Are you looking for a cost-effective, high-efficiency CNC router? Or, do you want a multi-purpose, compatible with all systems one? Do you know what type of drivers, software, and axes are required?
We bet you know you want a CNC router, but are unsure about which one to buy. It can be tempting to grab one from the market, but you need a deeper understanding of what works for you. This is why we have curated a list to help you find the best CNC router for small shops.
Are you excited to know more? Keep scrolling!
Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit
5 out of 5
SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-PROVer
5 out of 5
MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO
4.5 out of 5
Mcwdoit Upgraded Version 3018 Pro
4 out of 5
BobsCNC Evolution 3 CNC Router Kit
4.5 out of 5
Best CNC Router for Small Shop : Top 8 Picks for 2021
In this section of the article, we bring you our in-depth reviews of all the small shop CNC routers we have evaluated. Take a look into them!
1. Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit
This is an excellent match for all kinds of woodworking needs by both professionals and amateurs. Many people use this machine in their tutorials because of how small and convenient it is to use. The sturdy frame and interior ensure that it has a long lifespan.
It is designed to have incredible precision, regardless of what materials you use it with. And it would be impractical to expect a big cutting area from as small a router as this one. But the 300x180x45-millimeter area is a pretty decent size.
The open-source GRBL software used from the mainboard to the hardware has a high caliber. It allows the user to manipulate the movements, even during heavy-duty tasks. There are numerous forums and resources that can assist you in the use of this particular software.
It comes with an office controller that can be used manually for various purposes instead of connecting it to the computer. You can also customize it by adding a laser module that will elevate the engraving game.
Moreover, installing it is a breeze, because none of the components need to be positioned. That being said, there are a few parts that need to be assembled.
But that can be done following the instruction manual. Other than that, everything else remains fixed in their given height.
- Heavy-duty, multi-purpose equipment with enhanced durability
- Open-source software is very powerful and compatible with most systems
- A budget-friendly tool that can cut a wide variety of materials
- Easy to assemble
2. SainSmart Genmitsu Small Shop CNC Router 3018-PROVer
The aluminum body on this machine, other than promoting durability, keeps it steady when you are milling various different materials. Its cutting area opens up space to work on a variety of projects. Cleaning up is not a big deal, as the 5-millimeter acrylic safety baffles trap all the debris formed.
To improve the performance of this PROVer, the manufacturer has incorporated Toshiba drivers for quiet operation, and Optocouplers to eliminate any risks of damage to the hardware. In this manner, you can expect consistent results over an extensive period of time.
You can control it with the offline controller with a 1.8-inch TFT LCD for clear readings. In case something is disrupted, you can apply emergency control to shut down the machine immediately.
Besides being able to cut through woods, PVCs, PCBs, and plastic, the addition of the stepper motor-head makes it easier to cut softer materials.
As most of the parts come assembled, there is not much to prepare once you receive the package. Just use it to attain accurate and smooth cuts.
- Built for increased stability
- Offline controller’s display is large and clear enough to read the stats
- Acrylic baffles prevent chippings from getting scattered everywhere
- Pre-installed, and the rest takes less than 30 minutes
3. MYSWEETY 3018-PRO 3 Axis DIY CNC Router Kit
A great starter as a home shop CNC machine is the 3018-PRO 3 model from MYSWEETY. Other than handling small tasks effectively, it is a versatile tool that can be used on wood, plastic, acrylic, etc. The weight of this is only 15.8 pounds, making it super lightweight.
You will find a 5.5-Watt module, an offline controller, 4 clamps, 10 drill bits, and an extension rod in the bundle. We advise you to not use the spindle and module together for safety purposes.
Not only can you use the controller from any place you want but also it does not need to be connected to a computer.
On the enlarged working space, the user can confidently engrave anything without the machine deviating, because the stainless-steel screws ensure it remains in a fixed position.
It uses open-source GRBL software that can be controlled by the user. The software is compatible with Coppercam and Artcam2008.
Furthermore, there are many interesting components in the control board, such as a driver chip, fixed heat sink, external fan, and a sturdy casing.
This is very useful, as it ensures there are no short-circuit or other issues. It also comes with a spindle motor that has a top speed of 7000 RPM for smoother and precise cuts.
- Fitted GRBL software for regulating
- Offers a decent working area
- Aluminum shell dispels heat
- Streamlined to be portable and durable
4. Mcwdoit Upgraded Version 3018 Pro CNC Router Kit
With this updated machine, you can expect so much more. To begin with, there is a new control board built to protect the router from a short-circuit mishap. The core parts come assembled for your convenience.
One of the striking features you will enjoy is that you can use it offline. All you have to do is download some essential files on a USB drive and you’re set.
The offline controller has 1G capacity, so you will have more than enough space for working with woods, PCB CCI, plastic, soft metals, and acrylic.
Moreover, the SD card reader to input G-codes can be adjusted manually by the x, y, z axes location. Additional items that come in the package are carving knives, plate clamps, manual in CD, extension rod, and laser module.
Another remarkable news is that this unit can use software other than GRBL, such as Easel, UGS, and so on, to create Carbide Create, Artcam, MeshCam, Fusion360, Inkscape.
A lot of the things have been integrated into the mainboard, but if you need anything, you can download them from any version of Windows.
This small shop CNC router has impressive stability with a base height of 4mm. Usually, industrial machines have large cutting areas, but this mini one offers quite a good space for light-duty projects.
- A steady unit that has a low price tag
- Comes with a USB flash drive that comprises of the control software
- The controller has a large capacity and can be run offline
- Easy to install
5. BobsCNC Evolution 3 Home Shop CNC Router
Next on our list of the best CNC router for small shop reviews is the BobsCNC E3 CNC router, which is an outstanding unit. It weighs only 32 pounds but can carry out heavy-duty performances surprisingly well.
The manufacturer has made the assembly process pretty straightforward. And overall, it is user-friendly.
When it comes to technicalities, it is equipped with an Arduino based microprocessor in addition to a DW660 router. Also, the router can be attached to the USB port.
Being a java software, it can work with Windows, OSX, Raspberry Pi, and Linux in harmony.
The DeWalt spindle inside it has 1/8- and ¼-inch ports. There is also a rail system supported by SG20U. On the x and y axes, there is a GT2 belt drive, while the z-axis has an ACME TR8. To add to its stability, the frame has been given an impressive laser cut.
Also, the enlarged cutting area is the reason behind its versatility. Measuring 45x390x85 mm, it leaves enough space for the user to get their jobs done proficiently.
- Equipped with an easy-to-use Arduino microprocessor
- Enough cutting surface for a wide range of materials
- The frame has a durable laser cut
- Medium size machine with sturdy construction
6. MYSWEETY 3018 Pro DIY Mini CNC Machine
As the name suggests, it is an upgrade from its previous 3018 version. Many improvements have been made to it, such as a remarkable application for light-duty projects over long periods of time.
The kit includes aluminum extrusions for the metal frame, guide rods, corner brackets, lead screws, two stepper motors, a main control board, and assembly hardware. And the x and y axis have a work area of 340x160 millimeters, while the z-axis has 40-millimeter height.
Like most CNC routers for woodworking, this one is connected to a PC and controlled by GRBL software. The user-friendly interface makes it a great learning tool for novices.
One thing you’re guaranteed to love about this engraving machine is that once some important files are downloaded in a USB, it can be used offline.
Another thing worth mentioning is that it is the cheapest home shop CNC machine in the market.
We noticed that there can be tiny inaccuracies during the engraving process as splinters come out of MDF. Therefore, we suggest you use soft materials like wood and plastic for better results.
- Great value at a low price
- Compact but quite sturdy construction
- Easy-to-use once it’s setup
- Perfect learning tool for entry-level users
7. FoxAlien Desktop CNC Machine 3018-SE
Are you the type of person that prefers to look at the engraving process as it is happening? Then, you’re going to love the 3018-SE machine’s transparent enclosure by acrylic sheets. In fact, the entire aesthetic design of this machine has been widely appreciated.
The case that holds the new and improved spindle motor shields it from damage. Additionally, there is a limit switch and emergency stop that can be activated any time you feel necessary.
This time, the spindle is optimized to mount both FoxAlien 5000 mW and 15,000 mW modules directly.
On top of everything, the equipment is compatible with GRBL software and supported by MAC OS, Linux, and Windows XP to Windows 10.
Due to the decent working area, several types of materials can be engraved and milled. Both beginners and professionals are likely to enjoy using this.
All the core parts come pre-assembled in the package. The rest of the components can be installed with the help of the instruction manual. And the wires are clearly labeled to cut down the assembly time.
- Comes with a transparent enclosure to monitor the process
- The software can support multiple operating systems
- New and advanced spindle motor for providing more power supply
- Most of the components are assembled
8. Genmitsu 3018-PROVer CNC Router for Woodworking
Here is the last CNC router of this article, a Genmitsu 3018-PROVer, the latest version from this brand. It still runs on the same GRBL software, but the drive system is run by powerful Toshiba TB6S109 for silent operation. You can mill different materials with its aluminum body because it is stable.
What is more, it is compatible with professional software called Mach3, so the PC can be turned into a CNC machine controller.
As a matter of fact, it is the only economical machine with this characteristic, which is why it is considered to be a rational substitute for industrial models.
With the help of the auto tool zero button, you can easily calibrate data, for instance, controlling the equipment’s positions. There are no limits when it comes to the types of projects that can be done on the engraving area.
The working area is 300x145x80 millimeters, allowing users to carve soft aluminum, plastics, wood, acrylics, PVCs, and PCBs.
And the spindle motor has a maximum power of 120 Watt, and a speed of 9000 RPM. On the other hand, the step motor has a 0.25 Nm torque. The z-axis, which is responsible for the upwards and downwards movement, is made of ABS.
In addition, the acrylic safety baffles ensure that splinters don’t jet out during the process.
- The structure is strong and stable to engrave a variety of substances
- Drive system ensures no sound is emitted
- 5-millimeter acrylic baffles block particles
- Ideally suited for Mach3 and DrufelCNC
Small Shop CNC Router Comparison Chart
Genmitsu CNC 3018
300 x 180 x 45 mm
All pieces of wood
SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer
300 x 180 x 45mm
Woods, PVCs, PCBs, plastic
MYSWEETY DIY CNC Machine
30 x 18 x 4.5 cm
Carved wood, bamboo, paper, acrylic, metal, and all kinds of plastic
Mcwdoit Upgraded Version 3018
300 x 180 x 45 mm
Copper, aluminum, plastic, PCB CCL, and carved wood
BobsCNC Evolution 3
Arduino based microprocessor
450 x 390 x 85 mm
Large sheets of plywood, wood, and aluminum
MYSWEETY Upgrade Version CNC 3018
30 x 18 x 4.5 cm
Plastic, wood, acrylic, PVC, PCB
FoxAlien Desktop CNC Router
278 x 157 x 45 mm
Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, aluminum and brass
Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-PROVer
278 x 157 x 45 mm
Soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVCs and PCBs
CNC Router for Small Shop Buying Guide
As you have gathered by now, not all features are required for the router to function properly. To help you understand which factors to consider before buying the best CNC router for small shop, here is a guide:
Type of Motor
Let’s start with a critical factor, the motor, because it determines the torque and RPM. A motor with a high rating can cut at a faster rate.
If your machine has a stock hand-held router, it will lack the characteristics needed to work with different materials.
So, we suggest you opt for a built-in motor equipped with a spindle. It helps you manipulate the speed and swap the broken parts with newer ones from the manufacturer.
This is a significant aspect of a router, as the utility of everything else heavily depends on it. We recommend a router that contains a 5mm cutter and has a wattage range between 0.8 to 5.6 kilowatt.
Always bear in mind that power is directly proportional to the type of material. So, the higher the power, the more likely it is to tackle harder materials.
For small business owners, the dimensions matter as they’re working within a limited area. Wood requires more space than other materials, so a larger cutting area is more feasible.
Among the three drive systems lead screw, ball screw, rack and pinion the ball screw produces the most accurate results. Although it is quite expensive, the outcomes will not disappoint you.
Quality of Software
The fact that the operating system needs to be compatible with the software is a no-brainer.
For the best small shop CNC router, the software must be CAD, open-source, and equipped with G-code. If your tasks require high efficiency, then you can upgrade to more innovative software over time.
Being able to monitor the equipment should be on top of your list. This task can be made stress-free if the unit is equipped with acrylic baffles.
Having this feature allows you to focus on cutting and carving instead of getting worried about any malfunctions, as it adroitly blocks chippings.
Purpose Behind Use
Why will you need a home shop CNC router?
Small-sized ones are well-suited for learning purposes as well as making simple ornaments.
Then there are sheet CNC machines that can cut several things from one piece of plywood. The more advanced, industrial routers are built for bigger companies.
Tips to Start Small Business with a CNC Router
Starting and growing a business is a big challenge in itself, so it is best to stay prepared. Here, we share our tips on entrepreneurial wisdom.
Establish a Business Plan
The cornerstone of your business journey is a solid strategy for each department such as marketing and sales, that can help you accomplish your goals. Take into account all the associated risks beforehand, so you don’t have to face an unprecedented event later.
Do not rush into expanding your business. Then, you’ll be left with inflated costs of production and eventually incur debts.
Develop a Target Audience
Is your focus of service going to be business-to-business or business-to-consumer? To run a successful shop, select one that will appreciate your niche and maintain a reasonable volume of sales. In this way, you can gradually integrate more capital as well as staff to increase the growth of your business.
Engage in Partnerships
A CNC router business has multiple stages that will be easier to reach if the small shop owners can build a network with existing entrepreneurs. In case you’re facing troubles navigating through the market, they can assist you with their insights.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Software Do I Need?
Answer: This depends on the type of CNC router you’re getting for your project. Get a mid-range software, where you can import AutoCAD drawings.
2. What Types of CNC Routers are Available?
Answer: Generally, there are 5 types of CNC routers that are widely used. They are – CNC plasma cutter, CNC laser cutter, 3D printer, router and milling machine.
3. Do I Need to Learn Coding to Operate a CNC Router?
Answer: No. The software titles are designed to be user-friendly, so you can import, draw and engrave without facing any issues.
4. What is the GRBL Software?
Answer: It is a type of software that can send a G-code to the router. This helps you to be in charge by sending commands to the controller.
5. What is the ‘Axis’ Used in the Router?
Answer: Axis is defined as the number of directions in which the router can move. When the router has a 3-axis routing center, the router can move in x, y, and z axes.
There are several options for the best CNC router for small shops that differ in features, looks, and price points.
But we have narrowed it down to a small number for your convenience. Now, each of them offers something unique, and you have to find which one’s USP suits you best.
But no matter which one you pick; your money will be well spent since all of them are of amazing quality.
Now, it’s time to acquire any of these machines and head to work.
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