CNC routers are considered open-source when their overall build, including the part list, cost, circuitry, etc., is made available publicly for anyone to download freely for their own custom machine builds. These machines sometimes also use open-source CNC controllers and software.
This article talks about open-source CNC routers and reviews the best open-source CNC routers out there.
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What is an Open Source CNC Router?
Sometimes you might find a perfectly built CNC router from a manufacturer, but as you look closely, you'll get to know that it misses some features required for your machining application.
Many machinists face this issue. They are then forced to opt-in for CNC upgrades from the manufacturer and end up spending a lot of money on a single machine.
One solution to this is building your own machine. Since all machinists are not engineers, everyone can't build a machine from scratch.
An open-source CNC router might be your best bet. These are machines built by professionals that are made open source for anyone to copy the build.
Since you know your machining needs, you can customize these builds to serve your requirements better.
Note that these builds won't be easy to make. If you despised assembling your prebuilt CNC machine, you'd surely hate building a CNC router from open source.
Building a CNC router from open source is a long process, and you'll have to spend a lot of time researching, breaking, and fixing things.
Just like open-source CNC routers, you can also find open source CNC software to control your CNC machines.
Best Open Source CNC Routers in 2023
|Open Source CNC Router||Build|
|6.||Mekanika CNC Routers||Check|
|7.||Joe's CNC machines||Check|
1. OpenBuilds CNC Routers-Best Overall Open Source CNC Router
OpenBuilds is the CNC leader in open-source designs. OpenBuilds is a New York-based CNC company that has made its hardware and software products open source.
It is a community-driven project, and they build products with the help of crowdfunding.
LEAD CNC and C-Beam are their CNC router series. Among them, LEAD CNC machines have wider popularity.
All these machines are made open source, and you can download the part list from their website.
LEAD CNC and C-Beam router machines are best at working with cast acrylic, wood, and non-ferrous metals like aluminum, bronze, etc.
If you like their default build and don't want to build it yourself or customize it further, you can also get these machines directly from them.
You can also check out some build ideas curated by its community on the OpenBuilds website.
Openbuilds also has its own CNC controller, software, and other accessories that are under an open-source license.
If you are looking for a large community to interact with, read detailed documentation, and inspire with many creative machines builds, you should definitely add Openbuilds to your list.
Maslow's CNC machines are the result of a collective collaboration of a large community.
All the machine build ideas under Maslow CNC are made open source, and many different manufacturers use these open-source resources to make and sell their own Maslow CNC kit.
The large format, one-of-a-kind design makes Maslow CNC routers stand out from other CNC routers.
It allows you to work on 4x8 sheet workpieces. The original Maslow kit from MakerMade is a popular choice among many machinists.
Their latest model is Maslow M2. It is built to overcome the shortcomings of the foremost model.
Maslow's frame stays sideways at an angle, and the sled assembly holds to the wasteboard with the help of gravity.
If the sled assembly doesn't have enough weight, it might lead to positional inaccuracy of the router, resulting in uneven cuts. Then you'll have to add more weight to stabilize it.
Maslow's transmission design uses chains, sprocket wheels, and DC motors to move the sled assembly through the workbed along the X and Y axes.
The Z-axis transmission works using a lead screw mechanism. To provide a smooth Z-travel, the sled assembly houses linear guides for better support.
If you are planning to build everything from scratch, check out Maslow CNC's GitHub page. It has all the design files, circuitry information, firmware, and control software.
BuildYourCNC focuses on building DIY CNC machines and selling those build plans to hobbyists.
Their CNC router plans are available in customizable sizes, with the option to include a laser module and 4th axis.
If you want a customized CNC router but don't want to build it yourself, BuildYourCNC will build one for you as per your requirement.
Buying the plans is much cheaper. They will provide the plans in a 24" x 36" size 40-50 page document.
It has information on the required build materials superated as overall and sub-assemblies, drawings, cut sheets, circuitry, assembly instructions, etc.
The cut sheets have the parts laid out on a 1x1 scale. So you can lay the sheets on top of the material to cut it out.
It also shows the cable and wire runs in great detail. They are color-coded for easy identification.
CNC router build plans from BuildYourCNC are designed for anyone wanting to build their own machine with a professional touch.
It is also a great option for educational applications to master mechatronics and the structural systems of machines.
IndyMill is a popular open-source CNC router machine designed by Nikodem Bartnik under his Indystry.CC initiative.
He has listed all the important details about the machine through the part list, build instructions, DXF and STL design files, videos, images, etc.
Some parts need to be made using a 3D printer. If you don't have access to a 3D printer, you can buy 3D-printed parts from IndystryCC.
He also has listed some features like ball screw covers, E-stop switch, limit switch, spindle dust shoe, and a powerful spindle motor as upgrades. So the base design is made to handle these future upgrades.
IndyMill uses a specially built Arduino CNC shield called IndyShield. If you are comfortable working with PCBs, you can download the PCB file and make an IndyShield replica yourself.
To complete the PCB build, you'll have to assemble it with components like screw terminals, 12C headers, etc. All part details and assembly instructions are provided on the website.
RS-CNC is an open-source CNC router from MakerFr. It is an upgraded version of their previous model, R-CNC.
The machine can be built using metal frames and other 3D printable parts. RS-CNC32 is a newer model, having more advanced electronics.
It is 4-axis capable, has WiFi connectivity, and you can control the machine offline using the TFT touchscreen.
Interestingly, you can build this newer model for under $600, which is comparatively cheaper than buying a ready-made machine with a similar configuration.
If your application doesn't require these features, you can further cut the cost by about $150.
You can connect with the community through the forum hosted on their website for technical support about the build.
MakerFr has posted detailed information on their website about the part list, assembly process, circuit diagrams, firmware setup, etc., to make the build process as simple as possible.
Mekanika is a CNC machine manufcaturer based in Belgium. They've made all their products open source. This includes Mekanika Evo CNC Router and Mekanika Pro CNC Router.
You can check these projects on the Wikifactory website. From there, you can download CAD files, circuit diagrams, software files, part lists, estimated cost charts, etc.
Both these machines have a rigid build with aluminum frames and steel plates. They also house a Raspberry Pi-based controller.
In terms of connectivity, the design uses WiFi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet options. The machines will work with PlanetCNC control software.
If you like the default machine build and don't want to customize it any further, you can also get the machine directly from Mekanika without having to build everything yourself.
Interestingly Mekanika provides a 5-year warranty for the machines purchased from them.
Joe took the initiative to create Joe's CNC as a forum for makers to interact and create.
It's a private members-only forum. You can join it by purchasing a plan for any of their machine.
Once you get access, you can view plans for their other machines as well and download many design files.
Joe's CNC Forum focuses primarily on its own machines. Evo is their most popular CNC router. Hybrid 4x4 and Titan are other CNC router builds they have.
In addition to plans, they also offer kits like Z-axis slides and XY axes carriage kits to help you easily build machine parts.
If you love reading a lot about CNC machines and interacting with a community having similar interests, you can try out Joy's CNC.
Since they have a dedicated forum with vast information about their machines, I suggest you check out their machines first. If you like what you see, you can buy its build plan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much does a DIY CNC router cost?
The cost of a DIY CNC router depends upon various factors, such as work area, spindle, linear drives, controller, etc. Generally, an entry-level CNC router can cost upwards of $200 and go as high as $10,000, depending on your setup. The estimated price for a simple DIY CNC router with a 3-axis setup is $500.
Is it cheaper to build or buy a CNC router? Which is better?
It is cheaper to build a CNC router than to buy one. When building a CNC router yourself, you can put the money to good use by selecting only the parts and features you need for your cutting application. Also, you'll be better positioned to get replacement parts to keep your machine running. The readymade CNC routers may come with extra features you never use, this adds to the price. Also, you'll have to depend on the manufacturer for replacement parts.
Can a CNC router pay for itself?
Yes, a CNC router can pay for itself if you put it to good use. Make creative and highly demanding products and sell them at a competing price. Once you make enough revenue try to scale up the quantity, this will help you generate better profit from the revenue.