Looking for an affordable desktop CNC router? Check out our buyer's guide to the 25 best CNC routers & DIY CNC router kits you can buy right now.
CNC routers and mills are an ideal addition to any maker’s workshop. Precisely cutting woods, metals and other materials, the CNC router can do some tasks 3D printers can’t.
Helping alleviate this is a DIY CNC router kit, condensing down CNC router into flat pack projects that result in high-quality tools fit for carving and cutting in relatively little time. There is also a range of semi-assembled or assembled desktop CNC routers that are also compact, some of which come at an affordable price.
Learn the difference between a CNC router and a CNC mill or scroll on to our selection of the best desktop CNC routers, along with DIY CNC router kits, on the market today (ordered by price).
Hackable and coming with a large work area out of the box - especially the XXL version - the Shapeoko is a versatile CNC router.
On the cheaper end of the CNC spectrum, the MYSWEETY 1610 CNC Router is a popular entry-level option available on Amazon. Available for under $200, don’t expect a large machine or extra perks to come with this CNC machine – it’s a small, simple DIY kit.
It’s a desktop machine with a 160 x 100 x 45mm engraving area, so the types of projects that can be done are fairly limited. Nonetheless, the MYSWEETY 1610 CNC Router costs pennies on the dollar compared to other options on this list.
Using Windows-only software, the CNC machine is reportedly able to engrave a variety of plastics, wood, acrylic, PVC, and PCB. A high-speed 775 spindle motor and 42 stepper motor are also included.
Several Amazon reviews on this machine praise it for its surprisingly high quality build and accuracy, but some found the assembly instructions to be a bit lackluster.
One of the cheapest DIY CNC kit to feature on this list, Sainsmart’s Genmitsu CNC 3018 boasts a comfortable work volume of 300 x 180 mm (from which the 3018 of its name derives) plus a Z-axis depth of 45 mm.
Ideal for those looking to dip their toes into CNC without sacrificing a lot of money, the Genmitsu CNC 3018 is built on the Open Source Arduino platform, using Grbl (also Open Source) for reading G-code and motion control. Suitable for softer materials, expect a cheap and cheerful machine to get acquainted with the principles and inner workings of a CNC machine.
An open aluminum extrusion frame and easily accessible electronics make the Genmitsu ripe for tinkering, which may be a necessity with the lack of end stops – should you want to engrave up to the limit of that work volume.
Labeled as the ‘Pro’ version, the MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO is a slightly different version of the Sainsmart Genmitsu CNC 3018, but essentially has the same design. It reportedly has an upgraded control board, as well as an offline controller, which means it doesn’t have to be tethered to a computer.
Staying true to its name, the MYSWEETY version has the same work volume of 300 x 180 mm and a Z-axis depth of 45 mm. It also comes with a775 spindle motor and a sturdier frame made of aluminum and nylon. At a slightly higher price, it’s worth comparing the 3018 CNC machine iterations released by MYSWEETY and Sainsmart.
Possibly the most DIY of CNC kits to grace this list, the Lowrider is a full-sheet capable CNC router that, uniquely among the items on this list, heavily features 3D printed parts.
An evolution of the Mostly Printed Computer Numerical Control (MPCNC), the Lowrider achieves better rigidity while cutting the number of parts and, subsequently, cost over its predecessor.
In its most complete form, the Lowrider is available as a parts bundle containing the vitamins and electronics required to create this motion system. Separately, you will need to source a spindle, steel rails, plus cut MDF and 3D print the parts required to hold it all together.
Spendthrifts out there can take this further with just the bill of materials and locally source every single piece.
In return for all that effort, you get a CNC router with a large cutting area with a Y-axis that is only bound by your table length.
And best of all, building the Lowrider from scratch can total out at under $500. A complete project of a DIY CNC kit, this is perhaps best left to experienced hobbyists, rather than complete beginners.
Maslow is an open source project centered around the build large CNC machine capable of cutting large flat materials at up to 8′ x 4′ (that’s 2438 x 1219 mm). Pretty big – bigger than every stock machine on this list, even.
The secret — well, we suppose it’s no secret since the entire thing is open source and community driven — is that the Maslow stands vertically, condensing its large work area into a comparatively tiny footprint some 300 mm deep and approximately 3 meters wide.
The machine itself works with the router suspended on the surface of your cutting material, with motor driven chains affixed to a rail atop the Maslow’s easel-like frame moving the cutting action.
It’s a unique beast and one that is completely community driven thanks to the Maslow Community Garden forum, where users publish their projects for others to use, expand and improve.
As best we can tell, the only place to acquire a kit is at Maker Made CNC, which produces batches of approved kits to the original Maslow design. At $499, it’s perhaps the best bang for buck for those looking to make large pieces.
This CNC router kit is a stunner with its low price and high quality results. The frame is laser cut plastic, but all the connecting and bearing areas are reinforced with steel. The tool is clamped in aluminum and driven in X- and Z- axes while the cut plate moves Y. The kit includes the complete controller board and uses Autodesk’s free Fusion 360 as controlling software.
The DIY CNC router kit comes with a ll you need to get cutting right out of the box, and starts at $499. Extras like homing switches and further frame reinforcement packages can be configured into your kit or purchased later as extras.
Naturally, as a kit this DIY CNC router comes in parts and must be assembled by yourself, but MillRight’s customer service has proven as highly competent in many cases, should you run into any problems.
Another entry-level machine that balances affordability with capability, the Sienci Mill One V3 comes as a nuts and bolts kit, with plug and play electronics, pre-cut MDF walls that double as the frame, and convenient carry-handles, because why not.
The working area is modest when held against the other machines on this list, but for an accessible entry point to CNC routing the Mill One is hard to beat.
Oh, and it’s completely open source, too, meaning you can grab the bill of materials, STLs to 3D print parts, initialization information, and other bits and pieces needed to build your own from scratch form the Sienci website.
Yet another affordable DIY CNC router kit on this list is the Zen Toolworks CNC Carving Machine. It has a 12″ x 12″ x 2″ travel capability and is said to offer 0.001″ precision, making this a highly capable machine considering the $600 price tag.
The Zen Toolsworks DIY kit comprises of a PVC frame with an aluminum gantry, steel guide rods, and precision linear bearings.
Keep in mind that this kit only includes the CNC machine and motors, and requires a 3-axis stepper motor driver to manage each motor, a spindle, and DC power supply for the driver. As one Amazon customer put it in an a positive review, this kit is ideal “for someone with some basic electronics knowledge and a willingness to dive in and figure things out,” so check it out if you’re up to the challenge.
This laser-cut wooden DIY CNC router kit is a complete set; it comes with a milling motor, software, and electronics. It is great for engraving and cutting wooden or plastic objects. The frame comprises laser-cut plywood, with the tool head running on belts, so do not expect the highest accuracy.
Considering the price, large work space and the inclusion of a milling motor, the E3 it is a great first kit for those looking to get their feet wet in DIY CNC engraving and cutting.
This small and compact DIY CNC router kit offers great small-scale work for modest price. It does not include a milling motor, but it has ball bearing-mounted precision spindles for quick runs and a repeat accuracy of 0,03 mm.
It comes with LinuxCNC included, but can also be controlled with CNC Studio, WinPC-NC, and many other programs. The T-Nut work plate allows the attachment of clamps. It is suitable for machining soft materials, electronic circuit boards and small-scale work on non-ferrous metals.
Originally launched on Kickstarter, Stepcraft has burgeoned into one of the first names in modular CNCmachines, offering a variety of DIY CNC kits and ready-to-run machines out of its base in Germany. The Stepcraft D-Series is one such kit, coming in 5 different sizes to suit different workshop spaces. It is one of the cheaper, lighter and smallest CNC routers on this list.
The series comes as a complete set albeit with one pretty important omission — the milling motor itself, so you‘ll have to procure a compatible motor yourself (Stepcraft also produces them). The Stepcraft D-Series comes with control software for Windows, has end stops on all axis and a big red emergency stop button.
This DIY machine is great for engraving and working with softer materials. It can even cut 10mm aluminum sheets.
The most recent CNC router from the BobsCNC line, the E4 is similar to the E3 on the list, but with a few differences that makes the manufacturer’s latest machine the right choice. For starters, it has a much larger work area at 610 x 610 x 76 mm.
While this is an unassembled DIY kit, the E4 comes with everything you need to get started on reasonably sized projects.
Priced at $898, it also costs around $200 more than the E3, so that’s worth taking into consideration as well. The BobsCNC E4 comes with a DeWalt DW660 router.
Featuring a larger work area than its desktop mill predecessor, the Nomad 338 Pro, the Carbide 3D Shapeoko is all about versatility.
Compatible with a wide array of router bits and eminently hackable, it’s DIY CNC router kit for restless makers. Depending on where you purchase the Shapeoko 3, the kit includes either a DeWalt 611 or Makita router to power the cutting, making the machine capable of carving out woods, plastics, and Aluminum.
Carbide’s own Carbide Create and Carbide Motion software make working with the Shapeoko a breeze, allowing for maximum creativity across the machine’s 406 x 406mm work area.
Boasting a large work area, the Inventables X-Carve is geared toward signage and other larger objects. It comes with its own software and has a thriving community around it. When buying this CNC router kit you can configure it to suit your particular usage.
The basic machine starts at $999 and comes with a machine head, toolkit, clamps, and electronics all wrapped around a 500 x 500mm work area. The axis is driven by belts and the machine is mounted on a wooden board. Due to its low cost and configurability, the Inventables X-Carve is a great DIY CNC router kit if you’re just getting started with the tech.
Fully open source, the Ooznest WorkBee is the product of UK-based Ryan Lock and his CNC machine and accessory store, Ooznest.
An evolution of the OpenBuilds Ox, an open source CNC machine that Ooznest sold and improved upon over time, the Workbee is it’s own new machine that filters back into the open source community (an OpenBuilds variant is even available on the OpenBuilds store).
C-beam linear rails shield the motion systems from cutting debris, and a highly configurable design that accommodates switching from lead screw to belts — letting you scale up to over 1000 mm builds.
Recently upgraded to include a Duet 32bit controller, the popular Workbee is now capable of wider connectivity, optimized motion control resulting in smoother and quieter operation, plus futureproofing for upcoming functionality-adding updates; overall a sturdy machine that blends quality of life with flexibility.
If you want a machine with the pedigree of the Carbide3D Shapeoko 3, but would like some more work space than the basic size has to offer, there are also XL and XXL versions of this CNC router available.
Priced at $1,499, the XL has a cutting area of 16″ x 33″ x 3″, while the XXL offers a whopping 33″ x 33 x 3″ cutting area, and cost slightly more at $1,699.
Another interesting option for desktop-sized CNC machines, the Piranha FX appeals to those who want to take on smaller-scale projects, such as plaques or other ornaments.
Unlike most CNC routers on this list, the Piranha is equipped with a touchscreen interface, making the entire CNC process more manageable from the user’s end. It’s compatible with commonly used material stock, including plastics, wood, and soft metals.
It comes with VCarve Desktop V8 Design, allowing users to design and create tool paths to send directly to the CNC router. The $1,600 price tag is pretty easy to stomach, but keep in mind that the actual router is sold separately from the machine.
The consensus for this DIY CNC router kit appears to mostly be positive, indicating it is great for milling chipboard and plastics. You can also lengthen the cutting space as the driving motor sits in the gantry. Furthermore, the tooling clamp offers a free spot for installing a CO2 laser head, allowing for laser cutting across the blueChick’s generous 305 x 914 x 76 mm work area.
Made from wood and constantly improved upon to add to the stability and sturdiness of the machine, the blueChick is currently on version 4.2., a revision improving the arrangement, drive method and structure.
One of the more popular Chinese imports on the CNC router market, the JFT 3040 has a 22″ x 14″ work area and sturdy all-metal frame. But what really sets it apart from most other machines on this list is that it’s a water-cooled machine, allowing for longer operations.
The hard-alloy aluminum gantry and 16mm ball screw provides a high degree of rigidity. The standalone control unit can operate with a variety of different softwares, such as ArtCAM and CopperCAM, so users are not confined to any specific proprietary software.
Equipped with a two-phase stepper motor that produces .59 NM of torque and a spindle that reaches speeds of up to 24000 RPM, this CNC router offers a surprising amount of speed and power. In doing so, the JFT 3040 presents itself as a bargain to makers looking for a professional-grade machine under the $3,000 mark.
The Carbide 3D Nomad is a compact desktop CNC machine that has an open-ended enclosure surrounding the work area. These walls are integrated to keep the mess leftover from the material stock contained.
Another intriguing factor is that it’s nearly fully-assembled machine on this list, but has a slightly high price tag considering the petit 203 x 203 x 76 work area.
The Carbide3D Nomad is ideal for entry-level or niche users who want an accessible and easy to use machine, fit for an office setting or home workshop.
Manufactured by Next Wave Automation, the CNC Piranha XL is a reasonably sizable machine that offers a 12” x 24” x 4” work area. Features include auto edge and rational sensing technology, which automatically locates the work piece and identifies its size, while also automatically detecting your starting point for the CNC job.
Considering the adequate size and intriguing features, the price tag of $2,499 isn’t too shabby. It comes with Windows-only design software called Carve Desktop V8 Design, allowing users to create projects and send them directly to the CNC router via USB.
The automated features offered by the CNC Piranha XL makes it an intriguing option for both entry-level or experienced makers that can afford to splurge a bit on a higher-end machine.
This powerful full Aluminum router is MillRight’s top spec machine. The router tool is mounted with precision ball screws on two axles for extra stiffness. In addition a stainless steel bearing shaft in combination with a high torque stepper motor is used to move to tool. The aluminum bed accommodates clamps and, due to the overall stiffness of the machine, it can also manage short cuts into steel.
The kit includes complete controls, homing switches and an emergency stop switch. Jobs on this DIY CNC router are controlled through Autodesk’s free Fusion 360 software. At the time of writing MillRight only ships to the contiguous 48 US, but you can contact them to discuss other shipping locations.
The Pro Version of CNC Router Parts milling machines start with a compact and space saving design, that is subsequently configurable to offer a huge work space. It is designed with a bearing mounted Z spindle. The X- and Y- axis, however, are rack and pinion driven which lowers the overall accuracy, especially for larger builds. Its manufacturer promises however the milling of aluminum alloys.
The Pro kit comes with end stops for all axes, but no CNC control software, machine head nor electronics. The electronic solution is available prebuilt for $1,500 or as a kit for $765. It is mostly used for larger wood builds or foam.
The CNC Shark HD 4, manufactured by Next Wave Automation, is an intriguing benchtop CNC router with a 25″ x 25″ x 7″ work area and X and Y homing capabilities. It’s compatible with a wide range of materials, including wood, soft metals, and plastic.
With anti-backlash and wear-compensated high precision lead screws, the CNC Shark HD 4 is designed to handle heavy-duty routers. To provide greater torque levels and overall stability, the CNC machine also has adjustable bearings. Priced at $4,000, Next Wave Automation’s flagship CNC router is ideal for makers looking to step their DIY game up.
To operate this CNC router, it must be connected to a computer via USB. The software used to control the machine is only compatible with Windows 7 and above.
Out of the various professional CNC routers sold by manufacturer Axiom Precision, the AutoRoute 4 Pro+ is the most compact. With a 24″ x 24″ x 6″ work area, this machine offers adequate space to take on DIY projects.
The AutoRoute 4 Pro+ is equipped with a 3HP electro-spindle, as well as precision ball screws, prismatic guides, robust, rigid steel frames, and interlocking aluminum tables. Perhaps the most unique selling point of this CNC router is its ability to operate without a computer. It comes with a handheld RichAuto DSP B18 4-axis controller, offering more stability and control over the CNC process.
Priced at $5,999, this shouldn’t be considered as an entry-level CNC router. Instead, the AutoRoute 4 Pro+ from Axiom Precision is best suited for makers looking to up their hardware to a more professional machine.
The CNC mill and CNC router are terms often used interchangeably. In actuality, they are two distinct machines with specific purposes.
A CNC router is mostly used for cutting wood, plastic, model foam or other soft materials. With some routers you can also machine aluminum, but this is mostly for engraving purpose.
The spindle of a CNC router can rotate up to 20,000 Rpm, a necessity in order to experience low torque when cutting into the material. Typically the frame and bearings of a CNC router are not configured for high stiffness. The upside of this high-speed low torque cutting is that a CNC router can do its work quickly, compared to slow CNC mills.
Another benefit of the CNC router is that they broadly tend to offer more working space in the X- and Y- axes, with a shallow Z-axis movement when compared to the CNC mill.
Despite being generally less stiff than a CNC mill, the stiffness and quality of a CNC router depends on the price tag. You can pick up a good CNC router with tools for less than $800.
Perhaps the most noticable difference between the CNC mill and CNC router is cost. A decent CNC mill can costs in the range of $10,000, and that’s before factoring in maintenance and tools.
The upside of such an expensive machine however, is that a CNC mill is capable of machining all kinds of metals such as (cast) steel, aluminum alloys and precious metals.
To do so, the spindle of a CNC mill runs at around 1,000 Rpm — much slower than a CNC router. Paired with a stiff frame and sturdy bearings, it’s possible to precisely cut to a tenth of a millimeter, though this of course depends on the quality of your tools, talent and machine.
License: The text of "25 Best Desktop CNC Routers & DIY CNC Router Kits in 2019" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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