If you work with multi-tool CNC projects, manually changing bits and zeroing each time can become tiring quite quickly.
For many small CNC businesses, manual tool changing becomes the biggest bottleneck in their production process.
An Automatic Tool Changer (ATC) spindle is the natural upgrade at this point.
Although it costs a bit, the reduction in production time and physical effort pays back quite quickly for most businesses.
In this guide, I review the best ATC spindle options for different kinds of CNC machines/routers and for different CNC applications.
Best Automatic Tool Changer Spindles for CNC
For this review, I considered the factors like speed, power, tool holding, build quality, features, and customer support of the various popular ATC spindles available in 2021.
Here are the best ATC CNC Spindles  available on the market today:
|1||CNC Depot ATC Spindles||Check Price|
|2||Mechatron ATC Spindles||Check Price|
|3||Teknomotor ATC Spindles||Check Price|
|4||Jianken ATC Spindles||Check Price|
Best ATC CNC Spindles 
CNC Depot is a US-based CNC brand focused mainly on manufacturing ATC spindles for CNC routers.
They are extremely popular among hobbyists and small businesses due to the quality and affordability of their ATC spindles.
There are very few US-based ATC CNC spindle makers, and CNC depot is one of the few that do.
Their spindles are quite popular with Avid CNC machines and in case you want to buy a CNC Depot spindle with your Avid CNC, you can get your Avid controller configured to use with the CNC Depot spindle.
Their most popular and affordable ATC spindle is the S30 ATC spindle.
The S30 spindle can be used with a host of other CNC machine brands such as Shopbot, Camaster, ShopSabre and Stepcraft.
All of the spindles in their stable are rated at 3 hp at 220 V but vary in other performance parameters.
They basically have three types of spindles.
The S30 and FM30 are more suited for woodworking and have a maximum RPM of 18,000 RPM.
It uses a steel bearing and you can get it for around $2,995 from their official website.
The S30C and FM30C are the best for high-speed application as it has a maximum speed of 24,000 RPM.
It has ceramic bearings which don’t heat up and distort when running at high speeds for a long duration.
These spindles are listed for around $3,395 on the official website.
The S30F and FM30F are good for cutting metals as these have good torque at low speeds.
The maximum speed is 12,000 RPM and they use 4-pole motors for high torque at low RPM.
You can purchase it for around $2,995 from their official website.
The S series is the standard spindle and the FM series is the front mount version of the S series spindles.
They have a metallic chassis with mounting holes that let you screw in a bolt directly into them and do not require a bracket for mounting.
All of the spindles are passively cooled meaning it does not require any additional cooling setup to keep it cooled.
This is achieved through a design that uses large windings which help in dissipating the heat better.
The bearings are permanently greased and sealed, meaning you don’t have to worry about cleaning and greasing them from time to time.
All spindles come with a standard ISO30 tool holder with an HSD type pullstud.
For tool rack, you can either buy a readymade tool rack or even get a 3D printed one.
You will need a 100 psi pneumatic line to use with this ATC spindle for tool changing.
Even if you don't set up a tool rack system, an ATC spindle can still be really useful for quick changing of bits with the power drawbar.
In the absence of a power drawbar feature, like in a regular CNC spindle, you need to fiddle with wrenches every time you need a tool change.
CNC Depot also offers Hitachi VFDs that you can pair with their spindles.
However, you can choose any other compatible VFD of your choice if you wish.
CNC Depot also sells HSD ATC and HSD MTC spindles that you can order from their website.
The most appealing factor of purchasing from CNC Depot is its customer support and after-sales service.
The customer support from CNC Depot is the best among all the spindles listed here.
They offer phone and email support to their customers and you can contact them for any queries regarding their ATC spindles.
Additionally, they also offer a 60-day return period. If you are not satisfied with the product you can return it for a full refund.
|Series||Power||Tool Interface||Max Speed||Spindle Diameter||Weight (lbs)|
|ATC-8022-30-ISO20||3 hp||ISO20||30,000||80 mm||~17|
|ATC-8022-30-HSK25||3 hp||HSK25||30,000||80 mm||~16|
|ATC-8022-42-HSK25||3 hp||HSK25||42,000||80 mm||~16|
|ATC-11045-24-ISO30||6 hp||ISO30||24,000||110 mm||~50|
|ATC-12065-24-ISO30||8.7 hp||ISO30||24,000||120 mm||~55|
|ATC-12575-12-ISO40||10 hp||ISO40||12,000||125 mm||~75|
Mechatron ATC spindle options
Mechatron is a German brand and their ATC spindles are known for their quality, performance, and long life.
You can find spindles with power ratings ranging between 3 hp to 10 hp and with a maximum speed of 42,000 RPM.
The tool interface options are ISO30, ISO30, ISO40, and HSK 25 tapers. If you need a different interfacing option you can request them for a customized product.
If you want to cut metals, the 10 hp 12,000 RPM spindle is a good choice as it will give you a good material removal rate and reduce cycle time.
Mechatron spindles are constructed with tight tolerance when compared to others and they typically have runout of less than 0.002 mm (too many zeroes to write in inches).
This improves the finish of your parts and at the same time reduces the wear on your tools.
The spindles are liquid-cooled and Mechatron also offers cooling solutions. However, you can also use any cooling solution of your choice.
The use of grease-free lubrication means you need to spend less time on the maintenance of the spindle.
Additionally, the spindle has speed sensors that help in maintaining the right speed for cutting.
Mechatron also provides a tool sensor included with the spindle that prevents the spindle from spinning without a tool.
They have an online store from where you can order your spindle and offer worldwide shipping.
The customer support team is based in Germany and they offer phone and email support. The customer support is reliable and quite responsive.
Teknomotor ATC spindles are another popular ATC spindle of choice in the US and the world.
They are an Italian spindle manufacturing brand that offers good quality ATC spindle options.
You can find spindles that range from 5 hp to 12 hp of power with a maximum RPM of 24,000.
Teknomotor spindles have an aluminum construction and are a good choice for woodworking, aluminum machining, and plastics.
They have a low weight which makes them suitable to be used on machines with a long gantry or low powered stepper motors.
These spindles provide an ATC solution that is a right balance between quality and cost.
The spindles use ISO30 taper for tool holding and you will need to supply an 80 psi pneumatic line for tool changes.
It also includes automatic cone cleaning that removes any debris inside the tool holder with a blast of air from the pneumatic line.
As an endorsement of the quality of their product, the spindles come with a one-year warranty.
You can purchase your spindle from American Spindle Technology who is an exclusive representative and distributor for Teknomotor spindles in North America.
They offer email support for their customers. You can also find phone support from Teknomotor but their phone support team is based in Italy.
You can use their first contact form and fill in your requirements regarding motor parameters and they will promptly suggest to you the best spindle in their stable that suits you.
Jianken is a Chinese CNC spindle brand that is quite popular among the DIY CNC crowd mostly because of its cost-efficient offerings.
They offer a wide range of spindles and you will be able to find one that’s perfect for your needs.
They have spindles with power that ranges between 2 hp (1.5 kW) to 18 hp (13.5 kW) and with a maximum speed of up to 60,000 RPM.
All of the spindles are water-cooled, so you’ll have to provide additional cooling equipment.
You can find spindles with ISO10, ISO20, ISO25, ISO 30, BT30, and BT40 taper.
You can visit their official website for the specific spindle you need. You’ll have to look for JGL series spindles.
JGL series spindles are the ones that support pneumatic automatic tool changing.
They provide email and phone support for their customers. However, the customer support team is based in China.
Automatic Tool Change Adapters- Affordable ATC solution
If you want an automatic tool-changing solution on your existing CNC build without spending too much you can opt for an ATC adapter instead of a spindle.
You can attach these to your existing spindle and convert them into an ATC spindle. It will also save you from having to discard the manual tool change spindle that you have.
|Version||Maximum Power||Maximum Torque||Maximum Speed||Spindle Diameter||Weight||Price|
|STC-65-S||3 hp||127 oz-in||24,000 RPM||65 mm||~2.86 lbs||~$1035|
|STC-80-S||3 hp||127 oz-in||24,000 RPM||80 mm||~3.75 lbs||~$1095|
Mechatron Tool Change Adapter options
Mechatron offers two tool change adapters that you can choose from based on the diameter of your spindle.
These adapters can handle speeds up to 24,000 RPM, power up to 3 hp, and torque of up to 127 oz-in.
You will need to supply at least 87 psi air pressure for tool changes.
It comes with two maintenance-free sealed steel bearings that ensure long life.
Additionally, it uses passive cooling and does not require any external setup for cooling.
For tool holding it uses an ISO10 interface that can hold tools in the ER11 and ER16 ranges.
CNC CAT is a Greek brand and their tool changer is the most popular automatic tool change adapter for CNC spindles.
You can use it on your 65 mm spindles and it will make your spindle longer by about 2.16 inches.
The tool holder is an SK15 type unit and can hold tools within the ER11 range.
You will need to supply compressed air at around 116 psi for tool changing with this adapter.
It can withstand spindle speeds of up to 28,000 RPM and has an aluminum construction with a weight of 2 lbs.
CNC CAT is a popular choice with CNC routers like Shapeoko and X-Carve and you can many users who have retrofitted their manual spindles with this tool changer.
It costs around $550 and you will have to pay additional shipping charges and custom fee to get it shipped to you.
They provide a good assembly manual that will help you interface the adapter with your spindle.
The manual is well-detailed and has illustrations. Additionally, they offer phone and email support to their customers.
How to Choose an ATC Spindle for your CNC Machine
Speed and Power
You need to consider the speed and power requirements of the projects you intend to undertake.
For cutting soft materials like wood and MDF you need high-speed spindles with speeds above 16,000 RPM, here the torque is not much of an issue.
However, if you want to cut hard materials like metal you need spindles that have high torque at low speeds below 10,000 RPM.
The spindle power determines the rate at which you can remove materials, so a high-powered spindle can be fast in cutting materials.
Size and Weight
You should choose a spindle that can be mounted onto the gantry of your build.
The size of the spindle should be within the mounting limits of your CNC router.
You should also consider the weight of the spindle, as ATC spindles are heavier than their regular counterparts.
If the weight is beyond the capacity of the gantry, it can sag and critically affect the accuracy of your CNC machine.
Also, if you use a heavy spindle, the stepper motors might not be able to drive the gantries with the added load.
You must select a spindle with a weight that is well within the capabilities of your steppers or you will have to change the steppers.
ATC spindles use pressurized air for releasing and locking onto the tool holders.
Most of the ATC spindles use an air supply between 60 to 120 psi.
When you choose an ATC spindle make sure you can supply the pneumatic pressure that the spindle requires.
This refers to the interface between the spindle and the tools you intend to use.
The tool holder holds the tool and is kept on the tool post from where the spindle sucks it up into it.
Choose a spindle that is compatible with tool holders that can accommodate the tools that you intend to use for your projects.
Spindles require cooling to keep the components within tolerable temperature to ensure accuracy and reduce wear.
Typically ATC spindles use passive cooling or liquid cooling. Air-cooled spindles are less common in ATC spindles.
Passively cooled spindles do not have any mechanism for cooling the spindle. Such spindles are designed to dissipate heat efficiently.
They are less compact when compared to liquid-cooled spindles due to their design that needs more space for dissipating heat.
Liquid-cooled spindles can last longer and have better accuracy when compared to other spindles.
However, they need additional equipment like a pump, reservoir, and radiator.