Stepcraft CNC D840 Review: High-Quality Versatile CNC?
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On this page, I review the Stepcraft D840, an impressive CNC router manufactured in Germany that’s a popular choice among hobbyists and small business owners.
If you’re looking to buy a CNC router, there’s now so much choice on the market that finding the perfect machine can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I’ve been fortunate enough to try and test many CNC machines during my years working my career, so I decided to put my knowledge to good use and create this Stepcraft review to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Stepcraft CNC D840 Review Summary
There’s certainly lots that’s impressive about the Stepcraft D840. For starters, it offers a generous working area at a competitive price that’s ideal for medium size projects, but is also available in two smaller sizes if space is at a premium.
It’s a fantastically well-made CNC machine that offers high levels of stability and durability. It can cut a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, very effectively, is compatible with a wide variety of spindles, and you can even buy Stepcraft-made laser heads, tangential knives, and 3D printer heads to pair with your D840.
On top of that, there’s a buzzing community surrounding Stepcraft machines and the company provides top customer service – you can even pay €500 extra to have your machine shipped fully assembled.
Large working area (also available in two smaller sizes)
Well-built frame with great stability
Ideal for aluminum cutting
Compatible with a variety of spindles
Can be upgraded with laser engraver, tangential knife, and 3D printer head
Option to pay for full assembly
Spindle not included
Doesn’t come with any design software
To learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of the Stepcraft CNC D840, keep reading. I’ll tackle each aspect one by one and finish by presenting some alternative machines to consider if you’re not convinced by the D840.
Size & Working Area
Stepcraft offers three different types of machines (the D series, M series, and Q series), all of which come in various sizes, but I’ve chosen to review the D840 due to it being the brand’s most popular hobbyist model.
This model is the largest in Stepcraft’s D series, with an overall size of 756x1021x546mm and a working area of 594x833x132mm. The other two models in the series have the following working areas:
- D600 – 417x596x123mm
- D420 – 298x415x132mm
So, the D840 offers a pretty large area for a hobbyist machine which is perfect for small and medium size projects, while the other two offer more affordable alternatives and are useful if you have less space.
Build & Stability
Having tested the Stepcraft D840, I have no doubt that it’s one of the most impressive hobbyist CNC machines in terms of build quality and stability.
The machine is built using Stepcraft’s own aluminum extrusions that are made in-house, and the frame is powder coated to increase wear resistance and maximize durability. All the screws and nuts are also well made from steel and aluminum, helping extend the machine’s tooling life and ensure rigidity when in operation.
Router & Spindle
As is fairly common with some CNC machines, the Stepcraft D840 doesn’t come with a router or spindle included. If you’re looking for a machine that does, check out our alternative suggestions at the bottom of this review.
However, there is some logic behind this decision, as it gives you the freedom to pick the spindle that best suits your needs. Stepcraft offers its own custom built spindles like the HF500 and MM-1000, and it’s also compatible with popular third-party spindles like the Dewalt DW611 and Dremel 4000.
The table below details the main specs for the D840-compatible spindles available from Stepcraft – you can see the full range of spindles for its entire machine catalog here. I also recommend watching the Stepcraft YouTube Channel’s video on how to choose a spindle for your D series machine.
|Spindle||Speed Range (RPM)||Input Power (W)||Speed Control|
|MM-800||7,000 – 25,000||800||Manual|
|MM-1000||4,000 – 25,000||1,000||Manual|
|MM-1000 DI||4,000 – 25,000||1,000||Manual + Electronic|
|HF 500||5,000 – 20,000||500||Manual + Electronic|
|AMB 1050 FME-1 DI||3,500 – 25,000||1,050||Electronic|
|AMB 1050 FME-P DI||3,500 – 25,000||1,400||Electronic|
And here’s a comparison of five popular third-party spindles that are commonly used with the Stepcraft D840.
|Spindle||Speed Range (RPM)||Input Power (W)||Speed Control|
|Dewalt DW611||16,000 – 20,000||960||Manual|
|Dremel 4000||5,000 – 35,000||200||Manual|
|Bosch Colt||16,000 – 35,000||750||Manual|
|Proxxon IBS/E||5,000 – 20,000||100||Manual|
|Kress 800 FME||10,000 – 29,000||800||Manual|
Stepcraft D840 Compatible Materials
The Stepcraft D840 effectively mills and cuts a wide variety of materials, ranging from woods and plastics to PCB, leather, and plexiglass. Of course, the speed, power, and precision with which you can cut different materials depends on the spindle and bits you’re using. I recommend checking out what other users say on forums and doing test runs to help you find the right settings.
This CNC machine can also be an effective tool for cutting aluminum and other soft, non-ferrous metals. There are numerous examples of this within the Stepcraft community, such as this video that shows the D840 milling 20mm aluminum, as well as this very impressive and intricate lion milled from 6061 aluminum.
While you will struggle to cut non-ferrous metals like steel with the D840, this video shows that it can engrave steel – you just need to be careful to find the perfect settings and use lots of lubrication.
The fact that Stepcraft offers a variety of additional toolheads, including a 3D printer tool, laser engraver, and tangential knife, means you can work on a wider variety of materials than with a standard CNC mill. I’ll cover this in more detail further down.
This CNC router uses high-quality, Swiss-made lead screws to guide linear motion on the axis. The leadscrew mechanism does have a backlash of between 0.001” and 0.003”, but you can correct that with the CNC control software you get with a D840.
The machine also features Stepcraft’s own custom-made aluminum extrusions to guide the gantries and roller wheels.
Overall, the axis motion components are solid but not amazing, as there are other CNCs in this price range that use higher quality ball screw mechanism, such as the Onefinity CNC. Check out my Onefinity CNC review to learn more.
Control & Electronics
The D840 uses a stepper motor on each axis to drive movement. One thing to bear in mind is that the single motor on one side of the Y axis can cause the gantry to rack. You can correct this by using a dual drive on the Y axis, which you get as part of the Stepcraft D840 performance upgrade kit.
The control board is an Arduino board flashed with GRBL firmware, which is a standard choice in many hobbyist CNCs.
Stepcraft also offers an optional remote control job pendant that’s designed for use with the UCCNC control software, which I cover below. The pendant EUR209 and makes it simple to set up your CNC D840 wirelessly.
You can use the controller to set zero points and turn the spindle on and off for easy operation within a 15m range. It also has a backlit LCD screen that displays the axis readout values, stepping mode, and spindle speed, so you can monitor your machine.
One downside is that the Stepcraft D840 doesn’t come with any design software included, unlike other popular hobbyist routers like the Shapeoko 4 and X Carve. So, you’ll need to choose a software for creating designs and converting them into g code – check out our best CAD/CAM software guide to see our recommendations.
Stepcraft does provide software for controlling your machine: UCCNC. This is a pretty cheap and basic software which is fairly easy to learn, but it does have a pretty dated look to it and is only compatible with Windows.
The program you get with a Stepcraft machine is a modified version called UCCNC for Stepcraft, which is adjusted and optimized specifically for Stepcraft machines, making things easier.
If you’re using a Linux or Mac computer you’ll need alternative options, the most popular being LinuxCNC and Mach3 or Mach4. The Mach software is among the most advanced CNC control software out there, so they’re ideal if you want to make use of more advanced functions, although you’ll have to buy this separately.
One of the best things about going with a Stepcraft CNC machine is that the company offers a wide variety of upgrades, built-in-house, that allow you to expand the functionality of your machine and take your work to the next level.
One of the most popular is the laser engraving head, for €599 which allows you to achieve fine and integrate engravings on a variety of materials, such as acrylic and leather.
Now, a laser add-on isn’t uncommon for hobbyist CNCs (though it’s always preferable when they’re manufactured by the machine’s brand, like in this case), but what is more unusual is to have an optional 3D print head.
This is exactly what Stepcraft offers, though, for €529. This component has variable temperature control from 150 to 260 degrees °C and allows you to create 3D models layer by layer – something you can’t do with most other CNC routers.
Another interesting upgrade option is the oscillating tangential knife which costs €419. This tool uses solid carbide blades from 6mm to 25mm and is ideal for achieving highly precise results on intricate projects, such as lettering and contouring.
These are just three of the many accessories available from Stepcraft. Others include:
- Drag knife
- 3D Touch probe
- Creasing wheel
- Plotting pen
- Hot wire cutter
- Automatic tool changer
- Woodburning pen
- Engraving point
You can also upgrade your entire system with the D840 performance kit. This adds a dual drive system on the Y axis, automatic gantry synchronization, and contains a new mainboard that boosts the machine’s speed by 40%.
I’ve reviewed a lot of CNCs, and the Stepcraft offers one of the most impressive and varied range of upgrades and tooling accessories for machines in this price range. So if you’re looking for versatility and flexibility, this is certainly one to consider.
The Stepcraft D840 is fairly unique among CNC machines in that it offers two options when it comes to shipping and assembly. The first is to receive the CNC kit unassembled, which is standard among hobbyist machines, but Stepcraft also offers its CNC machines as ‘Ready to Run’, meaning they come fully assembled and can be used straight out of the box.
Of course, you do need to pay for the privilege of having your machine assembled for you. The D840 unassembled kit starts at €1,999, while the Ready to Run version starts at $2,499, so you’re essentially paying €500 for assembly.
If you prefer to save yourself some cash and put the machine together yourself, it takes around 4-6 hours depending on your handiness and experience. This is a bit longer than assembly time for some other hobbyist CNCs, although it’s not exactly unusual. Stepcraft provides a detailed manual and video support, so you have everything you need to get up and running.
Customer Support & Community
Although Stepcraft is a German company, it has a US office and offers impressive support to people in the US, Canada, and Mexico. You can reach out to the service team by filling out a contact form or through the following channels:
- Main Phone: +1 (203) 556-1856
- Sales Manager: +1 (860) 866-4231
- General email: [email protected]
- Education Inquiries: [email protected]
The US office is in Torrington, Connecticut and you’re able to book visits to the demo center and pick up orders by arranging an appointment on the main phone line. The office and phone lines are open 9 am-5 pm Monday to Friday.
I also really like that Stepcraft posts informative guides and blog posts, such as this one on the optimum aluminum cutting settings, and it also has an active YouTube channel with lots of helpful videos. This is a company that genuinely engages with its customers and wants to help you get the most out of its products.
There is also a very active community of Stepcraft CNC users. There is a forum where you can engage with other users on a variety of different topics to share and receive tips, inspiration, and troubleshooting. There is also a Facebook group called Stepcraft Crafter’s Club where you can interact with over 6,000 members.
Overall, the Stepcraft D840 is a very solid CNC machine that’s flexible, versatile, and reliable.
It does the majority of the fundamentals right, like having a very well constructed frame for great stability and durability, being a versatile cutter and effective for working with soft metals, and providing a generous working area.
However, what I think really sets the D840 apart from other CNCs in this price range is the customizability. Firstly, you can pair it with a wide variety of spindles both from Stepcraft’s own line and other manufacturers, so you really have the freedom to tailor your machine’s components to your projects.
Then, there’s the additional components like a laser head, 3D printing head, and tangential knife, opening up even more possibilities. These are all designed and manufactured by Stepcraft, so they’re reliable and work seamlessly with the D840.
Stepcraft CNC D840 Alternatives
While the D840 is impressive, it’s not perfect, and there’s no CNC machine that suits everyone. Here are some top alternatives to consider.
Carbide Nomad 3
- Price: $2,800 — Available at Matterhackers here
The Carbide Nomad 3 stands out as a very compact, well-designed, user-friendly CNC mill that’s ideal for cutting metals. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a smaller machine, with a working area of 8x8x3”, so it’s a good size for home setups.
Unlike the D840, you get a really impressive set of software packages with this mill, including Carbide Create, MechCAM, Alibre, and Carbide Motion, which together cover each step from creating designs and converting them into g code to running your machine.
One of the best things is that in addition to being excellent at cutting soft metals, the Nomad 3 is also suitable for cutting ferrous metals like steel and titanium, much more effectively than most CNC routers.
- Price: $1,198 — Available at MakerMade here
One issue many beginners and hobbyists face when buying a CNC machine is that unless you’re able to pay top dollar, you’re typically restricted to relatively small working areas. The MakerMade M2 provides a solution to this, by providing a large-scale CNC platform for a very affordable price (and one that’s cheaper than the Stepcraft D840).
With this CNC, you get a huge 4ft x 8ft working area for a fraction of what it typically costs. It’s a pretty unconventional machine, in that it’s wall mounted and you need to construct a frame for it, but these are necessary in order to keep the price so low. The M2 comes with its own custom-made software and is ideal for cutting large sheets of wood, plastics, foam, and even aluminum when using the right settings.
- Price: $2,047 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Size: 594x833x132mm
- Frame material: aluminum
- Router: not included
- Axis motion: leadscrew
- Motors: stepper
- Control: Arduino (online only)
- Software: not included
If you’re looking for the most beginner-friendly CNC router on the market, then Inventables’ X Carve has a strong claim to the throne. This is largely because it ticks one of the few boxes the Stepcraft CNC machines don’t by providing a fantastic complete software solution.
You get a three-year subscription to Inventables’ Easel Pro when you buy an X Carve, which the company markets as the “world’s easiest CAD/CAM software”. It’s certainly a really impressive all-in-one package that can be used for creating your designs, converting them into g code, and operating your machine. This removes the hassle of having to find and learn programs for yourself as is the case with the Stepcraft D840.
The X Carve offers a decent 29.5×29.5×4.5” working area, is well-made with solid stability, comes with a Makita router included, and is suitable for soft metal cutting, so it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular hobbyist CNCs.