Desktop CNC


I'm considering buying a desktop CNC machine because they're pretty cool. I imagine it would be fun to just have constant access to one. I can spend $1000 give or take a $100. Or at least that is what I'm expecting to be able to spend at the end of the summer.

I've see that there are a couple options out there. Shapeoko and X-carve have been pointed out to me. 

Anyone have experience with these are have any other ones that they have had experience with?

Jun 17, 15 2:51 am

I don't have experience with the desktop machines, but you'll probably want to budget for good dust collection as well.

Jun 17, 15 8:38 am

Why don't you save up and buy something really cool like the Hammacher-Schlemmer submarine?

Jun 17, 15 9:10 am

a cnc machine would be cool


Jun 17, 15 9:14 am

I have built two shapeoko frames and one complete milling machine. It took me approximately 20 hours (liberal estimate) to build the complete machine and check it.

The instructions on the wiki were a little difficult to follow.That said, the build is relatively easy so long as you keep the bits in order. The step that made me the most nervous was threading the aluminum, but that was fairly also easy to do.

The more time consuming all deal with the software. You need design software (easy) and something to translate that file into code that is readable by the machine. Then it's a matter of optimizing the cut based on the type of bit you are using, the dimensions of the cut, the speed of the rotary tool and the material you are cutting. That just takes time. I'm using foam in "my" machine because it's cheap and easy to cut.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

This was the first 3d cut made on the machine using machine code from a definition I prepared in grasshopper.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

This was a much larger cut prepared by a student using rhinocam to prepare the machine code. Note the difference in resolution.

With respect to the X-carve, I'd say you'll have the same performance. It's the basically the same machine.

Jun 17, 15 11:07 am

CNC is for pussies. This is a real milling machine:

Jun 17, 15 12:41 pm


Found your response helpful, thanks. Though those images do not appear on my screen. Could you repost them?

Jun 20, 15 3:55 am

Here are the images (I hope). 

One thing to note, these are machines made for convenience not for power, as Miles has already suggested.

Jun 20, 15 8:18 am

Argh. I will try again later today.

Jun 20, 15 8:46 am


Jun 20, 15 8:54 am

Thanks. And gotcha, figured they didn't look that powerful. Can they cut through like an mdf board fairly easily?

If so, have you found that tolerances are good enough to prototype small models/furniture type things out of it? Or does it seem more for monolithic topology and engraving like you have shown in the pictures?

Jun 20, 15 11:47 am

I use the smallest cutting area availible at present so I haven't done any small prototyping yet.  I'm hoping to do that this fall. 

I've had limited success cutting mdf (time and detail), but that is becasue I have the most basic rotary tool inventable supplies. There are upgrades on the site and you can source them outside of inventables.  Added to that if you increase the motor size from a nema17 to a nema23 you'll get a little more power which will help with cutting speed and accuracy. 

Jun 20, 15 12:44 pm

Hmmm okay, well I would be interested to see how that turns out. As small scale prototyping is what I'm interested in using it for, this is a little discouraging. Though less so if the main problem is just motor power. 

Jun 21, 15 3:32 pm
Sienci Labs

Check out this machine, much cheaper than your budget: 

Aug 19, 16 7:10 pm

I have a shapeoko 2.0 running in my garage. Base setup gives me a working volume of 8.5"11x". I modified my z axis to clear a larger 1hp 1/4" Bosch Router which gave me ~ 3" of z volume. I have cut hardwoods, softwoods, plywoods MDF and acrylic successfully. 

My biggest hurdle has been software. i currently use the free version of CAMBAM because it works well for 2.5D stuff. I have not done much full 3D milling but played with the freemill version of rhino cam. I'm not willing to pay for software for the hobby though so yeah getting from 3d model to G code is my biggest challenge.  

I'm not a fan of that web based easel software they use for the xcarve. The shapeoko 3 looks stiffer which would allow you to cut harder materials. 

All and all its a good experience build wise and I have used it for mostly fun toys and gifts. I don't foresee having the time to do things professionally. It's far cheaper, easier and quicker to send professional cutting out to the pros. But if electronics, programming and woodworking are your thing it's a fun worthwhile hobby.  

I'm hoping to eventually build a big 4'x8'3' machine next, that would actually allow me to do some cabinet shop level work. Saving now. 

Aug 19, 16 7:34 pm

Also these things are hella loud. Not for the office, apartment building or townhouse. A 1hr run will seriously piss people off. 

Aug 19, 16 7:36 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: