Shopping for a Home CNC Machine? Here’s What to Look For
Analysts expect the global market for CNC machines to grow by 7.5% from 2021 to 2028. Industries like automotive, manufacturing, and energy are taking advantage of the benefits these types of machines provide.
DIY users are also starting to get into the CNC machine market. CNC machines used to be too large and too expensive for home users. However, many machines are available today in a size and price range that are more accessible.
Are you considering a home CNC machine? How will you choose the right one?
Today, we’re sharing more about what to look for in a home CNC machine. You’ll be able to pick the one that will meet all of your machining needs.
What Is a CNC Machine?
CNC stands for computer numerical control. A CNC machine is a programmable machine that can autonomously perform machining operations. It’s a computer-controlled machine tool.
The CNC machining process starts with designing the parts you want to make in CAD software. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software prepares the model for fabrication. The software directs the tool in making the item you designed.
How Will You Use Your Home CNC Machine?
The first thing to think about when you want to buy a home CNC machine is how you plan to use it. Factory machines that use CNC technology include routers, lathes, mills, and grinders.
Most people looking for a DIY CNC machine choose a mill or router. In fact, a CNC router is a type of CNC mill.
Most CNC routers for home use will include a woodworking router on a rail system. The router moves around a bed where you put your material. A CNC router can cut materials like wood, metal, and plastic.
Some smaller home CNC machines won’t give you the best results when working with harder materials. If you’re planning to cut materials harder than soft aluminum, you’ll need to be sure the machine is robust enough.
The DIY CNC machine size that’s best for you depends on two factors.
First, you need to consider how much space you have. You need enough space for the machine to fit comfortably. You’ll want to be able to access it easily for maintenance as well as in normal working conditions.
The second size consideration is the size of the projects you want to do. Obviously, a larger machine lets you tackle larger projects.
Some machines let you scale up more easily than others. You can also look for a machine that can handle materials of different sizes.
The weight of the home CNC machine is another factor to keep in mind. Larger machines can weigh more than 100 pounds. You’ll need a sturdy surface to support it.
The weight is also a factor if you plan to put your machine in a basement or an upstairs location.
Some CNC machines need 3-phase power, which isn’t available to residential customers. You can buy a phase converter to run equipment that needs 3-phase power.
For higher volt requirements, you need well-grounded wiring. This can sometimes be an issue in a garage or shop. Be sure to verify that you have the electrical power you’ll need to run your home CNC machine.
Like all CNC machines, DIY CNC machines need software to work. You should check which operating systems the machine is compatible with.
You should also consider which programs the machine uses. Some software is easier to use than others. You’ll have to buy some programs separately.
You can check to see if the CNC machine comes with free software. You can also find free DXF files for CNC online. DXF is an open-source file format for 2D and 3D drawings and models.
Ease of Assembly
Most CNC machines require assembly when they arrive.
Many people find that putting a new machine together is rather difficult. It depends on the size of the machine, the number of pieces, and the tolerances involved. You may need a few hours over several days to fully assemble a home CNC machine.
Online reviews are a good way to find out how user-friendly the assembly of a particular model is.
Ease of Maintenance and Service
You’ll need to do some maintenance on your DIY CNC machine to keep it working at its best. You’ll probably also need to repair or replace parts from time to time. You should find out if you’ll be able to do the maintenance and repairs yourself or if you’ll need professional help.
The manufacturer should offer some type of warranty. Be sure to compare the warranty and after-sales service of the CNC machines you’re considering.
The number of features you’ll find on a home CNC machine depends on the brand and the price. Several additional features are good to watch for if you find them in a machine that fits your budget.
Automatic Tool Changing System
A built-in automatic tool changing (ATC) system makes your work more efficient. This is useful if your projects need tool changes throughout the process. You can work faster and more accurately with an ATC system.
The way a CNC machine holds the material in place is an important feature. A firm hold makes the cutting more reliable. Some home CNC machines have additional components to screw or clamp materials securely in place.
You’ll also find machines that use a jig or a vacuum-powered bleeder board to hold the materials in position.
A home CNC machine should have a system for collecting dust. A clean work area gives you more precise results. You can compare the power and dust storage capacity of different machines.
Getting Started with Your Home CNC Machine
When you start looking for a CNC machine for sale, you’ll see you have a lot of choices. Considering factors like the machine’s size and weight will help you start narrowing down your options. Elements like the power requirements, software, assembly, and maintenance needs are also important to think about.
Putting all these features together will help you find the best home CNC machine for your needs. Looking for more trustworthy lifestyle advice? Check out our other how-to articles for the tips you need!