Best CNC Mills [2021]-Desktop, Benchtop, and Industrial

Best CNC Mills [2021]-Desktop, Benchtop, and Industrial

Best CNC Mills [2021]-Desktop, Benchtop, and Industrial

CNC Milling is more affordable than ever before and there are so many options before you.

Before choosing a CNC mill, you need to decide whether you need a desktop CNC mill or a benchtop CNC Mill as they are fundamentally different.

In this guide, I list the best CNC mills available today, by discussing everything that's good and bad about them.

While choosing these machines, I evaluated them for the rigidity of their chassis, accuracy and repeatability, electronics, ease of use, customer support, and their cost.

If you are thinking of converting your manual mill to a CNC mill, I have discussed that in the latter part of this article.

Also for those interested, I've listed the best industrial CNC mills at the end of this guide.

CNC Mills Classification
CNC Mills Classification

Here are the best CNC Mills available today [2021]:

CNC MillType
1Nomad 3Desktop CNC Mill
2Onefinity MachinistDesktop CNC Mill
3Avid Benchtop PRO2424Desktop CNC Mill
4Sherline 12" CNC MillBenchtop CNC Mill
4Taig 2019 CNC MillBenchtop CNC Mill
5Tormach PCNC 440Benchtop CNC Mill
7Haas CNCIndustrial CNC Mills
8Okuma CNCIndustrial CNC Mills

Best CNC Mills [2021] -Desktop, Benchtop and Industrial

Best Small CNC Mills

These mills are suitable for the production of parts in small quantities and are best suited for hobbyists and Small Businesses.

Small CNC Mills can be of two types, Desktop CNC Mills and Benchtop CNC Mills.

Best Desktop CNC Mills

Desktop CNC Mills fit on a desktop and are not as heavy as benchtop CNC Mills.

Typically, desktop CNC mills work well for milling metals but they are also used a lot for milling non-metals (Like wood, plastics, and PCB) as well.

They have a gantry style frame and offer a higher work area compared to benchtop mills which have a C-frame or Bridgeport style.

These are the best Desktop CNC Mills available today for metal and non-metal milling:

1. Nomad 3: Best Desktop CNC Mill

Carbide3D Nomad CNC
Carbide3D Nomad CNC

Nomad 3 is a small compact desktop CNC machine that has proven capability to work on metals such as aluminum (6061 and 707 alloys), copper, brass and soft materials.

Nomad 3 is incredibly popular among jewelry makers and people working with small metal pieces.

Carbide 3D sells the Nomad 3 for around $2,800, and you can purchase yours from their official website.

Nomad 3 can mill titanium and steel with proper coolant and chip clearing, Carbide 3D provides feeds and speeds for this on their website.

Size and build

Nomad 3 fits on most desks as it has a small footprint of 19" x 17 ½" and weighs under 70 lbs.

It has a work envelope of 8" x 8" x 3" and has an accuracy of 0.001", which, is quite a good level of accuracy at this price point.

Do you get annoyed by the whining noise of milling metals? Nomad 3 comes with an enclosure that reduces its noise and contains all the debris produced while machining,

All three axes are driven by lead screws with anti-backlash nuts that help the machine handle the stress of milling on metal.

It has an aluminum chassis. Even though aluminum chassis is not the best for machining metals, the Nomad 3 does excellent machining despite that.

You have three color options to choose from if looks matter to you, and it also has a sleek and neat design.

Spindle

Nomad 3 uses a 130 W spindle with a speed range between 9,000 and 24,000 RPM.

The spindle has enough power to mill aluminum with considerably higher feed rates than Shapeoko 4.

The maximum feed rate you can expect from the Nomad 3 is around 150 inches per minute, but do not expect the cuts to be deep.

You will need multiple passes with shallow cuts for machining ferrous metals on Nomad 3.

Controller and electronics 

The controller board on the Nomad 3 uses the GRBL firmware and can control a maximum of three axes.

You can connect the controller to your computer via a USB cable.

The internal illumination lets you have a proper view of the machining process even under low light and can be of aid when loading stocks under low light.

Internal illumination on Nomad 3
Internal illumination on Nomad 3

Talk about safety, the Nomad 3 has a door open interlock, which prevents the machine from running with the door open.

But, it can be a pain when you need to provide external lubrication for milling tough metals. However, there are people who have bypassed it successfully with the help of Carbide 3D's online community.

Software

On the software front Carbide 3D provides four software programs with the Nomad 3:

  • MeshCAM for 3D machining using the Nomad 3
  • Carbide Create 2D CAD/CAM software for 2D modeling and machining
  • Carbide Motion for controlling the machine
  • Carbide Copper for PCB machining

These software programs, except Carbide Copper, are not cloud-based, and you can install them on your Windows or MacOS computer.

The software programs enable you to design and machine metal parts. They even have the designs of the most commonly used parts in the library that you can use.

Assembly

If you need a machine that can start producing parts within 30 minutes of its arrival, then the Nomad 3 has it covered. It comes pre-assembled.

You are good to go once you are done connecting the wires and downloading the software.

The clear instructions and detailed manual with illustrations make assembling the Nomad 3 really easy and helps you do it in under 30 minutes.

Community and support

Carbide 3D provides a 30-day replacement policy, whereby Carbide 3D will replace any part damaged due to operator error, free of cost in the first 30 days.

This is particularly helpful for beginners as they can be relaxed about breaking the machine during the initial learning period.

Moreover, you get a warranty of 18 months for the Nomad 3, which is a testament to its quality.

Carbide 3D is known for its technical support, online community, and forums that come with its machines. 

Nomad 3 is made in Carbide 3D's manufacturing unit in California, and they are known to ship replacement parts quickly. 

Their support videos on their official YouTube channel are pretty helpful, and they even provide tips and tricks for using their machine through videos.

For an sub $3,000 price tag, the features and capability the machine brings to your shop is impressive.

You can produce quality prototypes right from your desktop, hassle-free.

Price~$2,800
Work area8" x 8" x 3"
Material capabilitiesAluminum, Steel (with coolant)
Drive mechanismLead screws with anti-backlash nuts
SoftwareCarbide Create, Carbide Motion Control, MeshCAM
Assembling timePre-assembled
Warranty18 months, 30 days replacement for operator error

Summary of Carbide 3D Nomad 3

2. Onefinity Machinist

Onefinity Machinist X-35
Onefinity Machinist X-35

The Machinist X-35 was built by Onefinity after considering the drawbacks in most CNC Routers in the market for metal machining.

Size and build

The primary application of the Machinist X-35 is milling metals.

Metal stock pieces are usually smaller than their wooden counterparts. Which is why the makers have opted for a smaller footprint for Machinist at 28-¾" x 28-¾" that gives an effective cutting area of 16" x 16".

The Machinist has one of the best frame designs among all the desktop CNC mills out there.

It uses hollow steel tubes of 35 mm diameter for the frame, which gives it incredible rigidity. It is also the reason why the model is called X-35.

I have not seen any other CNC offer a steel frame construction in this price range.

The steel frame is particularly good, as it provides good stiffness and flexes less when machining metals.

To make it more apt for metal milling, the Machinist uses a ball screw drive system on all three axes. Ball screws have negligible backlash error.

The axes move on round shafts by the use of linear bearings. The drawback of linear bearing is that you need to keep them lubricated to protect them from corrosion.

All these features allow the Machinist to have a repeatability of 0.002".

There is no chip evacuation system provided. However, you can purchase the Suckit dust boot from Onefinity and connect it to a chip collection system.

Spindle

The Machinist ships without a stock router or spindle, and this must be bought separately. However, this gives you the freedom to choose a CNC spindle best suited for your requirement.

While choosing a CNC spindle, consider the power, RPM, and cooling system of your spindle.

Onefinity recommends the Makita RT0701C router.

Controller and electronics 

Onefinity uses a controller based on the Buildbotics controller design, an open-source project.

The controller is run by a Raspberry Pi in combination with ATXMEGA 192 A3 U processor and is an advanced controller compared to the GRBL controllers in terms of features.

It supports four axes, whereas GRBL only supports three.

Onefinity's controller has built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet support. through which you can communicate with the controller through a computer.

The placement of the controller protects it from chips produced during milling.

The controller can be accessed via any web browser connected to the same network, and that means you can control your Machinist even from your phone.

You get a touchscreen display with the Machinist that you can use as an offline controller, meaning you don't necessarily need a computer to run this CNC mill.

Even when the machine is connected to a computer, the controller does all the processing.

Eventually, you might need a machine with better power. The drivers on the Onefinity are powerful, and you can upgrade your machine without the need to change the stepper drivers.

Software

The control software for the Machinist is pre-installed on the Buildbotics controller and it can be accessed via a web browser on any device connected to the same network as the machine.

Onefinity does not provide any CAD/CAM software with their machines, this gives you the freedom to choose the software of your choice.

A couple of suitable software for generating toolpaths for metal milling on CNC are Fusion 360 and Solidworks.

You can check out the article I wrote on some of the best software for CNC machines to better understand software choices.

Assembly

The assembly does not take up much of your time as it is shipped pre-assembled. The kit arrives as four different modules.

All you need to do is put these four modules together using hex keys and bolts, which will have the machine up and running in about 30 minutes.

Community and support

The forum at Onefinity is quite active, and although not as large as the Carbide 3D forum in terms of users, the numbers are constantly increasing.

Onefinity is known for standing by its customers and has an excellent reputation among its customer base.

Also, Onefinity offers a 1-year formal warranty on all its products.

The company Kirbre Enterprises Inc. that owns the Onefinity brand is based in Ontario, Canada, and the machine ships from that location.

They offer phone support and email support to all customers.

Overall, its clear that makers of the Onefinity have taken the time to understand the issues with the current crop of CNC machines.

The Machinist is genuinely a 2021 CNC that is ideal for milling metals, and the scores of videos on YouTube are a testament to that.

Price~$1,800
Work area16" x 16" x 5.25"
Material capabilitiesAluminum, Copper
Drive mechanismBall-screws
SoftwareNone (have to use third-party software)
Assembling time30 minutes
Warranty1 year

Summary of Onefinity Machinist X-35

3. Avid Benchtop PRO2424: Best CNC Mill for High-End Hobby Work

Avid Benchtop Pro
Avid Benchtop Pro 2424

I love Avid CNC machines for their incredibly rigid construction and quality motion elements that provide excellent accuracy.

It is a machine capable enough to work on metals, but the cutting speeds will depend on the configuration you choose.

The basic mechanical components of the Benchtop Pro will cost you roughly $3,250.

Additionally, you need to purchase parts like a router/spindle, stepper motors, controller, software, collet, and tooling separately, making it expensive.

I have made a rough cost estimate choosing Avid CNC products to go with the Benchtop Pro.

Avid CNC Benchtop Pro 2424$3,250
Plug and Play NEMA 34 CNC Control System$2,575
Avid CNC 8.7 HP Plug and Play Spindle / VFD System$3,925
Pepperl + Fuchs Proximity Sensor Kit$245
Auto Z and Corner Finding Touch Plate$130
Mach4 Software$200
Total$10,325

Rough cost estimate of Avid CNC Benchtop PRO 2424

Size and build

The Benchtop Pro is a desktop machine, but it can take up the entire space on most desks with a footprint of 43” x 43” x 37”, but it does help you mill large workpieces with a work envelope of 26” x 26” x 6”.

A ball-screw drive mechanism is used on all axes to achieve excellent accuracy and stiffness, making this machine a good choice for milling soft materials and non-ferrous metals.

With proper configuration and cutting parameter calculations, the Benchtop Pro has been used for milling steel.

It has an aluminum chassis which makes it a rigid machine, but wobbles can be created if you do not provide an adequately reinforced table.

The default setup comes with a bed having T-slots for work holding, but you can convert it into your desired configuration with the help of instructions that you can find online.

It has a resolution of 0.0002”, repeatability of ± 0.001” and precision of ± 0.005” meaning you can make accurate parts with a good finish.

Motor and spindle

You can configure your machine either with a NEMA 23 mount or a NEMA 34 mount. In my opinion, a NEMA 34 version can give you better performance for milling metal.

The Benchtop Pro does not have a spindle bundled with it, giving you the freedom to choose a spindle best suited for your application.  

However, Avid CNC offers a 4 hp and an 8.7 hp VFD spindle priced around $2,000 and $3,900 that you can choose to purchase.

The speed at which you can mill your part also depends upon the spindle you choose.

For example, the 8.7 hp spindle from Avid CNC running at 24,000 RPM can achieve a feed rate of 390 inches per minute.

At this rate it can remove 219 cubic inches of maple hardwood every minute using a 1.5-inch cutter at a 0.375-inch depth of cut.

Controller and electronics

The NEMA 34 controller from Avid CNC will cost you around $2,575 and supports up to five motors.

All the electronics components and kits from Avid CNC are plug-and-play systems, making the setup easier. 

The controller connects to your computer via the Ethernet Smoothstepper board through an ethernet cable. You will also have to purchase the Mach 4 control software for the machine.

The proximity sensor kit from Avid CNC for homing the machine will cost around $245, and the z-axis and corner finding plate will cost another $130.

Avid CNC NEMA 34 Electronics Bundle
Avid CNC NEMA 34 Electronics Bundle

Software

Be ready to spend $200 more if you choose the Avid CNC controller, as it requires the Mach 4 software to function.

For CAD/CAM purposes, you can use any software as Avid CNC provides post processors for almost all the popular CAM software.

Assembly

The Benchtop Pro is shipped as different parts. Some of these parts are pre-assembled, which reduces the assembly time. 

With the help of detailed label instructions, you can expect to set up the machine in about 3 - 5 hours if you choose the plug and play electronics from Avid CNC.

If you choose to custom-build the electronics part, the assembly time can change drastically.

Community and support

The online forum of Avid CNC has a large number of active users who are ready to help you with the problems you face with the machine or the operations you perform with it.

The official support is good enough and is based out of Washington. You can expect a reliable resolution to your problems over mail or call.

The framework of the Benchtop Pro is excellent for milling, and a good option would be to purchase the Benchtop Pro and custom-build the electronics.

Custom building the electronics and controller will take time and research, but it will help you bring the overall cost down.

The Avid Benchtop PRO can bring high precision to your shop if you are willing to invest the money for this CNC.

Price~$10,235 (depends on customization)
Work area26” x 26” x 6”
Material capabilitiesAluminum and other non ferrous metals
Drive mechanismBall-screw drive
SoftwareMach 4 (optional), customizable
Assembling time3-5 hours
Warranty1 year

Summary of Avid CNC Benchtop PRO2424

Best Benchtop CNC Mills

Benchtop CNC Mills are typically used only for metal milling and have a smaller work area compared to desktop CNC mills.

However, they are considered more rigid and good at dampening vibrations.

They have a C-frame style or Bridgeport style frame and not a gantry style frame like in desktop mills.

The following are the best benchtop CNC mills available today [2021].

I am discussing only the Small CNC mills among them and not the very heavy industrial type benchtop mills.

1. Sherline 12" CNC: Best Benchtop Mill for Home Use

Sherline 12 inch Deluxe CNC System
Sherline 12 inch Deluxe CNC System

Costing just less than $2,700, the Sherline 12" CNC Mill is a good option for metal milling at low speeds for hobbyists.

It can make quality parts but does so at low speeds, making it more suitable for hobbyists than for production works.

Sherline mills are known to stand the test of time, with many of them still functioning smoothly even after 30 years.

Size and build

You can mill a 9” x 5” metal stock with a height of 6.2” inch on this mini mill, and since it is a mini-mill, it can sit in a 20.5” x 15” space on your table.

As it weighs under 40 lbs, you can carry it around easily if need be, or you can store it on your shelf if not needed for the time being.

Can it mill metals? The short answer is yes. The machine is rigid enough to allow you to mill wood, aluminum, brass, cast iron, stainless steel, and titanium with a maximum tolerance of 0.001”.

If you intend to mill wood or brass, it is better to use dust covers for the components to ensure its long life.

Sherline has an accordion cover for its lead screw on the z-axis and a toggle switch dust cover for stepper motors.

All the axes are moved by lead screws, which have some backlash, but the overall performance is still good.

You can also consider the ball screw version of this mill from Sherline that sells for around $4,200.

The maximum travel speed you can achieve is around 22 inches per minute, but the feed rates when cutting metals are slower than that.

For achieving a good finish on the Sherline CNC mill, you should keep the feed rates at around 6 inches per minute which is relatively slow compared to bigger mills.

Motor and spindle

For driving the axes, it uses three NEMA 23 stepper motors with holding torque of 136 oz-in, which is suitable for light milling.

A handwheel is provided on each stepper motor for easy zeroing of the axes.

A 90V DC brushless spindle motor with a rated power of 60W runs the spindle. 

The spindle motor is mated to an electronic speed controller, which lets you adjust the speed between 70 - 2,800 RPM.

Sherline CNC Milling by Tryally Tech
Sherline CNC Milling by Tryally Tech

Controller and electronics

Sherline provides a Linux PC with the mini-mill. All the motor drivers, controllers and power supply unit are housed within the PC cabinet.

A mouse and keyboard are also provided to be used with the PC. However, you will have to supply a monitor.

The controller can manipulate upto four axes which is a good thing if you wish to upgrade in the future.

Software

The LinuxCNC (EMC2) software is used for controlling the machine, which is an open-source software.

Since it is an open-source software, you can find many skins and mods by different users on the software’s website.

Using LinuxCNC has an added advantage as it can compensate for the backlash caused by the lead screw drive mechanism on this CNC mill.

It is a really easy-to-use software and can work well with most CAD/CAM software programs.

Assembly

The mini mill arrives in two boxes and can be assembled in about three hours.

Sherline provides a detailed assembly guide that will guide you through the assembly process. 

If you get stuck, there are several videos on YouTube to guide you through the assembly process.

Support

The company Sherline products inc is based in Vista, CA, and has been in operation since 1974 and all their products are designed, manufactured, and assembled in their factory in California.

Sherline has a prompt and reliable customer support team based in the US, ready to assist you with any queries and issues you face.

One of the things I love about Sherline is that they never forget their customers. They provide excellent support to all of their customers.

They design their products to have backward compatibility. Meaning, any components they produce in the future will fit perfectly into your old machine, allowing you to upgrade your device with little effort.

Sherline offers a 30-day refund policy wherein you can send back the product in its original condition within 30 days of delivery for a refund of the cost of the product, no questions asked.

They also provide a one-year warranty on their product and provide quick resolutions when issues arise.

The Sherline Mini Mill is a proven, affordable and reliable machine for hobbyists and makers who wish to have a CNC machine for milling metals in a small-scale setup.

Price~$2,700
Work area9" x 5" x 6.2"
Material capabilitiesAluminum, brass, steel, cast iron, titanium
Drive mechanismLead screws
SoftwareLinuxCNC with PC
Assembling time~3 hours
Warranty1-year

Summary of Sherline 12" CNC Mini Mill

2. Taig 2019 CNC Benchtop Mill

TAIG 2019CNC
TAIG 2019CNC Micro Mill

Just like the Sherline mills, TAIG is equally popular among hobbyists and makers in US and Canada.

The TAIG 2019 is a benchtop mill that is christened as “micro mill” and is priced at $2,495. It can cut aluminum, steel and titanium, among other materials.

It can churn out parts with fine quality and tight tolerances but is on the slower side when compared to production-grade machines.

Size and build

Occupying about a 22” x 21” area on your table, this micro mill provides you a cutting area of 12” x 5.5” and can accommodate 6” thick workpieces.

The frame has a steel and aluminum construction and has good rigidity, making it weigh 105 lbs, which is heavier than the Sherline.

This version comes with a lead screw drive mechanism, which is prone to backlash but can be corrected using adjustments in the control software.

TAIG also has a ball screw version, but it costs $500 more.

Just like in the Sherline, with some patience and skill, you can make parts with tight tolerances of upto 0.001”.

For example, you can make cuts ⅛” deep using a ⅛” tool on mild steel without stressing the machine, which is a testament to its capability. 

Milling on the TAIG 2019 CNC MIll
Milling on the TAIG 2019 CNC MIll

Motors and spindle

For driving the axes, NEMA 23 stepper motors are used. The stepper motors can provide 200 oz-in of torque and allow the machine to achieve a travel speed of 30 inches per minute.

But that doesn’t mean you can mill at 30 ipm. During milling, expect the feed rates to be below 10 ipm.

The spindle used on the TAIG 2019 micro mill has six speeds between 1,000 and 10,000 RPM, which can be selected by varying the belt position.

The collet on the spindle is ER16 type which can hold tools of shaft diameter between 0.039” and 0.079”. The runout is less than 0.0002", which is quite good for the price.

Controller and software

The controller used on the TAIG 2019 micro mill recommends Mach 3 software to control the mill.

If you want to custom-build the controller and electronic, you can buy the CNC-ready mill from TAIG and convert it.

Mach 3 is a paid CNC software with a license fee of $175 and can run only on Windows PC.

Mach 3 supports backlash corrections which is excellent, and it is also regarded as one of the fastest software for machine control.

TAIG has a DSLS version, which uses closed-loop stepper motors for motion control. The advantage being it stops the milling process whenever a missing step is detected.

In my opinion, DSLS is not a necessary feature for hobbyist applications but can be useful when you work with expensive workpieces.

Assembly and support

This micro mill is shipped as a kit and requires assembly. The precise and detailed instruction manual is quite helpful in guiding you through the assembly process, which can take you about 2 - 4 hours.

You get a 2-year warranty for the micro mill, which is incredible, and the official customer support of TAIG is also excellent.

The TAIG micro mill is a reliable machine that can be customized and upgraded easily and can be the right tool for you once you become familiar with it.

Price~$2,495
Work area12" x 5.5" x 6"
Material capabilitiesAluminum, steel, titanium
Drive mechanismLead screws
SoftwareMach 3
Assembling time~ 2-4 hours
Warranty2-year

Summary of TAIG 2019 Micro Mill

3. Tormach PCNC 440-Best Benchtop Mill for Small Businesses

Tormach PCNC 440 Mill with Stand
Tormach PCNC 440 Mill with Stand without enclosure

Tormach Inc is a well-known brand in the machine tools industry, and the Tormach PCNC 440 is an entry-level benchtop mill from them.

They offer several packages for the PCNC 440, starting from $5390. The starter package for roughly $8,041 is a good choice.

Compared to the basic package the starter package will give you few additional accessories like the high-quality mill stand, the chip tray, tooling, and vise from Tormach.

Tormach has a cast-iron frame. It is known that cast iron construction is better for hardcore machining than welded steel or aluminum construction as it dampens vibration better.

PCNC weighs around 600 lbs. If you buy the basic package you will have to supply a strong cast iron stand for keeping the PCNC 440 which weighs around 600 lbs.

The mill itself will take up about 42” x 36” of your floor space, but you need to leave ample room for access from all sides.

The slides move on dovetails, as is typical of machines in this price category. You’ll have to keep it lubricated for them to function optimally.

You can use stocks of size 10” x 6.25”, which in my opinion is an average size, but you get an excellent Z-axis height of 10 inches allowing you to use thicker stocks.

As it is a machine designed for milling metals, all the axes use a ball screw mechanism for motion. Ball screws have better load carrying capabilities than other types of drives and have good precision. 

You’ll find an accordion cover on the mill. This is to protect the ball screws from chips during operation.

Coming to the electronics, the controller is placed inside a sleek-looking enclosure on the top right of the machine.

NEMA 34 stepper motors are used on all three axes of the machine, giving it enough power to move the spindle through the stock effortlessly.

The spindle used on the PCNC 440 can reach speeds of up to 10,000 RPM with a power of 0.75 hp. The spindle shaft is designed to hold an R8 collet that can accommodate tools with a shaft diameter between 1/16” and 7/8”.

For controlling the machine, Tormach provides its proprietary PathPilot controller and control software.

PathPilot is really easy to use and is compatible with almost all CAD/CAM software programs.

You can cut almost anything on the PCNC 440, be it aluminum, steel, cast iron or titanium. It can take it all.

If you are concerned about the dust and chips generated during milling, you can choose the premium package, which includes an enclosure and costs around $3,000 extra.

The transparent windows on the enclosure let you monitor the milling process and double up as a door to access the work area.

Tormach Power Drawbar helps change tooling with the push of a button
Tormach Power Drawbar helps change tooling with the push of a button

If tool changes annoy you, you can opt for the power drawbar add-on that lets you change tools with the press of a button rather than manually changing it.

You can even mix and match the various features and add-ons Tormach has by building your machine tab on their website.

The customer support is pretty good with promises of next-day spare part deliveries. In addition, they are pretty responsive and reliable.

You get a one-year replacement warranty on all Tormach products, and the claim process is effortless.

The machine comes pre-assembled and can start producing parts the day it arrives, maybe within an hour or two.

The PCNC 440 is suitable for hobbyists who want that extra quality in their work.

Overall, the PCNC 440 is a great starter CNC mill for businesses that are starting up and also for hobbyists intending to do high-precision work.

For more benchtop CNC mill options, read this guide-Benchtop CNC Mills [2021]

Should you buy a new CNC mill, or can you convert your manual mill?

Upgrading a manual mill can give you good value for money if conversion is done correctly.

Converting your manual mill requires time, planning, and proper skills to get it right. There are kits available in the market to make it easy for you, but you have to choose them wisely.

The kits come with clear instructions, and you can always find help online.

However, if you do decide to not go with a conversion kit, make sure you really know what you are doing or you might end up with a broken mill.

Best CNC Mills for Industrial-Grade Production

Industrial-grade CNC mills are meant for heavy production requirements. These machines are fast, precise, and meant for 24x7 operation.

Some of the best brands that make high-quality industrial-grade CNC mills are:

1. Haas CNC 

Haas Mini Mill
Haas Mini Mill

Haas is an American machine tools manufacturer known for providing some of the best customer experiences to its customers.

If you are looking for an affordable and reliable CNC machine in the industrial-grade arena, the Haas is what you need.

All of their machines are highly customizable, and you have the choice of opting for tons of add ons. 

In the sub $35,000 segment Haas has two CNC mill offerings. The Haas Mini Mill and the Haas TM-1, both of which are three-axis milling machines.

TM-1 can accommodate stocks with sizes upto 30” x 12” x 16” which is significantly more than the stock size on Mini Mill which is 16” x 12” x 10”.

Even though the Mini Mill has a lower capacity, it is priced higher than the TM-1. The Mini Mill has a starting price of around $34,000 compared to roughly $32,000 for the TM-1, and rightly so.

The Mini Mill has a tool changer that can hold 10 tools which the TM-1 lacks. Also, the spindle on the Mini Mill has a 6,000 RPM spindle compared to the TM-1’s 4,000 RPM spindle and a higher feed rate of 500 ipm compared to 200 ipm on TM-1.

Haas 10 Pocket Carousel Tool Changer
Haas 10 Pocket Carousel Tool Changer

There is a lesser-priced sibling of the Mini Mill, which costs around $22,000. But, it is only available exclusively for educational institutions.

They offer several customization options on their mills, including collet size, spindle type, spindle RPM, Wi-Fi camera monitoring, and storage memory, among many others.

Usually, these machines are used for producing metal parts that require high repeatability and tight tolerances. 

The rigidity and heavy-duty construction of the machine allow it to machine hard metals such as titanium with ease.

The CNC lathes from Haas provide incredible precision and repeatability. In addition, features like automatic tool change give you better cycle time.

The Haas CNC system is easy-to-use and doesn’t need you to know G-Code for programming, which is an advantage for beginners and start-ups.

This is because of the intuitive and easy-to-use software interface of the machine.

You can also choose from the many offerings Haas has and customize the mill as per your requirement on their website, and request a quote for your build.

The Haas is the choice if you want a machine that matches industrial-grade production with an affordable price tag and does not compromise on quality.

2. Okuma CNC

Okuma GENOS M460-VE
Okuma GENOS M460-VE

Okuma started out in Japan over 120 years ago and now has a global presence.

They have several distributors all around the US and have a well-known presence in North America.

Okuma machines produce aerospace-grade quality parts with high precision and speed.

The CNC mills from Okuma are machine centers. The GENOS M460-VE is the most affordable machining center that Okuma sells which costs around $124,990.

You can expect an excellent technical support and after-sales service for their products.

You can customize the machine as per your requirements from their official website and request a quote for your build.

If you have the budget, Okuma can provide you the best-in-class machines suitable for a variety of applications.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a CNC Mill

1. Work envelope

Be sure to consider the size of the workpieces you intend to use for your projects and choose a milling machine accordingly.

2. Rigidity

Rigidity depends on the weight and material of construction.

A heavier machine is more rigid than a lighter machine and materials like cast iron can dampen vibration better than materials like aluminum.

The rigidity of the machine determines the materials it can mill and it also determines the quality of finish on the milled part.

3. Motors and spindle

The motor and spindle used can greatly affect the speed at which you can produce your parts. A high speed spindle with low torque will bog down when cutting hard material like metals.

You can find the speed and power requirements for various metals and tools by using the calculators available online and choose a spindle or motor accordingly.

4. Drive system

Belt drives are the most affordable choice in drive systems, it has good speed but poor responsiveness.

Lead screws provide better responsiveness but are privy to backlash on the nuts.

Ball screws eliminates the backlash in lead screws but the speed of operation becomes reduced.

drives are not recommended for metal milling machines, you can either choose a lead screw or a ball screw mechanism depending on your project requirement.

5. Software

There are several options when it comes to software programs for CNC machines.

Choose a software that best suits your skill level and also handles the requirements of your projects well.

6. Accessories and upgrades

While milling metals and other materials certain accessories and upgrades can drastically improve the output of your machine.

For example, a chip removal mechanism will clear the machine as it works, saving you cleaning time and allowing the machine to work continuously.

Choose the upgrades carefully considering your future requirements as well. Power drawbars and Tool changers are highly useful upgrades while servos might not really be necessary.

7. Precision

The precision of the machine that the manufacturer claims need to be taken with a grain of salt as these results are achieved under ideal conditions.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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