A desktop CNC milling machine can be a practical addition to your prototyping or small-scale fabrication operations. Entry level CNC mills allow you to create parts in a variety of materials, from wood to foam to soft metals. They are precise, consistent and can produce smoothly finished and strong pieces. As a skill CNC milling has a learning curve with software and material/tool combinations (speeds & feeds) that you’ll need to budget time for.
There are some sweet-spots that CNC milling fits for a designer: it can be used to post-process 3D prints to produce high-tolerances in prototypes, used in furniture design it enables digital manipulation of wood, for self-manufacturing it can be time and cost efficient. In the production of art or one-offs CNC milling permits a broader range of material and surface expression than 3D printing.
Some things to shop for are machining area, number of axes, and material capabilities. Which software the machine uses, and whether it is included in the cost is important as well. CNC milling is a unique process that yields rewards in the right scenarios, let your particular use guide your choice.
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