Quick Guide to the G00 CNC G Code [Tips and Tricks]

a graphic of a cnc machine with text that says learn g code today g00 rapid travel

Code

G00

Name

Rapid travel

Type

Modal - stays on until changed

Description

The machine will move at full speed to all new locations given

What does a G00 code do?

A G00 code is a rapid traverse CNC G code. G00 controls the speed of the machines motion.

It is used to move the CNC table and/or spindle around in a straight line (linearly) at the maximum speed. When the G00 code is used, the machine ignores any set feed rate and goes as fast as possible.

When to use a G00 code

G00 codes get used when the CNC programmer wants to move the tool very quickly. This happens at many points throughout a program.

The G00 command moves the machine quickly to decrease the time it takes to run a CNC program (cycle time)

It does this by moving full speed when there is no cutting motions being performed on the workpiece, such as when performing a tool change.

If the cycle time is decreased, more parts can be manufactured in the same amount of time.

What to think about when using a G00 code

Units

First, make sure you know what units you are working in. Moving 10 inches instead of 10 millimeters is a big difference. A G20 (inches) or G21 (mm) code should identify the units you are working in before your G00 code.

comparison of units of measurement for cnc programming

Absolute vs incremental positioning mode

The second thing to know is how the machine will understand position locations.

This is determined by whether you are working in absolute (G90) or incremental (G91) coordinates. The most recent G90 or G91 code in the program will determine which mode you are in.

Absolute positioning will move from a set zero location such as your machines home location or a specified location on your part.

Incremental positioning will move relative to your current position.

The images below show the difference between the absolute and incremental positioning modes. The numbers in parentheses are the locations given to the the machine to make the move.

Notice how in absolute mode, all locations are relative to a single location, usually either the workpiece zero or machine home location. 

In incremental mode locations, all locations are relative to the machine’s current location.

graph paper example of absolute positioning with multiple points as examples
graph paper example of incremental positioning with multiple points as examples

Machine movement

Know your machine. Some machines will move all 3 axes at once. Some won’t.

Others will move a single axis at a time. Most machines will move all 3 at once but make sure you know the path your CNC will take when using the G00 code.

Start and stop locations

Lastly, make sure you understand the path that the tool will take from it’s start location to the new location.

Check  where you are currently position wise (X, Y & Z location), where you will be moving to and if there is anything in between the two locations.

The G00 code will move the machine very quickly to the new location. You don’t want anything in the way or to miscalculate your stop point. Crashing your machine is never a good time.

G00 vs G01

G01 is a very similar command. It also controls straight line movement, otherwise known as linear interpolation, of the CNC machine. 

The difference is that G01 will not move at maximum speed and will instead move at the last feed rate listed in the CNC program using the F command.

G01 is used for cutting motions. G00 is not.

6 G00 code examples and descriptions of what they do

For the examples below, we will assume your machine is in absolute mode (G90). If you are working in incremental mode (G91), the resulting movements will be different. 

Check out our guides to G90 and G91 G codes to understand the difference between the two movement types.

Example #1

N005 G00 X4.0 Y5.0 Z2.0

This is line number 5 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

X4.0 Y5.0 Z2.0 is the location the machine will move to. If the Z location of the machine was already at 2.0, then the Z axis will not move. This is the same for each axis.

Example #2

N050 G00 X4.0 Y5.0

This is line number 50 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

X4.0 Y5.0 is the location that the machine will move to. The Z axis of the machine will not change and remain at the location it was previously set at.

Example #3

N100 G00 Y5.0 Z2.0

This is line number 100 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

Y5.0 Z2.0 is the location that the machine will move to. The X axis of the machine will not change and remain at the location it was previously set at.

Example #4

N010 G00 Y5.0

This is line number 10 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

Y5.0 is the location that the machine will move to. The X and Z axes of the machine will not change and remain at the location they were previously set at.

Example #5

N075 G00

This is line number 75 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

There is no location specified on this line. The machine will not move based on this code line.

Example #6

N256 G00 X4.0

This is line number 256 of the program.

G00 sets the movement mode as rapid travel.

X4.0 is the location that the machine will move to. The Y and Z axes of the machine will not change and remain at the location they were previously set at.

CNC codes that are similar to G00

a comparison of the type of movement created with G00, G01, G02 and G03 cnc g codes

Note that all the movement codes listed below are modal. This means they will stay in the movement mode identified by the code until switched to a different mode.

Want to learn more about G Code for your CNC?

Best Beginner CNC Machines and Routers

Whether you want to learn a new skill, work on a pet project, or start a small business there is a CNC machine or router for you. CNCs, which are generally thought of as being ridiculously expensive don’t have to be.

These beginner machines prove the assumption wrong. While you won’t be able to cut a giant chuck of hardened steel with them, they will cut through wood, plastic and other soft materials like butter. With the right machine and some tweaking you might even cut aluminum.

All of the CNC machines listed below are excellent machines. However, it is important to take note of some of features such as the work area of the machine. Feel free to skip to the end of this article to see our comprehensive list of things to consider when looking for your first CNC machine or router.

Budgets vary, but all of these machines should be considered affordable, entry level CNC machines that are extremely capable.

Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes and find out which machines top our list.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router Kit

Best Overall CNC,
Best for Woodworking & Carving

24"x24"x3.3"

SainSmart Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

Best Budget CNC,
Best CNC for Beginners

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best Mini CNC,
Best CNC under $1,000

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Beginner CNC Router and Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router Kit

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Pros

Customer support is second to none
Large work area - great for making bigger signs

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Cons

More detailed assembly
Not setup for laser engraving

Materials it will cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Work area: 24” x 24” x 3.3” = 610 mm x 610 mm x 85 mm

Warranty: 60 Days

BobsCNC makes machines that are a pretty big step above other entry level CNC machines. Bobs makes machines that are aimed at users that want to machine wood, plastic and other soft materials. CNC wood routing is their specialty.

Size matters and the work area of the Evolution 4 (E4) is two to three times larger than other machines. This makes a huge difference in what you can make. 

Many people use the E4 for making CNC routed signs or art. BobsCNC even has some “unofficial” plans that allow you to expand the machine even more. The work area can be expanded to 24”x48”x3”.

One downfall is that the E4 is not designed to be used with a laser. The company claims this is for safety reasons and honestly it makes a lot of sense. Lasers can be very dangerous. 

Many of the beginner level laser engravers have a small work area. This makes it easier to build an enclosure for protection. The E4 is a much larger machine.

A key difference of the E4 when compared to other starter CNCs is that the setup is more involved. 

While other machines often arrive mostly assembled, this is not the case with machines from BobsCNC. You will need to assemble everything yourself. It will likely take a day or two but you will develop a good understanding of the machine itself doing it. 

Luckily, the included instructions are detailed and thorough. If there are any questions, there are plenty of good resources on YouTube and in Facebook groups.

Speaking of questions, if you have any issues BobsCNC has top notch support. Like ridiculously good support. By all accounts they are extremely fast to respond. It is not unheard of for Bob himself to respond and help to troubleshoot any issues by phone or email outside of normal working hours.

A couple things to know about the E4:

It’s louder than most entry level machines. The router/spindle is a real power tool, so it makes quite a bit of noise.

It’s messy. The E4 is capable of cutting a lot more than other entry level machines. This means it generates substantially more dust as a result. Think about getting a dust shoe and dust collection system to keep things tidy.

Overall, the Evolution 4 from BobsCNC is an extremely well designed and built product. It does exactly what it is meant to do, which is CNC routing of wood and other soft materials. Some light metal work might be possible but realize this is still a starter tool.

In the end, I think a picture is worth a thousand words so check out the gallery on BobsCNC to get an idea of the types of projects you can make.

SainSmart Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Easy assembly
Great for beginners
Easily switch to laser engraving

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Cons

Limited work area

Materials it will cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Work area: 30 cm x 18 cm x 4.5 cm = 300 mm x 180 mm x 45 mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Warranty: 1 Year

The 3018 Pro is a great starter CNC machine. Primarily meant to be used for engraving, it is extremely well built for such a budget friendly machine.

The 3018 Pro will easily cut softer materials such as plastic and wood. Metals are a little more of a challenge. 

Aluminum can be cut but it will require playing with the speeds and feeds to find something that works for your machine and cutting tools. Other soft metals may be possible but expect to experiment quite a bit. 

This is a nicely built machine. The frame is rigid and assembly is easy.

The 3018 Pro can easily be switched to a laser engraver by purchasing a laser unit and swapping it in place of the router/spindle. The swap only takes 2-3 minutes on the machine.

The Genmitsu 3018 Pro is an excellent choice for anyone who is just starting out with CNC. 

The one big downfall of the 3018 Pro is the work area. You simply won’t be able to work on large projects. 

The manufacturer’s support and communities such as the dedicated Facebook group are a huge help to those trying to learn CNC. Because these 3018 CNCs are so common, chances are that any question you have has already been answered.

The Genmitsu 3018 Pro is a quality, versatile machine for beginner level CNC machining, routing and laser engraving.

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

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Pros

Pre-assembled
Comes with most common upgrades

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Cons

Not a full enclosure

Materials it will cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Work area: 30 cm x 18 cm x 4.5 cm = 300 mm x 180 mm x 45 mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Warranty: 1 Year

Essentially the Genmitsu 3018-PROVer is the same as the Genmitsu 3018 with the exception that it comes with almost all of the upgrades that people normally add on to their machine.

Let’s get to the upgrades.

One area which is nicely improved is the body of the 3018-PROVer. It is now all aluminum. This improves the rigidity of the machine which increases cutting performance. 

The drivers have been upgraded too. They are more powerful while also being much quieter. This is a nice change for anyone who might be operating the machine in close proximity to their neighbors.

Limit switches have been added which help to keep your machine from crashing. While these are a great addition, it should be noted that they actually decrease the work area by a small amount. Not a huge concern but plan on losing a little travel.

The biggest change is the addition of an offline controller display and emergency stop button. The emergency stop or e-stop button is a welcome addition. 

The machine will crash. It’s inevitable. Being able to hit a big red stop button is fairly important. Emergency stop buttons are standard on anything bigger than an absolute beginner model and for good reason.

The offline controller allows you to run the machine without having a computer attached. For a good rundown of the offline controller check out this guide from the manufacturer.

The added side enclosures on the machine are just OK. They won’t contain all the noise or dust but they help a little. Not a big change over the other Genmitsu 3018 models. They feel kinda pointless because when it comes to dust, you need to go all out and get a full enclosure or just deal with the mess.

The last upgrade is the addition of a z-axis tool setting touch probe. This allows you to set the location of your part without messing with sheets of paper or something similar. 

Place the probe on the workpiece and connect the clip to your cutting tool. Lower the tool until it touches the probe. The machine will automatically set the height of your workpiece and you are ready to cut.

The Genmitsu 3018-PROVer is an excellent all-around CNC for the beginner. It combines the already stellar 3018-PRO CNC machine with the most common and beneficial upgrades to make setup and use easy.

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Easy to use laser engraving software

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Cons

Laser focus lens

Materials it will cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Work area: 30 cm x 18 cm x 4.5 cm = 300 mm x 180 mm x 45 mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Warranty: 90 Days

The MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO is a great starter CNC machine especially for those looking to get into laser engraving. Overall the build is very similar to other 3018 model CNC machines. What sets it apart is the included laser.

The MYSWEETY comes in 3 different versions:

  • Large = 3 watt laser
  • Extra Large = 5 watt laser
  • Full Size = 7 watt laser

It’s an odd naming structure but I guess with a name like MYSWEETY maybe that should be expected.

The machine comes in need of full assembly. The included instructions leave something to be desired, so seek out some YouTube videos to help you along. Assembly should take about an hour, possibly a little longer to watch instructional videos.

The build is sturdy and most of the components are aluminum. Let’s talk about the included laser.

The lasers available are passable. Don’t expect to do much cutting with them. They are primarily for engraving. Remember these are beginner machines and whether you are CNC routing or laser engraving, they often end up lacking somewhat in the power department.

That being said, the included blue laser is capable of cutting smaller pieces of wood such as 1/8” balsa wood. It might just take some experimenting to get right.

A frequent complaint about the laser module is that the focus lens fits rather loosely. This makes it too easy to turn accidently. A little bit of Teflon tape on the threads will go a long way towards remedying the problem. This will keep your laser focused where it needs to be on the workpiece. A correctly focused laser will increase its performance.

Also included in the package is a set of laser safety glasses. Read the instructions and make sure to use these when operating the laser. Lasers can be quite dangerous. Safety first! You don’t want to put an eye out with this thing.

An offline controller comes as part of the package. This is a welcome addition for those who don’t want to dedicate a computer to the use of their CNC machine.

The software that comes with the MYSWEETY CNC-3018 PRO is a mixed bag. Laser engraving works very well and in most cases the machine can be setup and engraving in no time.

It is enough to get you started but if you want to get serious with laser engraving then you will want to pick up a copy of Lightburn sooner rather than later. It is reasonably priced and works extremely well.

Unfortunately, the software for the milling aspect isn’t quite as user friendly as the included laser software. Expect to take a little time to learn some of the intricacies of the program before you get you used to it. Or jump straight to one of the other software packages out there. Easel by Inventables can be a good starter software to make your first projects more simple to get going.

All in all, the MYSWEETY CNC-3018 PRO is a good beginner laser/mill combo for someone who is looking to get their feet wet in CNC routing and laser engraving. The build is in line with other entry level machines such as the Gemnitsu. It comes with a nice set of extras and makes an excellent learning tool. Small scale laser engraving is this machines specialty.

Conclusion

BobsCNC Evolution 4 Router Kit is the clear winner with a much larger work area and improved cutting performance when compared to other beginner CNC machines. 

The other CNC routers listed, such as the Genmitsus and MYSWEETY, can do most of the same tasks just on a much smaller scale. However, they do it at a budget friendly price.

The MYSWEETY machine makes a nice compromise between CNC routing and laser engraving if you aren’t sure which way you want to go yet and would like to try both out before stepping up to a more capable machine once you know which you like more.

Keep this in mind and check out the list of things to consider that follows to help you get started and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. 

Things to consider

Safety

While some of these entry level machines can be “cute”, don’t let them fool you. These are powerful tools that are capable of causing serious damage. Treat them like the dangerous power tools that they are.

Read your instructions.

Wear property safety equipment including eye and ear protection.

Be careful and if you aren’t sure about something, don’t be afraid to reach out to the manufacturers or other learning resources to make sure you are being safe.

Size of work area

The size of the work area is very important part of a CNC machine. Many hobbyist machines do not have a large envelope that they are capable of cutting, routing or engraving in.

The Z axis (up and down) is always the axis with the least amount of travel. This will determine how thick of a work piece you are able to cut. Keep in mind that this will be further reduced by your tooling. If you have a long end mill or router bit that you are using, then it will shorten the thickness of the part which you are able to cut.

Please note that the physical dimensions of the CNC are not the same as the work area.

For example, the Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO has a physical size of 15.7” x 13.0” x 9.4”. The work area is only 11.8” x 7.1” x 1.8”. Clearly there is a significant difference between the two. So make sure that you know the two specs are different and how they relate to what you can cut and where you can physically place your machine.

Speeds and feeds

Speeds and feeds can be a fairly complicated subject but here are some resources to get you started:

As you work with more difficult materials such as metals, you will find that the window of speeds and feeds that will work will shrinks up drastically. 

If you are sticking with soft stuff like wood or plastic, then your window for success will be more open and forgiving. For this reason, wood is a great material to practice with when you are first getting acquainted with your CNC.

CNC routers vs spindles

When it comes to beginner level CNC machines, the terms router and spindle are used almost interchangeably. Some machines, such as the ones from BobsCNC, use an actual router like you would buy at a hardware store. Others use spindles.

Practically, they are both simply motors that have a collet or chuck to hold a cutting tool such as a router bit or end mill. For the beginner level machines, an actual router such as one from Dewalt or Makita will be more powerful than the spindle included in similar machines.

Tooling

Tooling is your cutters. This includes router bits and end mills of all shapes and sizes. The right cutter will make all the difference when machining. Cutters can be purchased for many different types of materials.

Many CNC machines will come with some type of cutter right out of the box. They aren’t usually great. They will get you started however and as you gain experience you can look into adding additional tooling for your application.

The most important bits for getting started with you CNC are end mills (both flat bottom and ball nose), v bits and a surfacing bit. These are the first ones you will want to get and the first ones you will want to upgrade down the road. For a full guide check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to CNC Router Bits.

Customer service

Pay attention to the level of customer service that the manufacturer provides. While the machines are not overly complex, they can pose some challenges for someone just starting.

Look for companies that are quick to reply and don’t be afraid to check their website for tutorials or additional information. While some of the foreign made machines might not have the best phone support, they often have support groups and communities that do an excellent job of helping you with any issues.

Software

There is a large variety of software that gets used on these machines. Covering them all would be a giant topic by itself. To get you started here is a quick rundown:

  • CAD or computer aided drafting is software that will allow you to create models to machine or engrave. This is only a drawing and needs further processing before your machine will know what to do with it. The most commonly used CAD software are Fusion 360 and Tinkercad
  • CAM or computer aided manufacturing is the software that takes your model and turns it into code that your CNC will understand. If you are familiar with 3D printers, CAM software is similar to slicing software. The most common CAM software are Fusion 360, CamBam, SheetCam and MeshCam.

A good starting point is to look into Fusion 360. It has an enormous number of tutorials on YouTube. You are likely to find help for any issue you run into and there are many guided courses on use of the software.

Related articles

Beginners Guide to Rapid Traverse for CNCs

What is rapid traverse?

Rapid traverse, sometimes referred to as rapid transverse or rapid travel, is used for moving a machine tool around the workpiece as fast as possible. 

Depending on the type of machine tool, this is accomplished in different ways. See below for more information related to CNC and manual machines.

How fast does the machine move in rapid traverse?

industrial cnc machine
Industrial grade CNC mill

First let’s talk about speed.

Rapid traverse speeds vary based on the machine.  A good quality desktop CNC will usually be capable of speeds around 100 inches per minute (IPM).

Larger, industrial grade CNC can often move at speeds of 1,000 inches per minute or more. No matter what type of CNC you are using, you will want to make sure that nothing is in the way when these moves are being made in a CNC machine. 

Crashing a CNC at normal speeds is bad enough, crashing a CNC at rapid speeds could be catastrophic.

Can rapid traverse speed be adjusted?

cnc control board with rapid travel dial identified with arrow
Rapid Override Dial

Most CNC machine controls have an adjustment to dial back the rapid travel speed. This is often referred to as Rapid Override or something similar. This override allows the CNC operator to adjust the rapid speed, usually in the form of a percentage of the full speed.

Some shops need to run full speed. Time is money after all, but many machine shops will dial things back a little for safety.

How does the CNC move during rapid travel?

straight line movement example

Newer CNCs will move in a true straight line fashion, however some older CNCs can process the command in different ways.

Some machines may only move one axis at a time while others will move in other strange ways. The most important thing is to be aware how your specific CNC control will process the rapid travel command and create your program to account for this movement.

Because various machines will process commands in different ways, this means you may not be able to take a program and a setup and run it on a different machine.

What is the G code for rapid traverse?

rapid traverse code example

The G code for rapid movement is G00. This applies to both CNC mills and lathes. In the example above, G00 is the code for rapid traverse and the X and Y values are the position that the machine is to rapidly move to.

Rapid movement can happen in the Z axis as well.

Want to learn more about CNC G codes?

What should you think about when using rapid travel?

When you are zipping your CNC back and forth think about:

  • Part location – it can be easy to forget about a step in your part and attempt to move over the top of you part at a Z height that is too low
  • Fixturing – similar to your part location, remember that you often have clamps, vises, etc. that will be in your machine and it’s best to avoid them
  • Removing material – don’t cut in rapid mode, it will result in size issues and poor surface finishes at best

Rapid traverse in manual machining

bridgeport milling machine with rapid power feed pointed out
Power feed marked by red arrow

Many manual machines, such as a Bridgeport mill, use a power feed to rapidly move around the workpiece. These power feeds are not as fast as a CNCs rapid moves but they are still much quicker than the standard speed which usually involves cranking a handle to position the machine.

Best Affordable CNC Routers For Every Budget [2022]

For many people looking to get into CNC machining, one of the most important aspects is the price. CNC mills and routers can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

These are not the type of machines we have outlined for you here.

It can be hard to find budget CNC routers with all the capabilities needed for detailed work. Luckily, we have laid out the best machines at the lower end of the price scale for you. Check out the best budget friendly starter CNCs below.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

Best Value for Money CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best All Around Budget CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

VEVOR CNC 3018

Best Cheap CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Affordable CNC/Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

Best Cheap CNC Capable of Large Work

15.7"x11.8"x4.3"

Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Affordable and capable
Easy to assemble

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Cons

Customer service can be slow

Work Dimensions: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 15.33 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 year

If you’re new to CNC machining and woodworking and you want “bang for your buck,” then the Genmitsu 3018-PRO is a great place to start. This machine has all the capabilities you’ll want from a starter machine, but it’s not going to go busting up your bank account. In short, the 3018-PRO is the best beginner CNC in terms of value for money.

One great thing about the 3018-PRO is that assembly is not too difficult. Though the machine does not come pre-assembled, it only takes a couple of hours to put the machine together. Some more expensive entry-level models take a day or two to assemble, so a couple of hours isn’t bad.

The machine assembles a lot like IKEA furniture: the manual utilizes pictures over words. If you do get stuck, though, there are plenty of great videos on YouTube to guide you along.

Once you have the 3018-PRO setup, you’ll notice just how solid and sturdy the build is. The frame is made out of aluminum, which is incredible for a cheaper machine. For a machine of this price, it’s not uncommon to find cheap plastic frames that allow the machine to shake or vibrate when the machine is operating. Trust me, shaking and vibrating isn’t good for your accuracy or the surface finish of your project.

With a 1.8-inch engraving depth, you’ll find that the 3018-PRO is capable of cutting all types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVCs, PCBs, and a wide range of other materials. Just don’t think you’re going to be working with anything to hard such as steel.

If you’re brand new to CNC machining, the 3018-PRO’s versatility will allow you to experiment with a wide range of materials without fear of damaging a high-end, pricey machine.

While the working area of this machine isn’t huge, it is designed to all you to pass through your workpiece. Basically, you slide your part through the machine and work on it in sections. This is called tiling and will be handled by the software. The limiting factor will be the 300mm (11.8”) width of the machine’s work area. Still, if you are dead set on building large projects, this likely won’t be the right choice for you.

As for software, the 3018-PRO is compatible with most operating systems. This is because the machine has an offline control module. Even if your desktop can’t connect straight to the machine itself, you can copy the code from your computer to an SD card and then control the machine using the offline module. This alone may save you from having to purchase additional software.

Even if your computer is compatible, an offline controller is a welcome addition, so you don’t need to always have your laptop or desktop constantly connected to the machine.

All in all, the Genmitsu 3018-PRO is the best budget CNC.

Genmitsu CNC Router 3018-PROVer

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Pros

Quick assembly - comes mostly pre-assembled
Quiet

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Cons

Customer service can be slow

Work Dimensions: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 year

The 3018 PROVer is really just an upgraded version of the 3018-PRO. Naturally, the PROVer will take a little more out of your wallet than the PRO, but you’re paying for upgrades that are absolutely worth it. If you can afford the extra, go for it. For my money, I’d say the PROVer is the best all-around budget CNC machine.

I won’t go too much into the basics of the machine here since it’s simply an upgraded machine from the review above. Instead, I’ll stick to the upgrades.

Assembly is similar. It will take an hour or two (don’t believe the 30-minute time that SainSmart quotes) but nevertheless, that’s a quick assembly time for a CNC machine.

One big addition the PROVer has is the Toshiba TB6S109 driver, which makes the machine quieter and more precise when cutting and engraving. Upgraded drivers are a welcome addition to any CNC, especially lower priced machines such as these. They bring added accuracy and machine longevity.

When comparing this machine to the 3018-PRO, you’ll notice that this PROVer has acrylic baffles on the side. These baffles aren’t there just for looks – they work dually as a safety mechanism and a way to some of the mess from escaping when the machine is running. The baffles will prevent wood and other materials from flying off your projects at high speeds, and in doing so, they’ll contain the dust somewhat for a faster clean up.

Often people will start out with cheaper CNC machines such as the ones in this post and find out that they want quality of life upgrades for their tool. Essentially, the PROVer combines the most common upgrades and packages them together for you.

The emergency stop button is a feature that every CNC should have but unfortunately, many of the low-end machines skip this item. Imagine making an error in your program or setup and all of a sudden, your machine is trying to drill into itself or even a clamp holding your workpiece. Being able to hit an emergency stop is a welcome safety feature that may just save your machine, your tooling or at least your workpiece.

Limit switches to stop your machine from crashing into the ends of its travel provide some useful protection as well. It should be easy to see why safety features are often at the top of the list when it comes to upgrading your machine.

While the Z axis probe setter and larger offline controller aren’t quite as essential as the safety features we just noted, they do provide some nice quality of life improvements. The probe setter speeds up setup time and simplifies the process.

One thing to note is that if you plan to always have your CNC hooked up to your computer, then the bigger controller will not be of much help, but if not you’ll be happy to have a larger, more versatile display.

Overall, the 3018-PROVer is the same machine as the PRO version but with upgrades that are essential to the use of the machine. The upgrades aren’t required but many will find themselves picking them up in the long run. If budget is your main concern, go with the PRO version and pick the upgrades up one by one at a later date. However, if you can swing the extra dollars, you’ll be glad you did to make things simpler and maybe a little bit safer as well.

VEVOR CNC 3018

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Pros

Extremely cheap
Aluminum frame

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Cons

Assembly instructions are pictures only

Working Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 17.1 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: All types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVC, PCB

Warranty: 1 year

If you’re new to CNC machining and you just want to test the waters with CNC, then the VEVOR 3018 is for you.

It’s rare in CNC that you can spend under $200 on a machine that is actually going to work and be able to perform some useful work. Obviously, the lower the price means lower capabilities, but you don’t necessarily need a fancy machine with all the bells and whistles if you’re just starting out.

One perk of the VEVOR is that it has an aluminum frame instead of the plastic frames you see on other super budget models. The aluminum frame helps to reduce vibration, which makes the machines more accurate.

Another great feature of this machine is that it has a fail-safe mechanism built into it. If you’re running a program and the machine senses drag along the x or y axes, the machine will stop itself. This isn’t foolproof, but it just might save you from breaking bits. It will also help to teach you what the upper limits of the VEVOR are. If you’re brand new to CNC, learning to feel out the limits of your machine will be useful.

One piece of advice for the VEVOR would be to stay away from cutting any metals or thicker pieces of wood with this machine. It is not a workhorse. Engraving is okay, but you are likely to run into trouble when trying to work with harder materials or deeper cuts.

Though the manufacturer may boast about the power of the VEVOR, this machine is really better suited as an engraver, which is okay given the price.

Another tip for the VEVOR is to look up some DIY upgrades for the machine on YouTube. There are a lot of small things you can do yourself to the VEVOR to get an extra bit of power and precision out of the machine.

Overall, the VEVOR CNC is a machine for pure value.

Given its capabilities as an engraver and occasional cutting tool, it can be considered a really good entry-level CNC machine. If you’re looking for the best value and/or cheap CNC machine, this is it.

MYSWEETY 2 in 1 CNC 3018 Pro

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Pros

Comes with a laser
Easy assembly

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Cons

Plastic frame

Working Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 15.82 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: plastics, woods, acrylics(Only suitable for spindle milling cutter engraving), PVCs, and PCBs

Warranty: 1 year

One thing that makes this MYSWEETY 2 in 1 so great is, well, it’s 2 in 1. Unlike most beginner machines, this one comes with both an engraver and a laser, which gives you a much wider range of projects that you can work on.

The MYSWEETY gives you a lot of versatility compared to other CNCs at a similar price point, making it the best affordable CNC/laser engraver combo on the market.

 Another plus side to this machine is the assembly time. Most people have said they clock in at around an hour for assembly, though it could be a little longer if this is your first time putting something like this together. Like most of these entry-level CNCs, if you get stuck during assembly, you can hop on YouTube or Facebook and find some solid instructional videos.

As for the machine itself, it is a little unfortunate that the frame is not metal. Instead, it boasts a plastic frame which can lead to a bit more inaccuracy when you start pushing the machine to its limits. With that said, the plastic is a phenolic resin which is pretty rigid stuff.

Overall, a plastic frame isn’t ideal, but it’s also not necessarily a reason not to buy the MYSWEETY.

If you’re mostly looking to do woodworking, then this is a really solid machine for you to use. Between the engraver and laser, you’ll gain a good feel for how woodworking operates at the CNC level. While the MYSWEETY is mostly designed for wood, you can venture out to other materials such as plastics if you’re careful. However, you really should avoid working with any kind of metal with the MYSWEETY – that is just not what this machine is meant for.

MYSWEETY themselves advertise this machine as one for “the absolute beginner,” and that is correct. If you’re new to the CNC world, and you want to get some experience in both carving and laser projects, then the MYSWEETY 3018 is going to give you the best value on the market as far as combo machines go.

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router Kit

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Pros

Large workspace
High-quality customer service

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Cons

In-depth assembly

Working Area: 610 mm x 610 mm x 85 mm = 24” x 24” x 3.3”

Weight: 42 Pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Warranty: 90 Days

If you’re looking to do larger projects but you’re still working on a budget, BobsCNC Evolution 4 is the machine for you. While it isn’t as cheap as the other options we detailed, this machine is more than worth it.

When reviewing CNC machines for home use, you’ll quickly realize that prices shoot up significantly as the machine size increases. Many have hopes of woodworking projects only to realize that the signs they want to make simply aren’t possible with cheaper machines. The Evolution 4 provides the needed capabilities while still managing to keep the cost down.

When it comes to the Evolution 4, the first thing most people note with this machine is the setup. Unlike most beginner CNCs, you’re going to have to assemble this thing piece by piece, screw by screw.

For most folks, you’re going to be looking at around a full day – possibly a little bit more – before the E4 is up-and-running and ready start your project. However, for many users the assembly is part of the fun. The assembly is certainly more detailed but has the added benefit of getting you intimately familiar with the workings of the CNC router.

As usual, if you get stuck during assembly, you can go onto YouTube and find some helpful tutorials, but the routers from BobsCNC have an added bonus: absolutely top-notch customer service. BobsCNC is famous for being the gold standard in customer service.

If you drop them a question – be it about assembly or a project you’re working on – they’ll get back to you with a speedy, meaningful response. You can tell this company truly cares about its customers and their customers CNC experience.

Once you have the Evolution 4 working, you may notice that it’s a little louder than other entry-level machines. What you’re hearing is the power. Running on a Makita RT0701C router, part of what you’re paying for with the Evolution 4 is this machine’s capability.

With the Evolution 4, you can work on a really wide range of materials from wood to leather to soft metals such as aluminum.

It costs quite a bit more than our other budget options, but the added cost substantially increases the capabilities.

If you want to work on larger work with your CNC router such as making big signs or something similar, then you’ll find that the Evolution 4 is a very capable machine that provides great value for the price.

Things to consider when purchasing a CNC

Safety

Safety first. Safety second, third and fourth. You really shouldn’t be operating any of these machines without a pair of safety glasses. When cutting and engraving, these machines move materials at a high velocity, and getting something in your eye could lead to serious damage. If you don’t have them already, you’ll definitely need to buy some safety glasses along with your machine.

You should be very much aware that these are powerful cutting tools. Treat them with respect.

Materials being machined

These machines are pretty useless if they don’t have anything to engrave, so remember that you’re going to need to buy materials to machine.

Materials will vary in cost but most of these machines are designed to work with wood. Different woods will cost different amounts, and if you’re attempting to cut metals, some will be pricier than others. Also, if you’re new, it’s a good idea to over-buy on the cheaper materials because CNC machining takes some learning, and you’re bound to mess things up. Practice makes perfect and you are bound to mess some of your first projects up.

Bits and accessories

Just as you’ll mess up with materials, you’ll mess up and break bits. It happens to us all. This is especially true if you’re using the bits that come with the machines because those bits are usually on the cheaper end. You should plan on purchasing some extra bits at some point if not immediately.

One thing to think about also, is your work holding accessories. Most of these machines come with clamps, but the clamps may not be enough if you start pushing the machines to their upper limits. Higher quality/easier to use clamps will be a welcome addition at some point.

You may also buy a machine without a laser, and somewhere along the way, you’ll want one. Or perhaps you’ll want a work-area extension or a more powerful spindle. It isn’t easy but try to think about what you ultimately want to be able to accomplish with your machine. Often it is better to upgrade your capabilities from the outset until patching on upgrades.

Clean up

As we talked about in the bit on safety, when these machines are working, there is a lot of excess material flying around. In other words, expect a good amount of dust.

At the very least make sure you have a shop vac handy to clean up. A dust boot or shoe will help also, especially with larger machines. Cleaning is going to cost you some money, keep it in mind when purchasing.

Ease of use

If you don’t know much about software, you’re not going to be able to easily operate any of these machines. Most entry-level CNC’s will use Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) software platforms. You can easily find this open-source code for free on the Internet.

Most machines are also going to use GRBL software to run the machine.  So, for example, you can use Fusion360 to create your project design, then have Fusion360 communicate the code to UGS, then from UGS to your machine.

If you’re new to coding this may all take a bit trial and error, so tinker around with the code and the machine until you’re comfortable. When in doubt, you can always search YouTube and Facebook for tutorials and guides to help you out with the software aspects of CNCing.

Best Woodworking CNC Routers [2022]

CNC machines have been in use for decades and most people associate them with the metalworking industry. But for many years they have been used by amateur woodworkers to machine a large variety of projects.

CNC technology, just like 3D printers has found its way into the homes and garages of people throughout the world.

Below we have outlined the best CNCs for woodworking. CNC machining can be a daunting task for many, so our picks lean more towards the beginner CNC woodworker and place an emphasis on ease of setup and use. These two aspects in particular make it easier to unlock the full potential of your CNC router so read on to find out which models top our list.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

Best Overall Woodworking CNC

24" x 24" x 3.3"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best Desktop Woodworking CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Woodworking CNC/Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

Best Woodworking CNC under $1,000, 

Best Woodworking CNC for Aluminum

15.7"x11.8"x4.3"

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

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Pros

Heavy-duty machine with a lot of capabilities
Large work area
Excellent customer service

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Cons

Assembly is not quick

Work Area: 610 mm x 610 mm x 85 mm = 24” x 24” x 3.3”

Machine Size: 990mm x 810mm x 530mm = 39” x 32” x 21”

Weight: 42 Pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others are possible with experimentation

Warranty: 60 Days

While still an entry level machine, BobsCNC machines are a cut above the rest. Their machines are typically more heavy duty, capable of cutting more materials, and are more expensive than other entry level machines. While this machine can cut a large variety of materials, including soft aluminum and leather, CNC wood routing is easily BobsCNC’s specialty.

When looking at the E4 machine, you should be aware that setting the machine up will take a good deal of time. Unlike most other beginner CNC machines, the E4 does not comes pre-assembled.

You should plan on assembly taking up most of an entire day. Keep in mind, though, that when assembly is this intense, you really get to know a machine well, which will be super helpful if you’re a beginner.

Additionally, the instruction manual is highly detailed and thorough. The assembly isn’t necessarily difficult, but instead is simply time consuming. Luckily, if you come upon any roadblocks, you can find an abundance of guidance on YouTube and Facebook to help you along.

But if you are facing any big obstacles during assembly – or even long-after you’ve got the machine running – BobsCNC has a great reputation for top notch customer support and service.

 

Call or email them, and you are guaranteed to get a quick response, and a simple solution to whatever problem you may be facing. As a matter of fact, Bob himself has been known to respond to users seeking help frequently. 

Keep in mind that this is a big and powerful machine. As such, it can create more noise than other, smaller entry level machines. It can also create a large amount of dust and chips when it’s working, so be sure to have a shop vac ready to clean up or better yet, a dust collection system in place.

The E4 is the type of machine that you would normally want to store in a garage or workshop instead of inside your main living area.

This is a heavy-duty machine and you can expect it to be louder and a bit messier, but because it is such a solid machine you can also expect it to perform quality work for a long time to come. The E4 is a real workhorse, and many customers have found the machine to last for ages.

The BobsCNC Evolution 4 is an excellent option for a woodworking CNC. The setup will take more time than our other recommended options but there is a substantial payoff in the end. The expanded work area and power of the machine will allow a much larger variety of work than smaller machines.

SainSmart Genmitsu 30018-PROVer

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Pros

Fast and easy assembly
Quieter than other CNCs
Aluminum construction

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Cons

Not made for heavy-duty work such as metals

Work Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.1” x 1.7”

Machine Size: 400mm x 330mm x 240mm = 15.7” x 13.0” x 9.4”

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 Year

If you’re looking to get your feet wet with CNC machining, but don’t want to jump all the way in quite yet, then the SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer is a good place to start.

For a sub-$400 machine, you get a lot of value from the PROVer.

For one, the 3018 PROVer will arrive at your door largely pre-assembled, so you won’t have to spend too much time putting the machine together.

It might take you longer to put together than the 15 minutes that SainSmart advertises, but you should be able to put this together fairly quickly, and there are plenty of YouTube videos out there to give you a hand if you get stuck.

While this machine is pretty powerful for a beginner machine, one common review from users is that it is fairly quiet. If you live in an apartment and you don’t have to worry about your neighbors making a noise complaint, the 3018-PROVer makes a great option. 

Another great feature of the PROVer is the aluminum frame. For a budget priced machine, having a sturdy metal frame is a big bonus.

A solid frame helps to reduce any vibration from the machine, which makes the machine more accurate, and works to reduces noise.

Along with the aluminum framing, the machine has acrylic safety baffles which help stop dust from spreading while you’re working, making clean up a bit easier and faster. A welcome addition for anyone who plans to run this CNC indoors.

Another great feature of the PROVer is the easy to see, easy to access shutdown button.

This big red button on the side of the machine makes triggering an emergency shutdown super simple. From experts to amateurs, mistakes are going to happen, so such an obvious emergency stop button will come in handy. This is a feature that all full blown industrial CNCs have and for good reason.

When you hear something start to go wrong with your run, and trust me, you usually hear it before any other warning signs. The stop button just might save your project or cutter tools.

Other safety features of the PROVer include hard stops, and limit switches to keep the machine from coming off the rails, literally. The limit switches will tell your machine to stop safely when your custom CNC program attempts to move the cutter three feet off your dining room table.

SainSmart has done a good job including many of the 3018 series CNC upgrades and accessories that people find they want after purchasing such as an offline controller, which will allow you to run the machine without needing to have a computer attached.

Overall, the 3018 PROVer is a top notch, entry-level machine that is especially useful if you’re looking to start smaller wood carving and wood cutting projects and is more than capable of tackling other materials of similar hardness.

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Quick setup
Laser engraving module included

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Cons

Can't cut metals

Work Area: 300mm x 18mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.1” x 1.7”

Machine Size: 330mm x 400mm x 240mm = 400mm x 330mm x 240 mm = 15.7″ x 13.0″ x 9.4″

Weight: 15.82 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, bamboo, paper, ivory, leather, flammable plastic, PCB, acrylic, ceramic/stone, metal surface paint, metal surface plating

Warranty: 12 Months

The MYSWEETY 3018-PRO is truly a beginner CNC router for woodworking. The machine is easy to get started with, but it can’t handle some of the difficult materials that more powerful CNC routers can. Luckily, all can be forgiven when you look at the price.

If you’re looking for something to introduce you to the world of wood cutting and wood carving, the MYSWEETY will do that and more.

While this machine does not come pre-assembled like some other models, putting it together is not all that difficult. Set up time should take most people between one and two hours.

Setup is made even easier because there is a large selection of videos on YouTube that can help guide you through the process.

The machine’s frame is primarily made out of metal, so you know it is going to be sturdy. But even the gantry (crane type bridge), which is made of plastic is solid. It is made using phenolic resin, which is extremely strong stuff. For a CNC woodworking machine on the cheaper end of the price range, the MYSWEETY is surprisingly well built.

The MYSWEETY also has the benefit of being ready to laser engrave wood projects as well as CNC routing. Unfortunately, the machine has an issue where the laser module’s focus lens fits loosely. This can make it too easy to accidentally turn resulting in poor engravings from the laser not being focused properly.

No worries though, a small bit of Teflon tape on the threads will allow you to fix this problem yourself.

The biggest downfall of the machine is that it does leave a little bit to be desired if you want to work with something beyond wood.

It is just not all that powerful, and you shouldn’t try to push this machine too far. It will work well with wood and softer materials but don’t expect it to work well with even soft metals such as aluminum.

All in all, if you’re looking to get started with CNC routing and woodworking as a hobby, this is a good machine for just that. The laser engraving module makes a big plus as well.

The MYSWEETY CNC is a budget friendly option that is capable of producing some pretty cool woodworking projects.

Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

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Pros

Power
Solid frame reduces vibrations and increases accuracy

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Cons

None

SainSmart has created one of the most recognizable introductory CNC machines with its 3018 PROVer. Everything that SainSmart has been able to pull off with their flagship 3018 CNC has been replicated and upgraded on the PROVer XL 4030.

More power, more work area and more options for increasing the capabilities of the machine down the road as branch out into different projects.

Like the smaller 3018 PROVer, the 4030 comes mostly pre-assembled. Assembly is easily accomplished, just don’t expect it to take the 15 minutes that SainSmart quotes it at.

Not only is this 4030 CNC one of the best woodworking CNCs available but it is also one of the most common. This means there are plenty of quality YouTube videos to help you along the assembly process and beyond should you run into any stumbling blocks.

All in all, the SainSmart 4030 can be assembled, fired up and be cutting or engraving in no time at all.

As mentioned earlier, this machine is powerful. A great benefit that many lower end machines don’t have.

While the PROVerXL isn’t an industrial shop-level machine, if you’re a hobbyist or a small business owner you should still be able to get some good mileage out of this CNC.

The PROVerXL 4030 will cut a wide assortment of hard and soft woods, as well as plastics, foam, vinyl, and even aluminum. Keep in mind that if you plan on working with materials on the harder end such as aluminum, they will likely take more trial and error whereas you’ll find it difficult to run into trouble working with wood of any kind.

This machine also has the structure to match its power. The frame is made entirely out of aluminum. The rigidity this provides helps that you don’t sacrifice power for accuracy. With the 4030, you won’t have to worry about vibration or shaking which can result in poor surface finishes or decreased accuracy, even if you’re engraving metals.

As far as workspace goes, this machine is definitely bigger than the 3018, though in its original form you’ll still be limited to relatively small projects. However, there are some really nice upgrade kits that you can purchase for the machine.

Kits to expand the machine work area to 24”x 24”( 600 x 600mm), and up to 40” x 40” (1000 x 1000mm) are available. And for even more versatility in terms of what you can make with this machine, there is a  rotary 4th Axis and a high powered laser module available as well.

If you want to get started with CNC woodworking and have the ability to work with more difficult materials in the future, the PROVer XL 4030 is the right machine for you. It also makes a great upgrade for those who are already familiar with the 3018 series because the added power and capabilities will expand what is possible to make with your CNC.

Things to consider when purchasing a woodworking CNC

Assembly

CNC routers will come in a variety of assembly stages. Some machines will come almost entirely assembled for you, while others make you put together every last part.

For some people, assembling a machine is part of the fun. Many times, it can help you learn about your new tool.

For other people – especially beginners – you will want something that is practically ready to use out of the package. Preferences will differ but keep this in mind when reviewing the different options available. Assembly difficulty is certainly a factor to keep in mind.

Safety

safety glasses
Wear your safety glasses!

Yes, these are entry level machines, and yes, some are more powerful than others. Take note though that any one of these CNC routers is capable of cutting not only your wood projects, but you as well!

Be sure to read the instructions, and if this is your first time working with a CNC machine then ease into it. Also, as with all woodworking, chips and particles are bound to fly around, so make sure you’re wearing eye protection if you plan on getting close while the machine is operating.

Laser engravers present their own safety hazards as well so make sure you are using any and all proper personal protective equipment when operating these as well.

Size of work area

Naturally, the bigger the work area of a machine, the bigger the project you can do with that machine.

Since these machines are on the entry level side of things, none of them are overly big. Keep the size of your projects in mind when shopping for a new CNC for your woodworking project and if you need something truly massive, think about purchasing one of the upgrade kits available for many machines or stepping up to a 4’x4’ or 4’x8’ CNC router.

genmitsu proverxl 4030 on table next to 3018 cnc
Machine size comparison

 On the flip side, the smaller work area for some of these machines means they are easier to move around and locate in your work space.

It’s also important to remember that the overall size of the machine is not the same as the work area of the machine.

For example, the SainSmart PROVer 3018’s overall size is 420 x 340 x 280mm, but its work area is only 260 x 155 x 35mm. That’s a big difference, so make sure you’re reading the machine specs carefully.

Software

There is a large variety of software that gets used on these machines. Covering them all would be a giant topic by itself. To get you started here is a quick rundown:

  • CAD or computer aided drafting is software that will allow you to create models to machine or engrave. This is only a drawing and needs further processing before your machine will know what to do with it. The most commonly used CAD software are Fusion 360 and Tinkercad
  • CAM or computer aided manufacturing is the software that takes your model and turns it into code that your CNC will understand. If you are familiar with 3D printers, CAM software is similar to slicing software. The most common CAM software are Fusion 360, CamBam, SheetCam and MeshCam.

A good starting point is to look into Fusion 360. It has an enormous number of tutorials on YouTube. You are likely to find help for any issue you run into and there are many guided courses on use of the software.

Construction materials

When a machine has a sturdy frame – one made out of metal, like the Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030 for example – this is always better than a machine made using wood or plastic.

A solid frame will reduce the shaking of the machine, which makes the cuts and engravings more accurate. Reduced vibration will also make the machine quieter when it’s running. A welcome addition for anyone trying to create woodworking projects in their home.

Noise

Speaking of noise, you may also want to keep this in mind.

More powerful machines will allow you to run more types of projects, but generally they are much louder as well.

If you’re working in a confined area, such as an apartment or townhouse, it may be better to start with a smaller, quieter machine. Maybe you don’t like your neighbors, in that case go all out and get yourself a full-blown industrial model.

Cutters

router bit set
A set of CNC router bits for woodworking

Different materials will require different cutters, and the type of cutter you use can make all the difference when it comes to your woodworking projects.

Most machines will come with a few cutters for you to use right out of the box. These bits are universally found to be low quality, but if you’re a beginner they will do the job. It’s better to bust one of these starter bits than the more specialized and capable cutters you will eventually step up to.

Gain some experience with the included cutter or purchase a cheap starter set, and when you’re ready you can buy separate, more specialized versions.

Customer service

Customer service is crucial. CNC machines can be complex, and you may run into difficulties with assembly or operation, especially if you’re new to CNC.

We place a priority on customer service and look to recommend machines from manufacturers who are quick to respond and assist with any problems.  If you are intimidated by the process of getting started with CNC woodworking, we advise you to look for model specific YouTube videos so you can educate yourself and build some confidence in your ability to work through the assembly and operations of the machines.

Related articles

BobsCNC Evolution 4 Review

If you’re looking to impress some folks at the next tailgate or house party with a sleek homemade cornhole set, then Bob’s Evolution 4 CNC Router might be right for you.

A favorite among hobbyists and woodworkers who are looking for a machine with a bit more torque than other entry-level CNC machines. BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC router is a solid choice for getting started in CNC woodworking or stepping up from smaller CNCs such as the 3018 series of CNC routers.

Check out all the nitty gritty details that make this machine so good below.

Machine specs

Feature

Spec

Work Area (Inches)

24" x 24" x 3.3"

Work Area (MM)

610mm x 610mm x 85mm

Machine Size (Inches)

32" x 39" x 21"

Machine Size (MM)

812mm x 990mm x 530mm

Weight

47 Pounds

Warranty

60 Days

Materials It Will Cut

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

Review

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Pros

Large work area
Excellent customer service

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Cons

Assembly time

Power and capabilities

The Evolution 4 is fairly heavy-duty. The added power means it is capable of cutting a wider range of materials, including soft aluminum, leather, and of course, wood. Some of the less capable machines struggle with harder woods and are outright incapable of working with aluminum. More power in your CNC router will always be a good thing.

Speaking of capabilities, another area in which the Evolution 4 stands out from the competition is the size of the work area. This determines the size of the project you can machine. To get to that larger work area is going to take some assembly though and it might take a little while.

makita RT0701C router
Makita RT0701C router included with the Evolution 4

Assembly

One thing worth noting if you’re considering the Evolution 4 is that it takes some time to get set up. Unlike many other CNC router kits, the Evolution 4 does not come pre-assembled at all. As a result, you’ll want to carve out a solid day to complete the build.

For many people though, assembly is part of the fun. Putting everything together yourself will get you intimately familiar with the machine itself, the parts and how they all work together. Understanding how your machine moves and is setup will benefit you in the long run. You will have a better idea of what might have gone wrong when your machine crashes. Trust me, it’s gonna happen eventually.

The last thing to note about the assembly is that while it may be time consuming, the instruction manual is extremely thorough. Still, if you run into any trouble, there are a ton of great YouTube videos that can help guide you through the process. 

bobscnc evolution 4 back view
Some assembly required

Work area

Once you finally get the Evolution 4 together you’ll notice just how much bigger this machine is than most other entry level machines. A few inches in each direction can make a large difference in the projects you are capable of working with. While the two may not be all that much different when we’re talking about technical specs, the work area of the Evolution 3 is only 16″ x 18″ (still larger than most entry CNCs), while the Evolution 4 is 24″ x 24″. 

Let’s do some quick math. 16 x 18 = 288 square inches. 24 x 24 = 576 square inches. That’s twice the surface area that the Evolution 4 is capable of machining. Compared to the 3018 series CNC which are very common entry level machines, the Evolution 4 has almost ten times the work area.

bobscnc evolution 4 side view

Noise and mess

The Evolution 4 has more power and more work area. Once you get the machine up and running, you’ll notice that there is a bit more noise than many other entry-level machines. The included Makita RT0701C router is a quality power tool and it sounds like one. You probably don’t want to buy the Evolution 4 if you are working in an apartment or if you have to worry at all about the machine’s noise while it’s working.

Also, that noisy router is going to make a large mess. You can imagine the dust it creates while working. Having a vacuum or other kind of dust collection system is a must if you go with the Evolution 4. None of this is really a criticism of the Evolution 4; this is just what happens when you start working with bigger, more powerful CNC machines. Dust and chip collection will become a necessity to get good surface finishes on your projects.

Software

When it comes to software, the Evolution 4 uses an Arduino microprocessor to connect the machine to your computer. Grbl firmware comes preinstalled on the microprocessor and uses a USB port to receive information from the software on your computer.

The USB works with Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi and OSX operating systems. Free software can be found on the BobsCNC website. There are multiple paid software packages available, but for those just starting out it is best to work with the free stuff in the beginning. 

Customer service

The last, and likely most important aspect about purchasing any one of Bob’s machines is that they have an extremely high level of customer service. People rave about how prompt, friendly, and helpful the people at Bob’s are. It’s also not uncommon to have Bob himself reply to any question or comment you have!

Many of us, like to figure out things on our own but it’s great to know that you have experienced, knowledgeable support available should you decide to throw in the towel and beg for help. Ok, maybe sometimes it is just nice to save yourself some headache by asking a quick question over the phone or via email.

Conclusion

Overall, the Evolution 4 from BobsCNC is a heavy-duty, well-built beginner’s machine and is an excellent way to get started with CNC woodworking, and machine work in general. 

The Evolution 4 is at the top of its class for value and capabilities.

Things to consider when purchasing a CNC router

Safety

safety glasses
Try to keep your eyeballs intact!

Safety is by far the most important consideration when it comes to working with a CNC machine.

Safety glasses are an absolute must. Read your instruction manual to ensure you are staying safe working with your particular machine. In many cases, hearing protection as well as dust collection will be a necessity.

Above all, remember that these are dangerous cutting tools and you should treat the with the utmost respect.

Work area size

As noted above, the Evolution 4 has a work area much larger than many other similarly priced machines. The width of the work area will be the primary limiting factor when it comes to your projects. An extension kit can also be added to the Evolution 4 to give you a full 2’ x 4’ (24” x 48”) work area. Just make sure you have room for the machine and the extension kit in your work space.

Machining different materials

The Evolution 3 can work with and cut a large variety of materials including wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, and leather. The machine has ample power for most hobbyist projects. The biggest material that the Evolution 3 can not work with is steel. To work with steel, you will need a much more expensive machine. Industrial grade CNCs can quickly climb in price.

birch plywood sheet closeup
Birch plywood sheet

BobsCNC Evolution 3 vs Evolution 4

Specs

Evolution 3

Evolution 4

Work Area (Inches)

18" x 16" x 3.3"

24" x 24" x 3.3"

Work Area (MM)

406mm x 457mm x 85mm

610mm x 610mm x 85mm

Machine Size (Inches)

26" x 31" x 21"

32" x 39" x 21"

Machine Size (MM)

660mm x 787mm x 530mm

812mm x 990mm x 530mm

Weight

32 Pounds

47 Pounds

Warranty

60 Days

60 Days

Materials It Will Cut

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

In terms of overall capabilities, the two machines are relatively similar. They both have a torque of 75 in-oz and an AC power source of 600 watts. They also both use a Makita RT0701C router.

However, the Evolution 4 does provide you with a much larger workspace, and it’s quite a bit heavier than the Evolution 3. Really, if you’re trying to decide which machine is for you, just try to figure out the size of projects you’re working on or will want to work on in the future.

Also, think about the size of the space you’re going to keep the machine in. Almost everyone has some limits on what they can fit in their workshop or garage.

Assembly

Assembly can be a frustrating process and it will go easier with some machines more than others. Partially pre-assembled CNC router kits will come together much quicker than kits that require a full assembly such as the Evolution 4.

Almost all of the 3018 and 6040 series CNCs that are available from various manufacturers will come assembled to some extent which significantly reduces the setup time.  

If you have any concerns about the assembly process then focus on machines that have great resources available to help such as guides or YouTube videos online.

Customer service

BobsCNC’s customer service is about as good as it gets. They have a proven track record of being responsive and helpful.

CNC machining can be complicated and overwhelming, so it is nice to know that there is a resource available to provide some guidance when you really need it. BobsCNC is definitely that resource.

Tooling

router bit set

The router for these machines come with 1/8″ and 1/4″ spindle bits. You can use any straight, vee and rounded bits or buy them from various local and online retailers as long as they have shaft sizes of 1/8″ or 1/4″.

One add-on that is almost a must have, is some form of dust/chip collection. For many, this means using their shop vac along with a “dust boot” to clean up debris while the machine cuts.

Removing the chips will also help you obtain better finishes because chips can mar the surface as they are “recut” by the router.

CNC software

Bob’s recommends using a Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) software platform. This software can be found for free on Bob’s website. The UGS can communicate with the gbrl software that actually runs the machine.

The workflow will be to create your project in a software such as Fusion360 (also free!). The Fusion360 output will be put into UGS and then communicated to your CNC machine. 

Final thoughts

The Evolution 4 from BobsCNC is right in line with their other CNC router kits. They are well made, versatile and capable.

To top it off, they come with excellent tutorials and customer support that is second to none. Add the ability to expand the work area to double the size and the machine is pretty much future proofed for most users. 

Overall, BobsCNC has done a remarkable job of putting all the right stuff into their flagship CNC router. It truly is a best in class machine.

BobsCNC Evolution 3 Review

BobsCNC makes excellent CNC router kits all around. Unfortunately, while the Evolution 3 checks almost all of the necessary boxes you would hope for in a quality CNC router, it falls short in a couple key areas that ultimately end up holding it back compared to the competition.

However, if you have limited space and are looking for something with more power and capabilities than other entry level CNCs, the Evolution 3 may be the perfect fit. Read on to find out more.

Machine Specs

Feature

Spec

Work Area (Inches)

16" x 18" x 3.3"

Work Area (MM)

406mm x 457mm x 85mm

Machine Size (Inches)

26" x 31" x 21"

Machine Size (MM)

660mm x 787mm x 530mm

Weight

32 Pounds

Warranty

60 Days

Materials It Will Cut

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

Review

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Pros

More power than most entry-level CNC routers
High-quality customer service

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Cons

Limited work area for the price

Power and cutting capability

Let’s start with some of the best bits (CNC router humor, I’ll be here all day folks).

When it comes to build quality, BobsCNC has built a sturdy, rigid frame for this machine which makes it highly accurate. Combining its accuracy with the power of the included Makita RT0701C variable speed router means it can outpace the vast majority of entry level CNC routers.

While you shouldn’t expect an industrial grade machine, you will be able to drastically elevate the complexity of projects you are capable of creating, which is great for making better products to sell with your CNC

All that power means that with some tweaking and experimenting, it is likely that you will be able to work with soft aluminum. This is not something that many machines are capable of handling. Still, if your new, make sure to work your way up to more difficult materials such as aluminum.

makita RT0701C router
Makita RT0701C router included with the Evolution 3

Assembly

Don’t expect to be cutting aluminum right out of the box. Actually, don’t expect to cut anything right out of the box. This is because the Evolution 3 is going to take you several hours to assemble.

You will need to assemble the machine entirely on your own. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem because Bob’s machines are known for having extremely detailed and thorough instruction manuals.

A great benefit of the extensive assembly process is that you will become intimately familiar with all the workings of your new CNC. On a side note, if you do find yourself stuck, you can always hop on over to YouTube – there a many video tutorials available to help you put the E3 together.

YouTube is great for help but it is always great to be able to fall back to something more reliable. And, as always with BobsCNC, if you have any issues that you can’t resolve on your own, you can reach out to their customer service department.

Customer service

BobsCNC is well-known for being extremely helpful and responsive when it comes to technical issues. This includes initial setup and assembly as well as any operation issues you might run into down the road. Bob himself is even known to frequently return emails and phone calls to help customers who have questions.

bobscnc evolution 3 back view
Some assembly required

Build quality

Now, you may be worried about buying a machine made out of wood to… cut wood. But there really is no need to fret. The Evolution 3 is made of baltic birch which is oftentimes used to make furniture because of its strength.

The Evolution 3’s components and frame are durable, and you’ll be able to repeat the same cuts and engravings over time with a high degree of precision.

Speaking of durability, the Makita router that comes with the Evolution 3 is a workhorse that will keep you cutting chips for quite some time.

Work area

Everything is great right? Well, up until this point at least. While the Evolution 3 is a solid machine, it does have some downfalls.

First is the work area. The Evolution 3 has a work area that is about 4.5 times larger than many other entry-level CNC routers such as the 3018 series of CNCs that are made by many manufacturers. Unfortunately, many will still find the size of the project they can complete a touch too small. Many CNC routing software packages are capable of tiling work so that you can work on longer projects, but you will still be limited by the width your router is capable of working with.

Compared to other CNC routers

The second and frankly, only other downside is the cost. The price point is about 2.5 times those 3018 CNCs we talked about and while this sounds fair when you think about the added capabilities, it bumps the Evolution 3 up into a slightly higher tier of machines.

At the Evolution 3’s price point it is competing with 6040 series CNCs as well as those from other well-known models such as the Shapeoko. In a strange decision, the stiffest competition is from BobsCNC’s next model up which is the Evolution 4.

The Evolution 4 has a significantly larger work area (24” x 24”) which allows a much bigger work piece to be cut. The machines are very similar otherwise and in all instances I would recommend going with the larger machine to allow you more versatility in what the machine is capable of.

Operation

Some may find the smaller size is easier to fit into their garage or workshop. The smaller machine isn’t quite portable like some of the 3018 CNCs but it is still fairly easy to move around. CNC machines – especially quality ones like the Evolution 3 – aren’t typically made to be moved around a lot, but if CNC is just a hobby and you’re working out of your garage or work shed, you may find it helpful to be able to easily move this CNC out of your way if you need to. 

As far as actually running the machine goes, the Evolution 3 has an Arduino microprocessor that allows your computer and CNC to communicate. The grbl firmware, which comes preinstalled on the microprocessor, uses a USB port to receive information from the software on your computer.

The Evolution 3 is compatible with Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi and OSX operating systems. 

Conclusion

As an entry-level machine, the Evolution 3 is great CNC router.

Unfortunately, it stands in the shadow of its big brother machine, the Evolution 4. Both machines are well made and extremely capable.

You can save a few bucks if you know you won’t use the added machine work area but for most, I recommend stepping up in size to future proof your purchase.

Things to consider when purchasing a CNC router

Safety

safety glasses
Stay safe!

While it may be fun to operate, this is a serious power tool. Treat it with the same respect you would give a table saw or something similar.

Wear eye and hearing protection. Dust collection is a great idea. Remember, that some materials can produce hazardous dust so be aware of the materials you should and should not work with.

Read your instruction manuals! They might save you a finger.

Work area size

Work area size is one of the most important features of any CNC router because it determines how large of a part you will be able to machine.

In most cases it will be best to go with the largest machine you can afford because many often find that they want the ability to make larger signs, engravings, etc. and can’t because their router physically cannot accommodate the item they want to work with.

CNC routers vs spindles

When it comes to beginner level CNC machines, the terms router and spindle are used almost interchangeably. Some machines, such as the ones from BobsCNC, use an actual router like you would buy at a hardware store. Others use spindles.

Practically, they are both motors which have a collet or chuck to hold a cutting tool such as a router bit or end mill.

BobsCNC Evolution 3 vs Evolution 4

Specs

Evolution 3

Evolution 4

Work Area (Inches)

18" x 16" x 3.3"

24" x 24" x 3.3"

Work Area (MM)

406mm x 457mm x 85mm

610mm x 610mm x 85mm

Machine Size (Inches)

26" x 31" x 21"

32" x 39" x 21"

Machine Size (MM)

660mm x 787mm x 530mm

812mm x 990mm x 530mm

Weight

32 Pounds

47 Pounds

Warranty

60 Days

60 Days

Materials It Will Cut

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

Wood, Plastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, PCB, Leather & More

In terms of overall capabilities, the two machines are relatively similar. They both have a torque of 75 in-oz and an AC power source of 600 watts. They also both use a Makita RT0701C router.

However, the Evolution 4 does provide you with a much larger workspace, and it’s quite a bit heavier than the Evolution 3. Really, if you’re trying to decide which machine is for you, just try to figure out the size of projects you’re working on or will want to work on in the future.

Also, think about the size of the space you’re going to keep the machine. Almost everyone has some limits on what they can fit in their workshop or garage.

Machining different materials

birch plywood sheet closeup
Birch Plywood Sheet

The Evolution 3 can work with and cut a large variety of materials including wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, and leather. The machine has ample power for most hobbyist projects. The biggest material that the Evolution 3 can not work with is steel. To work with steel, you will need a much more expensive machine. Industrial grade CNCs can quickly climb in price.

Assembly

As was discussed in the review, you have to completely assemble the machine yourself. Expect this process to take several hours, but don’t expect it to be too difficult. Though it’s time-consuming, the instruction manuals are highly detailed, and the YouTube tutorials and videos are extremely helpful. 

Some other CNC router kits come partially pre-assemble which can be helpful but because many have awful instructions written in something between Chinese and English, they can end up taking almost as long to assemble.

Customer service

I touched on it above, but BobsCNC’s customer service is the best in the business.

If you have any problems at all – or even if you just want to run a project idea by them to get some input, don’t hesitate to send an email. In almost all instances, they will get back to you very quickly and give you a detailed answer. Bob himself might even give you a call or drop you an email!

Tooling

router bit set
CNC Router Bit Set

The router for these machines come with 1/8″ and 1/4″ spindle bits. You can use any straight, vee and rounded bits or buy them from various local and online retailers as long as they have shaft sizes of 1/8″ or 1/4″.

One add-on that is almost a must have, is some form of dust/chip collection. For many, this means using their shop vac along with a “dust boot” to clean up debris while the machine cuts.

Removing the chips will also help you obtain better finishes because chips can mar the surface as they are “recut” by the router.

CNC software

Bob’s recommends using a Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) software platform. This software can be found for free on Bob’s website. The UGS can communicate with the gbrl software that actually runs the machine.

The workflow will be to create your project in a software such as Fusion360 (also free!). The Fusion360 output will be put into UGS and then communicated to your CNC machine. 

Final thoughts

BobsCNC produces some of the best CNC router kits available and the Evolution 3 certainly fits the bill.

It does lack a little in the work area category, which somewhat limits the projects you will be able to work on. While I do recommend going with the largest machine you can afford and also fit in your space, if the Evolution 3 is as big as you can go, you won’t be disappointed by it’s capabilities.

Related articles

Best Desktop CNC Routers for Home Use [2022]

Let’s face it. There just isn’t enough space at home.

We all do it. We have mountains of tools, gadgets and just plain ole stuff strewn everywhere. Sure, you can clean your garage, workshop, kitchen table or wherever you tend to work on stuff, but it just doesn’t last.

Space is at a premium, which is why we bring you our guide to the best small desktop style CNCs. While these CNCs won’t be carving up 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood anytime soon, they are more than capable of creating some pretty cool projects on a smaller scale.

The best part is their small footprint means they can be easily stashed away when not in use. But please don’t run one in your closet. Your significant other will not approve of a sawdust and metal chips on their clothes. Don’t ask how I know.

Without further ado, check out our picks for the top desktop CNCs.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best Overall Desktop CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Desktop CNC/Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

Best Desktop CNC for Aluminum,
Best Desktop CNC under $1,000

15.7"x11.8"x4.3"

VEVOR CNC 3018 Router Kit

Best Budget Desktop CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

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Pros

Quick assembly - ready in less than 30 minutes
Quiet enough for use in an apartment
Sturdy and well-built, made of aluminum instead of plastic

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Cons

None for the price point

Machine Work Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8″ x 7.0″ x 1.7″

Physical Machine Dimensions (Machine Footprint): 400mm x 330mm x 240mm = 15.7″ x 13.0″ x 9.4″

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 Year

This SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer comes mostly pre-assembled, needing only about thirty minutes of assembly once out of the package. A smaller machine that is great for CNC beginners, hobbyists, and small business owners, this machine is very quiet and can operate inside an apartment or similar space without disturbing the neighbors. The smaller size also means it is easy to move around.

Further, the PROVer comes equipped with an emergency stop control that is very visible and easy to access for an immediate shutdown of your machine. You’re inevitably going to mess something up if you work for long enough, so having a big red button to shut off the machine is pretty helpful.

The machine also comes with acrylic safety baffles to help stop dust from spreading while you’re working, making clean up a bit easier and faster. That said, the machine does produce a lot of dust and wood chips, so you may want to make your own cover, or at least be prepared for a thorough cleaning after use.

This 3018 PROVer comes with an offline controller, which allows you to run the machine without having a computer attached.

Though the machine is not particularly wide it can be used to make pass-throughs for narrower, but longer pieces.

 Even though it is a smaller machine, it is built using solid materials. Rather than being made out of wood or plastic, like a lot of cheaper models, the PROVer is made with aluminum. This solid construction also helps reduce noise and vibration while the machine is working.

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Easy to assemble and operate
Great beginner laser engraving machine as well

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Cons

Not built for cutting harder materials

Machine Work Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45 mm = 11.8″ x 7.0″ x 1.7″

Physical Machine Dimensions: 400mm x 330mm x 240 mm = 15.7″ x 13.0″ x 9.4″

Weight: 15.82 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, bamboo, paper, ivory, leather, flammable plastic, PCB, acrylic, ceramic/stone, metal surface paint, metal surface plating

  • Note: DO NOT work on metal, iron, glass, 201/304 stainless steel, jewelry, or silver

Warranty: 1 Year

One important thing to understand with this machine is that it is truly a machine made for CNC beginners. If you expect to get this in the mail and begin a large project, you’ll be somewhat disappointed. With that said, it is a good machine for those who want to start learning CNC.

Though the machine does not come assembled, assembly is relatively easy, taking between one and two hours. If you need some extra help, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can assist you. 

That the machine does not come pre-assembled is not a surprise given its price point, but, again, assembly is easy so don’t let that discourage you.

Initially, it may seem worrying that the frame of the machine is plastic – plastic can easily snap and break if the machine is running a hard job that causes vibrations and shaking. 

However, the plastic framing is phenolic resin, meaning it’s really strong stuff that will not break easily. Such strong plastic also means that there are fewer parts needed for assembly, which is of course a bonus.

It should also be emphasized that the machine defaults to metric movements, so if your code is in inches and you manually move the machine with the offline controller you will run into some issues. So, you either have to be really careful when the machine is operating and be prepared to do conversions on the fly, or you can just make sure that your code is done using the metric system.

Lastly, one shortcoming of this machine is that it is mainly only for engraving on wood. This machine does not do all that well for any cutting action.

If you’re looking to engrave harder materials – such as soft metals – this machine is probably not for you. It does have the added benefit of  working well for laser engraving.

For those who might want a multipurpose machine, the MYSWEETY CNC makes a good choice. The easy to use laser engraving software means most will be able to set it up and start engraving in short order (remember your laser safety glasses). 

CNC work will take a little more effort because the included CNC software isn’t as user friendly, but is still very manageable.

Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

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Pros

Quick assembly - comes mostly pre-assembled
More power than most small CNCs - can cut metal

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Cons

Takes up more space but allows larger projects

Machine Work Area: 400mm x 300mm x 110mm = 15.7″ x 11.8″ x 4.3″

Physical Machine Dimensions (Machine Footprint): 641mm x 755.5mm x 580mm = 25.2″ x 29.7″ x 22.8″

Weight: 57.2 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: wood, MDF, plastics, foams, vinyl, and aluminum.

Warranty: 1 year

The setup for this machine is really nice. All of the hard bits – such as routing the wiring – are done for you, so what’s left only takes about an hour if you’re working hard. Maybe two hours if you’re going through it at a slow pace.

Once you get started, you’ll notice that this machine definitely has a lot of torque. It’s probably a good idea to start off with the 3018 model if you’re a true beginner, but if you have just a little bit of CNC experience this is a well-built, powerful machine. This model comes with a super rigid structure, so you shouldn’t have any difficulties with it in terms of vibrations and shaking once your work starts.

Because the PROVerXL 4030 is so powerful, it can work on a fairly wide range of materials. You can work on wood, MDF, plastics, foams and even aluminum. Some users have said that they can also cut other soft metals, though if you’re not experienced with soft metals you shouldn’t try to work with them on this machine.

genmitsu proverxl 4030 on table next to 3018 cnc
4030 series CNC compared to 3018 series

In terms of workspace, if you’re doing relatively small projects there should be plenty of room to work. For beginners, or even a small wood/metalworking business you should have enough space to do virtually any CNC project for your customers within reason.

But if you are looking to do something a bit larger, there are some really nice upgrade kits that you can purchase for this machine. For more working space you can buy additional sizes 24”x 24”( 600 x 600mm), and up to 40” x 40” (1000 x 1000mm).

For even more versatility in terms of what you can make with this machine, you can buy the Rotary 4th Axis or High Powered Laser Modules.

VEVOR CNC 3018 Router Kit

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Pros

Price - cost about half of what most others cost
Aluminum construction

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Cons

Assembly instructions are lacking

Machine Work Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8″ x 7.0″ x 1.7″

Physical Machine Dimensions (Machine Footprint): 400mm x 300mm x 240mm = 15.7″ x 11.8″ x 9.4″

Weight: 17.1 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: All types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVC, PCB

Warranty:

The biggest advantage of the VEVOR 3018 is its price. Generally coming in at a little more than $100, you’re going to get a ton of value out of this machine. Of course, a cheaper machine generally means fewer capabilities and cheaper materials, but the VEVOR 3018 is still a good CNC machine for beginners.

Speaking of its construction, the frame is mostly aluminum with some plastic in there as well. For a cheap machine, having an aluminum frame is a big bonus. Metal frames help to reduce vibration, which makes the machines more accurate.

pieces to build vevor 3018 cnc
VEVOR 3018 Pieces for Assembly

One downside for this machine is its assembly. You have to do most of the work yourself, and the assembly guide comes with only pictures, no words. However, there are helpful videos that you can find on YouTube to help out.

Generally, this machine should only be used for engraving, as it is not the strongest machine on the market. You may be able to cut through some balsa wood, but don’t try anything stronger than that. Some users have said that if you push the VEVOR 3018 to its outer limits the machine begins to shake a fair amount, so that is one thing to keep in mind as well. However, if you’re using the machine within its normal range it is pretty quiet.

Generally, people have seemed to have good interactions with the manufacturer if they’ve had any issues, so that’s always a bonus.

Overall, if you’re okay with installing the machine using only pictures and YouTube, then this is a good introductory CNC machine if you do not want to spend a lot of money. But remember, you get what you pay for.

Things to consider when purchasing a desktop CNC

Safety

Just because these are entry level machines does not mean they aren’t powerful and cannot hurt you. Always read instructions. Also, some of these machines can cause a lot of dust and particles to fly into the air while they’re operating, so you should wear safety glasses if you’re getting close.

Size of work area

The size of the work area for any machine directly affects the size of the project you are capable of doing with that machine. All of the machines on this list are entry level, so they are not particularly large. That means they can be easily moved around and do not take up so much space, but that also means the projects you are capable of producing is limited.

It’s also important to remember that the overall size of the machine is not the same as the work area of the machine. For example, the SainSmart PROVer 3018’s overall size is 420 x 340 x 280mm, but its work area is only 260 x 155 x 35mm. That’s a big difference, so make sure you’re reading the machine specs carefully.

Machine construction

This relates to the materials the machine is made out of. When a machine has a really solid frame – typically made out of metal, like the Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030 for example – this is always preferable to a frame made out of wood or plastic.

A solid frame will reduce the shaking of the machine, which makes cuts and engravings more accurate. Reduced shaking can also make the machine quieter when it’s running.

Work materials

Not every CNC machine will cut all materials. This is especially true when it comes to smaller, desktop style CNCs. 

There are two big jumps in capabilities. The first is to soft metals such as aluminum. The second is to harder metals such as steel. 

Some of the machines above will handle aluminum. Not all will do it easily. None of them will be able to cut steel.

Take note of the capabilities of each machine as referenced above and you won’t be disappointed. 

Tooling

Tooling is another word for cutters. Different materials require different cutters, and the type of cutter you’re using can make all the difference on a project.

Most machines will come with a few cutters for you to use right away. These bits are not usually of the highest quality, but if you’re a beginner they will do the job. Learn the pieces, and when you’re ready you can buy separate, more expensive ones.

Customer service

Customer service is really important because these are complex machines if you’re new to CNC. It’s not uncommon to have an issue during assembly, or while you’re using the machine.

In many online reviews, people note the level of customer service that they have experienced, and you should pay attention to this. Don’t be afraid to go on a company’s website and look around to see how easy it is to contact customer service, and also look for things like video tutorials that the company has provided themselves.

CNC software

There is a large variety of software that gets used on these machines. Covering them all would be a giant topic by itself. To get you started here is a quick rundown:

  • CAD or computer aided drafting is software that will allow you to create models to machine or engrave. This is only a drawing and needs further processing before your machine will know what to do with it. The most commonly used CAD software are Fusion 360 and Tinkercad
  • CAM or computer aided manufacturing is the software that takes your model and turns it into code that your CNC will understand. If you are familiar with 3D printers, CAM software is similar to slicing software. The most common CAM software are Fusion 360, CamBam, SheetCam and MeshCam.

A good starting point is to look into Fusion 360. It has an enormous number of tutorials on YouTube. You are likely to find help for any issue you run into and there are many guided courses on use of the software.

CNC routers vs spindles

When it comes to beginner level CNC machines, the terms router and spindle are used almost interchangeably. Some machines, such as the ones from BobsCNC, use an actual router like you would buy at a hardware store. Others use spindles.

Practically, they are both motors that have a collet or chuck to hold a cutting tool such as a router bit or end mill.

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Guide to Becoming a CNC Operator

Overview

Being a CNC operator is easily the simplest of all CNC jobs. A CNC operator is typically an entry level position and they are tasked with keeping the machines running and constantly making parts.

cnc operator pushing button on control panel

In most cases, someone else will program and setup the machine while an operator is asked to keep it between the lines. This often means checking parts in some fashion as they come off the machine and occasionally making small adjustments to keep everything within the allowable tolerances.

CNC operators are often referred to as button pushers. Quite honestly, operating a CNC isn’t the most highly skilled position. As a result, the pay isn’t that high, but most will find it still beats working retail and isn’t nearly as backbreaking as something you might find in one of the construction trades.

So, let’s jump right in to some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a CNC operator.

What does a CNC operator do?

A CNC operator pushes buttons to keep the CNC machines running while performing basic inspection of the machined parts.

As an entry-level position, all of the skills necessary for a CNC operator to possess would be taught to a new employee. Any experience or knowledge that an applicant bring with them would be icing on the cake.

Operators will be expected to do simple math such as adding and subtracting. Additionally, they will use measuring gauges such as micrometers, calipers, a pocket comparator and often dial indicators.

mitutoyo digital caliper
A digital caliper
anytime tools 1-2" micrometer
Typical outside micrometer

Basic hand tools including screwdrivers, mallets and deburring tools will get everyday use as well. The real benefit of being a CNC operator is that it can be a great stepping stone to an extremely in demand profession once you have expanded your skillset and advanced to the level of CNC setup and/or programming.

Experience with blueprints, trigonometry or handheld measuring equipment such as micrometers and calipers would be very sought after for any company.

Typical CNC operator job description

MachinistGuides.com is seeking a quality-oriented CNC Machine Operator to join our dynamic team.

The CNC Machine Operator will work with other team members and report to the Shop Manager. This role is responsible for reading blueprints, checking finished parts, and operating CNC mills and/or lathes.

The CNC Machine Operator will:

  • Safely operate a CNC machine to create precision components
  • Read and interpret blueprints, diagrams, sketches, and verbal instruction
  • Maintain pace of production to meet scheduled demands
  • Safely load and unload CNC production equipment
  • Have the ability to lift 50+lbs and stand for several hours

Desired Skills:

  • CNC machine operator/manufacturing experience
  • Thorough knowledge of standard manufacturing concepts, practices, and procedures
  • Have a strong work ethic and a positive attitude
  • Attentive to detail and instruction

Compensation commensurate with experience. A list of benefits which may include paid time off, 401k, medical, dental, life insurance, and/or holidays.

CNC operator skills

basic dimensions of bolt hole circle on blueprint
Blueprint example
  • Blueprint reading
  • Simple math including addition and subtraction of decimals
  • Hand tools
  • Handheld measuring equipment use
  • Some light trigonometry

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Blueprint Reading to gain a leg up on the competition. 

Our guide to machinist lingo will help you talk the talk at your new job as well.

How much does a CNC operator make?

20, 10 and 5 dollar bills

According to GlassDoor.com, the average pay for a CNC operator is $38,490 per year. With a typical 40-hour week that comes out to $18.50 an hour.

Keep in mind that pay will vary by region, but this should give you a good idea of where you will start. The nice thing about CNC and machining work is that there is often quite a bit of room for growth.

For reference, CNC programmers can often make $30+ an hour.

How long does it take to become a CNC operator?

Being a CNC operator is an entry level position and as a result, you can be a CNC operator on your first day on the job.

You might not the most productive employee on day one, but you will be tackling the normal everyday responsibilities of more experienced operators.

Is it difficult to learn how to be a CNC operator?

CNC operation is not a difficult job to learn. As an entry level position, the skills needed to be a great CNC operator can be learned in a pretty short amount of time.

Is being a CNC operator stressful?

Generally speaking, CNC operation is not a stressful job. Of course this will vary from company to company but because the position is entry level, there is very little responsibility on the operators part.

It will be possible to find some businesses that work with a very heavy “produce, produce, produce” mentality and in these cases, the job can get more stressful. This is more of a product of the management style than the actual position itself so make sure to do some research online to check out some reviews for any potential employers.

Is being a CNC operator boring?

cnc operator inspecting part in front of machine

This is a very subjective question, but I believe many would find the position boring. A CNC operator job will usually be fairly repetitive while not being overly difficult mentally or physically.

The good news is that if your are looking for something to keep things a little more interesting then there will often be opportunities for advancement if you are willing to learn and put in a little effort.

You should also know that boring is also a term for precision machining of a hole by a machine such as a CNC mill or lathe.

Do you need a degree to be a CNC operator?

high school degree

Being a CNC operator does not require a college degree in any form. Local community colleges often offer certificate programs or crash course type coursework that will be looked upon very favorably for any new hire.

Many companies however will require a high school degree or equivalent. Larger companies are usually the ones who have this requirement. Smaller shops are generally more lenient.

What kinds of certifications and training are available to become a CNC operator?

Training, courses, classes, and certifications are available at colleges across the country with many community colleges leading the way.

Check out your local community college’s website to see if they offer training that may be beneficial. You will likely be surprised at the number of different options they offer.

Another valuable resource is your states manufacturing extension program. These organizations are usually aimed more at helping businesses with workforce development, but they often offer subsidized training that can give you a huge leg up in the job market.

YouTube is a great resource as well and there are thousands of high-quality videos out there to teach you all about every aspect of CNC work.

If you want a more structured approach, then check out our post on the best CNC and machining books. Many of these books are the same reference material that the college classes mentioned above will use.

What should you put on a resume to get a position as a CNC operator?

To get a job as a CNC operator make sure to mention any of the following items that may apply:

  • Math skills, especially anything related to trigonometry
  • Blueprint reading experience of any kind
  • Mention your attention to detail
  • Describe how reliable and dependable you are

Tips for finding a good position as a CNC operator

Research, research, research.

Actually it’s not that hard. A single research is probably enough. It is actually pretty easy to find a good job as a CNC operator.

Look for company reviews on sites such as Indeed or GlassDoor. Take it all with a grain of salt but in my experience, any company who has more than a few reviews will be pretty easy to determine the overall “vibe” of the business.

Look for a company that stresses quality over quantity and you will be headed in the right direction.

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11 Best 3018 Series CNC Upgrades and Accessories

Why do they have to make so many cool toys for adults?

Actually, I suppose it’s not the toys that are the problem but instead it’s the cost of the toys. Luckily if you recently purchased a 3018 series CNC such as the SainSmart Genmitsu series, MYSWEETY or one of the numerous other manufacturers out there, there are some relatively cheap or homemade upgrades to trick out your new machine.

Check out our list below to find out how to improve your 3018 CNC without breaking the bank.

Safety glasses

First and foremost, you should make sure you have a quality set of safety glasses. While these are small machines that are not as high powered as industrial CNCs, they are still dangerous.

Read your instructions. Wear safety glasses and it’s a good idea to have ear protection too.

Enclosure

An enclosure is one of the best upgrades for any hobbyist CNC. These machines can create a lot of dust and noise. It is a good idea to reduce both, especially if running the machine in your normal living area.

The enclosures are pretty straight forward. Assemble the box and place it over your machine to start reducing the volume of dust and noise created by your CNC.

If you have a 3D printer and are so inclined, it is possible to construct your own with some PLA, pieces of plexiglass and a little elbow grease.

Vise clamp

Larger CNCs use a machinist vise to hold the workpiece. This vise is a smaller version for the 3018 series of CNC machines. They work great to secure a variety of materials.

This tool is especially useful for holding parts which are an unusual shape such as jewelry or some electronics.

Many different forms of work holding are available such as clamps and T nuts but a vise is a simple way to hold a large assortment of material. Compared to other types of workholding, a vise will decrease setup time and increase productivity.

T nuts

If a vise is too costly for securing your workpiece. Think about some T nuts. They aren’t as fast but they are versatile and a vast improvement over the typical clamps included with most of the 3018 series CNCs.

Check out our bonus tips for ways to protect your workpiece while using T nuts.

Router bits and cutters

Upgraded router bits and end mills are an important addition. 

But not every type of bit is worth buying. 

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to CNC Router Bits to figure out which ones you need to get started and which ones are fun toys for later on.

Rotary engraving module

The 3018 series of CNC are capable of laser engraving but for anyone looking to laser engrave cylindrical objects such as cups, tumblers, etc. this is the perfect solution.

The rotary engraving module will allow you to rotate the workpiece to allow the part to stay in the lasers ideal path. This will allow uniform engraving of the workpiece around the circumference of the engraved piece.

This isn’t an upgrade for everyone but if you have a specific application in mind which requires laser engraving a circular object then think about checking out this upgrade.

Collets

Different collets are a great addition for a 3018 series CNC. They allow you to use many different size bits or end mills to machine your workpiece with. At the bare minimum it would be wise to consider adding a ¼” ER11 collet. For a little more you can get a set that will allow just about any bit or end mill that you would want to use.

There is no need to break the bank on ER11 collets for a 3018 CNC. The added quality and reduction in runout won’t translate to a big difference in quality for your projects. A simple set is the best choice.

Z axis touch setting probe

No one likes setting Z axis heights with paper. It feels imprecise and clumsy. Luckily, there is a simple and cheap upgrade which will allow you to make the process simpler and more accurate.

The probe is very easy to use. First connect the probe to your control board. Now measure the height of the probe with a tool such as a digital caliper or micrometer.

The thickness of the probe now needs to be entered into the CNC software. Place the probe on the workpiece and then connect the clip to the cutting tool. Run the probing program and lower the cutting tool slowly until it contacts the probe. The Z axis will now be set.

For more detailed instructions check the manufacturer’s website, they have a nice tutorial.

You can make your own if you wish but for the price it is hard to justify messing with a homemade tool.

If a homemade tool is more your speed then check out this tutorial which will walk you through creating your own Z axis touch setting probe.

The cost of the homemade tool is close to the cost of an actual probe but you might have some of the supplies on hand already which will bring the cost down.

Limit switches

Limit switches are a great addition to a 3018 CNC machine. Without them it is all too easy to crash your machine. While crashing the machine won’t always cause damage, it is a definite possibility.

Honestly, the machines should all come with limit switches to protect the machine from damage but I am sure that the manufacturers are trying to keep the cost down as much as possible and therefore did not include them in some versions of the 3018 CNC.

The 3018 series of CNC machines are pretty budget friendly but that doesn’t mean you want to scrap the machine right away.

Take note that adding limit switches will reduce your work area by a small amount. While this is unfortunate, it is definitely a recommended upgrade to protect your machine especially at the relatively small cost of the upgrade.

Storage tray

router bit and end mill storage tray

As you gain more experience with your CNC machine, it is inevitable that you will develop quite the collection of bits and end mills. A good storage solution is a must to protect your bits from damage.

The storage tray has holes for many different sizes of bits and end mills along with storage for miscellaneous other tools. The tray from Genmitsu does a great job of organizing all the little odds and ends along with your cutting tools.

If you have a 3D printer then check out Thingiverse for storage trays. You should be able to find something similar that will meet your needs. If you don’t have a 3D printer then you might be able to find something that will work at the dollar store.

The important thing is to keep your tools organized and protected so that they will remain sharp and ready for your next project.

Wire and cable protectors

Those with experience working with a 3D printer will likely recognize the value of a good wire/cable protector. This is often one of the first things printed when someone buys a new 3D printer and for good reason.

The movement of the machine back and forth in the process of cutting or engraving means that there is some risk that the wires will snag on some portion of the machine. The cable protectors will keep this from happening.

If you have a 3D printer already, take a peek on Thingiverse to see if there are any plans or find a premade alternative somewhere else like Amazon.

Bonus tips for your 3018 CNC

One great way to hold down projects that are difficult to secure for all types of reasons is to place blue painters tape on the bed and the workpiece. Now use an adhesive to glue the two sections of painters tape together. The tape and glue combo will hold the part and once you are done, you can simply peel the painters tape off.

3D printed holding fixtures can be a great addition and allow more versatility in what you can machine. Check out Thingiverse for all kinds of 3D printed addons.

Use felt furniture sliders from the dollar store with clamps or t nuts to protect surface of delicate workpieces.

If you have any additional tips you learned experimenting with your 3018 CNC please let us know and we will happily share them here to save others some of the headaches that come with learning how to work with a new machine.