Have you ever tried engraving with a knife? It’s practically a nightmare! Not only is it incredibly time consuming, but it’s also very hard to do. If there’s a specific design you want to engrave, even complete mastery can’t get you the most accurate copy.
Now imagine what you can do if you need to engrave designs onto massive amounts of wood, plastic, or even soft aluminum? Well, you’d need to get your hands on the best benchtop CNC mill you can find.
These high-tech devices let you engrave your desired designs with complete accuracy, leaving no room for imperfections.
However, considering how complicated these devices are, it’s hard for practically anyone to figure out what they should do. That’s why this guide is here to help.
We’ve reviewed multiple CNC mills, all of which boast exceptional quality. Furthermore, we’ll help you figure out what details to keep an eye on before you buy.
So, if you’re looking for a quality CNC mill, read on!
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5 Best Benchtop CNC Milling Machine
After thorough testing and experimentation, we’ve managed to find 5 of the best CNC mills in the market. So, let’s take a look at what makes them so special.
1. Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO
We’re starting off with one of Genmitsu’s masterpieces. It’s hard to find a unit so superb at such a reasonable price. The level of detail and precision is astounding. However, it truly shines in terms of what it can offer every user. It’s not just a CNC mill; it’s something a lot more.
This device has a respectable cutting potential. It can cut pretty much anything ranging from plastics to soft forms of aluminum. Even though all of these materials vary greatly, it can generate equal results. With that, the device is highly versatile with whatever materials you are working with.
A good CNC mill must have the right software to back it up. As such, Genmitsu utilizes the top of the line, high-performance, Grbl open-source software. This allows the device to act with nothing short of maximum precision and accuracy. Each movement is carefully calculated and intelligently initiated.
Since it’s open-source, you have a lot of freedom to modify it however you want. No wonder it’s the industry standard.
Following that, we have to talk about its hardware. There’s no secret that the Genmitsu CNC utilizes high-grade hardware. Every component works together with perfect synergy to offer the best experience possible.
However, its seamless connection to the software is what truly sets it apart. As such, it’s nothing short of an excellent device.
- Utilizes open-source software
- Great hardware-software connection
- Versatile cutting capacity
- Easy assembly
- An instruction manual is hard to follow
2. BobsCNC E3 CNC
When it comes to intricate designs, the BobsCNC E3 isn’t something to scoff at. It has got tons of power on its side. It’s an excellent overall unit with quality to die for. This unit brings a lot to love onto the table, so let’s take a closer look at everything that makes this unit so special.
Once you unbox this device, the first thing you’ll notice is the frame design. It feels smooth to the touch. That’s because the frame utilizes pristine plywood. It has been laser cut to boost its quality drastically.
As such, the frame is exceptionally rigid and has impressive capacity. This also adds to its immense workspace.
That’s right; the E3 possesses plenty of workspaces. The additional space increases your freedom and versatility. It also ensures that you can work with larger materials with ease. Even with the added workspace, the machine is still just 26 pounds. As such, it’s relatively easy to carry and transport despite how high-tech it is.
Finally, we should talk about its hardware. It utilizes top of the line SG20U rail system for superior performance. The spindle rotates at about 30,000 rpm, which is amazing for some materials. However, this does make it unsuitable for other materials like aluminum.
Furthermore, the device’s mastery of moving along the x, y, and z-axis is astounding. The GT2 belt drive makes it run along the x and y-axis smoothly for intricate cuts, while the 5/16-18 nut on the z-axis gives a whole new meaning to depth.
- High quality and easy assemble plywood frame
- SG02 supported rail system
- Hardware enables precise movements
- Large workspace
- Can’t accurately engrave aluminum
3. MYSWEETY CNC 3018PRO-M Mini
Next up on our list may look small, but it’s got a lot to love. It’s a beginner’s best friend, as it’s a great introduction to CNC mills. Likewise, it’s easy to use and handle with a plethora of software features, safety features, and versatile use. So, let’s take a look at what it offers.
Starting off, we have a device that offers plenty in terms of safety. All this adds up to just how user-friendly this device is. So, what can it do? You see, it employs two 5mm acrylic baffles.
These allow you to closely monitor the CNC in action with little to no safety hazards approaching your way. As such, it’s a device anyone can use with no problems.
Many beginners want to get a CNC mill to engrave cursive texts to add a bit of style to their materials. However, cursive text writing takes a lot of precision, and not every milling machine can offer that kind of accuracy. This unit stands as an exception. It can handle cursive text with complete ease.
Whether you’re dealing with wood, plastic, or soft metals, this MYSWEETY model can engrave them all. Hard metals are a different story, but even so, it’s strong enough to drill them.
Although you have the option to connect to your computer, you don’t have to. That’s because of its outstanding offline feature. It helps you manually choose the starting point of the engraving and even manually open and close the spindle. This freedom opens up doors for you to work in whatever way you need.
- Amazing safety features
- High versatility as it can drill hard materials
- Offline technology
- Large 300 x 180 x 45 mm engraving area
- You cannot rely on the manuals to learn how to use this
4. Upgrade Version CNC 3018 Pro
This device is a testament to how technology can and has grown over the years. Nevertheless, this CNC 3018 Pro brings so much to love that we had to include it onto the list.
We’ve mentioned in a few previous entries that the manuals are hard to follow. This makes installation and uses much more difficult than it ever needs to be.
As such, this unit includes an online manual that has all the details you need to get a good idea of what you can use this device for. Subsequently, the installation time can be as low as 20 minutes.
Like the previous entry, this entry brings an offline controller into the mix. This way, you don’t always have to connect to a PC to make the machine work.
Furthermore, you can manually adjust the x, y, and z-axis to determine the starting point of the procedure. Its inclusion of an SD card reader to write into the root directory of G-code files takes a step above the rest.
- Offline Control options
- Versatile work capacity
- Design and features boost longevity
- A convenient manual that is available online
- The included cutting bits don’t mention the angle of the cut nor its size.
5. SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-MX3
This unit is the culmination of everything that makes SainSmart great. Their engineering, smart features, intuitive design, and ease of use. Altogether, it is a masterpiece that isn’t just a great introductory tool for beginners, but a magnificent tool that even veterans will approve of.
Let’s start with its safe-centered architecture. The device dedicates itself to being the most beginner-friendly device out there. It includes two 5mm acrylic baffles that allow you to watch the entire engraving process with zero safety issues.
This allows you to keep an eye out in the unlikely event if something goes wrong. Furthermore, it helps you save time in case you position the starting point incorrectly.
The workspace is definitely a sight to behold. It offers a 300mm x 180mm working area to help you explore yourself creatively. The front and back are also left open so that you can use it on larger pieces than the working area.
Finally, with the MX3’s software compatibility, you can bet that this device has everything you could possibly need. It can seamlessly import DXF files to create elegant engravings.
Moreover, it can generate G-code while also staying fully customizable. All in all, there is so much to love about this unit that we had to include it as the final entry of our list.
- Large workspace encourages creative freedom
- Compatible with multiple software
- Very safe to use due to its smart design
- Works with wood, plastic, and soft metals
- The included software is a bit user-unfriendly
Difference Between a CNC Router and a CNC Mill
At the end of the day, CNC routers and CNC mills are quite similar to one another. They both deal with engraving, they both operate similarly, and they even offer similar results.
Nevertheless, some differences do remain, so allow us to go over these little differences to identify how they differ and what kind you should go for.
Routers have higher RPM
Generally, CNC mills have lower RPM than routers. They focus on torque instead. This allows them to engrave harder materials like steel. As such, you should already be able to deduce that the routers are less capable in terms of cutting metals due to their high RPM and lower torque.
CNC Mills Are More Accurate
The higher RPM routers are also less accurate compared to millers. They have a harder time attaining the same level of competence when it comes to precision. As such, they are rarely used in an industrial environment.
Routers Are Home-Friendly, CNC Mills Are Used In Industries
However, routers are more frequently used in home settings. They have large workspaces, and they take less time to finish their job. Milling machines are the complete opposite. Each work takes longer, but it acts with precision, skill, and strength. As such, they are heavier as well.
What to Look for in a Benchtop CNC Mill?
Of course, when you’re getting a benchtop CNC mill, you’ll need to look out for a certain few features. Let’s take a look at what these are.
This is likely the first thing you’ll need to notice. Some units are capable of engraving anything from plastic to hard metals. Others might not be able to touch hard metals. As such, it is essential to know what your machine can handle before you actually buy it.
Unlike other tools, the use of CNC mills is extremely intertwined with its software. The better the software, the more options you will have when it comes to functionality.
If the machine uses open source software, you’ll have the option to customize and adjust according to your needs. It’s even better if you have programming skills. Essentially, you should look for something user-friendly and open-source.
If you want more involvement in engraving, offline control is a feature you’ll enjoy. It allows you to manually adjust the starting point of your engravings, among other things. As you feel more involved, you can place engravings exactly where you need.
Simply put, with more workspace, you can insert larger materials into the machine to engrave. Some have workarounds, but the sheer size of the workspace is always desired. As such, do consider the workspace in accordance with the kind of material you’ll be working with.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I engrave onto metal?
As long as your desired material has that capacity, it can. However, most benchtop CNC mills usually can cut up to soft metals.
- Is higher RPM better?
Not always. Higher RPM might hamper a unit’s ability to work on harder materials.
- Can I buy a router instead?
If you’re looking for a unit that doesn’t need to cut through harder materials, then they are somewhat interchangeable.
- Can this device cut through?
Their job is to engrave. So, they won’t do a very good job if you try to use it as a saw.
- Is using this device risky?
Not exceedingly, but it’s best to use the machine in a safe environment.
Considering how great each of the reviewed products is, it’s hard to go wrong. Nevertheless, it’s your time to choose. Consider our buying guide and your own preferences and pick out the best benchtop CNC mill from the bunch. So, find your machine and craft your art!