Woodworking is a talent that is being passed on from generation to generation. However, these traditional methods can be inefficient and are prone to errors. In such a case, if you’re considering starting off as a small-time carpenter, you’ll want something faster and more efficient.
Computer Numerical Control or CNC is the best equipment available to mitigate your woodworking needs. For a small price, you’ll be able to convert your cutting and milling process into an automatic factory-grade line. However, if you’re a newbie, we’ve listed down the best CNC Router for beginners.
This article should give you basic knowledge of CNC routers and will also help you in choosing a machine that best matches your needs.
What to Look for before Buying
Before we list down the products available in the market, we’d like you to go through this buying guide. It contains detailed data on what to look out for when considering your purchase.
Durability & Reliability
These investments are going to be quite a significant burden on your wallet, so you must make sure that they last a while. For this reason, durability is a huge factor to have in mind.
The durability of a device can be checked using quite a few techniques; for example, have a look at the build of the product. Most are made of aluminum; these give the device stability and the strength to handle workplace accidents. You’re also going to check where your product is made from.
And the reliability of the device will also be of grave importance. You can check about this factor by looking at the specifications of your device. If the product includes an electric adapter, it’ll supply the machine with a stable electrical current.
Furthermore, check your main circuit board. Those that include cooling fans and heat sinks will be able to work continuously without fail.
Most software that comes installed onto these machines, such as the GRBL motion sensor software, is compatible with most operating systems. However, there are a few that require unique OSs to operate. Before you make your choice, make sure you have that OS available to run the device.
This is one of the most important factors to keep in mind, and will ultimately depend on your requirements. When selecting a CNC, make sure it meets your project size requirements, i.e., length, width, and height.
It is always recommended that you buy a device that larger than your required size. The bigger one will be a bit more expensive. However, it’ll pay off its worth in the long run.
CNC machines can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, the price will be mainly dependent on your use of the device. However, most beginner machines won’t cost you thousands. These should be priced within $1000 and below $400 for smaller sized models.
5 Best CNC Router for Beginners
High prices make these routers a very crucial investment, something you would only want to make once. Which is why we’ve dug in deep, sourcing out five tools that should give you a top of the line experiences.
1. BobsCNC E3 Router Engraver Kit with Router Included
- The Evolution 3 CNC Router has the following...
- A rigid laser cut frame.
- SG20U supported rail system.
- GT2 belt drive on X and Y axis.
- ACME TR8 on the Z axis.
The CNC E3, from Bobs, is one of the most sought-after starter kits for students and small businesses alike. In the engraver kit, you’re purchasing, you’ll be getting a DeWalt 660 router already included in the box. This router can also be taken down when needed if you’re considering doing some handheld cutting.
Like a model train set, the entire CNC kit has to be built from the parts provided. This can act as a bit of a drawback, considering you’re having to put in the extra time to build up the device. Moreover, with the small pieces involved, you might want to consider getting organized, or you might lose out on a few pieces.
Apart from the elbow grease that you’re having to put in, the device by itself is pretty incredible. This cutting board gives you more than enough space to work on. Plus, for the price, a bit of elbow grease shouldn’t be an issue.
Furthermore, the router is supported on an SG20U-supported rail system, and a GT2 belt drives on the x and y-axis. An Arduino microprocessor is installed, to ensure the smooth movement of the router, without any form of lag. This processor, paired with the Grbl motion-control software, helps decide every action of the router.
Transferring your designs is also simple. All you’ll have to do is connect the device using a USB port to a computer running Windows, OSX, Linux, or Raspberry Pi. The tool identifies the universal G-code sender platform, which is JAVA, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting the device to run.
- Can connect with multiple operating systems
- Adequate cutting space
- Simple and very convenient to use
- Comes with an Arduino Microprocessor installed
- DeWalt 660 router included
- Require a complicated setup procedure
- Wooden construction won’t be as durable
2. Bobs CNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit with Router Included
- The Evolution 4 CNC Router has the following...
- A rigid laser cut frame.
- SG20U supported rail system.
- GT2 belt drive on X and Y axis.
- ACME TR8 on the Z axis.
The successor of the E3, the E4 unit, comes with quite a few tricks up its sleeves. Before we mention those, its essential to recognize the company keeping its quality and serviceability unchanged. So, you can still expect the same reliable output that the E3 was offering.
They’ve also made sure to include the same flawless DeWalt 660 router, to come with the packaging. However, you’re always welcome to switch it out with a different router, given your preference, provided it matches the size.
In the box, you’ll also be getting a set of SG20U-support rails. This, paired with the laser cut frames, can easily support the router. While also moving it smoothly, with the GT2 belt drive that works on x and y-axis, and the 5/16-18 nut that works on the z-axis.
Moreover, the E4 also features the same top of the line Arduino microprocessor, and the Grbl motion-sensor system. This, as mentioned before, controls each and every move of the router, making sure there are no faults on the design, and the final output comes out perfect.
What the company has changed is the size of the cutting board; this size has almost been doubled. The increase in size means you have multiple designs that can be cut up at the same time, increasing productivity. However, with the size, the prices have also gone up quite a bit, which can be quite demotivating.
- Larger cutting board size
- Top of the line Arduino microprocessor
- Comes with a DeWalt 660 router
- Laser-cut wooden frames
- Smooth support rails and belt drive
- Prices are quite steeper
- Wooden boards a more prone to breaking
3. MYSWEETY CNC 3018 Pro GRBL Control Mini CNC
- New Version: CNC 3018-PRO is an upgraded...
- The main two advantages of offline controller...
- Download the English manual and software:...
- This engraving machine can be engraved...
- Plastic body with a profile, small size,...
The MYSWEETY 3018 Pro CNC, is one of the most affordable pieces of equipment you are going to come across in this review article. Its affordability, however, doesn’t act negatively on the quality of work you’re going to get off this.
First and foremost, unlike the devices we’ve already covered, this one features a solid aluminum frame. An aluminum frame, speaks highly about the machine’s durability. This framing will help keep the device stable and rigid during the cutting process, canceling out any form of vibration that may ruin the output.
Rather than a router, this machine comes with a high-grade spindle, and a 10-piece router bit set. This 24V spindle is said to spin at over 10000rpm, a whopping speed that’ll allow the device to cut through materials such as steel easily.
Also, the spindle is connected to GRBL motion-sensor update board. This acts as the brains of the device; it takes in information from your computer, and relay it back to the motors. These glide the spindle smoothly across the device, making sure to target the exact location that is mentioned in the design, giving you an accurate cut.
Moreover, you can also control the spindle using an offline remote provided. All you have to do is input the coordinates, and the machine takes care of the rest. However, the main flaw of this machine would be its small cutting board.
- Extremely affordable price
- High-grade aluminum build
- GRBL update board
- Can be controlled without a computer
- Easy to set up
- Small working area
- Bit of learning curve involved when using the controller
4. SainSmart Genmitsu CNC 3018-Pro Router Kit
- Premium Power Adapter: The 3018-PRO has...
- Integrated: With an integrated mainboard and...
- Software: The Genmitsu uses Grbl, high...
- Versatile: Capable of cutting all types of...
- Simple Assembly: Assembly instructions are...
Another great affordable option in this set comes from SainSmart, a company dedicated to making accessible cutting tools. SainSmart is also an industry leader when it comes to CNC routers. With the Genmitsu 3018-Pro being one of their top of the line products, in the beginners’ category.
While performance is a major category that is focused on, SainSmart also makes sure to deliver high-quality products. For example, this machine comes in a high-grade aluminum frame, keeping the device sturdy. You’re also getting a solidly built power adapter, designed this way to maintain a continuous workflow.
For quality performance, the device includes its own spindle. This spindle works at a rate of 10000 RPM. This gives you the versatility to work on most materials, including steel, aluminum, and plastic, with an engraving depth of 1.8inches.
The spindle is controlled using the most efficient Arduino Microprocessors. These take in data from the GRBL open source software that helps control the movement of the spindle according to the design.
Moreover, the entire mainboard is also encased in an ABS case with a fan, giving you high processing power, with quicker and reliable performance.
Furthermore, the device also includes an offline controller. This takes away the need for a computer, all you have to do is input the axis data into the controller, and you’ll be good to go. However, the space that you’re allotted is relatively small, making it perfect only for small projects.
- Includes a high-speed spindle
- Workable with various materials
- Highly durable and reliable
- Simple to use
- Comes with an offline controller
- The small work area may be an issue
- Setup can take time and is complicated
5. SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-MX3
- Mach3 Control: SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router...
- Safety-Driven Design: MX3 features two 5mm...
- Ideal Working Area: Experience the next level...
- Automatic Tool Setting Function: With Auto...
- Complete Kit: The SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-MX3...
If you’re looking for something a bit more advanced and hi-tech, SainSmart has another model to their Genmitsu, the 3018-MX3. The model comes with the same high standards and quality set by SainSmart, which makes them the leading brand when it comes to CNC routers.
The machine is fitted with two 5mm acrylic panels attached to each end, keeping user safety in mind. Make sure your hands stay off the dangerously fast-spinning spindle. Limit/home switches are also installed onto the device, preventing the spindle from going out of the bounds of the engraving area; thus, minimizing faults.
However, these faults are primarily limited, since the spindle is entirely controlled by the Mach3 software. The first of its kind to be installed onto a 3018 CNC machine. It allows extremely accurate and customizable control over your router, which is why it’s mainly designed for professional use.
Although the Mach3 provides better usability towards professionals, it also offers easy usage towards beginners. The software is compatible with most other programs. And the device also supports automatic tool setting, which means the spindle positions itself from where you started, if you wish to restart a project.
Also, the entire kit, however, comes in a really small package, and it will limit you to working on small projects. Although the device is priced at a pretty lucrative rate, so you might even be able to look over the size issue.
- Safety is maintained vigorously
- Mach3 software installed
- Limit switches for fault-free work
- Features automatic tool setting
- A versatile machine designed to work on multiple materials
- Full utilization of Mach3 will require some training
- Small cutting area
What Exactly Is the CNC Router?
A computer numerical control, or better known as a CNC router, is a computerized version of your traditional handheld routers. By using the aid of computers and virtual designs, the CNC router can be used to cut or mill a wide range of materials.
These routers are extremely popular, within large scale furniture manufacturers, as the device helps cut down production time, while also reducing wastage. Apart from cutting into wood, these routers also work great with steel, aluminum, plastic, and foam.
If you’re not looking for an industrial-sized CNC router, other smaller CNC routers are available that do the same job. They’re the perfect fit for small-time businesses and small-scale projects.
How Does a CNC Router Work?
For you to use these machines, you’ll have to have a basic knowledge of CAD and other graphic software. After you’re through this little hurdle, using this machine will become a piece of cake.
Once you create your vector design on your computer using CAD, render the file on your computer as a G-code. Once you get through this, you need to input the G-code onto the CNC router and input the material to be worked on.
By using a set of sensors, the CNC router traces a path according to the design. After which, a set of motors, guide the router along the route, thus providing a clean and accurate cut.
What Is the Difference between a CNC Router and a CNC Engraving Machine?
If you’re looking to have a design, such as a flower carved into a piece of wood, then the CNC engraving machine is the one for you. It is usually used to engrave in intricate designs onto wood, steel, or other materials.
Although these too can cut planks of wood into different shapes, however, this option on an engraving machine can be notably slower. Taking into account that the engraving tool has to work with an extreme level of precision.
On the other hand, the CNC tool is perfect if you’re looking to get a quick cut. Its main job is to provide a rapid output rate, to cut out various sized shapes. You’ll also be able to improve your production rate and lower the amount of wastage that occurs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most commonly asked queries regarding the best CNC routers:
- How can I make my own CNC router?
Making a CNC router isn’t extremely difficult; however, you’ll have to have a good idea about both mechanics and electronics. You start off by first building a CAD design of the frame you want; you can design your own or find one off the internet.
Once that’s done, sourcing the right materials, you can build your frame out wood as it is cheap and straightforward to use. Other articles that you’ll be needing are motors, sliding bars, gears, belts, router, bearings, and other screws and nuts.
Cut out the pieces of wood according to your design and attach it all together, using a mixture of glue and nuts. Then create a little casing that holds onto your router.
And once you’ve designed the frame, it is time to move to the mechanical parts. Attach the sliding bar according to the x, y, and z-axis. Once they’re in place, attach the router casing, the sliding bars, and motors together, using gears and belts.
After all, that’s done, all that’s left are the electricals. Attach each motor to the circuit board, this little computer should also have a motion sensor software installed onto it. After you have the electricals set up, input design and material into this device and let the computer handle the rest.
- Which software is used for CNC programming?
For you to design anything on a CNC machine, the design must go through 3 sets of programs for it to run. First and foremost, develop your project on CAD software, for example, AutoCAD, Solid Works, or Rhino3D.
After which this must be transferred to a CAM program to convert it into a G-code. And lastly, the G-code is run on the machine through a motion-control program.
- How can I learn CNC programming?
To learn CNC programming, all you’ll need is the knowledge on how to use G and M codes. These can be acquired through simple tutorial classes that are available online and through courses. Once you know how to write codes that machines will understand, creating designs will become a piece of cake.
- How many types of CNC controllers are there?
The type of controller that’ll be required for a CNC protocol will depend on the industry you’re working in. If you’re considering machine controls, then there are 3 types: metal forming, special processing, and metal cutting.
- Why are G codes used?
G codes or geometric codes are used since machines do not understand human language. Through the use of codes, the CNC machine is given instructions of where precisely on the x, y, or z-axis, it needs to make its cuts.
- What is I and J in G code?
When considering geometric code, you’ll have to deal with the x and y-axis. In this context, the I and J codes are no more than coordinates that specify x and y from the start point to the center. Basically, once you add I value to the starting point of x, and J value to the starting point of y, you’ll get the center point of x and y.
A tool that helps you get your job done more efficiently, without wasting much material, can become key to long term success. This is why you must purchase the best CNC router for beginners.