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post-PRTalpha.gifAs we spend a lot of our time split between our computers and the shop, we’ve always dreamed of owning our own CNC equipment.  A recent advertisement in Make magazine drew us to ShopBot Tools to check out their “affordable” CNC routers.

ShopBot offers two basic systems:

The PRTalpha system is a 3-axis CNC router offering a closed-loop control system utilizing stepmotors and rack & pinion power transmission on all three axes.  Pricing starts at $6,995 for the “BenchTop” model (on which the cutting table moves underneath your work to provide Y-axis motion) and $8,595 for the 48″ x 48″ full-motion cutter model. 

The PRTstandard system uses a less-expensive open-loop controller with low-backlash, gearhead stepper motors on all axes.  “BenchTop” standards start at $4,895 and 48″ x 48″ models start at $5,995. 

Note that all of these prices are for the tool only.  To complete the “system” you’ll need a router or spindle, a table (you can build your own from plans, or they have a pre-made unit for sale), some accessories (Z-zero plate, XY proximity switches), and bits.

Buying everything from ShopBot, you’ll spend about $8,380 for a “BenchTop” alpha, and about $6,280 for a “BenchTop” standard.

Though ShopBot’s advertisement in Make indicated that they sell their components separately for DIY-ers, we were unable to locate any component pricing on their website.  When we contacted ShopBot, they did admit to selling an “inventor’s kit” with four alpha-type step motors, the control hardware and software, and design software for $5,995.  The tech support and sales staff we talked to were relatively negative regarding the idea of DIY-ers assembling a ShopBot router on the cheap, though they did seem as though they’d be helpful if you were looking to build something else entirely with their components.

In summary, if you’re working from a home shop, don’t get your hopes up too high; you’re looking at well over $5,000 to get started with a ShopBot machine.  On the other hand, if you’re looking to take your cabinetry or signage business to the next level, you’re probably comparing this to other $40,000 CNC rigs instead of a $1,000 table saw.  This could be just what you need.

ShopBot Tools [via Make magazine]


3 Responses to ShopBot: Cheap(er) CNC Woodworking

  1. Kevin says:

    I have been looking into cnc routers myself, and, the Shopbot is looking like the best “BANG FOR THE BUCK”
    If there is a better value out there, PLEASE point me in that direction.


  2. Gene C says:

    Check out ez router…

  3. Ries says:


    if you want best bang for the buck I think you should take a look at the mechmate see http://www.mechmate.com/. I am about to start building one. I have looked at various options (Joe, Ez, shopbot, some various other large/small designs) and it seems like that the mechmate is up to industrial performance.


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