Good Hobby CNC Machine


I'm thinking seriously about getting a CNC.  Been browsing on Ebay.  Mostly these China made 3020 cnc machines are popping up, and they all seem to  be relatively well priced.  Just thought I'd get some opinions from members on any actual experience on these.  Also any recommendations on getting a hobby CNC machine in general would be greatly appreciated.  I'm planning on using the machine to make hub plates, motor mounts, etc.  I'd probably be milling aluminium and/or carbon fibre.



  1. (servo motors and controller)
  2. 3-axis Stepper Motor System based on DQ542MA, on Ebay
  3. 6-axis Stepper Motor System based on DQ542MA, on Ebay
  4. DC1 Servo Motor Controller, from Makerbot
  5. Servo Motor Encoder

05/26/2012:  After some discussion.  This blog is starting to look into building a CNC machine of our own.  Keep following to stay informed.  We're in the brainstorming stage at this point any input from users is welcomed.

05/27/2012: DIYDrones CNC Project group is created.  Let's move our activity to that group.

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  • Monroe,


    >Real ballscrews and real servos not steppers if you want the good stuff.

    Are you saying this machine now has servos? The site indicates a stepper drive.

    A friend mentioned the 3in1 machines to me years ago but cited some problems with slop in the head on the 3in1 designs. However, the 'history' page on the site you linked indicates these problems were worked out of the design.

    The Tormach is also offered at a similar price point, and I've heard positive comments on this machine too. Any reason why you'd recommend one over the other?

    Many machine shops where I live have gone belly up though, so I can often find a used Haas, Fadal etc. at auction for the price of a Tormach or the 3in1 you listed. Last time I looked into buying a mill this is where I would have placed my money. The shops servicing the aerospace community have some really nice equipment - and I've purchased some of it at auctions, but no cnc mills yet.

  • Both Flashcut CNC and Sherline have free software downloads for evaluation and use, some of the free software will do full programing and simulation.  Just need a machine to cut material.

    I just got back from the store, I realized the powered car seat could be converted to a multiple axis mill.  Probably cheap at the wrecking yard, add a 12 volt battery, off and running.  Convert the wipper motor to drive the head stock, they are multiple speed too.


  • Distributor

    wow for $275 a fully built dust enclosure..

    but of course one DIY is the norm here on our setup.. :) but I was looking for "pro" ones to get features we need. 

    looks like it's quite basic, enough clearance to manipulate parts and sheets and that's it. 

  • Distributor

    18x24" is good for me too, bigger is better but at this point I'll take anything this crew will produce! This will be a nice ride and we will learn tons of things, just like I did back 2 years ago with the first copter! 

    I am way out of my league and I like it... as I need to read to keep up to you guys. 

    Even if it takes 90+ days to get one it's fine, exciting.   I dont mind eigher soldering components for you guys if we really get it as a kit even electronics.  After 100+ APM soldered I am very good! hehe

  • Just a question, though are we going to have to program the PID control ourselves or does the software like EMC2 have that kind of stuff built in?

  • So the dc1 you mentioned above, can drive all 6 axes?  Seems easy enough thing to put together.  Makerbot already has all the rest of the electronics, like the motor driver, and encoders at a decent enough price.  I think I can figure it all out.

    Also, the ebay seller I listed above has a controller, motor, and driver package too, but for 3 axis.  I wonder if it's expandable or we can multiplex two of them together, to get 6 axis.


  • I found what looks like a decent router table here

  • I have been in the hobby for over 40 years and truly enjoy making my own parts. 

    For electronics there are two reasonable sources, Sherline which has a driver box and 3 stepper motors for $1000.00 and uses Linux software.

    Flashcut CNC uses Windows software but cost a lot more, about $1300.00 for a USB controller with software.  A driver and controller combination is around $2400.00 for stepper motors and upwards of $3600.00 for the servo setup both without motors.

    I use a combination of the Sherline driver box and Flashcut USB controller and Windows software.  The Flashcut USB controller can be used for other drivers if you want to make your own.

    Building and setting up a CNC setup is expensive and time consuming and you should consider the challenge of learning the programing along with basic machine skills.

    Don't forget about the cost of the tooling that goes along with a basic CNC setup, bits, cutters, clamping devices and the raw materials.

    I have been using stepper motors for 20 years and have had absolutly no problems.  I did upgrade to higher resolution stepper motors and the only difference I have noticed is they are much quieter.

    I would like to find a small CNC table setup to adapt my CNC gear so it would be easier to cut G10 and CF sheets.  The Sherline mill is somewhat limited when cutting out sheet stock.  I usually make my parts one at a time instead of programming and cutting a bunch of pieces out of a sheet.  I find it easier to use left over and scraps that way.


  • Ok, got it.  You're talking about something like this:


    That's $116 for one channel though.  These guys sell the parallel port control board, and the power supply too.  A little pricey, if we're talking about 6 axis.  Also, aren't servos with encoder output also very pricey?

  • So, when you're talking about servos, and encoders, Monroe, are we talking about servos that are PWM driven?  What protocol is used by the encoders? (Analog?)

    The OTS CNC controllers probably won't drive servos or have encode inputs, at least not the cheap ones.

    How about something like this?


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