2d, while the other has 3d capabilities (which I still do not think is that great and that there are plenty of other great 3d programs out there, including Autodesk’s own Inventor).

Make sure that your maintenance costs will not be too pricey. Look at how much power it will take as well as any other accesories that you may need, such as special cnc enclosures, new router or milling parts and training for cnc software.

Cnc software training to make sure you know how to use the cnc software will make things a lot better in the long run. If you are buying a new, expensive machine, then you can be assured that it should come with training on how to use it. For larger scale machines, this may mean that a specialist or technician will come out to teach you how to use your new cnc wood milling machine. Of course, every manufacturer differs, so be sure to check out what each has to offer in comparison to the competition.

Also, you will need to decide between a 3 axis or a 5 axis machine for cnc. For most projects a 3 axis machine (X,Y,Z will suffice fine – I’ve added some of my favorite models later in this article)

Buying used or new, which wood cnc machine for sale?

Straight up, I would say buy new. This is so you get a good warranty and that you get the most updated machine and software to work with.

Of course, buying a used cnc wood cutting machine also has its own advantage in terms of cheaper cost. Of course, you will need to look on places like Amazon or Ebay to find good used machines or the cnczone forum to see if anyone is selling anything at the moment.

Another thing you could do is retrofit an older mill to make it into a cnc mill, there are many places that may be able to provide kits for this.

Best brands for a cnc machine for wood carving

cnc wood machine

Jet – Jet has a solid range of different cnc machines for wood milling, engraving and milling

Shop Fox – They have a solid range of 3 axis mills for a cnc wood cutter machine

Minitech – These guys do smaller mini cnc milling machines for a small wood cnc machine

Grizzly – A solid selection of machines to choose from here

The above brands have been around for a while, so definitely check them out as a solid base for a wood cutting cnc machine.

My favorite cnc wood carving machines and references

Check out the resources and machines that I really think are great for a wood carving cnc machine:

Konmison cnc router
7x7x2 inches travel capacity – the Konmison diy cnc router is perfect for smaller wood projects. The 2 inches of ravel is about what you’re going to get here in the $500 price point. Assembly is somewhat easy and there is pretty good support from the actual manufacturers. If you get a Chinese manual and find this hard to use, then hit them up for an English manual to make things easier.
Sanvn cnc 3020t router
200*300*50 mm or 7.9×11.8×2 inches travel capacity. For around the $550 mark, you’re only paying 10% more than the Konmison, but you’re getting a bit more travel capacity in terms of x and y axis. You’ll really have to think about whan kind of ojects and products you will be routing to determine size. I’d go for the slightly larger bed size if I had the space just in case, as gluing wood projects together adds time. You’ll probably want to add an extra $!00-$200 for updated Mach software and a UC100 converter.
The beauty with Sanvn is that they have lots of other models available on Amazon too. They go all the way up to larger 4 axis routers with approximately 3 inches in z travel height, so you can route taller objects.
Zen Toolworks cnc machine
The Zen Toolworks 7×7 is probably my favorite diy small cnc router in the 7×7 working space size. This one is a solid performer, comes with new Nema 17 steppers, steel guide rods with a pvc frame which is a great combo for rigidity.
As with the Sanvn, for the Zen Toolworks 7×7 you’re also going to have to factor in another $100-$200 for Mach software (CAM), but the base 7×7 is only $430, so definitely the best bang for buch wood router out there right now.

Good luck in finding the best wood cnc machine design for your next wood cnc job or for the rest of your wood cnc jobs in the future.

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5 axis cnc machine

Are you looking for the right 5 axis cnc machine for your next project? Well getting a 5 axis cnc milling machine does not have to be hard. Follow the guide below to make sure you get the best machine for your specific project needs.

What to Look For

First of all, to get the right cnc 5 axis milling machine, it is important to figure out all the different parts of the machine and get all these parts right to get a great machine as a whole. This can be split up into the spindle axis orientation, control, purpose, table design, size, accessories, power source, tooling and software. I will look at all of these factors to help you choose the right machine.

5 axis cnc machine

Spindle axis orientation

There are two main types of orientation to go for here for a 5 axis cnc machine. The most common is a vertical mill. And of course, the other orientation is a horizontal milling machine.

For a vertical mill, the spindle axis is vertical and for the horizontal, the spindle axis is horizontally oriented. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on whether or not the mill is a turret or bed mill. Horizontal mills are the most common and look like regular mills. A horizontal mill has the cutters mounted on a horizontal arbor across the cutting table.

It really depends on the type of cnc work you will be doing for this. Vertical mills are more geared towards diesinking work, while heavier and longer work-pieces will probably be suited for placement on the bed of a horizontal mill.


In this case, you will be using cnc. There are other types of control, such as by hand (manual), mechanically, automated with cams or digitally automated using nc or cnc software. You will also need to figure out how you want the machine to change tooling.

Will it be done manually, semi-automatically or fully automatically? If the machine is to use multiple tools for one job, it may be easier to have the machine change automatically. Otherwise, you may be able to get away with a manual change if you do not foresee your projects requiring tooling changes all the time.

5 axis cnc milling machine


Think about what the purpose of the machine is. Will it be doing engraving as well as milling? How big do you really need the machine? How fast do you need it to go through projects? How often will you be using the machine?

Outsourcing has become a lot cheaper recently, so for many companies, it is a lot cheaper to outsource the occasional cnc project as opposed to buying an in-house machine. Of course, many companies benefit from having a 5 axis machine in their workshop to get work produced on the fly, quickly and easily.

Table Design

This is one of the most important aspects of the machine. You will need to decide on size. Some mini cnc milling machines can go as small as a 5 inch bed size. While larger 5 axis cnc milling machines can go upwards to tens of feet, or even more.

This means you will need to think about how big the table or ‘bed’ size is going to be. Think about all the existing and future projects that ou will need to get done. Of course, you can get away with splitting up a single project to be cut separately then joined back together again. But for some projects, the strength in material will need to be retained, so can not be joined together again. This is where the bed size of the machine will really have to be the right size for the job.

Another thing to think about are vises and clamps. You will need space and grooves on the machine to attach any vises or clamps to hold your material to the table.

cnc 5 axis milling machine


This refers to the overall frame size of the cnc machine. This will determine how much space your workshop will need to give up to get the cnc machine in. Remember you will need to allow space if the bed is to move or if the tooling is going to move. You will also need space to prepare the machine and make sure that it will be able to be lifted and placed on the machine without damaging either material or the machine.


Accessories such as an enclosure or extra tooling will add to the cost. It really depends once again on your project scope. Enclosures are great as they stop loose pieces of materials from flying everywhere. You will also need to make sure that you will have sufficient tooling to keep the job rolling if something were to break.

Also look at accessories that you may need for changing tooling, cleaning the machine after a project and maintenance to keep everything moving and running smoothly.

Power Source

All cnc mills are powered by the software. Older mills, not cnc controlled are cranked by hand, but this is rapidly becoming obsolete and is only ever seen with hobby cnc machinists.


Always make sure you have the correct tooling. Often times when you purchase a new cnc machine, you will have the option of adding tooling to the mix. This means you can get discount tooling that normally cost a lot to buy on its own, when you purchase with a new machine. Always get extra in case your tooling breaks during an important job. Ask to see what  the warranty is on these parts too.

Depending on what you are milling, routing or engraving, your tooling needs will be different. So be sure to consult with the manufacturer first to see what will best ft your design scope.

cnc 5 axis milling machine software


Making sure that the software will be compatible with other cad/cam applications is crucial. Make sure the most important file formats such as .dxf, .dwg, .iges and .stl are supported. These are common file formats that are exported and used in cnc production.

You will also have to look at how user friendly the software is. Check whether or not it has a steep learning curve. Some cnc manufacturers provide training to help use their cnc machines. This is usually part of the package of buying a new cnc machine, but sometimes you need to train new people. This is where having easy to use software really counts.

Also look at how you will be able to use the software for things such as using 3d paths in a virtual environment to simulate tool-paths.

Another thing you will need to look at is cost to update. This is for both the machine and software. Look it how much it will cost to update software and tooling on the cnc 5 axis machine to predict how much the machine will cost to run in the long run.

Top Brands – CNC machine 5 axis

When looking for the best 5 axis cnc milling machine for sale it all comes down to your own project needs. Use the above tips to figure out what you need in each category. Instead of looking at individual machines, start with some top brands and then drill down.

Jet – Jet has a massive range of different mills and a good selection of cnc 5 axis mills.

Bolton – They have a good selection of 5 axis machines.

Shop Fox – They have  good range of mills, but although lacking in many 5 axis mills, they do have 3 axis mills for cnc.

Minitech – These guys do smaller mini cnc milling machines and offer the ability to customize different parts of the machine during purchase.

Used 5 axis cnc milling machine

Another option is to look at a used 5 axis machine for sale or consider making a homemade 5 axis cnc machine to save money. Remember to still look at the above tips before buying something used. Also, see what software and tooling the machine will come with. You could potentially save a lot of money buying used, but there are risks involved, such as having an obsolete and slow machine as well as the inability to upgrade on parts and software.


Remember that it all comes down to what your specific project needs are. Get a 5 axis cnc machine that will best suit this and you will be able to produce the best results.

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mini cnc milling machine

Are you looking for a new mini cnc milling machine? Well t here are many places out there where you can get a smaller cnc machine to get your smaller projects done.

This article will give you all the information you need on what the best mini cnc milling machine is, what you need to know when buying one and where you can go to get the best mini cnc machine for your specific project needs. So let’s get started:

What should you look for in a cnc mini milling machine?

Well there are seven areas that you should focus on when buying:

mini cnc milling machine

1. Mill Frame

The mill frame is split up into different things. First of all, you have the material. This will determine how strong the machine is. Aluminum is the common material used these days in mini milling machines. You will also be looking at the overall size to see where the machine will fit in your workshop.

The most important thing to look at is the X, Y, Z axis travel distances. This is normally listed in both inches and millimeters. This will determine the limitations of the machine in terms of what it can really cut. Distances from 5″ upwards to 25″ is common depending on the axis.

The other thing that is important to look at is the table size. This will determine how big your objects can be that you want to be milled on the machine. Remember that some of this table size will be used as a hold down provision for clamping or screwing things down.

2. Spindle

Choosing the spindle for your mini cnc machine is important, but if you are buying a full pre-built machine, then this would normally be pre-determined. The big things to look for here is the motor, speed and maximum output power.

Look at the minimum and the maximum rpm speeds to determine just how fast the spindle will spin. A larger range means you are able to have more cutting power. Of course, it really depends on what you are cutting. After a certain point, there will be diminishing returns.  For mini cnc milling machines, this can range from 70 to well over 60,000 rpm. Talk to the cnc manufacturer to see what will best suit your project needs.

Maximum output power does not matter too much, but usually range from as low as 125 watts to 350 watts.

Accuracy of the spindle is also important to look at. But nowadays the accuracy levels are so good, it should not be too much of an issue, unless you were doing a lot of precision cnc machining. In this case, get something that will suit the margins you need for your cnc work.

cnc mini milling machine

3. Rotary Axis

A rotary axis rotates the material on the bed as well. This can be a 4 axis or 5 axis rotary axis. Adding a 5 axis spindle adds significantly to the cost of the overall cnc machine, but is well worth it if you need to mill complex shapes. You can get away with no rotary axis if you just want to stick to 3 axis cnc machining.

4. Workholding

You will need to look at how you will be holding the work onto the cnc machine. To save money, you could use existing clamps in your workshop, or screw/ glue your work onto a board and clamp it down. If this is possible, getting a vise with a good jaw width and depth is the way to go. This will allow you to clamp things onto the machine securely for milling.

There are some really useful workholding vises out there, so be sure to look into this option if you need something to hold smaller or even larger objects.

5. Controller

This connects to your computer. Check to see what software and operating system you will need for your own computer first. Sometimes controllers come with a pre-configured computer to make things easier, which may be worth paying extra for.

6. Accessories

This is where you may consider extra things such as extra milling parts, tooling and even an enclosure. It all depends on the scope of your project. An enclosure can be handy if you are cutting dangerous parts or need something to stop loose material from flying everywhere. Consider getting some extra accessories at the time the mini cnc milling machine is for sale to see if you can get some sort of discount.

7. Software

Getting the right software package is curcial. This is where you should spend a lot of time researching to see just what will suit your project needs.

Some are geared more towards rapid prototyping, hobby or more general machining markets. I recommend getting something that generates the tool-path. That way you can calculate how long a job will take and how the machine will mill your material in a virtual environment. Sometimes it will take a big chunk out of the material, so you will need to preview how it will mill before you actually commit the cnc machine to milling your expensive material.

Also, if you are using a 4 or 5 axis cnc machine, you will need software that will work for these extra axis.

The other big thing to think about is getting software that is somewhat future-proof. The last thing you need is software to get outdated and become incompatible with other new file formats coming onto the market. See how much it would cost for future upgrades before purchasing. Also look at licensing. See if you need to purchase multiple licenses to install on different machines, or if it will only just install on one machine.

mini cnc router machine

What is the best mini cnc milling machine?

A mini milling machine cnc is something that is really dependent on what the project scope is. Getting a mini desktop cnc machine can be hard, but if you follow the above tips, you should be able to get something tailored to your specific project needs. Of course, there are always some better brands out there where you can get started. I recommend checking out these mini cnc milling machine manufacturers and sellers:

Minitech Machinery – These guys let you choose all the different parts to build the best machine for your needs. You should be able to find a good mini desktop cnc machine here.

CNC Masters – These guys have a big range of different cnc machines and include some really good milling machines to choose from.

Sherline – This company is based in America and offer a solid range of machines to help you find the right cnc mini router machine for your project needs.

Taig Tools – Also based in America, has a small, but good range of micro mills and lathes. They have an older style website but have been around for a long time.

Shop Fox – Shop Fox has a huge range of cnc milling machines and lathes. You may be able to find the right table top cnc mill there too.


Remember that every project is different, so make sure you look into the above points to help you decide what you need. Go check out the recommended manufacturers to see what they may be able to offer you. Good luck in finding the right mini cnc machine for your next project.


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CNC Model Boat - CNC Establishment

There are a ton of different cnc machining services out there nowadays that can do some amazing things. Depending on what kind of cnc machining service you want, you may want to consider the following things before going out and finding someone to get your cnc work done:

Preparing for a Quote

Make sure you have the right file formats and a good file export for a potential cnc company to look at. A great cnc machining service will not give you a definite quote on a file that is half finished. Even if they do, it can only really be a ball park figure. They will need to know exactly what material you want to be cut. They will also need to know if there is anything special you want done such as complex routing using a 5 axis machine or engraving using a cnc engraving machine.

Contact a handful of cnc machine shops to see just what they can offer you. See what their possible lead time will be. The lead time is how long the queue is, or how long it will take until they will even be able to start your project. This is why I always encourage people to contact early with a cad file as soon as possible to get in the queue of a cnc machine shop who may be busy.

The cnc machining center should also give you a solid indication of how long a typical project of your size should normally take and how much it will all cost. Of course this is really up to how well prepared you are and how good the cad file is that you give them for production and whether or not it involves broad routing or requires a more precision machining service.

Getting a Good Quote

To get a good quote, you need a great cad file. Make sure when you export a cad file for cnc, that you test it by reopening it in your own program, and if available, on a different program. Sometimes there are incompatibility issues, so make sure you talk to the cnc machining service to ensure that they will be able to take your file format, or have them specify at least two that they can take. That way if an export with one of the file formats does not work, then they have an alternate file that they can work with on the day.

There are many different cad/cam programs out there that will be able to give you a cnc file for routing, engraving or cutting. The top one I recommend for 2d work is AutoCAD. You can even get a free 30 day trial with them. Some fo the more solid 3d programs I have seen for cad/cam and cnc production are Inventor, Solidworks and Rhino. Concepts Unlimited is also a cheaper 3d program that I have used and recommended before, but does not have the power and stability of the other ones mentioned.

Always check with your cnc machining center to see what file formats they will take. Remember that every cnc machine service is different, so to get the ebst service, consult them first and do not just assume that everyone will take the same file formats.

Also, look for experience. See what kind of cnc machining training that your cnc technician has had and make sure to see actual physical examples of their work to judge the quality and craftsmanship that the cnc machine may be able to achieve for your project. Remember that photos are not enough, get some real samples!

Clear Communication for the Job – Communicating with CNC Machining Companies

Once you have a few different quotes, it is time to choose a winner. Obviously things like cost, and time are important. But something else I recommend looking into is the actual finish of the job. Make sure you see real physical samples of the surface finish to see what kind of finish you will get. Some routers provide a rougher finish, while others require no finishing at all when it rolls of the machine.

Some precision machining services can make things super small and can have tolerances that go down to a quarter of a millimeter with a cnc machine. I have encountered this with companies abroad, as local cnc machining companies tend to be very expensive when it comes to precision production cnc machining.

Also you will need to find out if you need 3 axis or 5 axis cnc machining. A 3 axis machine may be able to be used if you can split up different parts of the project and connect them together. You will probably need a 5 axis milling machine to make more complex shapes out of a single block of material. For 2d stuff, a 3 axis machine is sufficient enough.

I have had 3 axis machine technicians be very creative and split up a project, then rotate the actual project itself to achieve the same finish result as a 5 axis machine, but with only a 3 axis machine. This is also beneficial to the customer as getting time on a 3 axis machine is normally a lot cheaper than trying to get your project through 5 axis cnc machining. So depending on the axis and the cnc machine parts needed, this will sway the price up or down.

Let the cnc service know exactly what you want, before getting the project started. One of the things I like to do is include a separate file that includes the objects rendered in 3d and some basic dimensions and finishes. This is important especially if you are outsourcing the work overseas and you can not be there to oversee or describe what you want, so getting it down on paper visually makes sure that you will not get a job that does not match your initial specifications.

Getting the Final Product

Getting the final product is always exciting. But if you have done all of the steps outlined above, you should get exactly what you want. Paying a ton of money for something that you did not want can be terrible. While you can outsource the task, you must always keep tabs on it and explain exactly what you want. This is super important, in fact, it is so important, that you need to get it down in writing sometimes.

Make sure you specify an exact date for pick up and keep your fingers crossed that with all the hard work you have put into the cad file and with all the clear instructions, you should get exactly what you want.

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cnc milling machineThere are a lot of different cnc milling machines out there. Finding the best cnc milling machine from all the others can be hard. There are many options to cater to different project needs and specifications. Below are some of what I reckon are the best cnc milling machines out there:

cnc milling machine

You pretty much have 3 leading brands (in no particular order):

1. Grizzly

2. Jet

3. Bolton Tools

4. Wait, there’s a number 4? Yes and that is your lesser known, no brand machine that does the job well, but does not have all the hype. We will talk about this one later.

First up, let’s look at Grizzly’s cnc milling machines.

Grizzly has been around for a long time, and they have a ton of experience and product in the milling/drilling category. Their top cnc milling machine is the G0618 3 axis cnc milling machine. The total price comes out to $45,650 USD including freight. It seems like an awesome machine with Centroid running at it’s core and it also has as high resolution level, going down to one ten-thousandth of an inch (0.0001″).

The high precision resolution level on the G0618 cnc milling machine means the product does not really need any finishing when it comes off the mill. I have had some experiences in the past, where I have had to spend a lot of time finishing the product, because the resolution on the milling machine was not so good. In my experience, having that level of detail is definitely worth it.

Their G0499 10″ x 54″ 3 axis cnc milling machine is also a good option and it is cheaper, coming in at $28,600 USD after shipping is added to the United States. It features a large enough bed size for a lot of standard manufacturing. Remember that parts can be broken up and attached back later to make it so you can mill on a smaller machine.

You can use a good cad/cam program to split up a file and do this such as the program the product was designed in, or a program like Solidworks or Concepts Unlimited. Of course, these machines are very large and are not just the standard benchtop cnc milling machine. These are industrial sized and require a large payment up front, but can make a good return on investment if you foresee yourself or your company using it a lot.

The great thing about Grizzly milling machine is that they sell their own machines, so you are not having to go through a third party to buy product or ask questions. This to me is a huge benefit, and can be hard to find in the manufacturing industry as a lot of companies scramble to sell their product through many different channels.

Now let’s take a look at Jet’s flagship cnc milling products.

Jet have also been around a long time and have a solid range of milling/ drilling machines.

Jet’s JTM-1050EVS/460 Milling Machine is as solid option, coming in at around $43,000 USD including freight (You can get it for around $5000 cheaper through This is similar in price to the Grizzly G0618 and at that price, it comes equipped as a 3 axis machine. The list of features goes on and on, and it really is up to you to choose which best suits, but it is safe to say that this machine and the Grizzly’s are definitely worth considering for the serious buyer for a 3 axis cnc mill. It is interesting to note that neither of these companies offer a 5 or 4 axis cnc mill in their current product line.

How about Bolton Tools?

Bolton Tools also do some solid 3 axis cnc milling machines. They are also a lot cheaper than the competition. They offer a cheap 3 axis cnc milling machine for $25,000, but down to only around $10,000  here on Amazon (non-affiliate link) or $11,000 USD from their official website. The only problem is that their website does not really give the exact resolution accuracy. This shouldn’t be a problem, as if you are really interested, you could just give them a call tor email to get this.

I’d definitely recommend checking Bolton Tools out for their cheaper range, but if you have the money, I’d say splash out on a Grizzly or a Jet. It all depends on whether something is for commercial or is just a hobby cnc milling machine.

Other Options

Unfortunately, I have only scratched the surface on this one. There are tons of different features, cool things as well as limitations to these brands and machines. It really depends on the user and what project he or she is going to do on the machine. Of course, if you do not need the cnc aspect, Grizzly, Shop Fox and Jet offer milling or drilling machines that are non-cnc.

It might also be beneficial to look into used cnc milling machines. A used cnc milling machine can save a lot of money. Try looking at older models that people do not want to buy, and you may be able to pick up a machine that has been re-certified or refurbished. You could also look at snapping up a used machine off of someone who is looking to upgrade. Check to see if the software can be updated and whether it will be easy to get new tooling for the machine or not.

The machines listed above are all industrial sized as well, so you may require something a little more smaller such as a tabletop cnc milling machine or a mini cnc milling machine. Once again, it all depends on your project specification or the cnc machining service that you have. Having as portable, small cnc milling machine is also a great option, as it allows the user to store the machine away when not in use.


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There are many different kinds of 3d laser engraving machine for your workshop out there. Choosing the best 3d laser engraving machine or machines for your production line or to serve future clients doesn’t have to be hard.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about these types of engraving machines and also which are the best 3d laser engraving machines out there.

The Process

3d laser engraving

First up, a 3d engraving done with a laser can be absolutely stunning. You are going to have to use 8 bit gray-scale software to create a mock up version of what you want done in 3d.

The 3d laser crystal engraving machine will take this along with the tonal variation and create something from a black and white 8 bit gray-scale (256 different levels between black and white) colored drawing and turn it into 3d using a laser.

The Software Needed for Image Creation

The Best Free Laser Engraving Software

You will need some sort of image editing software to start with. If you are on a budget, go with Gimp. I have used Gimp many times and it is a great free alternative to other more expensive programs to Photoshop.

Because it is open-source, it has a lot of help in development and has become a solid alternative for those looking for quality freeware.

For a more vector-based approach, you can try Inkscape. It is another open source free image editing or creating software. It is a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator.

The Best Paid Software

Adobe makes the best stuff here hands down. As a designer, I am a bit biased here, and it is expensive, but the programs are well worth it for image manipulation and creation.

Creating a gray-scale image in Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator is very straight-forward.

CorelDRAW is also used a lot, and can be a good tool to use with 3d engraving software such as the EngraveLab PhotoPlus Laser Plus which is designed as a companion product to CorelDRAW

Hire a Freelancer Instead

If time is tight and you do not know how to use this kind of software, I recommend hiring a freelancer. I have used many times before to hire freelancers for projects like this. You can sign up and put out a job. Then you will get a ton of bids and you can go from there.

A simple 8 bit color image for your design purposes should cost no more than $50 USD outsourced to someone in India or the Phillipines. It’s also super fun to outsource a task and have thee results come in if you manage it properly.

The 3D Laser Engraving Software Needed

There are many types of different laser engraving software choices that come with a 3d laser engraver machine. Some machines come with pre-looaded software. Here is a list of the best out there:

CADlink’s Engravelab PhotoLaser Plus and EngraveLab laser – Developed by CADlink.  This software is special as it enables the user to generate multiple plates onto one piece of material. PhotoLaser Plus allows for both vector based and raster engraving and is incorporated with CorelDRAW, while the EgraveLab Laser package is more of a standalone laser engraving software package.

KCAM Laser Software – Used by Kern laser systems, custom made. Able to save user settings and read 8 bit color extremely efficiently according to their site. The resolution output is over 11,000 steps per inch which sounds impressive.

Gravograph – GravoStyle5 – Developed by Gravograph. This software is great for both rotary and laser engraving. It is a standalone package for laser engraving and includes both 2d and 3d capabilities. It can be used for general purpose drawing as well as a powerful package for engraving. There is also a great preview tool included within so you can preview everything as it will come out before engraving.

XenTech Global – XGW-32 Laser Engraving Software – Developed by XenTech Global, this software package comes ready to go for both rotary and laser engraving as well. This software comes with a ton of different features including multiple passes for vector or raster based engraving, a notary seal mode and bottom-up raster engraving. Check them out for a lot more information.

3d laser crystal engraving machine

Best 3D Laser Engraving Machines for sale

The Xenetech XLT 1325-Laser is a solid entry level 3d laser engraving machine from Xenetech. Travel and engraving speeds from .001 to 150 ips.

The Xenetech XLT 2436-Laser is the larger model from Xenetech and comes with up to 200 watts of power, both air and water cooled.

Gravograph do great laser engraving machines too.  Their CO2 laser engraving systems such as the LS100 are great for laser engraving. Their entry model LS100 is rugged and versatile and has an 18″ x 12″ engraving area.

The Gravograph LS900XP is also a solid option and is their larger model for laser engravers. The engraving area for this one is 24″ x 24″ x 9.8″ and the engraving speed can reach up to 4 meters/sec. Gravograph have these laser engraving machines for sale on their site.

laser engraving machine

For larger models, a company called LaserFox based out of Shanghai seems to have larger scale 3d laser engraving machines. I have never dealt with these guys before, but I have had good experiences outsourcing CNC work to places in China.

The Process for the Consumer

Getting laser engraving starts with the drawing. You can either do this yourself or outsource it. From there, you can either purchase your own machine (not really feasible for a one off) or go to a laser engraver. He or she should have the right 3d crystal laser engraving machine to get the job done.

Remember to communicate exactly what you want, the start time and when the finish time will be as well as the exact pricing. Good Luck!

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CNC anyone?

Hi and welcome to what is going to be the biggest and baddest site for all things CNC, the CNC Establishment. We plan on making a site that is informative and one that will help you with the CNC process, its machinery and the people behind this awesome progress.

Stay tuned for more on CNC soon!