cnc engraving

13 Reasons Hobbyists Should Own a Home CNC Machine

Nothing will transform your home workshop quite like a small CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. Also referred to as a mini CNC machine, these are smaller versions of the advanced machine tools widely used across the manufacturing industry. Adding one to your own setup is nothing short of life-changing. Whether it is creating something from scratch or using a template, a personal CNC machine opens up a new realm of machining possibilities.

What are those possibilities, and why is owning your own CNC machine such a game-changer? We’ll explore the answers below, as well as break down some of the commonly-owned home CNC machines from lathes to engraving machines.

1) Customization 

When you are looking at high-grade CNC machines, it’s important to understand the value of customization. Customizing a part is about more than simply making it unique; it’s about combining new features with high levels of precision and accuracy.

Doing all of that by hand is both time-consuming and immensely difficult for all but the most skilled artisans. For most people, balancing the two requirements means sacrificing something; they are rarely going to have the ability to fully personalize each element of the final item.

Adding even an entry-level CNC machine changes the whole equation.

Suddenly, craftsmen can design pieces with unique and precise detailing and then recreate them exactly the same every time. Machinists and woodworkers alike can use CNC technology to streamline their production while still producing finished pieces of high quality.

2.) Flexibility 

Wood. Metal. Plastics. MDF. PVC. CNC machines work with a variety of materials, and many machines can handle more than one kind of workpiece. Woodworkers are among the craftsmen who often take advantage of increasingly affordable CNC router machines. With a good CNC router kit, it’s all about finding something well-rounded and built to last. Once you have your own wood router, you’ll be able to play around with the machine and learn how to use it to its full potential.

Armed with a CNC machine, hobbyists can handle a whole range of DIY projects. Desktop CNC machines are advanced enough to create precision designs but small enough to fit comfortably on your workbench. Their durability means you’ll have plenty of time to tinker on projects for years to come.

3.) Ease of Use

For hobbyists, harnessing the power of an advanced multi-axis CNC machine doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Most CNC machines, particularly the smaller benchtop models, are designed to be easy to operate. Even learning G-code and the basics of CNC programming doesn’t have to be a major challenge.

Most hobbyist CNC machines are essentially smaller professional models, with slightly reduced cutting areas and smaller footprints designed to fit naturally into your working area at home. In many cases, these are the same machines you’ll find in smaller tool-and-die shops. These models are equally at home in both arenas and are designed to be easy to learn and use.

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At CNC Masters, our milling machines come equipped with an all-encompassing guide to make sure each step is easy to manage. Rather than struggling through managing large, more complicated CNC mills, you can make it look easy with one of these set up at home.

4.) Fast Results

What is one thing you are going to crave when it comes to a machine such as this? You will want a solution that is not only effective at making your designs come to life, but also delivers fast performance.

Speed depends on high-quality technical specs – from spindle motor to ball screws – but also an intuitive, easy-to-use machine that helps the operator to understand ideal cutting speeds for different workpieces.

5.) Repeatability 

There is nothing more important than consistency whether you are dealing with metal, wood, or any other material. You always want the DIY project to come out the way you want it to. CNC provides that repeatability; run the same program a hundred times, and you should get the same result each time. That applies to CNC cutting machines, mills, 3d printers, etc.; CNC technology should deliver consistent, repeatable results across the different machine uses.

The real advantage lies with the operator. You can know in advance exactly what you’ll get at the end of the day, barring machine breakdowns or unexpected errors. Simplicity and quality are what make these machines valuable. You will never doubt their consistency and overall quality.

6.) Efficiency

Efficiency is the name of the game and that is where a quality CNC machine will stand out. Imagine being in a situation where you are trying to manage a woodworking project, but can’t seem to get things to remain consistent.

The best CNC routers eliminate inconsistency, reducing waste, lost time, and poor results. As a result, even the largest DIY projects can be done more quickly and efficiently.

Efficiency comes through speed, performance, and the quality of your final result. This is what you are going to care about the most and that is what the right CNC machine will deliver. As a result, you will never have to worry about how it is going to perform.

One particularly efficient (and affordable) CNC machine is BobsCNC Evolution E4. It uses a Dewalt router as its cutting tool.

7.) Optimization

The materials being used are always going to matter, but how is the machine going to optimize them for long-lasting results? This is where the quality of your CNC machine at home makes a difference. There is nothing other than investing your hard-earned money into a machine that hasn’t been engineered correctly. This leads to subpar results and low-quality designs.

READ MORE:  What is CNC Milling?

Focus on a machine that is going to optimize the materials and make sure things are done the right way.

CNC Master takes pride in engineering top-grade CNC machines that are rigorously designed to handle specific materials.

8.) Automation

You can’t talk about CNC technology without discussing automation. Even the most dedicated hobbyists have other things they need to spend their time on, and CNC provides a way to do what you need to do, and what you want to do, at the same time. CNC software is widely available online, and even upgraded versions of older CAM/CAD programs make CNC programming accessible to beginners.

In the end, hobbyists can take larger pieces, program the CNC machine, and walk back into the house while it does the work. Automation doesn’t have to involve large factories full of robots and gleaming machinery – it can be as simple as a CNC router executing a program while you eat dinner.

9.) Specialization

It’s not all about producing pieces as fast as possible. CNC machine tools provide precision and specialization. There are specialized CNC mini mills for jewelers, CNC engravers for laser-cut designs, and a host of other specialized machines. For hobbyists looking for more of a multi-purpose machine, benchtop vertical mills like the CNC Jr. from CNC Masters have all the power a hobbyist needs, in a smaller package.

10.) Versatility

There’s more than one machine tool, and more than one CNC machine tool also. Woodworkers can take advantage of CNC wood routers, while metalworkers can find benchtop milling machines. Are you a fan of making engravings? Well, a top-tier CNC engraving machine can be a game-changer for DIY projects, allowing you to create top of the line engravings that shine a light on your creativity.

There’s even a way to expand the capabilities of an all-purpose machine like the high-quality, heavy-duty CNC Supra, by equipping it with the right laser engraver attachment. Whatever your hobby and whatever you craft, there’s probably a CNC machine tool that’s perfect for it.

11.) Design and Planning

G-code, CNC programming, and CAD programs can seem like a big hurdle. But there are enough tools out there that even the design and planning stages, as tricky as they might be, are easily dealt with. Free online tools like LASER Grbl will work with most home computer operating systems, allowing anyone to pick up the basics of G-code, vector files, and more.

In fact, adding a CNC machine tool can be a huge benefit for hobbyists just from this aspect alone. Learning how to program a CNC machine requires operators to plan out each step of the program in advance, and to know exactly how each step builds towards the finished project. That advanced planning stands operators in good stead, making sure that every aspect of the project works together.

READ MORE:  Made By A CNC Milling Machine

12.) Small-scale Production

CNC machines give hobbyists, especially the ones who want to break into small-scale production, a way to produce multiple versions of the same workpiece. That’s one of the reasons behind the popularity of CNC-based machines like 3D printing machines, which are becoming more readily available. 3D printers work with a wide range of materials, including soft metals and acrylics, and often use an open-source plan. The printer starts with a single layer or “slice” of the part along the Z-axis, and then adds layer after layer and builds it up along the X-axis.

Whatever the exact machine used, home CNC machines allow hobbyists to expand their operations at their own leisure.

13.) Beginner-Friendly

Finally, most hobbyist-level CNC machine tools are user-friendly. Some technical knowledge is required, but even beginning machinists can usually pick up the basics quickly.

It is a great way to continue to work on your DIY projects at home without compromising on quality. The learning curve is going to be manageable and that is what makes using a CNC milling machine fun in the long term.

Thinking of buying a small CNC Machine? Look no further than CNC Masters 

CNC Jr/Baron/Max Engraver Attachment

Our collection of CNC Machines has options for your every need. For DIY enthusiasts, the Max CNC Mill and Baron CNC Mill make great additions to your workshop.

Looking for something a bit smaller but that still packs a punch? Our CNC Jr. Mill is perfect for the hobbyist in you. Included with all our CNC mills is free software to help you run and program your machine. Whether you’re crafting jewelry, PCBs, or woodworking, CNC Masters has a machine for you.

Final Thoughts

A small CNC machine is one of the better investments a person can make when it comes to getting creative. Rather than having to settle for mediocre, pre-designed solutions for your home, why not take it into your own hands now?

A well-designed, top-tier CNC machine is going to be an amazing addition to your shop or home setup and is going to give you the tools to make your projects come to life, all while saving time. This can be captivating and something everyone should aim for.

For those interested, please feel free to go through our selection of Table Top CNC machines at CNC Masters for a selection of the best CNC machines.

About Peter Jacobs

Peter Jacobs is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters, a leading supplier of CNC mills, milling machines, and CNC lathes. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights for various blogs in CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn.

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MX Software – Easy to Use, Easy to Learn – Included with your machine purchase
The MX software is designed to work seamlessly with your CNC Masters machine. It is made to work with Windows PC – desktop, laptop, or an all in one – on standard USB. Use it on Windows 8 or 10 64-bit operating systems.
No internal conversion printer/serial port to USB software or additional conversion hardware is used with the MX.

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2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!

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3. Features Tour and Tutorials Included
The Features Tour will give you a quick run-down on all the features the MX can do for you. The Tutorials are easy to follow even for the first time CNC machinist.
Feel free to download the MX on any of your computers. We recommend downloading the MX along with your CAD and CAM software there at the comfort of your office computer to generate your tool path programs. You don’t need to be hooked up to the machine either to test your program in simulation mode.

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4. Navigate and Edit Your Program through the MX interface with Ease
With a few clicks of the mouse or using touch screen technology, you can easily navigate through the MX interface importing saved programs into the Editor from the File drop down menu. Using standard windows features to edit your program you can then lock the Editor Screen to avoid accidental editing, and if you need to insert a line in the middle of a program, just click on [ReNum] to re-number your tool path list.
You can create a program or import CAM generated G-code tool paths into the Editor
The X Y and Z W arrow jog buttons are displayed from the point of view of the cutter to avoid confusion when the table and saddle are moving. You can also adjust your spindle speed and coolant control while jogging each axis.

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5. Feed Hold – Pause in the Middle of your Program
Feed Hold lets you pause in the middle of a program. From there you can step through your program one line at time while opting to shut the spindle off and then resume your program.
You can also write PAUSE in the middle of your program and jog each axis independently while your program is in pause mode.

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6. Hot Keys
Hot Keys is an alternative method to easily control your machine using your hard or touch screen keyboard. One can press P to pause a program, press S to turn Spindle On, G to run a program, Space Bar to Stop, J to record your individual movements one line at a time to create a program in teach mode.

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7. Pick Menu – for conversational mode programming
Write FANUC style G-codes directly into the Editor or select commands off the [Pick] menu and write your tool path program in conversational mode such as what is written in the Editor box. You can even mix between conversation commands and G-codes in the same program.

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8. Pick Menu List of Options
Use commands such as MOVE, SPINDLE ON/OFF, COOLANT ON/OFF, PAUSE, DELAY, GO HOME…. to write your tool path programs in conversational mode.

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9. Draw the Tool Path to verify it before pressing Go
Hit Draw to view your tool path program drawing, check out its run time, or even simulate the tool path in 3D mode. This can be helpful to quickly verify your program before running it. You can also slow down or speed up the drawing or simulation process.
You can also hit Go within the Draw Window itself to verify the cutter’s position on the machine. The current tool path will be highlighted and simultaneously draw out the next path so you can verify what the cutter will be doing next on the program.

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10. Run each tool path independently to study its movement
1. Run the machine on Trace mode. You can run each tool path independently, one line at a time to study the tool path movement on the machine to verify the position of the application and if any fixture/vise is in the way of the cutter’s path.

2. You can also verify your program by clicking on the Trace and Draw buttons together. This will allow you to view each tool path independently one line at a time in the Draw Window.

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11. Counters display in Inches or Millimeters – Continuous Feed
1. When running a program, the counters will display a “real-time” readout while the machine is in CNC operation without counting ahead of the movement.
2. The current tool path is highlighted while the machine is in operation without causing slight interruptions/pauses as the software feeds the tool path to the machine. The MX internally interprets a program ten lines ahead to allow for “continuous machining” avoiding slight interruptions as the machine waits for its next tool path command.
3. “Run Time” tells you how long it takes to run your tool path program.

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12. Use the “Go From Line” command to start in the middle of your program
If you ever need to begin your program from somewhere in the middle of it, use [Go From Line] which you can find under Tools. The Help guide will walk you through how to position the cutter without losing its position on the machine.

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13. Exact Motion Distance without over-stepping on an axis while jogging
Use “Relative ON” to enter a specific coordinate to jog any of your axes to an exact location without having to write a program. It’s like using “power feed” but easier. You can jog an exact distance on any of the axes without needing to keep the key pressed down and mistakenly over-step the movement releasing your finger too slowly off the jog button.
Let’s say you need to drill a hole exactly 0.525” using the Z. So you enter 0.525 in the Z box. Next, adjust the JOG FEED RATE slider for the desired feed rate. Then “click once” on the +Z or -Z button to activate the travel. In this case you click once the -Z button first to drill the hole exactly 0.525”. Then click once on the +Z button to drive the axis back up 0.525”.

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14. Teach Mode – Jog Input
You can create a tool path program by storing each point-to-point movement by simply jogging an axis one at a time. Click on either of the Jog Input buttons to store each movement on the Editor Screen. You can then add Spindle ON, feed commands, and press GO to run the new program as needed. This is a great feature to help you learn to create a program by the movements you make on the machine without necessarily writing out an entire program first.

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15. Override on the fly to adjust the Jog Feed to Rapid or the Spindle Speed during the middle of a program
1. Jog Feed and Rapid with Override: You can adjust feeds using the slider from slow minimum 0.1″ per minute to a rapid of 100″ per minute of travel. You can even micro-step your jog as low as 0.01”/min. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.
2. Spindle Speed with Override: You can adjust speeds using the slider from a slow minimum RPM to the max RPM according to the machine setup. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.

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16. Adjust Counters using Pre-Set if you cannot begin the program from 0.00
In a situation where you cannot begin your cutter at it’s 0.00 location, you can “Pre-Set” directly into the counters by typing in your beginning coordinate. You can press Go from here to run your program. You can also “zero all” or “zero” your counters independently. With one click of the [Return to 0.0] button, all axes will travel back to its respective 0.0 on the machine.

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17. Set and Save your 0.00 position for future runs
Set and save your 0.00 position on the machine. These coordinates will be recorded as the first line of the program in the Editor Screen. Should you desire to return to this program at a later date, you only have to click on the Set Zero Return button. This will command the machine to automatically jog each axis to its saved “set” 0.00 position according to the recorded coordinates at the first line of the program.

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18. Create a “Home” position to clear your application and run multiple times
Let’s say you need to machine one application times 100 pieces. This usually requires a jig to retain that physical 0.00 position. But in this case, you want the program to end with a clearance of the axes to easily switch out the next piece of stock and start again. With Save Home, you have the ability to save this offset (home) position while still retaining your Set Zero position where the machine will mill your part out. Pressing [Save Home] will record this new position under the Set Zero line in your program.
Pressing [Go Home] will jog your axes back to your “saved home” position where you originally pressed the Save Home command. You can also input GO_HOME from the Pick Menu as its own tool path in your program. At the completion of your program the axes will end at your Home position. Replace your part, then press [Return to 0.0] button to allow the axes to return to its zero position, and press Go to start your next run.

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19. Disable the axis motors to manually hand crank each axis into place
Easily de-energize the axis motors by clicking [Disable Motors] to crank each axis by hand, and then press [Reset Control] to re-energize the axis motors.

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20. Change up to 30 tools with compensation, and store your tool offsets for other programs
The MX supports…

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21. Use the optional ATC rack up to 8 tools for milling, drilling, and rigid tapping applications
The CNC Masters Automatic Tool Changer Rack and Tools (US Patent 9,827,640B2) can be added to any CNC Masters Milling Machine built with the rigid tapping encoder option. The tutorial will guide you through the set-up procedure using the ATC tools.

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22. Use the optional Rigid Tapping Wizard without the need for tapping head attachments
When you order your CNC Masters machine, have it built with the optional rigid tapping encoder. You can take any drill cycle program and replace the top line with a tapping code created by the wizard to tap your series of holes up to 1/2” in diameter.

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23. Use the optional Digital Probe to scan the profile and/or pockets of your fun/hobby type designs to write your tool path program and machine out a duplicate of your original design To “surface” scan an object, you can program the probe along the X or Y plane. The stylus will travel over the part starting on the left side front corner of the object and work its way to the end of the part on the right side. Depending on how the stylus moves, it will record linear and interpolated movements along the X, Y, and Z planes directly on the MX Editor.
To “pocket” scan an object containing a closed pocket such as circles or squares, the scan will start from the top front, work its way inside of the pocket, and scan the entire perimeter of the pocket.
Under the Setup of the MX software you will find the Probe Tab which will allow you to calibrate and program your probe. Your “Probe Step”, “Feed”, and “Data Filter” can also be changed on the fly while the probe is in the middle of scanning your object.

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24. Use work offsets G54-G59 for nesting applications
The work offsets offer you a way to program up to six different machining locations. It’s like having multiple 0.0 locations for different parts. This is very useful especially when using sub-routines/nesting applications.

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25. Create a Rectangular Pocket / Slot with our selection of Wizards to help you build a tool path program
The Cycle Wizards for the mill or lathe makes it easy to create a simple tool path without needing to use a CAD and CAM software.
On this Wizard, the Rectangular Pocket / Slots, can be used to form a deep rectangular pocket into your material or machine a slot duplicating as many passes needed to its total depth.

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26. Create a Circular Pocket Wizard
Input the total diameter, the step down, and total depth and the code will be generated.

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27. Do Thread Milling using a single point cutter Wizard

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28. Cut a gear out using the Cut Gear Wizard with the optional Fourth Axis

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29. Create a Peck Drilling Program in Circular or Rectangular Patterns
Using the Circular or Rectangular Drilling Wizards, you can program the machine to drill an un-limited series of holes along the X and Y planes. Program it to drill straight through to your total depth, use a high-speed pecking cycle, or deep hole pecking cycle. You can program the cut-in depth and return point for a controlled peck drill application to maximize chip clearance.

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30. The MX interface can easily be interchanged from Mill Mode to Lathe Mode
Use this interface for your CNC Masters Lathe. It contains all the same user-friendly features and functions that comes in Mill Mode. Simply go to the Setup page and change the interface.

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31. Use Tool Change Compensation or the optional Auto Tool Changer Turret if your application requires more than one tool in a single program
You can offset the length and angle of each tool and record it under Tools in your Setup. The program will automatically pause the lathe’s movement and spindle allowing you to change out your tool, or allowing the optional ATC Turret to quickly turn to its next tool and continue machining.
On the MX interface, you also have four Tool Position buttons. Select your desired T position, and the auto tool post will quickly turn and lock itself to that position.

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32. Use the Lathe Wizard Threading Cycle to help you program your lathe’s internal or external threads in inches or metric

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33. Use the Lathe Wizard Turning / Boring Cycle to help you program simple turning and boring cycles without having to go through a CAM or writing a long program with multiple passes

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34. Use the Lathe Wizard Peck Drilling Cycle to help you program your drill applications or for face grooving

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35. Facing / Grooving / Part Off Cycle Wizards – with Constant Surface Speed
These cycles can be used with Constant Surface Speed allowing the spindle speed to increase automatically as the diameter of the part decreases giving your application a consistent workpiece finish. With CSS built into the wizard, there is no need to break down the cycle into multiple paths and multiple spindle speed changes.

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36. This is our list of supported G and M codes which can be found under Tools > G Code/ M Code List in the MX
If you plan to use a third-party CAM software to generate your tool path program, use a generic FANUC post processor and edit it to match our list of codes. As an option, we also sell Visual mill/turn CAM software which comes with a guaranteed post processor for our machines to easily generate your tool path programs based on your CAD drawings.

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37. Our pledge to you…

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