Not long ago, CNC Routers and sundry computer-controlled machining tools were the realm of specialty fabrication shops. Housed only in places that made custom aerospace widgets for Predator drones or specialized parts for multi-million dollar race cars, CNC just wasn’t accessible to the everyday Joe or Jane. But, just as Reel-To-Reel audio tapes eventually morphed into ipods, technological advances and growing popularity have been bringing prices down on CNC routers, and ratcheting features up. The Maker movement has embraced the power of these tools, and companies like ShopBot have made a name for themselves with relatively affordable CNC devices. With this accessibility trend favoring consumers and not just big-dollar industry, it’s not completely shocking to see some products that really push the boundaries of what we once thought was impossible.
I have had some experience in the audio realm (although not back as far as Reel-to-Reel), and I still remember when it was too expensive to afford a CD burner. In fact, when I needed five CDs duplicated a little over a decade ago, I had to outsource the project to a studio that had ridiculously expensive CD burners. Fast forward a few years, and even toddlers had computer hardware equipped with CD burners. I think CNC routers are on a similar trajectory. Case in point, the Click-N-Carve, a CNC carving machine selling for just $1600.
With a footprint not much bigger than most desktop inkjet printers, albeit a little taller, the Click-N-Carve has a capacity of 12.8″ x 5.9″ x 2.48″. This translates to a total engraving area of 8.7″W x 6.3″D x 2.48″H. Granted, you’re not going to replicate large chunks of the Taj Majal with this thing, but it’s still enough area to get creative with. Spare bits run an affordable $25 to $50 depending on bits spec’s, and consumables aren’t terribly expensive either (hardwoods, soft woods, exotic woods, and many synthetic materials including white, brown and clear acrylic are all fair game). Like many of the latest power tools, the Click-n-Carve BE2015 even sports a brushless DC motor for low noise and durability, important when the machine can be running for long periods of time.
Don’t let the consumer hobby CNC router pricing fool you, the Click-n-Carve is accurate to within 0.002″. It works with any PC running windows XP or newer. A 30 watt spindle powers the bit, and as you would expect, the unit runs via a standard 120v electrical outlet. In case you’re tempted to set this up in your office, rather than your shop, a full-wrap dust cover promises to completely contain dust. More than just a small CNC wood router, this just might be the ideal hobby CNC router.
While not the most scintillating of videos, and with a software interface that looks a bit like it was designed by Fisher-Price, this promo video still provides a good overview of the machine’s functionality and design:
According to Rockler:
The Click-N-Carve BE2015 CNC Carving Machine can create or import G-Codes for CNC carving programs. This function allows you to use additional software programs; such as V Carve Pro or Aspire. Endless possibilities in what you can create: use images from digital photos, CAD drawings, computer generated art programs, scanned images and more. Includes a simple, straightforward common platform software package (BRAVOPRODIGY Software Suite by Click-N-Carve). The Click-N-Carve includes everything you need to get started: USB cable to connect computer to the unit, USB controller, 4-piece clamp set to secure workpiece to table, silicone mat to secure workpiece, software discs, “How-To” tutorial video, 2 carving bits (0.5mm radius tungsten carbide miniature ball nose and 0.5mm radius tungsten carbide conical radius ball nose, both with 4mm shaft), 4-pieces of brown acrylic and 4 pieces of white acrylic (translucent material for making lithophanes). While the Click-N-Carve achieves professional results, this model is not intended for mass production.
The first two reviews on Rockler.com are both five star, so the Click-n-Carve looks like it’s off to a good start. Norsewoodworks of Cold Spring (aren’t they all?) Minnesota is one of just a couple early adopters that have posted reviews on Rockler’s site. In their review they state, ” I went online and found the most complex image I could think of – the Presidential Seal. I have included the image that I used as well as the finished carving. I have to say, I am impressed with this little machine – Thanks Rockler!” Once you take a close look at the image here, I think you’ll be impressed too. If you’ve ever wanted to impersonate the president, this is your tool! Just whip up a couple presidential seals, one in a nice rich mahogany finish for your presidential desk, and then a smaller one in black acrylic to duct tape to your lincoln town car. . . all of a sudden you’re the leader of the free world! Or, maybe you just want to carve up some acrylic into personalized trophies like “Worlds Greatest Dad” or “Employee of the Year”. Who cares if the prizes are even remotely accurate? It’s all part of the fun!
There have been a growing number of DIY CNC router kits and plans on the market. In fact, I was selling an old Dremel a year or so ago, and the guy that bought it was using it to make his own DIY CNC router. With the pricing and features of CNC routers getting so favorable, I’m not sure it still makes much sense to build your own, unless of course that’s part of the thrill for you. I personally like power drills, but I’m not really inclined to try and make one myself. Maybe that’s just me though, so don’t let me stop you. Regardless of your skills and ambitions, if you’re lucky enough to score one of these, send us a few pics of what you’re up to, or include links in the comments section below. We’d love to see what people are doing with these.
The Rockler Click-N-Carve CNC Carving Machine (BE2015) is available on Amazon (via our sponsor Rockler) for around $1600 and includes a one year limited warranty. You can also find the Click-N-Carve 84030 CNC Carving Machine with 17.7-Inch Capacity for around $2350. If you need even more features and capacity, Rockler’s CNC Shark lineup runs about $3000-$4000 depending on which model you choose.