BobsCNC Evolution 4 is the successor of the popular E4 CNC router by BobsCNC.
Evolution 4 is a popular favorite among hobbyists and woodworkers wanting something more capable than an engraver but still cheaper than most desktop CNC routers out there.
It is a capable desktop CNC router that can work on 2'' x 2'' sheets with good precision and finish.
BobsCNC currently sells two machines in the Evolution series, the Evolution 3 and the Evolution 4.
Evolution 3 is a smaller machine with similar technical specifications and has a smaller cutting area of 16" x 18".
In this review, I go deep into the features of this CNC router and what each of those features imply for you as a user.
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I evaluated the BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC router on parameters like size, material capability, chassis, linear motion, spindle, controller, software, community, and customer support in this review.
BobsCNC Evolution 4 is available for buying on Amazon.
Note that its predecessor, the BobsCNC E4 CNC router has been discontinued.
You can place Evolution 4 on most desks as it has a 32" x 39" footprint, or you could place it on the floor.
With the weight at 47 lbs, you can move it around easily.
The machine requires an overhead clearance of about 21" and space around the machine for accessing the work area.
The maximum workpiece size you can use on Evolution 4 is 2ft. (24") x 2ft. (24").
Depending on the length of the tool you use, you can machine workpieces with thickness less than 3.3 inches, as that is how far the z-axis can travel.
How does BobsCNC Evolution 4 compare with other popular desktop CNC choices in terms of cutting area offered?
|Desktop CNC||Cutting Area|
|BobsCNC Evolution 4||24" x 24"|
|BobsCNC Evolution 3||16" x 18"|
|Shapeoko 4||17.5" x 17.5" (std.) and|
33" x 33" (XXL)
|X Carve||30" x 30"|
|Openbuilds LEAD 1010||32" x 29"|
|Ooznest Workbee||31" x 30"|
Quick Size Comparison of the popular Desktop CNC choices in 2021
Note that the other CNC routers in the table above are much higher in price compared to Evolution 4.
For example, the X-Carve which has 6" more length on each axis, costs around double that of BobsCNC Evolution 4.
Although size is not everything when evaluating a CNC router, it's an important parameter for most users.
Evolution 4 Extension Kit
If the 2'' x 2'' cutting area of Evolution 4 is insufficient for your projects, you can purchase the extension kit from their official website.
The extension kit will give you an additional 26.5" on the x-axis and lets you have a total cutting area of 24" x 50.5".
The extension kit will increase the footprint of the machine to 58.7" x 39", which will require you to provide additional space for placing the machine.
You can buy the kit for around $154. However, it does not come with a spoil board, spoil board mounting hardware, or rods for guiding the gantry.
This is for reducing the shipping size.
It makes sense to buy this locally as it is easily available.
BobsCNC provides you with detailed instructions on how to source the required items locally.
Evolution 4 is primarily made for machining materials like wood, plastics, foam and acrylic (non-metals).
As an example, while carving acrylic at a depth of 0.05", you can achieve a feed rate of 5 inches per minute.
That means making a 1'' x 1'1' square cut of ⅛" depth on an acrylic sheet will take around 30 minutes. The same cut on wood will take around 5 minutes.
Cutting soft materials produces more dust than metals.
Therefore, you must use a dust collection system while working with soft materials.
You can use Evolution 4 to make beautiful and intricate 3D carvings on wood with 3D design and control software.
People have tried using Evolution 4 as a CNC machine for milling aluminum, but it is not ideal for that purpose.
The chassis of Evolution 4 is what makes it unique among all the CNC machines. It has a wooden frame chassis.
BobsCNC uses laser-cut baltic birch plywood for the frame of Evolution 4.
Baltic birch is known for its strength and durability and is also considered one of the best materials for CNC woodworking.
The plywood chassis definitely flexes a bit more than the aluminum chassis on other desktop CNC machines.
However, the flexing can be kept really low provided the feeds and speeds are within the recommended range.
BobsCNC has managed to make a chassis that has enough rigidity for most hobbyist applications while keeping the cost low by sacrificing a metallic frame.
Even with a wooden chassis, the Evolution 4 can achieve repeatability of 0.002" to 0.004".
However, the repeatability and precision also depend on the methods and techniques you use.
You can save around $100 if you buy Evolution 4 without a spoil board from their official website. BobsCNC provides design files to make the spoil board yourself.
A belt drive moves the X and Y axes, which is fast but less responsive under sudden acceleration.
So you must always be careful to ramp up the speed gradually.
When you have a wide gantry, the non-driven end of the gantry can lag behind the driven end, which is called racking.
To prevent racking, Evolution 4 uses a dual drive for the X-axis like most good CNC routers.
The X and Y axes move on top of 5/16" stress-proof steel rods using SG20U bearings.
The E4 CNC (earlier model) used threaded screws for the z-axis, which caused a lot of z-axis wobble, and based on the user feedback, BobsCNC designed the Evolution 4 with Acme rods and Acetal nuts.
The upgrade solved the Z-axis wobble significantly.
The Z-axis wobble becomes nearly non-existent after the spindle is lowered to the surface.
The Evolution 4 kit available on Amazon comes with a 1.25 hp Makita RT0701C router.
The Makita router is sufficient for all the purposes the Evolution 4 can do. It can be operated at multiple speeds of 10,000, 12,000, 17,000, 22,000, 27,000, and 30,000 RPM.
It has a lightweight aluminum construction weighing around 4 lbs and can hold tools with a ¼" shank. You can also purchase a ⅛" collet separately.
The spindle has dual insulation, making it a good choice for woodworking as the spindle has good protection against dust.
If you want to use a spindle of your own, choose the spindle by considering its compatibility with the overall rigidity of the machine.
All the Evolution 4 CNC machine parts are user swappable, and you can find them on the official website of BobsCNC.
You get the replacement parts without much delay, and all the help needed to do it yourself is available online.
Controller and Electronics
The stepper motors on Evolution 4 are four NEMA 17 stepper motors with 76 oz-in of holding torque for moving the axes.
These motors let you achieve a jog speed of 200 inches per minute and a cutting speed of 100 inches per minute on softwood.
The least amount of movement that can be made on the x and y-axis is 0.0125 mm, and on the z-axis, it is 0.0025 mm.
Evolution 4 has homing switches on all the 3 axes. This helps you home the device easily.
The machine's movements are controlled by an Arduino Uno board with GRBL 1.1 firmware flashed on it.
The Arduino Uno board is mated to a stepper driver board for controlling the stepper motors.
The controller uses a USB connection to receive instructions from the G-code sending software in your computer.
The controller and the power supply are neatly mounted on the back of the machine in a way that optimizes space usage.
You can run the Evolution 4 using any software that supports GRBL based controllers.
Of course, that would mean any control software.
A free CNC software would eliminate the additional costs you have to pay as a subscription fee, and one of the good free choices for controlling BobsCNC Evolution 4 is the UGS software.
To get cutting, you will need CAD software to design your projects, CAM software to convert the designs into G-code, and G-code sending software (like UGS) to control the machine using the CAM-generated G-code.
The website of BobsCNC offers the following paid CAD and CAM software programs that you can use with Evolution 4.
|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 4 CNC router kit
The machine arrives as modules and assembling it will take around one day for most people.
The parts are separated into well-labeled packets, and the detailed assembly manual with illustrations will help you with the process.
You can always refer to the numerous videos on YouTube if you face any problems while assembling Evolution 4. The easy-to-understand instructions make it an easy task even for novices.
Squaring the gantry is a simple task as Evolution 4 uses a self-squaring gantry system which significantly reduces setup time.
There is no dedicated online forum for BobsCNC, but there is an active Facebook group supported by BobsCNC staff.
With any BobsCNC machine, you get the support of a large community of users due to its popularity.
You can consult the community for guidance on all the aspects of your works with Evolution 4, like feeds, speeds, and tool choices.
BobsCNC is based out of Brighton, Missouri, and was started by Bob and his friends as a family business.
The customer support of BobsCNC is praiseworthy and is known for its reliability and quick response. At times you can find Bob himself responding to your queries and problems.
Its clear that BobsCNC prides itself on the relationship it forms with its customers.
You get a 90-day warranty period for the Evolution series of CNC machines. Additionally, BobsCNC provides a 30-day trial window within which you can return the product for a full refund.
The Makita router that comes with Evolution 4 has a 1-year warranty period and is provided by the router manufacturer.
Evolution 4 is a good choice for CNC hobbyists who need an affordable machine with a large enough work area of 24" x 24".
It also lets you increase the work area with extension kits so that you can work on larger workpieces.
The rigidity of the machine limits its use on metals but is excellent for soft materials like wood and plastics.
Considering its price, excellent customer support, and scores of happy users, it's clear that the Evolution 4 has carved out a unique place for itself in the desktop CNC market.
What makes Evolution 4 different from Evolution 3?
|Evolution 3||Evolution 4|
|Machine footprint||26" x 31"||32" x 39"|
|Work area||16" x 18"||24" x 24"|
|Work area with extension||No extension kit||24" x 50.5"|
Summary of Evolution 4 vs Evolution 3
Both Evolution 4 and Evolution 3 are fundamentally the same machine with the same components.
The only difference between them is the larger work area provided by Evolution 4.
If you need to work with material bigger than 16" x 18" in area, you will need the Evolution 4.
Also considering the marginal price difference between them, my suggestion is to choose Evolution 4 instead of Evolution 3.
Footprint and Work Area
Evolution 4 has a 32" x 39" footprint compared to the 26" x 31" footprint of Evolution 3.
There is a significant difference in the available work area as Evolution 4 has a 24" x 24" work area compared to the 16" x 18" work area of Evolution 3.
Evolution 4 weighs 15 lbs more than the 32 lbs Evolution 3.
Evolution 4 has an optional extension kit that you can buy for roughly $154. It expands the work area to 24" x 50.5".
Bobs CNC does not offer an extension kit for Evolution 3.
If you have plans to upgrade to a higher size in the future, then Evolution 4 is a better choice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What bits can be used with BobsCNC Evolution 4 Router?
The Makita router that comes with Evolution 4 can accommodate bits with a shank of ¼” and ⅛” by using the appropriate collet.
You can use Straight, V-Carving, Ballnose, and Endmill bits with the Evolution 4 and it will work.
The bits can be purchased online from Amazon.