Taking up CNC as a hobby enables you to make all manner of things in your own home—from tools and parts to personalized toys and gifts. It can, however, be an expensive undertaking, with CNC machines costing thousands of dollars. A good way to save on this is by purchasing a CNC kit and building your own machine. However, with a myriad of CNC kits available, it’s not always easy to choose one that meets your requirements without breaking the bank.
Luckily, we’ve scoured the web to bring you a complete rundown of the best CNC kits for beginners. These machines will enable you to join the maker community, without being too daunted by steep learning curves, complex builds, or hefty price tags.
If you’re on a tight budget, but are still itching to get started with CNC, then the MillRight CNC M3 is perfect for you. Suitable for milling wood, plastics, and aluminum, the machine is undeniably basic. The star attraction here then, is the price—kits start from just $299, with the upgraded version coming in at $414. Better still, you won’t need any power tools to construct the machine, only some basic tools—making this perfect for a newcomer.
MillRight’s website has CNC newbies in mind, and includes a wide range of resources and tutorials to help you start your first projects. If you’re looking for a machine that gets the job done, you won’t go wrong with the MillRight CNC M3.
Like many innovative CNC machines, Shapeoko started life as a Kickstarter project. Its creator, Edward Ford, learned how to build his own machine from scratch just months after joining the CNC community. After a few years of learning and building, he set out to help others achieve the same goals he’d pursued. Enter Shapeoko: an easy-to-build, cheap CNC mill.
Though the machine itself has gone through some radical transformations since, the core aims of the project have remained the same: a CNC kit that’s simple, low cost, and straightforward to build.
Unfortunately, Shapeoko can no longer boast its Kickstarter era price tag of just $300, and now weighs in at a heftier $1,099. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of reasons for CNC newbies to check it out.
Shapeoko comes partially assembled, meaning that it can be built within just one hour. It’s also capable of full 3D machining, and cuts through aluminum, wood, and plastic. The machine is also hackable, and can be modified to machine carbon fiber, PCBs and steel, as well as to add a range of accessories. It also accepts standard G-code, meaning there’s no need to learn new software: any CAM software works with Shapeoko.
Looking for a ready-to-use machine instead? Check out Carbide 3D’s Nomad 883 Pro.
Ooznest is a UK-based 3D printing firm with lofty ambitions. The company’s goal is to “bring 3D printing to the masses”—but they’re happy to try out other maker technologies along the way.
The Ooznest OX perfectly symbolizes how CNC machining and 3D printing complement one another. In fact, the machine contains a number of 3D-printed parts. However, there’s more to the Ooznest OX than just capturing the manufacturing zeitgeist.
Based upon an OpenBuilds machine, the Ooznest OX also includes modifications to improve performance and design. Ooznest pride themselves on how easy the machine is to build: with detailed videos available online, and IKEA-style assembly diagrams, even the most fresh-faced CNC newbie should have no trouble putting this kit together.
Ooznest describe the machine as “the perfect CNC kit”, and an “excellent start” for newcomers to CNC. We here at Scan2CAD are certainly inclined to agree—we’ve already featured the Ooznest OX in our World of CAD July monthly news roundup. For a price tag of just £925 ($1,170), you’ll get the full kit, meaning that you can get started machining in no time.
Zen Toolworks CNC DIY Kit
One of the cheapest CNC kits to feature in our list, this machine from Zen Toolworks costs a mere $429.99. Highly versatile, the kit allows you to perform relief carving, letter cutting, inlays, and much more—all with precision accuracy.
Better yet, the machine takes just a few hours to assemble. Building this kit is not only easy, but a great way to learn more about how your machine works. Whilst you’ll still need a few additional parts to get things going, this is one of the best CNC kits around for a newcomer.
New machine? Need a little inspiration? Check out our 11 CNC Project Ideas to start creating something awesome!
For CNCers who want an ultra-customized experience, the X-Carve is ideal. Available in 500mm, 750mm and 1000mm sizes, the X-Carve gives you ultimate control over your machine. You choose whether to buy the recommended spindle, mount, motion controller, waste board and stepper motors, or provide your own. You’ll also be given a wide range of options for additional parts and accessories, helping you customize your X-Carve to meet your needs.
The most basic package, including only the core components and a 500mm rail kit, comes in at $338 plus shipping. Once you add in the necessary extras, your total will come closer to $1,000.
Nonetheless, the machine is definitely worth the investment. One feature that’s particularly impressive is the inclusion of the user-friendly Easel software. This nifty tool makes it easy to create drawings from scratch, making it quicker to take your ideas from design to CNC fabrication.
Back in the seventh edition of World of CAD, we covered a new Kickstarter campaign from the creators of Makesmith. The idea was big—literally. Where most CNC machines have only a small workspace, this one covered an area of 4’x8′. The machine had the aim of allowing users to create “big, useful things”. Its name was Maslow.
A few months on, and we’re happy to report that Maslow’s Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful. The founders raised $314,547 to help make Maslow a reality.
Despite its impressive size, Maslow isn’t intimidating. Its creators intended it to be “a machine for everyone”, promising ease-of-assembly and focusing on helping users create great new products. The code behind Maslow’s software is open source, and available for free. In a similar vein, the company’s creators have encouraged makers to release their own designs on a share-alike basis.
The bad news here is that Maslow is just too popular—the first two batches are already sold out. However, by pledging any amount from $1 up, you’ll be able to reserve a spot for a future batch.
Created in Germany, the Next 3D is a CNC kit that puts trouble-free assembly first. There’s no soldering, no drilling and no gluing required. Simply screw the pieces together, and you’ll be up and running in a few hours.
The Next 3D is an extremely versatile machine, suitable for machining plastic, wood, perspex, carbon, and many more materials. Its linear guides and mounted spindles ensure quick runs and precision.
Available in small, medium and large sizes, Next 3D CNC kits start from just €799 ($850). Find out more at Next 3D.
Not sure which type of CNC machine you need? No problem. GoodEnoughCNC‘s Hybrid machine can transform into a plasma cutter, mill, or laser cutter.
The design is low-cost to produce, meaning a lower cost for consumers: just €850 ($900). The machine is modifiable and shareable, and is open source and open hardware. The instructions to build and operate the machine are extensive and available online.
The modular design of the machine means that it is suitable for practically any application. Learn more at GoodEnoughCNC.
WhittleCNC started life on—you guessed it—Kickstarter. Its creator, Zachary Adams, had spent years looking for a high-quality, low-cost, desktop-sized CNC machine. Finding all available options lacking, he did what any true innovator does and built his dream machine himself.
What he created is a fantastic machine. The WhittleCNC features a removable cutting bed and adjustable cutting depth, allowing users to cut materials of varying sizes and depths. The machine is strong and durable, and incredibly easy to assemble. In fact, the site promises that “if you have a Phillips head, and scissors, you can be up and running in less than two hours”.
As well as supporting Inventables’ Easel software, you can also control WhittleCNC from Google Chrome using the app. You can even purchase add ons to use WhittleCNC as a laser engraver or 3D printer. The best part? You can get it all for just $449.
We love covering surprising CNC innovations on our blog, and this machine is no exception. The EggBot is a very different kind of CNC machine to the others on our list. Rather than a cutting tool, the EggBot draws on spherical and egg-shaped objects—objects on which it is normally impossible to print.
Whilst it may seem a little niche, there are plenty of commercial applications for the EggBot. Need a customized golf ball? Done. Want to print on a wine glass? No problem. Got an Easter egg to decorate? Say no more—the EggBot can do it all.
It takes less than an hour to assemble the EggBot, making it perfect for newcomers. With the ability to create colorful designs, the machine is also perfect for kids using a basic CNC machine for the first time. The EggBot is ideal for teaching beginners about electronics, mechanics, and software, making it a perfect stepping stone for users hoping to get into CNC.
Scan2CAD and CNC
The starting point for any great CNC project is a great design. Unfortunately, most designs are saved as raster images, which aren’t suitable for CNC machining. To use these designs, you’ll need to convert them to vector images instead.
Best of all, you can try out all of Scan2CAD’s features completely free for 14 days with our free trial. So, before you embark on your first CNC project, get Scan2CAD.