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CNC Routers are complex modern carving tools for creating precision cuts. CNC Machines are digitally controlled and work based on a file specifically designed for these machines. The old milling machines operated by hand were much more inefficient and the production costs were considerably higher. Thanks to the advance of technology all processes are now handled by a computer and the end results are of much better quality.
If you’re interested in a laser engraver or cutter be sure to check my article.
Another great advantage of CNC machines is that they can be used for an incredible variety of cuts and engravings like wood carving, cutting aluminum, plastic and all types of hard materials.
All in all, I would say that CNC Routers are the best investment you can make in your business be it small or large, mainly because it saves a lot of time, effort, and money. If you are working with manual carving and cutting tools then an upgrade to a CNC router would feel incredible.
Ok now that we got that out of the way, you might still be confused by the large variety of products available on the market. And so was I some time ago, but after I researched the market I came up with this list containing my favorite CNC routers which I also consider to be the best money can buy. I am aware that not everyone has the money to invest in very expensive machines so I included machines from all price categories.
Best CNC Routers
This CNCShop Router is a great machine for those who want good quality but at the same time not spend a fortune. It comes with everything it needs so you can start carving your projects in no time. While for the most part, I liked this CNC router, there were, of course, some things which concerned me at the beginning. That is why I came up with solutions so you don’t have to waste your time doing frustrating research.
Right off the bat, the body of this CNC machine is almost full aluminum which is great because it is light and resistant at the same time; so 5 stars for build quality. The stepper motors were average, nothing to impress me I would say, although they do their job as you would expect.
Now the thing which probably will annoy you the most is the fact that it only works through a parallel port. That means you can use it only with a desktop PC which has a parallel port on the motherboard. And from what I know it only works with Windows XP/2000. So yeah, this kind of sucks in terms of compatibility but considering the price these are compromises that you have to make. If you think this is something that you wouldn’t want, then below you can find a CNC router with a USB connection.
In terms of software that you can use with this CNC router, there is Mach 3, EMC 2 and Kcam which are all proprietary although if you want something free I would recommend linuxCNC which is a powerful open source software for all sorts of projects.
If you manage to set it up in spite of the compatibility issues, then I’d say this is a fantastic CNC router for the money; probably one of the best buys out there in terms of quality and value for the money.
- 390X285 mm working surface
- DC Spindle Motor 11000 rotations per minute, 50v 230w
- Speed range: 0-4000mm / min
- Only works with desktop PC’s with parallel ports
- Support Z-axis probe sensor for positioning
- Works with Mach 3, EMC2 and Kcam projects
- Comes with 3 axis motors
- Aluminum construction
This small CNC router from Vevor has all you need to start carving and engraving your projects fast and easy. It’s true, due to the size and price the functionalities are reduced but it does well what it was designed for.
An advantage of this machine is that it can receive files through an USB port, so you won’t have the compatibility issues that the previous machines had with the parallel port. The stepper motors are two-phase 2A which is fine for projects which are not complicated. Don’t expect industrial results with motors so small.
One of the things I like about it is that you can engrave or carve much more materials using spiral bits than with regular bits. Some of the materials which come to mind are various types of wood from plywood to hardwood, stone, and even metal.
This Router is surprisingly precise considering the price and components. If you use good quality bits you might get some interesting results in terms of quality of the carving/engraving.
As I said in the previous review, I recommend using the open source software called LinuxCNC if you don’t want to spend a fortune on software like Mach 3 or AutoCAD. It’s true that the graphic interface is not so polished and some advanced features do not exist in LinuxCNC but for small projects or educational purposes open source software is more than enough.
I shouldn’t complain about anything considering the parts but you should definitely know my main frustrations with this machine. The motors are weak so you might want to make some pauses in between projects because they tend to overheat, the control software is a copy of an original software and the lack of limiting switches can cause some inconveniences. These are the main concerns I had but I think they are minor enough not to affect the overall great value of this CNC router.
- 4 axis CNC Router
- USB port
- 320 X 530 mm work area
- Carving speed range: 0-2000mm/minute
- Supports DXF Files
- Aluminum frame and body
- More precise than expected
- Works with all Windows version from Windows 7 and older
Best CNC DIY Kit Machines
So you want a customizable CNC router that you can build yourself and modify as you wish? This DIY Kit from Zen Toolworks is a great pick in this case because it comes with the basic parts needed to get your CNC machine in its initial form. Be aware that you have to buy the mechanical parts as well in order to make this a function router.
If you are a newbie to the CNC world I wouldn’t recommend a DIY CNC kit from the start. While it may be challenging and thought provoking you might feel like giving up when things don’t match as they should. If you are geeky enough to still want to start this project by yourself you must buy all the required parts like a DC power supply, 3 stepper motors a spindle and more. And after that, you might have to take the day off to figure out how things work. I don’t think that the hardest part is assembling all parts together but actually learning to use the software for CNC routers. But that is for another discussion.
A nice thing is that the company made YouTube videos demonstrating how you can use the router and some nice projects that are easily done with it. Another beautiful thing about it is that you can use an Arduino controller if you want to make it more compatible with other ports like USB.
The materials are of good quality that will last for a long time if used properly. For that reason, I recommend that you buy quality motors and other parts in order for the cuts to be high-quality and eliminate any hassle. All required connectors are included so you just have to pay attention to assembling it once you buy all the main parts.
All in all, I would say this is one of the best CNC router kits you can buy. It is simple to assemble, it offers great value for the money, and it works exactly as it should.
- PVC frames, steel rods and mostly all moving parts are steel
- Ball bearings at the end of leadscrews
- Nema 17 stepper motors
- Easy setup for experienced CNC users, relatively hard for newbies
- Anti-backlash brass nut
Another great DIY kit, this time made of wood, the BobsCNC offers great value for customers who want something affordable to start carving on a low budget. It’s true that you will have to invest some time in assembling it but after that is done I can assure you that this router will work flawlessly.
To be frank I wouldn’t expect from an all-wood frame to be made so well-made in terms of ruggedness and quality. All parts fit very well in their spot and everything is so well to put together that you will be amazed; sort of like Ikea furniture 🙂 A great advantage of this kit is that it includes all the parts needed to get the router up and running. So you won’t have to buy anything in advance.
You can use it with any open source software and any proprietary ones as well. If you already know how to use any CNC router software then you will be able to make your own carvings right after assembly. With the proper bits, you can cut any sort of materials as long as we are not talking about steel.
Overall I would say this is my all time favorite CNC router kit on the market. It is pretty much flawless and can be assembled much faster than other kits if you read the instructions manual on the manufacturer’s site.
- Can be used with a USB port
- 450X380 mm working table area
- DeWalt DW660 router
- All required parts included
- Well designed parts
- GT2 belt drive on axis X and Y
- Dual brass nut on Z axis
- Nema17 bipolar stepper motors
- Can cut all types of wood and a large variety of similar materials
Best CNC Stepper Motor Drivers
While a little more expensive this driver is ideal if you want something of great quality to control your stepper motors from your CNC router or 3D printer. In general stepper motor drivers are complex command modules so I am pretty amazed how cheap they have gotten over the last years.
If you are new to this domain, you might wonder why would you need a command module like this for a motor when you could simply supply it with electrical power from an AC power source. That may be the case for regular motors but stepper motors cannot operate unless there is a driver like this to control them. You can find a broader explanation about stepper motors here.
In conclusion, if you are ok with paying a slightly higher price for a better precision micro step driver then this is the one to choose for sure.
- Works with Arduino
- Can be used for controlling CNC routers as well as 3D printers stepper motors as long as it matches the motor’s requirements
- Bipolar 2-phase micro-stepping
- 64 resolutions and 16 operating modes
- Voltage protections
- 8 dial switch
- Maximum pulse frequency of 200 KHz
If you want an affordable stepper motor driver then this piece is probably one of the best choices you can make. If you are not sure how to choose the proper driver for your stepper motors you can check out this article explaining the matching of stepper motors to their drivers.
For the money, you get decent technical capabilities. The 4A maximum output power is enough for all regular sized CNC motors, the thermal and current protection assure that you don’t have to change the driver every week and the energy saving function is a nice addition that I think should be in every driver.
So in the end, if all you need is something cheap to get your stepper motors up and running this might be the best option in terms of value for the money. Just be sure that it works with the motors you have or plan to buy.
- Very affordable
- Good quality
- Bipolar constant phase
- 4A output power
- 9V-40V DC power supply
- Thermal and current protection
- Energy saving function
- For stepper motors of the types 42, 57 and 86 in 2 and 4 phase
- Photoelectric isolation
Best CNC/3D Printer Stepper Motors
One of the best stepper motors that you can use for all sorts of projects like CNC routers and 3D printers, this standardized NEMA 17 bipolar stepper motor is offering great value for the money.
It is ideal for all sorts of 3D printers and CNC applications like RepRap Prusa, Rostock, RoBo 3D and so on. For example, if you buy a CNC kit and you don’t get the main parts with it then this motor is a great choice.
As stated before do not try and connect this motor directly to a power source. This has to be done through a driver that controls the flow of power. Also be very careful how you supply this motor because you might damage it. I would recommend using a current limited supply in order not to overload it with an amperage higher than 2A.
- DC Bipolar stepper
- 1.8 degrees step angle
- 2A Phase, 1.1 ohms resistance per phase
- 2.6mH+/- 20% (1KHz) Inductance
- 63.7 oz holding torque
- No mounting brackets included
- 310g weight