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How Much Does a CNC Machine Cost?

cnc machine cost, black gold graphics

There are hundreds if not thousands of CNC machines available in the market today and their prices vary depending on various factors. We shall take a closer look at the CNC machine cost to assist machinists and hobbyists looking to buy cost-effective CNC machines for various tasks.

The most expensive CNC machines are the 6-axis and 5-axis robotic CNCs that are used in manufacturing high-end military equipment and cost in the excess of millions of dollars. On the other hand, there are very affordable CNC machines that can be used by entry-level hobbyists that cost as low as $150.

Before delving into the costs of various CNC machines, we shall first look at the various factors that affect the CNC machine cost.

Factors Affecting CNC Machine Cost

5-axis labormac cnc milling machine

Figure 1. 5-axis LaborMac CNC Milling Machine (source)

  • Size of the CNC Machine

In CNC machines, the size of the machine is determined by the length that the cutting end can travel along the XYZ axes. The longer the range, the larger the machine and the more expensive the machine is.

  • Machining Speed

In CNC machining, the cutting speed directly affects the efficiency of production and the quality of the finished products. Faster speeds translate to smoother finishes and generally mean that the work will also be performed faster and more efficiently.

Another factor when it comes to speed is the Rapid Motion speed, which is the rate at which the machine repositions itself after cutting. The faster the Rapid Motion Speed, the faster the machine can take on multiple tasks. There are CNC machines that have a Rapid Motion speed of more than 1000 inches per minute.

In general, the faster the high the maximum machining speed that a CNC machine can reach and the Rapid Motion speed, the more expensive the CNC machine is. 

  • Machining Tolerances and Accuracy

CNC machines that can attain higher machining tolerances and accuracy are generally more costly. Needless to say, accuracy and perfection are expensive!

  • Number of Axes

The more degrees of freedom that a CNC machine has, the more expensive it is. For example, a 5-axis CNC machine is more expensive than a 3-axis CNC machine.

Most hobbyists’ CNC machines have 3-axes.

  • Power

CNC machine’s brute power is measured in terms of things like the RPM of the spindle and the torque it can handle. 

However, larger professional CNC machines are rated depending on the size of their servo motors.

For example, the stepper motor of a hobbyist Sainsmart Genmitsu runs at 0.18 ft-lb while that of a professional 6-axis CNC like the Zimmerman FZ100 can run at 68 ft-lb. if you do the math, the 6-axis CNC servo motor is about 400 times more powerful than the hobbyists CNC. 

As a result, the 6-axis CNC costs way higher than the hobbyists CNC.

Categories of CNC Machines and their Price Ranges

CNC Machine Category

CNC Machine Cost (US Dollars)

Entry Level Desktop CNC Routers like the 3018s 

$150 – $500

Hobby CNC Router Machine

$1,000 – $3,000

Small CNC Lathe Machines like Sherline and Taig

Less than $5,000

Entry-Level 2-axis Lathe Machines

$15,000 – $50,000

Professional CNC Machine

$50,000 – $100,000

Entry-Level 3-axis Mill (VMC)

$50,000 – $100,000

Production CNC Lathe Machines like Doosan and Okuma

$50,000 – $300,000

Production 3-axis CNC Milling Machines

$100,000 – $500,000

Production 5-axis CNC Milling Machines

Over $500,000

Besides the factors outlined in the section above, other factors like where someone is purchasing the CNC machine also affect the price. Generally, Chinese CNC machines are generally cheaper compared to the US and European-made CNC machines.

If you are shipping the machine, one will need to also take note of the shipping charges and taxes since they will determine the overall cost of the machine.

To assist those looking for affordable small hobbyist CNC machines choose the correct CNC machine depending on the above table of costs, we shall briefly look into what the Entry Level Desktop CNC Routers, Hobby CNC Router Machine, Small CNC Lathe machines, and Entry-Level 2-axis Lathe machines are used for.

Entry Level Desktop CNC Routers

Sainsmart genmitsu desktop cnc router machine 3018 prover

Figure 2. SainSmart Genmitsu Desktop CNC Router Machine 3018 PROver (source)

These are considered to be the best CNC machines for testing the waters if you are just venturing into CNC machining and you do not intend to undertake very complex tasks.

The most common type under this category is the Generic desktop 3018 CNC.

Just as the name suggests, these machines are the size of a desktop with an approximate size of 30 inches by 18 inches. 

They are mostly used for engraving works and can work on wood, plastics, acrylic, jewelry, and PCBs. Some have strong enough motors and quality rails that permit them to also work on aluminum.

Some are also fitted with laser engraving modules while others generally have the provision but require the user to separately buy and attach the laser engraver. 

Examples of Desktop CNC Routers include the CNC 3018 Pro Max 3 Axis Desktop and the Sainsmart Genmitsu PROVer.

Hobby CNC Router Machine

Shapeoko cnc machine

Figure 3. Shapeoko CNC Machine (source)

These types of CNC machines were recently developed following the rise in demand for small affordable CNC machines by hobbyists.

They are generally used for cutting and engraving and can work on PCBs, plastic, wood, and aluminum. Some can also handle brass and steel.

Examples of CNC machines within this category include the X-Carve CNC, Shapeoko CNC Router.

Small CNC Lathe Machines

These are more advanced and can be used not only for engraving but also for machining and they can comfortably handle steel and titanium.

However, their production speed is still too low for high-volume production work.

Examples of CNC machines within this category include the Shopbot PRS Alpha CNC and the Tormachs CNC machines.

Entry-Level 2-axis Lathe Machines

Tormach 8l lathe

Figure 4. Tormach 8L Lathe (source)

These CNC machines are generally used by small shops.

Examples of CNC machines within this category include the Tormach 8L and Tormach 15L Slant Pro lathe machines.

They are used for medium production volumes and can generally handle most of the materials.

Other Costs Associated with CNC Machines

Besides buying the CNC machine of your costs and having it shipped to your location, there are things that you will require to purchase to be able to work with the CNC machine.

Some of the things that you will require include:

  • Work holding devices
  • Tool Holding devices
  • Inserts and Insert cutter bodies
  • Cutting tools (carbide, etc.)
  • Equipment for inspection
  • Measuring tools like calipers, micrometers, pin gauges, and thread gauges
  • Somewhere to store your cutting tools
  • Coolant mixer
  • Fasteners, HSS Drills, and wrenches
  • Computer setup with the appropriate OS, and well-networked with the machines and team members

Conclusion

This post should help you choose a good affordable CNC machine depending on the CNC machine cost.

As shown in the post, it is possible to get a good CNC machine especially for engraving purposes with a budget of less than $10,000 especially if you are just starting and do not need a machine for a high production volume.

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