HomeBest ofMakersThe 10 best CNC routers in 2019: cut, carve, and more!
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The 10 best CNC routers in 2019: cut, carve, and more!


CNC routers are great tools for makers. You can “route” them to do your deeds as long as they have the right tool head. In this roundup, we list of some of the top-rated machines out there to help you find the best CNC router for you. Our selection includes affordable CNC router kits, mid-range machines, and professional CNC router systems. If you’re stuck hesitating between models, check out our buying guide towards the end of the article.

What is the best CNC router in 2019?

A CNC router is one of those classic, essential tools that many makers have in their workshop. CNC routers can help you carve wood, cut out materials, engrave objects, and a lot more.

They used to be huge and expensive, but now there are plenty of entry-level, desktop CNC router systems for both the average Joe and hobbyists. You can find cheap CNC router kits or pre-assembled CNC routers.

The price drop, along with the DIY movement’s rising popularity (out with Ikea, in with I made ya), has made CNC routers a prized product.

We took a thorough look at the market to provide you with all the information you need to find the best CNC router for you. Walk through our hand-picked selection and read up on our CNC router buying guide further below!

We also have a useful guide on laser cutting and laser engraving machines. Come and visit!

What is a CNC router?

First things first, “CNC” stands for Computer Numerical Control. A CNC router is, hence, a computer numerically controlled router.

Basically, it’s a machine that can cut and carve through a wide range of materials such as wood, steel glass, plastics, and composites. It does this by making the router bit turn so fast that it erodes the material you’re working on.

The CNC router will follow the instructions provided by your computer. This means you need to prepare a file with specific software, which usually comes with the machine.

The best CNC routers available in 2019

CNC routersWork areaPrice*Buy
MYSWEETY CNC 1610-PRO160 x 100 x 45 mm$189Amazon
MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO300 x 180 x 450 mm$254Amazon
V1 Engineering LowRider2 CNC Kit1220 x ∞ x 100 mm$256-
MillRight CNC M3 Kit Bundle260 x 260 x 50 mm$499-
BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit450 x 390 x 85 mm$698Amazon
BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit610 x 610 x 85 mm$898
Carbide 3D Shapeoko Standard CNC Router Kit406 x 406 x 76 mm$1,249MatterHackers
Inventables X-Carve 500300 x 300 x 65 mm$1,303MatterHackers
Stepcraft D-300210 x 300 x 80 mm$1,399-
CNC Piranha XL305 x 610 x 102 mm$2,499Amazon
The above table represents our hand-picked selection of the best and top-rated CNC routers on the market.

*Price: prices are subject to change over time and/or from one country to another.
Methodology/disclaimer: we haven’t tested all of the CNC routers in this list. Our selection is based on overall feedback from specialized, trusted sources as well as crowdsourced user reviews. Read more about how we work.


Overview of the best CNC routers in 2019

Find all the basics you need to know for each product right here in this overview.

MYSWEETY CNC 1610 PRO smallest CNC router

MYSWEETY CNC 1610-PRO

  • Work area: 160 x 100 x 45 mm
  • Price: $189

Buy on Amazon

The MYSWEETY CNC 1610-PRO is one of the most affordable CNC router options on the market. It is also the smallest CNC router on this list, with a relatively limited work area.

This cheap CNC router comes as a semi kit to be assembled, meaning that you only have to do a few, simple assembly steps. It also comes with an offline controller so you don’t have to keep your PC connected to the machine the whole time it’s working.

MYSWEETY recommends using the CNC 1610-PRO with plastic, wood, acrylic, PVC, and other “soft” materials. It won’t be very effective with hard materials such as stone or metal. The CNC router comes with GRBL software for Windows PCs.


MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO affordable CNC router

MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO

  • Work area: 300 x 180 x 450 mm
  • Price: $254

Buy on Amazon

This MYSWEETY CNC router is a larger version of the previous model mentioned above. It is pretty much the same machine: easy to assemble, offline connectivity, GRBL software for Windows, etc.

Regarding materials, this machine is also compatible with plastics, wood, PVC, acrylic, and other materials of the same kind. The manufacturer notes that for this model, you can purchase a laser head for laser cutting and engraving.

Cheap DIY CNC kits do require some tweaking, so you should be prepared to spend a bit of time on the machine before getting results that meet your expectations. However, once your CNC 3018-PRO up and running, you’ll have yourself a sturdy little CNC machine.


Best DIY CNC router kit V1 Engineering LowRider 2

V1 Engineering LowRider2 CNC Kit

  • Work area: 1220 x ∞ x 100 mm
  • Price: $256
The LowRider2 CNC from V1 Engineering is an interesting choice. Like most CNC routers on our list, this machine comes as a kit. However, it will take you more time to assemble and is a bit more complex to figure out.

That being said, V1 Engineering provides excellent, detailed instructions on their website. If you have a 3D printer, you can even download and 3D print some of the parts thanks to their STL files!

This router’s work area will depend on your setup. You can choose any length, as long as the width of your table doesn’t go past 4 feet (about 122 cm). Note that this CNC router kit doesn’t come with software.

Best CNC router kit MillRight M3 CNC

MillRight CNC M3 Kit Bundle

  • Work area: 260 x 260 x 50 mm
  • Price: $499
This can be a good pick for users looking to handle a variety of materials as it works well with wood, foam, carbon fiber, plastic. The MillRight M3 CNC router is also compatible with soft metals and even circuit boards.

MillRight’s kit comes with everything you need to mill, apart from the software. The kit includes a DeWalt (famous, high-quality tooling brand) DWP611 router.

If you need absolute stability for more precise parts, you can go for the extra rigidity kit also available on MillRight’s website.

BobsCNC E3 CNC router made in the USA

BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit

  • Work area: 450 x 390 x 85 mm
  • Price: $698

Buy on Amazon

BobsCNC is an all-American CNC router manufacturer based in Missouri. Their CNC routers are highly regarded in the maker community as they provide great quality components as well as helpful customer service.

The E3 CNC router doesn’t come with software, but you can find three different software choices on their website. EstlCAM is the most basic one and comes at $59. Free trial downloads are available for those who want to try it out first.

In reviews, users have been very positive about the BobsCNC E3’s sturdy, laser-cut birch build as well as the end results it provides. Assembly is also relatively easy as long as you faithfully follow the provided instructions.


American made CNC router BobsCNC E4 kit

BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit

  • Work area: 610 x 610 x 85 mm
  • Price: $898

Buy on Amazon

The E4 is the E3’s big brother, with a larger work area. It also features a T-slotted spoil board whereas the E3’s spoil board has 1/4″ insets.

Other than that, they’re basically both the same machine. The E4 CNC router boasts the same 600W power and laser-cut birch frame.

If you’re looking for a DIY CNC project with responsive customer service to back you up, the BobsCNC E4 is a great option.


Carbide 3D Shapeoko Standard CNC Router Kit

Carbide 3D Shapeoko Standard CNC Router Kit

  • Work area: 406 x 406 x 76 mm
  • Price: $1,249

Buy on MatterHackers

This benchtop CNC router will make a fine addition to your maker space. You can choose from three different sizes: Standard, XL, or XXL for your most ambitious projects.

The Carbide 3D Shapeoko CNC router kit comes with all the tools needed to assemble each part. This product is entirely made in the USA and you can count on MatterHackers’ excellent customer service before and after your purchase.

With this sturdy CNC workhorse you’ll be able to cut through various woods, plastics, and even soft metals like aluminum.

Inventables X-Carve desktop CNC router

Inventables X-Carve 500

  • Work area: 300 x 300 x 65 mm
  • Price: $1,303

Buy on MatterHackers

The X-Carve is another great pick from MatterHackers’ specialized online catalogue. This Inventables CNC router is available in 500 mm or 1000 mm versions. The 1000 mm version provides a generous 750 x 750 x 65 mm work area.

Both versions are equipped with a DeWalt 611 head, making them powerful and precise. Inventables advertise this machine as a carver, but no worries, it can still cut through your materials as long as they’re not overly thick.

Compatible materials include plastics, wood, and soft metals. Contact MatterHackers for more information.

Stepcraft D-300 router kit or assembled CNC router

Stepcraft D-300

  • Work area: 210 x 300 x 80 mm
  • Price: $1,399
Stepcraft is another one of the big players in the CNC game. Their D-series CNC machines are professional-grade and come in a variety of sizes, going all the way up to a huge 600 x 840 x 140 mm work area.

If you’re up to the task, you can order one of their CNC router construction kits. Kits come at a lower price and help you get to know your machine inside and out. Otherwise, Stepcraft also ships pre-assembled, ready-to-run units for your convenience.

The Stepcraft D-300– along with other models from the same series– comes without accessories or software. This means you’ll have to order your router separately. You can also go for a spindle, mill, or other tools to make it an all-in-one CNC system.

Piranha XL CNC system

CNC Piranha XL

  • Work area: 305 x 610 x 102 mm
  • Price: $2,499

Buy on Amazon

The Piranha XL is an impressive desktop CNC router. It comes fully assembled, but you’ll need to acquire a router separately.

What makes this CNC router stand out from the rest is the fact that it comes with a touchscreen controller. This makes it easier for you to choose and run your files.

You can also get your hands on the CNC Piranha FX, a smaller version of the tool that may be suitable for users looking for a more affordable unit.



Special mentions: Professional CNC routers (benchtop CNC)

We’ve added a few bonus models for those who need to take it to a professional level.


CNC Shark II professional CNC router

CNC Shark II

  • Work area: 330 x 635 x 178 mm
  • Price: $3,160

Buy on Amazon

Looking for a heavy duty unit? Set your eyes on this device. This aluminum-made CNC router is rigid and durable, and you can expect great precision and speed from it. Plus, it is also easy to use thanks to the software and touchscreen controller it comes with.

The machine is designed for extensive use and supports 3D. You will, however, have to buy the router head separately.


Axiom Precision AR4 Basic industrial CNC router

Axiom Precision AR4 Basic

  • Work area: 610 x 610 x 152 mm
  • Price: $4,499

Buy on Amazon

The AR4 Basic is compatible with a variety of routers including 618 Bosch 1617, Porter Cable 890 Series, DeWalt 618, 616, 610, and Porter Cable 690 Series. This CNC router is industrial-grade and intended for small businesses.

It’s available in three footprint options and is quite easy to use, as there is no need to connect it to your computer. You can control your designs through the handheld controller with the help of a USB device.


CNC ShopBot Desktop router

CNC Shopbot Desktop

  • Work area: 609 x 457 x 90 mm
  • Price: $11,275

Free quote

You can choose between two base platforms, one with a spindle and the other with a router.

While it’s a great pick, remember that you will be handling a lot of weight – about 100 pounds without the spindle or router.

Made of aluminum, it is quite sturdy and offers a good cutting area. Plus, you can also buy additional items such as the desktop mini enclosure for improved safety and performance.

CNC router buying guide

Still not sure about which one to go for? Check out our buying guide for things to consider when buying a CNC router.

Dimensions and work area

One of the most important factors is the work area. It gets to decide the capabilities of the machine. The right option depends on why you need the router.

The area must be big enough to accommodate whatever material you want to use. Hence, consider the size of your projects when choosing your CNC router. If you’re planning to cut through thick materials, make sure that your machine can go that deep.

You also need to check if your workshop or work counter has enough space to accommodate your new machine.

Materials

Once again, consider your own use. Most small units can only cut wood and plastics, while higher-grade units can also cut soft metals like aluminum.

Kit or preassembled

If you like to tweak things and build stuff from scratch, a CNC router kit is the way to go. However, if you don’t have time or energy to spend on assembly, you should opt for a preassembled CNC system.

Versatility

These machines can get expensive, so you might as well go with one that can handle other tools than router bits. Some manufacturers mention that their machines can also go with spindles or lasers. Even if you’ll have to install these extra tools yourself, it’s definitely something to take into account.

A few other things to consider include:

  • ease of assembly (if any)
  • software (if any)
  • motor and drive systems
  • power

CNC router vs CNC machine

CNC machine is a generic term used to define all machines that offer computer numerically controlled functionality. This encompasses CNC routers, CNC mills, CNC plasma cutters, CNC laser engravers, 3D printers, and more.

Hence, a CNC router is a CNC machine, but a CNC machine isn’t necessarily a CNC router.

What can you do with a CNC router?

CNC routers are used in various industries, let’s check out some of their main applications.

Cabinet and Furniture Making

Wood CNC routers are used in the making of cabinets and other wooden items including doors, shelves, countertops, and drawers. They are suitable for both big and small projects.

Sign Making

It is common to use CNC routers to carve signs in different materials including bronze, plastic, wood, foam, and aluminum.

Architectural models

Based on the software and unit you have, you may be able to mimic the artisan’s skills seen in arches, corbels, columns, moldings, and carvings.

Plastic and Aluminum Machining

CNC routers are used to cut plastic and aluminum sheets. For aluminum CNC machining you’ll need a good-quality router.

All in all, you can use CNC routers to design a variety of elements.

CNC router vs CNC mill

The main difference lies in performance. CNC routers are designed to cut softer materials such as plastics, wood, and aluminum. They offer precision but cannot handle heavy-duty jobs.

On the other hand, CNC mills can cut even harder and thicker metals including titanium.

CNC router price

As seen in the table above, CNC routers differ largely in price based on features, size, durability, and other such factors.

The cheapest model on our list is just under $200 while the most expensive one goes for over $8,000. While they both fundamentally do the same thing, they differ in terms of performance and output.

Expensive models are typically more durable, able to handle more materials and bigger sizes, and easier to use. However, thanks to the huge availability of options, you will have no difficulty in finding a unit in your budget.

FAQ

How to build a CNC router?

It is possible to build a CNC router at home. You will need all the materials and a bit of time to do the job. Check out this Instructables article for a complete step-by-step guide.

How to assemble a CNC router?

This depends on the unit that you have. Some require heavy assembly including putting bolts in place. The whole process may take over a day if you are inexperienced. Pre-assembled CNC routers also exist if you don’t feel like going through the assembly process.

What can a CNC router do?

A CNC router can cut, carve, and engrave a variety of materials including steel, glass, foams, plastics, wood, and composites. The variety of compatible materials depends on the CNC router’s bits and power.

How much is a CNC router?

A CNC can cost anywhere from $189 to $8,000 and up. The price is higher for industrial CNC routers.
 

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About this author

Ludivine Cherdo

Ludivine is Aniwaa’s Head of Content. Based in Troyes, France, she oversees the content strategy and ensures the content published meets the company’s strict editorial standards. Ludivine obtained her Bachelor’s from the ESC Troyes business school where she studied business administration with a special focus on Digital Marketing. She made the most of her gift for languages by completing part of her studies abroad, gaining valuable work experience in content production and branding along the way. She first joined Aniwaa in 2017 as an intern.