Since you are reading this article, I assume that you are in the market for a new CNC router. Sure, there are lots of options that you can choose from. However, you must be aware of some aspects that you need to consider. These factors will help you make the ultimate decision of choosing the best CNC router.
Ask some questions
It is of paramount importance to ask yourself a few questions that will help you determine what you need.
How big are your designs?
CNC wood routers come in sizes both big and small. Some can easily fit on a desk, but will allow you to produce only small pieces while others are only suitable for large workshops and production facilities. Decide on the size of your pieces and pay attention to the size of the router’s working area.
How complex are your designs?
The complexity of your designs is a major determinant of the kind of tool that you need to purchase. You will need to decide whether you need a 3-axis or a 4-axis machine.
In a 3-axis machine, the design lays flat on the table and the router bit remains in a vertical position. The router can move back and forth, left and right, as well as up and down, carving the surface of the working material. This is suitable for making signs, plaques, ornamental box sides etc.
In a 4-axis machine, the router itself moves along the normal 3 axes as above, but the working piece itself can also rotate about one axis thanks to a special rotary / rotational axis. The piece of raw material is secured between the axis and a tailstock (similar to a wood lathe) and automatically rotates into necessary positions during milling. This greatly increases the complexity of objects that it’s possible to make with the tool: 3D figurines, ornamental table legs, even wooden rifle stocks.
If you’re planning on creating very different designs, it is always better to buy a machine that can do all the work instead of buying a separate one for more complex work.
How accurate and precise should the final product be?
This is where you decide as to how perfect you want your final output will be. There are routers that can provide you a decent output which may cost less. On the other hand, if you want a more refined product, you may need to invest in a more expensive machine. The precision and accuracy of a machine are often proportional to its cost. Thus, you need to balance your budget and quality of your output.
Other things to take into account
- Pay attention to the software that comes with the machine. Not all design software is equally good and you’ll often find people mentioning the pros and cons of software in their reviews.
- Not all CNC routers come with an actual router. Make sure you read the description well to avoid unpleasant surprises when you discover that you need to buy a separate router to install into the machine.
- Many products come disassembled, and not all provide good instructions for assembly. If you are not experienced in assembling things like 3D printers, laser engraving machines etc, you may have trouble putting the thing together.
Now that we are aware of what to look for, let us review some of the top CNC routers on the market today:
This here is an excellent all-round model praised for its output quality and simplicity. Don’t let the wooden construction scare you, the machine is sturdy and easy to assemble. The manufacturer is known to offer great support.
The great thing about this kit is that it comes with everything you need to get started, even if you are new to this, including the router itself. Note that this is a 3 axis device, but it has a decent sized cutting area, allow for many different designs. The manufacturer is known for excellent customer care and service, which is a big bonus when dealing with these power tools.
If you find the above model either too big for your needs or too heavy on your wallet, this here is a much cheaper and also smaller product that is fairly easy to assemble and works pretty well too. Note that your working area will be limited to 16×10 cm, so this is really only suitable for small items.
All in all, this is a great option for somebody just starting out or who needs to do some small-scale jobs.
LinkSprite DIY 3 Axis Engraver Machine
This one is very similar, in fact almost identical to the one above and for a similar price. Just listing it here for reference – maybe you’ll find a reason why one suits you better than the other.
JFT 3040 600W 4 Axis CNC Router
If the above models are too basic for you, then this device by JFT is worth taking a look at. The first thing to note is that this is a 4 axis machine – the range of designs that you can produce with it is much wider. The spindle on this machine can position itself with an accuracy of less than 0.03 mm, which is very precise, so you can expect very detailed and high quality output.
JFT 3040 4 Axis 1.5kw CNC Wood Router
A variation of the above, this device has a much more powerful spindle (1500 W) and as such is water-cooled. Besides wood, this machine can be used for engraving or carving PVC, plastic, carbon fiber and even metal and stone, though of course, you’ll need special router bits for different materials.
In my opinion, this is one of the best CNC routers for a wide variety of uses. The level of precision of the machine is reflected in its price. Hence, expect to shell out quite a significant amount for this machine. However, with the quality of output that you can get, and the range of designs that you will be able to produce, it is worth every penny you spend. Importantly, the manufacturer offers a 1-year full warranty that covers all broken parts with free postage.
CNC Piranha FX
This here is another higher end model. It’s a great tool overall, but expect to spend significant time learning it and the software that comes with it – it’s powerful but complicated. The machine is very precise. Note that you will need to buy a separate palm router to mount onto this tool, plus possibly a mounting bracket, though is a relatively small expense compared to the device itself. this is a compact machine – the working area is around 12 x 12 inches (30 x 30 cm), so don’t expect to do any large projects on it. For bigger stuff, see the next one.
CNC Piranha XL
From the same manufacturer, this is a significantly bigger tool with a working area of 12 x 24 inches (30 x 60 cm). Otherwise, you can expect similar quality from this device.