The Cheap CNC3018 Gets A Proper Revamp

Many people have been attracted to the low price and big dreams of the CNC3018 desktop CNC router. If you’re quick, you can pick one up on the usual second-hand sales sites with little wear and tear for a steal. They’re not perfect machines by any stretch of the imagination, but they can be improved upon, and undoubtedly useful so long as you keep your expectations realistic.

[ForOurGood] has set about such an improvement process and documented their journey in a whopping eight-part (so far!) video series. The video linked below is the most recent in the series and is dedicated to creating a brushless spindle motor on a budget.

As you would expect from such a machine, you get exactly what you pay for.  The low cost translates to thinner than ideal metal plates, aluminium where steel would be better, lower-duty linear rails, and wimpy lead screws. The spindle also suffers from cost-cutting, as does the size of the stepper motors. But for the price, all is forgiven. The fact that they can even turn a profit on these machines shows the manufacturing prowess of the Chinese factories.

We covered the CNC 3018 a while back, and the comments of that post are a true gold mine for those wanting to try desktop CNC. Warning, though: It’s a fair bit harder to master than 3D printing!

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Checking In On Low-Cost CNC Machines

Low cost 3D printers have come a long way in the last few years, but have entry-level CNC machines improved by the same leaps and bounds? That’s what [ModBot] recently set out to find. Despite getting burned pretty badly on a cheap CNC a few years back, he decided to try again with a sub $400 machine from FoxAlien. You can see his full review after the break.

The machine looks very similar to other generic CNC machines you see under many brand names, sometimes for a good bit less. The 3018 number is a giveaway that the work area is 30×18 cm and a quick search pulled up several similar machines for just a bit more than $200. The FoxAlien did have a few nice features, though. It has a good-looking build guide and an acrylic box to keep down the shaving debris in your shop. There are also some other nice touches like a Z-axis probe and end stops. If you add those items to the cut-rate 3018 machines, the FoxAlien machine is pretty price competitive when you buy it from the vendor’s website. The Amazon page in the video shows $350 which is a bit more expensive but does include shipping.

As with most of these cheap CNC machines, one could argue that it’s more of an engraver than a full mill. But on the plus side, you can mount other tools and spindles to get different results. You can even turn one of these into a diode laser cutter, but you might be better off with something purpose-built unless you think you’ll want to switch back and forth often.

This reminded us of a CNC we’ve used a lot, the LinkSprite. It does fine for about the same price but we are jealous of the enclosure. Of course, half the fun of owning something like this is hacking it and there are plenty of upgrades for these cheap machines.