In this review, I provide a detailed overview of the Evolution 3 CNC machine from BobsCNC.
The BobsCNC Evolution series has two versions, Evolution 3 and Evolution 4. Both machines are suitable for hobbyists and small businesses.
Considering what it offers for its price it is among some of the best desktop CNC machines and is highly popular in the hobbyist community.
Evolution 3 and Evolution 4 are often confused with E3 and E4 models, which are predecessors of the evolution series.
However, the Evolution series has been discontinued by BobsCNC and replaced by the Quantum series.
You can opt for BobsCNC Quantum Mini which provides a slightly smaller work area of 16” X 16”.
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BobsCNC Evolution 3 review
I evaluated the Evolution 3 CNC on several parameters like size, material capability, chassis, linear motion, spindle, controller, software, community and customer support, and other similar factors.
|Footprint||26" x 31"|
|Workarea||16" x 18"|
Evolution 3 has a 26" x 31" footprint, which fits on most desks and allows you to machine workpieces of 16" x 18".
The Z-axis travel is 3.3 inches, and depending on the tool length, you can machine workpieces that are less than 3.3 inches thick.
Evolution 3 weighs 32 lbs which makes it easy to move around.
If you find the size of the Evolution 3 limiting, BobsCNC also offers a larger CNC router in the Evolution series.
Evolution 4 provides a 24" x 24" cutting area, which is larger than the 16" x 18" cutting area of Evolution 3.
If you need the larger size, consider BobsCNC Evolution 4 instead of Evolution 3 as the price difference is not much.
|Aluminum||⎯||✔ (low speed, poor quality)|
Evolution 3 is a good machine if you want to do CNC work on wood. It can cut and engrave wood with good precision.
You can carve acrylic at a depth of 0.05" at a feed rate of 5 inches per minute, which in my opinion, is slow.
However, Evolution 3 is not designed for machining aluminum, it is highly inefficient for aluminum.
Even though it has a 1.25 hp Makita RT0701C router that can cut through aluminum, the feed rate and depth of cut achievable are not ideal.
The frame starts flexing when machining metal and it's a tad too ambitious to expect to mill metal on the Evolution 3.
Woodworking on a CNC machine produces a lot of dust, and you must use a dust collection system with any woodworking machine.
|Chasis material||Laser-cut baltic birch|
The chassis of Evolution 3 is made of rigid laser-cut baltic birch plywood.
Baltic birch is strong and durable and is one of the best materials for CNC routing.
The wooden frame helps reduce the cost and weight of the machine, making it an affordable CNC router for small shops and hobbyists.
A wooden frame is less rigid than a metal chassis, but the construction of Evolution 3 gives you enough rigidity to achieve a repeatability of 0.002" to 0.004".
|Axis||Drive system Used|
|X-axis||GT2 belt drive and V wheels (dual drive)|
|Y-axis||GT2 belt drive and V wheels|
|Z-axis||Tr8 Acme rod and Acetal nut|
The X and Y axes use a GT2 belt drive and V wheels for linear motion, which is fast, but the responsiveness is affected due to the stretching effect of belts.
A common problem in machines with any wide gantry is racking. To prevent racking, Evolution 3 uses a dual drive on the X-axis.
The Z-axis is driven by a Tr8 Acme rod and Acetal nut, which gives rigidity to the Z-axis while cutting.
|Spindle Power||1.25 hp|
|Spindle Speed||10,000 to 30,000 RPM|
|Tool compatibility||1/4" shank router bits|
Evolution 3 router kit comes with a 1.25 hp Makita RT0701C spindle.
You can vary the spindle speed between 10,000 and 30,000 RPM by adjusting the dial on the router.
The router can accommodate router bits with a ¼" shank and has a shaft lock, eliminating the need for two wrenches to change the tool.
The spindle weighs around 3.9 lbs due to its lightweight aluminum construction.
You do not have to worry about dust from woodworking damaging the spindle as it has double insulation to prevent dust entry.
Note that you can purchase Evolution 3 without the router and choose a CNC spindle of your choice.
Finding and replacing the parts on the Evolution 3 is quite easy. All the replacement parts can be purchased from the official website of BobsCNC.
The shipping speeds are also quick and reliable. Moreover, you can find plenty of help on troubleshooting and replacing the parts online.
|Z-probe kit||zero the z-axis easily|
|Dust collecting system||Collects dust and prevents machine wear|
BobsCNC provides a Z probe kit, which helps you zero the z-axis, which is a recommended accessory to reduce your setup time for each project.
As woodworking produces dust, you must purchase a dust boot and dust collection system.
It is a necessary addition if you are using it in your garages or basements. The dust can damage the other equipment in the room.
Controller and Electronics
|Stepper Motor||NEMA 17 (76 oz-in)|
|Controller||Arduino Uno with GRBL 1.1 firmware|
Evolution 3 uses four NEMA 17 stepper motors with 76 oz-in of holding torque for moving the axes.
An Arduino Uno with GRBL 1.1 firmware flashed onto it is used as the controller for Evolution 3.
You need to connect the controller to a computer via USB and use any G-code sending software to control the machine.
The controller and power supply are mounted to the machine using zip ties. This eliminates the need for additional desk space, a feature that is now common for most desktop CNCs.
The Evolution 3 comes with limit switches on each axis to help in homing and preventing the gantry from crashing into the chassis.
In terms of software, BobsCNC does not offer any software bundled with Evolution 3.
However, you are free to choose any software for designing and controlling your machine.
The following are the software programs recommended by BobsCNC for use with their machine. However, Evolution 3 will work with most CAD/CAM software on the market.
|VCarve Desktop||~$349||2.5 D CAD/CAM|
|VCarve Pro||~$699||2.5 D CAD/CAM|
|Alibre Workshop||~$399||3D CAD/CAM|
Optional software programs offered by Boss CNC with Evolution 3 CNC router kit
If you want to keep the costs down, you can also choose any free software program for use with BobsCNC.
You receive the machine as parts in a flat box, shipped to you at no extra cost. You will have to assemble the parts before you can start cutting.
If you live near Brighton, Missouri you can pick up your order from their store in Brighton, Missouri. If you choose the pickup option, they can have your order ready in 24 hours.
The instruction manuals provided are well-detailed, with good illustrations for each step involved in the assembly process.
In the rare case of you getting stuck, there are plenty of videos to guide you through the setup process.
Assembling Evolution 3 requires basic tools that every hobbyist usually has.
To save time, Evolution 3 uses self-squaring gantries that help you square the gantry quickly.
The entire assembly process can take up to five hours of your time.
Make sure the assembly is done correctly, as the accuracy of the machine is dependent on this.
BobsCNC has a large active online user community which is a testament to the popularity of the machine.
However, BobsCNC does not have a dedicated online forum for their machines.
They do have an active Facebook group, however.
The official support is quite good. Customer support is great at providing reliable solutions.
BobsCNC provides a 30-day return policy wherein you can return the product within 30 days for a full refund.
The warranty on the Evolution series of products is 90 days. The Makita router that comes with the Evolution 3 has a one-year warranty.
Evolution 3 is a machine best suited for hobbyists who want to do CNC routing on wood and similar soft materials at an affordable price.
The wooden construction does limit you a bit in terms of material capability (like aluminum milling).
However, the price point of Evolution 3 makes those limitations trivial and I think it is one of the best machines out there.
At this price point, its only competitors are Chinese CNC machines which do not offer much in terms of customer support.
On the other hand, BobsCNC is a fully American-owned family business that has a big pool of happy customers to its credit.
In case you found BobsCNC unimpressive, and want an affordable CNC machine near the same price check this guide- Best Cheap CNC Machines .
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can you make signs longer than 18" in multiple steps in Evolution 3?
You can make signs longer than 18" on Evolution 3. You have to put a reference mark on the workpiece using V-bits at regular intervals and use it as a reference while shifting.
The maximum length Evolution 3 can cut is 16 inches. But, since the ends are open, you can use long workpieces with additional support and cut them in steps by shifting the workpiece after each cut.
How are workpieces clamped on the Evolution 3 Router?
The spoil board of the Evolution 3 has ¼" -20 inserts. In addition, BobsCNC provides ¼" -20 screws, wing nuts, and eight clamps which can be used for holding down the workpiece.