Good CHEAP CNC or Laser Cutter

My team does not have the most modern equipment compared to some larger teams with access to waterjets and 5-axis CNC routers. We are getting a grant of $1000 and we want to maybe use it on a decent laser cutter or CNC mill. I’ve looked through these forums and found things that are like $10000 or close to a million dollars and I’m sitting here jaw dropped with these teams throwing these around like chump change, I mean the glowforge filter is more than our budget! I’m not looking for a cheap Chinese POS but if it’s just not possible to get a decent laser cutter or CNC mill for my budget that’s fine. I just need something to cut acrylic, maybe aluminum and it doesn’t need to engrave, but it’d be nice. Thanks for reading this little rant and for the help,
sorry for the passive aggressiveness, I was a bit pissed off before writing this :sweat_smile:

I suggest doing some more searching on here. While $1000 may seem like a significant amount of money (and it is for most things), for CNC equipment it really doesn’t get you far unless you want to homebrew something.

Most people here will suggest an Omio CNC router. That will run you approximately $4000 for the large one, and approximately $1500 for some of the smaller ones.

Are you using acrylic for robots or for something else like signs and awards?

FWIW nobody really throws that kind of money around “like chump change.” Your comments are a little naive and disparage the people who work very hard to win grants and earn sponsors to purchase that kind of equipment. Its pretty rare a school or sponsor just hands a team those machines. I’d recommend trying to apply for more grants or raise funds for something like a $4000-$5000 machine.

Can you use the grant for other things? Highly recommend purchasing some off the shelf parts from REV, Thriftybot, AndyMark, or WestCoast Products to help aid in building your robots. CNC manufacturing only gets you so far.


Thanks, we’d like to use either a CNC or laser cutter to cut acrylic for the robot. Trust me we’ve worked hard to try to get grants and sponsors and this is the first one we’ve ever gotten in the almost 14 years of our team and its from first

Cannot in good conscience suggest using acrylic for anything on a robot. It shatters. Easily. A laser used to cut some thin woods can produce some pretty solid mechanisms, see the stuff that 3847 does for prototyping. It can still be a major help.


We’ve found some decently useful parts that we like to make out of plexiglass that aren’t taking much stress, we would also like to cut wood for parts like you’re describing. Edit: I just realised my mistake my bad :cry:

This is why I asked. To echo Kim, it is really rare, if ever the case, that acrylic is what you want. Polycarbonate is the clear plastic you may be referring to instead.

Congrats on winning this grant! If you’d like additional help, feel free to PM me for tips and suggestiongs for grants to apply to.


I would like to take you up on that offer, but it seems like you have messages turned off

Do you have any tips for rasing money, and do you know if laser cutters would be viable aswell?

Will double check my settings, thanks for the heads up!


You can get the ultra-cheap lasers from China like the K40 or K60 at that price, but they’re not particularly safe and can really only help you with wood for prototyping (and potentially final mechanisms). I think @krf might know more about these.

For CNCs, you could make your own from a PrintNC kit in that price bracket. Apart from that you’ll be hard-pressed to get something that will cut metal. Even a base model Shapeoko 4 will run $1500. I’ve heard some promising initial reports about the $1000 Sainsmart Prover series, but really I wouldn’t go for anything less than a ~$2500 Omio X6L for a starter CNC. The other options are just very finicky.


I’ll echo what everyone else is telling you: there just aren’t really good options for a CNC or laser cutter for $1000. The problem is that these are very sophisticated pieces of machinery and, as with all things, you can’t really have cheap, good, and sophisticated all at the same time. The old joke that we used to use in theater production was that things could be good, quick, and cheap, but you could only pick two of those at a time. Essentially the same problem here.

I second omio, it’s a really good cnc

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We received a Shapeoko a few years ago, and it has made a world of difference. There is always something more, but the ability to accurately locate bearing holes, motor mounts etc has made the robots much more reliable.

Don’t forget you will need some money for tooling, router. You will also want some time to practice before the season.


Before our team managed to get a sponsor from haas, we machined all of our parts on a home made cnc table. It was before i joined the teams so sadly I can’t be more specific but a budget cnc router can go a long way and if you only need it for aluminum and lexan, i would say that’s probably the way to go.

I too would recommend against the K40s, for quality-of-life reasons: for example, not having working eyeballs might negatively affect the quality of my life.

You guys got to pick two?


Even my little Nomad 3 that I picked up on a decent deal used was $2k after tooling. And I still have probably another $500 in fixturing and chip clearance still to spend before it works well. And no way you’re making FRC parts on that thing (8x8x3 cutting area, I guess maybe small gearboxes…)


Even Omio’s are best with good workholding, chip clearance, coolant (depends), and enclosures. For our one at home I’m slowly trying to make the full system as user friendly as possible.

Oh how much I wish I had an enclosure right now. Even with a vacuum next to it, my basement is a mess.

That was some of my point - the machine is only part of the cost. I’m looking at almost another 30% of the price for basic stuff on a really small machine.

I’ll also repeat what I’ve seen in this thread:

It’s much better for you to spend this money buying off the shelf parts than a CNC or laser cutter.

Buying the kit stuff is a much better use if $1000 since the kits usually prevent you from having to do more complex machining to build a good robot.

As a team that just got a CNC machine this year (Omio x8) it’s not easy to get going and for the most part, you could do most of the stuff i’ve had our CNC do by hand.

If you want to do more complicated machining, I recommend instead of buying a CNC that you contact local maker spaces and similar places in your area. They may connect you with some of their machinery and people who are very good at using them

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