If you’re looking for a DIY CNC router kit or a desktop CNC machine for your home, there’s no shortage of options available. There are lots of companies selling small CNC routers that allow you to carve complex projects with pinpoint accuracy from the comfort of your home. But how do you know which is the best CNC machine for you?
There are several factors to consider when it comes to buying a CNC machine. For example, you’ll want to look at the machine’s working area, specs, compatible materials, safety mechanisms, usability, and control options. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll also want to find a CNC machine that suits your budget – while some are available for under $200, others cost thousands of dollars.
In this guide, we’ll reveal the cheapest and best CNC machines available right now, taking all the above factors into account. However, before we get into our guide, let’s take a closer look at what exactly CNC machines are and what they’re used for.
What is a CNC Machine?
CNC (computer numerical control) machines, also known as CNC routers, are used for cutting wood and other hard materials, such as plastics, into a certain shape. As the name suggests, they are controlled by computers and usually mount a handheld router as a spindle.
Toolpaths are controlled by computer numerical control, a technique that was until recently mostly restricted to the manufacturing industry, making for highly accurate and efficient carving. Many CNC machines also come with an offline control option.
CNC machines are compatible with CNC software, which can be either free or paid for. You can design your projects using the software computer, then use the CNC machine to easily bring them to life.
CNC routers uses 3-axis and allow you to create a huge variety of different objects and structures, from simple chairs and desks to entire sheds and boats, with pinpoint precision. They can perform the tasks of panel saws, spindle molders, boring machines and many other carpentry shop machines, and they can also cut joinery such as mortises and tenons.
They are similar to the large, handheld traditional CNC milling machines that are used for analog carving jobs, but are ideal for hobbyists and beginners looking to take their first steps into CNC manufacturing.
The Best CNC Machines
Now we’ve explained what CNC machines are, let’s take a look at the best machines available to buy right now. Our list starts with the best cheap CNC machine and moves through to the most expensive, so you can easily pick the one that best suits your budget.
MYSWEETY DIY 3018 Pro – Cheapest CNC Machine
- Cutting area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
- Price: $329 — Available on Amazon here
The MYSWEETY DIY 3018 Pro is a low-cost CNC router machine that’s a good option for beginners who are looking to get accustomed to the technology. This machine can be used with wood as well as various other materials such as plastics, acrylics, leather, PVCs and PCBs.
This hobby CNC router runs on GRBL software and comes part-assembled, so it’s fairly easy to get it up and running. The board comes preprogramed and all wiring is plug-n-play. The machine is sturdy and compact yet lightweight, and there is a USB interface and an open-source GRBL-based control system to operate it as well as an offline control option.
With the offline controller, you can manually adjust X, Y and Z axis location and manually open and close both the spindle and cooling fan. The machine is also compatible with other paid software, such as PCB Processing and Toolpath Creation.
The MYSWEETY 3018 Pro is a small machine that has a working area of 160x100x45mm, so it can easily fit into a home workshop. The work table is 160x100mm and the 775 spindle moves along a length of 45mm, so it’s great for smooth, easy and convenient crafting. The body is a hybrid of plastic and metal profiles and it has 3-axis capabilities of board.
Another plus is that this wood CNC machine is opened for upgrades like limit switches. It’s also a 2-in1 CNC and laser engraver, so you can also use the MYSWEETY 3018 Pro to etch calligraphy and other designs onto different materials.
If you’re a beginner and are concerned about safety, you’ll be glad to know that this router has two 5mm baffles on each side so you can safely monitor the engraving process. It’s a great option if you’re looking to get into carving without spending huge amounts.
Sainsmart Genmitsu 3018 Pro – Cheap CNC Router with Great Durability
- Cutting area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
- CNC machine price: $249 — Available on Amazon here
Sainsmart’s Genmitsu 3018 Pro is a small CNC machine that you can easily set up at home and is great for beginners. This is a smart machine that’s packed with useful features and is both efficient and effective. It has an integrated mainboard and custom software which results in seamless communication between the software and hardware.
The Genmitsu 3018 Pro is powered by the industry-standard GRBL .1.1 software and runs on Arduino. This powerful, open-source software is dependable and simple, and there are plenty of support resources available. The router is also ingrained with Toshiba TB6S109 drivers which work silently, so there’s no annoying din like with older CNC machines.
This DIY CNC machine has an engraving depth of 1.8” and is a versatile router that’s compatible with woods, plastics, acrylics, PVCs, soft aluminium and PCBs, so it can be used for a wide-range of projects. It has a working area of 300x180x45 mm and comes with an offline controller that can be upgraded to a laser engraver.
The machine’s body is crafted from aluminum, so it’s incredible stable, durable, and has a high working quality. The machine also has added Optocouplers that give the mainboard extra protection for increased longevity. This CNC’s routers sides are lined with acrylic baffles to ensure you’re kept safe while using it. The baffles also help prevent dust being spread out while you’re working.
You don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on the Genmitsu 3018 Pro – you can purchase the kit from $250. The kit comes with preassembled parts, which means you can easily set it up in around 15 minutes. This also includes a 3-month subscription to Carveco Maker, a powerful yet easy-to-use CNC software that’s designed for small businesses and hobbyists looking to take their first steps into CNC manufacturing.
Vevor CNC 3018 3 Axis – Versatile Yet Affordable CNC Wood Machine
- Cutting area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
- Price: $250 — Available on Amazon here
This is a high quality, handheld CNC router machine that’s made from 2020 aluminium profiles and black injection molding material for high precision and long-term durability. The Vevor CNC 2418 3 Axis has a working travel of 240x180x40 mm. It’s equipped with three refined axis and is able to realise plane engraving.
This machine is easy to assemble using the provided instructions, and you can simply connect it your computer via a USB cable. The machine runs on the GRBL CNC software. You can also user the Vevor CNC 2418 3 Axis for laser engraving by pairing it with Minilaser software. The laser is able to output 2P/3P and support PWM and TTL functions for greater practicality.
Equipped with T8 screw rods driving units with a 5mm lead distance, three 42 stepper motors for easy movement, and a 775 (12-36V)24V spindle motor with a rotational speed of 10,000r/min. It also has an extra 5.5W engraver with a wavelength of 450nm, making for highly efficient engraving.
The CNC wood router has an ingenious GRBL control board which features dual Y-axis, four-axis drive and full functionality, making for simple, easy-to-use engraving.
Vevor’s home CNC machine is extremely versatile and can be used to engrave all types of plastics, acrylics, PVCs, PVBs, and soft aluminium. The laser engraver is compatible with paper, wood, plastic, leather and other soft, non-reflective materials.
This wood CNC machine can be purchased for $250, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for a powerful, efficient, and easy-to-use machine that is relatively affordable.
Sainsmart Genmitsu 3018 PROver – CNC Router Machine with Excellent Safety Features
- Price: $359 — Available on Amazon here
This CNC engraving machine, released in 2020, is an upgrade on the Sainsmart Genmitsu 3018 Pro and is the latest version of the company’s 3018 Desktop CNC DIY Kit series.
While this machine uses the same GRBL 1.1 software, Arduino platform, Toshiba TB6S109 drivers, and added Optocouplers as its predecessor, it makes huge leaps in terms of usability and safety. The 1.8” display clearly displays readouts and provides manual control of your mill without using a computer. This offline controller can also be used to home the tool head.
The 3018 PROver also has an easy-to-access emergency stop control that immediately shuts down the machine if your project ever gets out of control. Other improved safety features include hard stops and limit switches.
The 3018 PROver has a decent workspace of 260x155x35mm. As with the 3018 Pro, it has a robust and sturdy aluminium frame with acrylic panels on the sides to help contain dust spread. The router uses a 775 motor 10,000 RPM spindle, has a maximum power of 120W, and uses an ER11 collet drill bit.
Like the 3018 Pro, it comes with a three-month subscription to Carveco Maker subscription. This CNC router machine comes semi-assembled and it should take you no longer than 15 minutes to get up and running. In addition, you can also add a laser engraver to the machine, though this costs an extra $150.
Maslow CNC – Large CNC Machine with Open-Source Community
- Cutting area: 4 x 8 foot!
- Price: $499 — Available on Amazon here
The Maslow CNC is a highly precise and efficient CNC router machine developed by Maslow, a community-driven, open-source project that aims to make large format CNC technology available to everyone.
Despite being designed to be cheap to ship and affordable to buy, this large 4 x 8 foot CNC cutting machine is powerful and easy-to-use. The Maslow website showcases a wide range of projects that have been cut out of wood and other flat materials using the machine, including chairs, sheds, ornaments, desks and even a boat.
As well as offering the wood CNC machine, Maslow also offers an open-source community which allows users to collaborate and share their creations. The Community Garden is a library of Maslow users’ creations complete with instructions that detail how to create a wide range of CNC router projects — so when you buy a Maslow CNC, you not only get the machine, but also a community of likeminded makers. You can even buy other users’ creations via the Community Marketplace!
The machine itself is fairly easy to assemble using the assembly manual. It has an adjustable cut depth, as well as useful features like z-axis functionality. The Maslow CNC wood carving machine is durable enough to cut out forms from a wide range of materials, including hard plastics, plywood, and MDF laminate.
There are various purchase options – with bundle options that come with extras like a free upcut bit and a pre-made sled. There are also a wide variety of accessories available to buy from Maslow-verified retailers.
BobsCNC Evo 4 – High Quality CNC Machine for Complex Projects
- Cutting area: 24″ x 24″
- Price: $1,098 — Available on Amazon here
The BobsCNC Evo 4 is widely regarded as one of the best CNC routers on the market and is the product of its founders’ decades of engineering experience. This distinctive machine is made up of a rigid plywood-frame that gives 0.002”-0.004” repeatability. The Evo 4 is an upgrade on the company’s older E4 CNC router.
This CNC cutting machine has a 610x610x85 mm cutting area, is supported by a SG20U rail system, and is powered by a Nema 17 Stepper motor. It’s designed to use GRBL1.1 firmware on the Arduino Uno.
It also has a GT2 belt drive on X and Y-axis, a TR8 Acme Rod mounted with an ACME Nut on the Z-axis to speed up Z-travel jobs, and home switches on all axes. Thanks to the presence of a Derlin Acme nut, there’s no need to lubricate the Z-drive. It can be used to work on light strength wood or hard plastic.
Other upgrades on the previous E4 model include adjustable eccentric spacers to keep the bearings tight against the rails, router mounts for quieter, speed-variable routers, and an integrated belt-tensioner to simplify belt-tightening. All these features make for excellent, consistent connection of the screw to a motor, low wobble, and smooth spatial movements.
The Evo 4 comes as a self-assemble DIY CNC router kit, but it’s relatively easy to get going using the provided in-depth instructions. You can also take advantage of the BobsCNC YouTube channel, which features over 100 videos, including product features and ‘how to’ videos.
This desktop CNC router is more expensive than some of the others on this list, starting at $1,098, but it’s a very high quality machine that more than justifies the price. It can be configured with one of two spindle options, plus wasteboard and software. A Makita RT0701C Variable Speed Router also comes included in the kit.
Inventables X-Carve 1000mm – Excellent CNC Router for Business Manufacturing
- Cutting area: 750 x 750 x 65 mm
- Price: $2,299 — Available on Matterhackers here
The Inventables website claims that the X-Carve is the “easiest, most robust, affordable CNC machine on the planet”, and it’s certainly up there with the very best. This machine is a great option for both beginners and professionals, as you can use the Easel software to design projects in minutes with minimal CNC knowledge.
This CNC router comes with a 750x750x65mm work area and the footprint specs are 1250x1000x350mm. It uses a DeWalt D26200 spindle mount, a 1,000mm wasteboard, a carving bit super pack and the X-Carve dust control system. A wide gantry with thick walls and less ribs makes for more consistent carving, and you can benefit from the combination of licking hardware, molded belt clips and permanent pulleys.
The X-Carve kit comes with the X-Controller, which features four powerful stepper drivers and a heat sink to support long, precise carves, ports to keep wires in, and an emergency stop button. There is also the option to purchase a laser engraving upgrade kit.
Easel, Inventables’ free CNC software, allows you to design, import and carve from a single program. The software is very user-friendly; there’s no need to learn complicated CAD or CAM programs. It has custom design tools, file import options and interactive apps, so it’s very versatile, and each project has a shareable link so that you can share and collaborate with the community. There is also Easel Pro, a paid option with advanced business features.
The Inventables website showcases a wide range of complex projects that have been created with the machine, including a spiral staircase and a quadcopter.
The X-Carve bundle comes with everything you need to start carving, though it will set you back $2,299, so it won’t be within everyone’s budget range. However, there’s also the option to pay monthly, starting at $65/month over 48 months. While it may be pricey, this is an extremely high quality machine that’s ideal if you’re looking to launch your CNC manufacturing business.