best cheap cnc machines

Best Cheap CNC Machines for Beginners and Professionals

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

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CNC machining requires software programs to run. They use Computer Aided Machining (CAM), which creates Numerical Controls and tool paths based on 3D computer models. The most common NC language used is the G-Code and M-code, which can be modified to work on different machines.

With CNC, the designs are mostly 2D drawings or 3D models, which create the CNC file and the path your cutting tool will follow. Luckily, there are several sites where you get free CNC project files for your carving project ideas. You can also check the simplified user guide for further detailed instructions on how to use CNC machines.

Let's look at some of the best CNC router machines that are equally affordable

1. Rattmmotor CNC Wood Router Machine

RATTMMOTOR CNC Wood Router Machine 3018 PRO 3 Axis GRBL...
  • 【Upgrade Version CNC 3018 PRO】※ Frame size: 30x26x25CM....
  • 【Material/Dimensions】※ The fixed external frame is made of...
  • 【Simple Assembly/Use】※ This mini cnc router machine kit is...
  • 【Update GRBL Board】※ The updated control board has added...
  • 【Applicable Engraving Material】※ CNC 3018 PRO machine can...

Rattmotor 3018 Pro is one of the most affordable CNC router machines designed for DIY carving enthusiasts and beginners. Even though it comes pre-assembled, it has a paper and USB flash drive containing assembly and operation instructions.

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One of the features that amazed us is the updated control board with added complete functions supporting the emergency stop button and the X, Y, and Z axis limit switches. Additionally, the updated control board automatically identifies the manual offline controller.

It is also of high precision, and we were able to design our small projects to our satisfaction. Putting it to the test, with its spindle speed of 10000r/min, we could perfectly and smoothly engrave wood, plastics, and other soft metals like copper and aluminum. However, engraving glass and hard metals were impossible and almost broke the spindle.

It is also environmentally friendly because of the low noise production thanks to its double ball bearings that ensure little to no friction. Additionally, the GBRL software is compatible with the machine and easy to use with simple instructions.

If you are looking for CNC Routers for woodworking, Rattmmotor CNC Wood Router Machine qualifies as one of the best.

Pros:

  • Low noise production
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Accurate cutting
  • Perfect for beginners

Cons:

  • Unfit for hard materials 

2. SainSmart Genmitsu 3018 PROVer Desktop CNC Router

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer Desktop CNC Router...
  • Class leading values got even easier to use. Pre-assembled and no...
  • Still based on open-source Grbl v1.1 the PROVer has stepped up to...
  • Make more with the all-aluminum body and take advantage of the...
  • Take control of your 3018-PROVer Desktop CNC machine with...
  • CAD/CAM software to design then convert your ideas into...

Are you for simplicity and accountability? Check out this SainSmart CNC desktop machine. For beginners, this machine is easy to assemble following simple instructions or YouTube tutorials. We took notice of the stability of this machine, however small it is. Its sturdy construction, thanks to its aluminum body, made us achieve precise carvings much easier.

Image Credit: latestintech.com

On accountability, the SainSmart CNC machine is a perfect choice for online and offline use. We could keep the account of our working using the 1.8-inch display screen that is readable and easy to handle.

The screen provides a whole host of features you can use to operate the machine. In offline mode, we used handheld remotes to control the X, Y, and Z axes. This worked and was great because we realized that this SainSmart CNC machine doesn't need software to be controlled.

While working on your project, your eyes' safety is guaranteed. This machine features acrylic baffles lined on the sides to keep dust controlled in one place, leaving your eyes protected and workspace dust free.

How comforting it was to be able to stop the project when we realized we fed in the wrong information to the machine. Its emergency stop control is quite visible and easy to access should you need to stop the project for anything. Your project's safety does not need to be compromised. With optocouplers added to this machine, extra mainboard protection is offered, you are sure of long-term service.

Pros:

  • Safe
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Octopulators protect the mainboard
  • Offline controller eases connection without computer attachments
  • Perfect for beginners

Cons:

  • Weak spindle

3. Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

Genmitsu CNC Router Machine PROVerXL 4030 for Wood...
  • Easy to Set Up: The pre-assembled module of XYZ axis and wires...
  • More Power: New completely redesigned control box and drive...
  • No additional parts required: Everything you need out of the box,...
  • Precision and Performance: Rigid C-beam structure,Leadscrew...
  • Built to suit your needs: The PROVerXL CNC platform is just the...

Powerful but not so premium. This affordable CNC machine is a great choice for the middle ground. PROVerXL 4030 is accessible and easy to assemble with the pre-assembled modules of X, Y, and Z axes and wires that dramatically reduce the assembling effort, making it one of the best beginner-friendly CNC kits.

Image Credit: fabacademy.org

Additionally, no additional parts are required because you get all the accessories and components, including emergency stop switches, speed control, X, Y, and Z limit switches, and Z probes, at an affordable price.

With an axis depth of 110mm, we could cut, drill, and carve great depth and complex projects from various materials, including wood, MDF, plastics, foam, vinyl, and aluminum. Therefore, it is not only beginner friendly, but its precision and performance make it a good choice for experienced and advanced makers.

You can also upgrade it further if you need a larger machine. However, the base CNC machine is powerful, and with the newly re-designed control box and drive system, it should suit most day-to-day CNC projects.

Pros:

  • Sturdy
  • No additional parts required
  • Easy to assembly
  • Powerful

Cons:

  • Weak spindle

4. Genmitsu CNC Router Kit 3018 PRO

Sale
Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit GRBL Control 3 Axis...
  • New Version: Genmitsu Cnc 3018-Pro Is An Upgraded Version Of...
  • Upgraded Power Adapter: Ul Approved And Out-Of-The-Box Support...
  • Controller Software: The Genmitsu 3018-Pro Uses Grbl, A...
  • Optional Upgraded Parts: Super Size Your 3018 Cnc To A 3040 By...

Simple and dependable. That's how best we can describe this DIY CNC kit. Its parts are easy to assemble, improving the work speed for both beginners and advanced users. Again we noticed the improved accuracy with this machine because of the 4cm base height that enables the components' stability.

Image Credit: glue-it.com

This CNC engraving machine is easy to use, but because we were beginners, some instructions were challenging not until we checked out online tutorials.

Something great about this machine is its diversity. We put it to the test, and it is amazing how it could cut through not only wood but soft aluminum, plastic, acrylic, PVCs, PCBs, and plastic. This is a fantastic choice to work with different materials across multiple projects.

Genmitsu uses open-source GRBL software that easily controls the machine's operating systems. For beginners, there's a lot of support available when using GBRL because of the great information online. Its ability to engrave soft and hardwood well is something worth mentioning.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to assemble
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Slope in the X, Y acme nut

5. Bob’s CNC Quantum Mini CNC Router Kit

BobsCNC Quantum Mini CNC Router Kit with the Router...
  • A rigid laser cut 5-Ply Baltic Birch frame with SG20U supported...
  • GT2 9mm belt drive on X and Y-axis and Tr8 Acme Rod mounted with...
  • NEMA 17 Stepper Motors and Home switches on all axes with a...
  • 1/2” MDF with Aluminum T-slot Spoilboard and includes the...
  • Designed to use GRBL1.1 firmware on the Arduino Uno with...

Though pricy, the quality will please you. However, assembling this machine took us more than 3 hours, but it was worth the wait because it had a smooth and enjoyable experience. Bob's CNC features a rigid-cut laser frame that provides durability and longevity.

Image Credit: ebay.com

While working on our projects, we achieved our precision cuts, thanks to the rigidness of this machine hence no wobble while working. As for the jumpy movements when operating, you have fewer worries with this CNC router machine because of the extremely smooth spatial movements between X and Y.

Using the included software created with designers in mind to interpret the G-codes was easy too. While testing its accuracy on a wooden sheet, we noticed it only made round corners compared to other CNC machines capable of cutting 90 degrees on a square.

Bob's Evolution is perfect for engraving on wood and soft materials. If you're planning bulk production, this machine won't manage. However, its cutting area of 610mm by 610mm, supported with an SG20U rail system for stability, is perfect for the small-scale project.

Pros:

  • Low wobble
  • Easy to use
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Smooth spatial movements

Cons:

  • It takes time to assemble
  • Not ideal for large-scale projects

6. Genmitsu 3020 PRO MAX CNC Router Machine

Genmitsu 3020-PRO MAX CNC Router Machine for Metal...
  • Bigger and better with an all new extra rigid and beefy design...
  • Upgraded linear guide structure and 4040 Y axis profiles highly...
  • One-piece machined and molded aluminum design ensures flatness...
  • Everything you need out of the box. The Genmitsu 3020-PRO MAX...
  • The pre-assembled module of XZ Axis Gantry and Base Assembly...

The pre-assembled module of the XZ Axis Gantry and base assembly of this CNC machine reduce the hassle of assembly. We only used 3 main installation steps and wiring, which took us less than 2 hours to start our project. All stepper motors are also equipped with manual jog wheels that make it easy to adjust and position the spindle.

Image Credit: sainsmart.com

Bigger and better. The upgraded version of this machine makes it ideal for numerous drilling and carving operations. Giving it a try with the laser engraving, its upgraded linear guide and Y axis resulted in accurate engraving with improved processing strength.

The one-piece machined and molded aluminum design ensures the flatness and firmness of the work platform. This design was convenient for the material positioning, and we realized it was another reason for the accurate engraving.

The Genmitsu 3020 PRO MAX router also includes all the accessories and components you may need at an affordable price. Some of the accessories that were of great help in improving the carving quality during our project were an offline controller, XYZ axis limit switches, emergency stop switches, and Z-probe.

Pros:

  • Pre-assembled
  • Accurate
  • Sturdy
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Spindle motor deflection

7. Mcwdoit 3018 PRO CNC Router Machine

CNC Router Machine 3018 Pro, mcwdoit Simple Assembly...
  • ♞【CNC Router User Manual】Please view or download the manual...
  • ♞【Easy Assembly Version CNC 3018 Pro】We have UPDATED! You...
  • ♞【Latest Version Control Board】After repeated tests, we...
  • ♞【Offline Controller】Great for beginners. Upgrade from...
  • ♞【Wide Application】Suitable for carve wood, plastic,...

Another amazing choice is the upgraded version of the 3018 Pro CNC Router Kit! You don't have to break the bank for this. This machine already has the base installed, and all we had to install was the gantry part which was easy and didn't take much time.

Image Credit: pinterest.com

Mcwdoit is quite heavy for a desktop, but it can be installed on a sturdy surface. But to the advantage, we figured out it could handle production routing and drilling. Its offline controller is great for beginners. Its storage is also updated from 128 MB to 1GB.

While offline, we used the SD card reader to root G code files, the support manual to adjust the X, Y, and Z-axis location, engraving starting point, and manually opened and closed the spindle. To put this machine to the test further, we tried to cut different materials. We found this machine suitable for carving wood, plastic, acrylic, PCB CCL, aluminum, and soft metal like copper.

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate cutting
  • Sturdy
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Weak spindle

CNC Machines Buying Guide

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When looking for tips on choosing the best CNC routers to add to your home or business, there are key factors you need to consider to navigate your search in the right direction. Here are some of the considerations to look out for.

a) CNC Machine’s Weight

Heavier machines provide heavy-duty performance, less wobbling, and accurate machining. However, a desktop CNC machine is convenient if you move around frequently with your machine. Keep in mind that lightweight models restrict the type of work you do because of their small working area.

b) Electrical Requirements

CNC machines are designed to work with different voltages. Determine your shop's electrical capabilities and ensure you have a three-phase power for convenience if you buy a more sophisticated CNC machine model. A desktop model is likely to work with single-phase power.

c) Software Requirements

Many software is available to work with CNC machines, and It is important to learn how to use a majority of them. Consider purchasing a CNC machine with software requirements that are easy to use. But most importantly, ensure the software is compatible with your computer. However much your software knowledge is diverse, the general rule is to start by using CAM and CAD software.

d) Budget

Budget is a critical factor when looking for a CNC machine. Generally, prices vary substantially depending on whether you will use the machine for a largescale business, small-scale business, or to pursue a hobby. Remember to include an estimated cost of the accessories in your budget.

e) Spindle vs. Router

Which one do you need between the router CNC machine and the spindle CNC machine? It might be a challenge to beginners, but eventually, they'll land on one that meets their preferences.

i) Spindles

Image Credit: superiorspindle.com

Spindles are fast, heavy-duty machines with advanced cutting tools. They are also high-power devices, making them a viable option for machining applications of longer durations with minimum noise. However, spindles are expensive.

ii) Routers

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For beginners, routers are the best option. They are affordable and work best with wood and other soft materials. Routers are consumer-grade devices that anyone can use. Additionally, they are lightweight and hence can be moved around and mounted easily.

f) Accessories

Image Credit: cnctoolspares.com

The most common extra pieces in the CNC machine set are router bits, collet, tool holder, and tool fork. Also, ensure your machine comes with the required software to avoid costly purchases afterward. Additionally, note that buying pre-assembled machines prevents you from the long-hours stress of assembling one.

g) Working Space

Large working spaces are recommended, no matter your output scale. For small-scale businesses, this gives room for expansion. Bigger spaces are also for storage of your products. Therefore you don't have to buy bigger CNC machines for mass production at the time.

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Ensure the mounting surface of the CNC machine is also strong and stable to improve accuracy.

h) CNC Machine’s Size

CNC machines come in various sizes, and there will be one that fits your specifications. Ideally, smaller machines are compact and suited for small tasks. Larger industrial-sized CNC machines require more space, making them better for large-scale business owners.

Image Credit: allcncrouter.com

Therefore when purchasing your CNC machine, weigh your intended use and the machine’s size to buy the right machine. With CNC machines, it is safe to size up because your skills will grow, and you will get involved in more challenging projects.

Why Your Business Needs a CNC Machine

Finding the right CNC machine might be a challenge. However, using a CNC machine in your business is advantageous. CNC machining is essential for production, and it benefits your business in several ways discussed here.

i) Increased Productivity

Numerous components can be manufactured by keying instructions and settings for different activities into the machine. CNC machining easily manufactures the products repeatedly and with the same engraving. A major boost to production is speed, efficiency, and output, while quality, consistency, and profitability improve. 

ii) Flexible Production

With the changing needs across the consumer board, you need to keep up with the trend. The CNC programmable machine makes innovation and invention easy by making any precision product components. You can also use CNC machine tools with other production equipment to create a flexible and versatile manufacturing system.

iii) Product Consistency

CNC machining ensures that the design and quality of the products remain consistent, even if you are producing thousands of identical parts. In addition, with this flexibility, you can pick exactly how many parts you need at any given time and decrease surplus inventory.

iv) Complexity of Parts

With a combination of compatible CAD/CAM programs and equipment, CNC router machines can manufacture complex parts that result in precision-turned components that are much beyond the capabilities of hand machining.

v) Safety of Personnel

Built-in features such as emergency stop buttons, curtain guards, safety panels, and bulletproof casings reduce workplace accidents. Other systems also have the ability to run diagnostic tests before operations. 

vi) Reduced Costs and Higher Profit Margin

With increased productivity at reduced costs, CNC routers add a healthier bottom line to your business. CNC machines reduce long-term production costs, such as labor and operational costs. Additionally, they are faster and more productive, yielding precise and accurate products.

Frequently Asked Questions About CNC Machines

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1. What is a CNC machine?

Computer Numerical Control takes digitized data to control, automate and monitor the movements of a machine. Therefore, A CNC machine is a computer-controlled device used to carve complex shapes out of wood and other hard materials by acting as a panel saw, spindle molder, and boring machine combined.

2. What are G-Code and M-Code?

These are machine control languages governing the whole program. For example, g code controls the movement of a machine instructing how and where it should move to fabricate a part. M code, on the other hand, governs other machines' various activities, including starting and stopping.

3. How Many types of CNC machines are there?

CNC machines come in eight different types: CNC mills, routers, laser cutters, plasma cutting machines, lathes, water jet cutters, electrical discharge machines (EDM), and grinders.

4. Can you teach yourself how to operate a CNC machine?

With a basic understanding of arithmetic skills, computer skills, and technical design, learning basic CNC programming is simple, and acquiring intermediate programming abilities may take a year. Even so, learning advanced CNC programming usually takes time and needs proper training.

5. What are the main components of a CNC machine?

Three fundamental parts comprise a computer numerical control (CNC) system: processing apparatus, often known as a machine tool, a machine control unit, and CNC software, a set of instructions.

 A computer numerical control (CNC) system usually consists of three fundamental parts: a machine control unit, CNC software that is a program of instructions, and processing equipment, also called a machine tool.

Bottom Line

CNC is a long-term investment that works best for the betterment of your business. Many fantastic options in the market are affordable but most importantly, check the compatibility of the software with your machine to have your dream productivity. Whether you prefer a spindle or router CNC machine, the buying guide will help you settle on the best easy-to-use machine without spending extra.

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Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.