The Bantam Tools desktop milling machine is a 3-axis CNC mill primarily intended for product designers, educators, and hobbyists.
It is a ready-to-use, fully enclosed CNC milling machine that lets you smoothly mill aluminum and materials of similar hardness.
In this guide, I break down every aspect of this CNC, to help you decide whether this is the right machine for you.
Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine Review
For this review, I considered the performance of the Bantam desktop CNC on various parameters like size, material capability, aluminum milling, software, ease of use, community, and customer support among others.
With a footprint of 20.9” x 19.8” x 19.4", bantam tools CNC has a cutting area of 9” x 7” x 3.3”.
This cutting area is close to the 8"x 8" offered by the Nomad 3 CNC from Carbide 3D, which is a competitor to the Bantam CNC.
With its small footprint, you can comfortably fit it on most desks and store it on a shelf when not in use, making it a perfect fit for classrooms and labs.
One quirk I noticed was that a stepper motor sticks outside from the side of the machine, which could have been avoided in the design.
This mill is capable of processing 3D parts from materials like aluminum, brass, copper, acrylic, Delrin, hardwoods, and plastics.
While it can mill several materials, aluminum milling is the most useful application of this CNC.
Due to the relatively small work area, it's not intended for woodworkers who usually work with large workpieces.
When traversing, this desktop mill can hit a maximum speed of 250 ipm which is quite impressive.
You can engrave small 2D designs on steel, but it is not the ideal router to cut steel efficiently.
It can also be used for making PCBs, but it does not support G 85 commands for slotted holes.
The machine is built for cutting aluminum, and it can do a good job in processing small-sized aluminum stock.
For aluminum milling, the speeds and feeds need to be carefully balanced with the chip load.
As an example, with a 1/8" flat end mill, at 0.002" depth of cut, you should be able to hit a feed rate of ~60 ipm with this CNC mill.
Pay special attention to the first pass with any CNC mill, as any irregularities (burrs, warping) on the surface can mess up your calculations.
Strong work holding is extremely important if you intend to perform milling at high speed and feed rates.
The Bantam tools mill comes with a T-slot table and has an integrated L-bracket and toe clamps fixed on it for work holding.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube that showcase the machine plowing through aluminum, which is an endorsement of its aluminum-cutting ability.
Overall, it mills well on aluminum, and its high-powered spindle with a strong aluminum frame gives the machine enough rigidity to cut aluminum.
Chassis / Frame
This CNC has a solid aluminum frame made of ⅝” aluminum bars.
20mm linear rails are used to build the X and Y axes, and the Z-axis is made of 16mm rail.
This desktop CNC is well built with a billet aluminum frame, a heavy gauge stainless steel for the body, and plastic side panels.
The plastic side panel is a bit disappointing however it doesn't have any bearing on the performance of this machine.
Transparent windows and a door give you 180° viewability while using the mill.
Further, the polycarbonate loading door swings up and down and is supported by two magnetic locks.
The overall design is broadly similar to the highly-rated Nomad 3 from Carbide 3D.
There are rubber bushes in each corner and the middle to absorb vibrations during operation.
A pair of vents on both sides of the machine helps with air circulation inside the enclosed machine and heat dissipation.
All three axes are controlled by a lead screw mechanism with linear bearings, which helps in generating tremendous holding power and thrust.
PTFE‐filled acetal resin sleeve bearings allow for fast speed and good machine rigidity.
The spindle uses an ER-11 collet and you get a usable power of ¼ hp with a speed range of 8,500 - 26,000 RPM.
A 250-watt BLDC motor is used to drive the spindle and is coupled with the spindle using a belt drive.
The BLDC motor has a rated power of 250 W and spins at an RPM that ranges between 10,000 - 28,000 RPM.
While the spindle power of 250 W is higher than the 130W offered by Nomad 3, the spindle power is usually not the limiting factor when pushing these desktop CNC mills.
The RPM at the spindle output is lower than the motor speed, this helps in providing better torque performance for cutting aluminum.
A brushless motor helps to reduce the operation noise and increases the lifetime by cutting down brush and commutator erosion.
The enclosures help somewhat mask the noise generated by this CNC while milling, but you shouldn't be near any CNC mill for a long duration without wearing hearing protection.
If you intend to run this in an office setting, you should expect to hear a low/medium drone noise while it does the milling.
Controller and Electronics
The controller and power supply sections are housed behind the machine.
This helps minimize dust interference and increases cooling capability.
The power supply is a simple 3-prong plug adjacent to the on/off switch.
A‐type to B‐type 2.0 USB cable with a ferrite bead is provided with the machine to connect it to the computer.
The addition of a ferrite bead filter clears high-frequency noise energy by converting it to heat.
It requires a power supply of 100-240 Volts, AC 50/60 Hertz, and 350 Watts for the machine. This means you can plug it into a common wall socket.
It has built-in touch probing, you can throw in a chunk of material and have the machine automatically trace out the surfaces for you.
There is an external E-stop switch and a hidden magnetic switch for the front door. The E-stop switch wires are heat-shrunk-covered, that’s good.
The magnetic switch on the front door prevents the machine from running with the doors open and makes it safer to operate.
All the axes have mechanical limit switches that help in homing the axes and prevent the gantry from crashing into the frame.
Software for Bantam Tools Desktop CNC
Bantam Tools provides their custom-made control software for running this mill.
Further, the software has CAM capabilities for SVG files for 2.5-dimensional designs.
The most common workflow here would be to design in a CAD software program, generate G-Code using CAM software, and import it into Bantam tools control software.
While you will still need CAD and CAM software programs, the CAM functionalities built into the bantam tools software is useful.
Fusion 360 is the best choice for CAD/CAM when using Bantam CNC as the tool libraries are pre-made and ready to be imported into Fusion 360.
One very important aspect of Bantam tools software is that it's offered in two versions, a basic free version, and a paid subscription version.
While the basic version does much of what most people need, some advanced features like conversational CAM and PCB milling support are only available if you subscribe.
The conversational CAM feature lets you make modifications to your G-code on the fly without having to go back to your CAM software.
The basic free version supports file formats such as, .gcode, .tap, .nc, .svg, and .btm.
The subscription version supports all basic version formats and additionally supports .brd, .gtl, .gbr, and .cmp files.
While the software is simple to use, tech support is available in case you need help.
The subscription model employed by Bantam tools for using advanced features is quite unique among other competing CNC machine brands.
While some control software programs like Mach3 are paid, you only pay once.
Note that this software program works offline, and is not cloud-based, which can be a major annoyance for some users.
Also, Bantam’s software has a simulation mode that will show you the result of your operation beforehand, with an estimated time for the milling.
The milling software tracks spindle time and it will alert you when it’s time to re-tension the belt drive with the included tool.
'Safety cover open' and 'e-stop button pressed' notifications built into the software are useful safety features.
Fixture & tooling plate
Bantam Tools offers multiple fixture plate that allows you to expand the work area and allows you to fix larger workpieces.
However, the cut area will remain the same. It also provides you with additional work-holding capabilities.
So, if you want to make small designs on a large workpiece you can get a fixturing plate and replace the default work bed.
One toolset is provided by Bantam with their machine, more can be purchased directly from their website. It’ll come in handy for shared workspaces.
Wrenches, pulley belt set, replacement collet, rubber feet, and more too are sold separately on Bantam’s accessory page.
CNC spindle-house replacement kit
An essential, which runs at the center of the machine.
With time, this part of the machine will likely get some wear and tear.
In the best interest of the machine, this part has to be replaced for the proper and accurate milling operation of the CNC machine.
This kit contains a preassembled spindle house, torque wrench, ratchet wrench, rod ejector and inserter tool, 3/16” square drive, bearing plugs, and some more items.
External chip collector
The machine lacks a built-in chip collection mechanism.
However, it provides a port at the back of the machine, to integrate an external system for effective chip collection.
Even without the chip collection mechanism the dust can be contained inside the chip room, thanks to the enclosure.
The mill comes in a medium-density white foam packing, in a pre-assembled enclosure with an aluminum piece placed in the work area to get it tested and running.
With the pre-assembled setup, you can get started in no time.
The assembly box has:
- A Power Cable of IEC Type B
- A standard quarter-inch collet
- A couple of cutting tools
- A quarter-inch shaft
- Some spindle wrenches
The support section on Bantam's website can guide you on connecting the cables.
The only work for you is to install and set up the software program.
With the well-detailed instruction manual for help, you can set it up and start cutting in an hour.
While it has excellent US-based customer support, there is no dedicated community for Bantam tools CNC owners.
This is definitely something Bantam tools must improve on, as CNC machine users often need a lot of after-sale community support for successful operations.
Customers can connect with Bantam through Bantam Tools’ official website, visit their “contact us / submit a request” page, or through their support email.
They have a 30-day return policy for their products. It can be utilized if a defective product is delivered to you or if you are not satisfied with your purchase.
A 1-year warranty is provided from the date of purchase, an additional 1-year add-on warranty upgrade is also available at an extra cost.
For purchased software, regular updates, curated projects for sample testing, advanced probing, and much more are provided.
The Bantam tools desktop CNC milling machine is a good choice for milling small stock, especially Aluminum.
While the subscription model can be irksome for some users, that's the overall direction in which most software programs are going (e.g. Fusion 360).
Overall, it's a well-built CNC machine that gives you everything you need to do well with your CNC including software, spare parts, accessories, and customer support.
Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Mill vs Carbide 3D Nomad 3
|Parameters||Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Mill||Carbide 3D Nomad 3|
|Work area||9” x 7” x 3.5”||8" x 8" x 3"|
|Linear motion||Lead screw mechanism with linear bearings on all axis||Lead screw with anti-backlash nuts on all axes|
|Chassis||built with a billet aluminum frame, a heavy gauge stainless steel for the body, and plastic side panels||Aluminum all-metal body|
|Spindle||10,000 - 28,000 RPM||0 - 24,000 RPM Spindle|
|Assembly||Pre-assembled(~30 minutes)||Pre-assembled(~30 minutes)|
Comparison of Bantam Tool Desktop CNC Mill and Carbide 3D Nomad 3
Nomad 3 is a well-built and time-tested desktop CNC from Carbide 3D.
When it comes to the work area available on both machines, Bantam Tools can cut thicker workpieces than Nomad 3.
Bantam tools have a work area of 63 cubic inches and Nomad 3 has a 64 cubic inch work area. But the Z-axis travel is 1/2" longer on the Bantam Tools CNC mill.
The linear drive mechanism on Nomad 3 is better than Bantam Tools as it uses anti-backlash nuts to compensate for the backlash error in lead screws.
The chassis of Bantam Tools has a more rigid and heavy construction than Nomad 3 making it a much more suitable machine for cutting aluminum.
On the software front, Nomad 3 has diverse software for various applications. However, some features and software are paid.
The software on Bantam Tools is optimized for 3D milling and some features are restricted behind a paywall.
Carbide 3D has a large and active community around its product with an online forum for support, while Bantam tools don't have one.