What to look for in a CNC machine

Choosing a CNC machine

The decision concerning which style of CNC machine is pretty straightforward. Depending upon the type of tool work you need to be done and the workpiece/material that will be milled, the decision about the type of CNC machine is pretty easy. Some other considerations should be taken into account before making the purchase. The real questions that need to be asked and answered may not seem so obvious.

Basic types of CNC machines

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines come in many configurations with a multitude of capabilities and capacities. Some CNC mills are quite complex and can produce amazing, flowing shapes and forms while others are simple devices with limited capabilities but precise results. The main types of CNC machines for this discussion include:

  • CNC Mills
  • CNC Lathes
  • CNC Routers
  • CNC Plasma Cutters
  • CNC Laser Cutters

Check out our previous article to learn more about types of CNC machines. 

What to look for in a CNC Machine

Beyond the primary specifications of the CNC machine you’re considering, other factors will affect the buying decision. There are some qualities and values that can make a big difference now and in the future regardless of whether the purchase is a new or used mill, lathe, router or cutter. Long-term considerations should include:

  • Original manufacturer’s industry rating
  • Support for upgrades and/or modifications
  • Service and Maintenance Support
  • Documentation and training materials
  • Programming compatibility with other machines
  • Expected machine life for production conditions
  • Estimated costs for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades
  • User reviews and ratings

Some questions to answer when buying a CNC machine

Many purchasers of CNC machines fail to determine basic specifications for a CNC machine purchase. Time should be devoted to answering simple operational considerations. Purchasing the best CNC machine includes incorporating the following considerations:


  • Will the new machine fit into the work area available? Limitations on available space for the machine and it’s operator can interfere with productivity and cause safety issues as well.
  • Does the CNC machine operate fast enough to enhance production? Timing a CNC machine as it performs simple functions can help determine the machine’s suitability for the job it is expected to do.
  • CNC machines are made from a variety of materials including Aluminum, Polymers, Steel, and Cast Iron. The tougher the job, the more durable a CNC machine will be required.
  • How much electricity is required to operate the CNC machine properly and within specifications? Inadequate electrical service can result in serious damage to machinery and software programs.
  • Are replacement parts, tools, and repair services available locally? CNC machine dealers are a vital component toward keeping equipment functioning at peak capacity.

    Buy CNC machines with confidence!

    Fortunately for CNC machine buyers, some resources can help with deciding the best CNC machine to purchase. One of the best resources is a local CNC machine dealer. Dealers have the training, parts, service equipment and other capabilities that CNC machine operators find invaluable. A CNC machine equipment dealer can also help by testing used CNC machines before purchase as well as review service and maintenance guidelines on CNC machinery under consideration. Before purchasing a CNC machine, it’s a good idea to meet with a CNC dealer to get information, data, and opinions about the CNC machines under consideration.

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