Should I buy a CNC router?
I have my eyes on a particular machine, not the one shown above – that’s a CNC pen plotter I photographed at a past Maker Faire – and am mulling things over. Again.
On one hand, I have project ideas that will require machine-cut parts. On the other hand, it’ll take up space and require a bit of money.
There are a number of more affordable CNC routers and mills, but from what I’ve seen, they require extra time and effort to get things right. There are turn-key solutions, but with higher price tags.
I like to work in plastic, but a laser cutter is out of the question, due to cost, exhaust needs, and the limited ability of a laser cutter to work on anything but plastic and certain non-plastic materials of different sizes.
Years ago, I looked at CNC Router Parts, and they’ve evolved into making near-ready-use machines that look quite good. One of my favorite Makers seems to like his, furthering the idea in my mind.
I’ve looked at benchtop CNC routers over the years, and some brands have come and gone. There’s also ShopBot, but their tools are pricey and seemingly more aimed at educators and those looking to do production work. Did I mention pricey? Their desktop tool starts at around $7500, which is way outside my budget.
I have my small Taig mill, and I did buy CNC motor brackets – but none of the actual CNC-requiring parts – but it’s not going to be ideal. Its working volume is too small for the project ideas that I have on hold for lack of a way to build them. Maybe if a CNC router works out well for me, I’ll then convert my Taig for use on more three-dimensional plastic or metal fabrications.
The reason I’m bringing this up, isn’t more because I want an answer, but because I want to see your questions and thoughts about the matter.
If I’m going to invest the money, time, and space for a CNC-anything, I need to know that it’ll have ToolGuyd benefits too. Otherwise it would be easier and simpler for me to outsource my part cutting, by sending it to an online fabrication store.
I am a big proponent of working with hand and power tools first. Too many people get the “I want a CNC” idea in their heads, without even thinking that they can do the same things with far less expensive tools.
This is an itch I’ve been meaning to scratch for some time. I can wait longer. In the meantime, I want to know what your CNC router needs or wants might be. Or, if you’re already using one, what are your thoughts?
Here’s my current wishlist:
- Ability to work wood, plastic, aluminum
- Small enough to be enclosed
- A spindle (instead of a router motor) is a big plus
- Ability to be controlled via USB port
- Small enough to fit on a small (custom-built) workbench
- Ability to add accessories, such as dust collection, air cooling, or cutting fluid