When considering what equipment to purchase for your MakerSpace, CNC machines should certainly be towards the top of the list when it comes to your big ticket items. Some can be purchased for under $2,000 and others cost tens of thousands of dollars!
What exactly is a CNC machine? In short, it is a computer-controlled milling machine. In fact, CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. I have come to see CNC machines as the heart and soul of a well-developed MakerSpace environment.
So, what can you do with a CNC machine anyway? As you will see in the brief video above as well as the one below, they can be used for everything from precision milling of signs & designs, to plexi-glass etchings, to full-scale fabrication of components. In fact, paired with the right software, Middle School and Junior High students are capable of running them from initial design through completion of the milling process. Two of the machines featured in the video above are produced by Tormach and X-Carve.
There are nearly limitless uses for a CNC machine, including starting a school-based business students can help run!
A final important consideration is how you will create and transfer designs to the CNC machine. A tremendous option that works hand-in-hand with the X-Carve is a product called Easel. In short, it’s free, extremely versatile, and simple enough that Middle School students can easily operate it.