Makita Router vs a Spindle

This faq is directed at new users to cnc routers.

Often, we get asked, which should I get, the Makita router or a spindle? This faq is designed to help answer that question for you. Each individual can come to a different conclusion. There is no one right answer.

One important point to consider is that Onefinity does not offer any technical support for spindles of any kind. If you go with a spindle, you will be 100% reliant on the community (here or facebook group) for support.


Makita Router Example ($89 us):
[61lE76w5m9L.AC_SL1500]


Huanyang Spindle Example ($349 us):
[61Awdo58RQL.SL1000]


Our official recommendation is to start off with the Makita router. When starting off with cnc, there’s so much to learn. Some of which includes:
RPMS
Feed Rate
Stepover
Depth of Cut
Bit selection
CAD design
Toolpath design
Material specifics
Material hold down/clamping
gcode commands
Etc.

That’s a lot of things to figure out all at once! Adding a spindle to the equation compounds the learning curve.


Benefits

Makita:

Pros:

  • Cheap. Can be found for less than $99us
  • Simple to use.
  • Commonly found at big box stores locally.
  • Brushes are cheap.
  • Can be used as a hand router when not in use on the CNC.
  • 110v can be run on any household outlet.
  • Onefinity tech support.
  • Manufacturer Warranty/ Easy store return.

Cons:

  • Loud (around 80-100 dbs)
  • ‘Dirty electrical signal’ can affect the CNC or other devices (EMI)
  • Short power cord (not drag chain friendly)
  • Brushes (consumable part) will only last so many hours until they need to be changed.
  • Speed is controlled by dial on router.
  • On/off is controlled by switch on router.
  • RPM range is smaller compared to spindles (affects metal more than wood).
  • Cannot be controlled by gcode.
  • Shorter Lifespan when compared to a spindle.
  • only 1/4 and 1/8 shanked bits can be used.
  • Larger runout.

Spindle:

Pros:

  • Quiet (from 50-80 dbs)
  • No consumable parts (like brushes)
  • Wider RPM range (more for metal)
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Can be controlled by Gcode (speed/on, off)
  • Larger collets available, such as 1/2 sized bits can be used.
  • Smaller ‘runout’ of bit (tool spin offset error).
  • Run ‘cooler’ so can be run much longer time periods.

Cons:

  • No Onefinity support
  • Larger physical size.
  • Cost is 4x or more than the Makita Router.
  • Not locally sourced.
  • Generally, Chinese with poor documentation. Ensure you purchase from a reputable seller.
  • Requires electrical knowledge of 110v and 220v wiring (you must wire these yourself to the vfd and wall power (potentially life threatening if done incorrectly).
  • Requires a VFD (power inverter) and knowledge of programming the parameters (not offered by Onefinity support).
  • Some are water cooled. Will add more wires to manage (in and outlet water tubes). A potential to spill liquid onto the machine or electronics. Liquid can also freeze in nonconditioned air workspaces.
  • Requires the optional ‘breakout board’
  • Some require a 220v power outlet which is not a common household outlet in NA.
  • Warranty could be tricky dealing with Chinese brands.

Operational Differences:
Here’s what the process looks like to a new user when using either a spindle or the Makita router for the first time.

Router:
Unbox the router. Remove the plunge base. Place the router body in the z slider. Tighten the z slider mount. Plug in the router cord to your regular wall outlet. Load the gcode program. Zero xyz. Turn on router with the switch. Rotate rpm dial to proper speed setting for you file. Press play.

Spindle:
Unbox router. Unbox VFD. Order correct gauge, shielded, and flexible wire from vfd to spindle. Order correct gauge and plug type from vfd to wall outlet. Solder, crimp, and install wire from vfd to spindle. Solder, crimp, and install wire from vfd to wall plug. These must be correct or the vfd and spindle will not work, or worse, possibly harm the machine or yourself. Install optional breakout board to the Onefinity Controller. Run correct wire type and size from vfd to breakout board ports. Go through and program all the correct parameters on the VFD. These must be correct or the vfd and spindle will not work, or worse, possibly harm the machine or yourself. Ensure your gcode has on off commands for the spindle and the proper rpm has been set for the toolpath. Load the file. Zero xyz. Press Play.


Conclusion:
If you are a beginner or hobbyist and if you’re not confident about the electrical wiring required for a VFD, then choosing a router might be the way to go. The Makita is a solid and proven router.
Spindles are the apt choice for CNC machines requiring heavy use. However, their setup complexity and cost can be off-putting to many.
Routers and spindles have their unique benefits as well as downsides.
To make a good choice between a router and a spindle, consider each factor discussed above and make a calculated choice. The biggest factor in our opinion is, Do you want Onefinity technical support? If so go the Makita. If support isn’t a big deal and you like tinkering or interacting with the community for assistance, a spindle may be the right choice. If you go with the Makita first then upgrade to a spindle later, you’re left with a great trim router that all woodshops need anyways, so there’s no wasted money!

Notes:
More info on the breakout board can be found here: Info on the Breakout Board Accessory

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