What is the Ortur Aufero CNC Engraver and how does it stack up with the other desktop inexpensive CNC's on the market? We break the machine down and find out what it is great for, and what it isn't.
The Ortur Aufero CNC was provided for review by Gearbest. They did not compensate me or provide any direction in the final review. I want to give you my full and honest opinion.
First up let's break down the features on this unit.
Let's talk about the maximum work area that you'll be able to cut and engrave. I found that if you had the bottom plate centered on the machine then I could work with something as big as 11.8 x 7 in.
In the z-axis, there is a 1.75 in clearance to the bottom plate. Now, this was with the provided 1/8 in bit inserted as far up as I could get it. This will vary depending on your bit. So in theory you could carve something up to 1.5 in thick, you'll need to leave a little clearance so the bit can retract when making linking moves between cuts.
Compared to other small (and cheap CNC's) I was surprised to find that the entire frame was aluminum. In other CNC's I've reviewed several parts with hard plastic. For the most part, those worked fine but I always found that I could get a bit of flex on the machine.
The metal construction on the Ortur Aufero was a big upgrade.
The spindle is literally where the magic happens. The spindle is larger and more powerful than the other budget CNC's I've reviewed in the past. This is a great upgrade! Plus the entire Z-Axis assembly is more robust and completely metal.
In past machines, this part is sometimes resin or even 3D printed.
Other than just the spindle size you also have full control of the spindle's RPMs through GRBL commands which is a great plus compared to typical woodworking routers you would put in an Inventables X-Carve of Carbide Create Shapeoko.
All axes include lead screws. This is great in terms of precision as well as rigidity. They also include backlash nuts so the higher speeds won't cause inaccuracies in the positioning. I did find that this machine was a good bit slower than larger CNC's that are belt driven or include linear rails. But the slower speed is mainly due to the size of the stepper motors.
The electronics are pretty simple in terms of assembly. Everything is contained in a wiring harness which really helps keep things clean and more importantly getting caught as the machine is moving.
This was an unexpected bonus. The touch screen gives you the ability to directly move the spindle into different positions. There are also options to connect via Bluetooth and Wifi but I couldn't get those options to work. I believe this is coming on the full production version of the unit but I wasn't able to test it on mine.
It would have been great if you could upload the GCode directly to this controller with an SD card. There is even an option in the software to load it in but I didn't see a physical SD media port on the machine. So for actual control, you'll still need to connect it to a computer of USB.
My review unit was a pre-production model. I will be updating this review once I've had a chance to check out the new version but these are the expected updates to the machine:
The Ortur Aufero is advertised with a 20-minute assembly. Mine took a good bit longer than that, around 3 hours. Again this is a pre-production unit and the final version could have several of the parts already assembled.
I could easily see the base as one section and the Z-axis and supports as another. In that case, it would be pretty simple to connect the two together and plug in the minimal electronics.
And from their marketing website, I think this will be the direction they are going.
Ortur provides several different GRBL based controllers to use with the unit. Since GRBL is an open platform that means you can use whatever software you are most familiar with. I just used Inventables Easel since I could both create the artwork (or import) as well as communicate with the CNC.
The setup process was very straight forwards on the Easel side of things, you'll just use the Machine Setup tool and bring in a GRBL based machine.
From there you can set up all your cut settings as well as get a good preview of how long your cuts will actually take.
I only did a few tests of both cutting and engraving. Both were on thin plywood. For the Baby Yoda ornament, I found that it did a great job on the actual cut, I just had to run the machine at 1/3rd the speed I would typically use with my larger X-Carve.
Ortur claims that it cuts soft wood, plywood, PCB, acrylic and expanded PVC. Given how well it cut into wood all of those materials would be a great option.
At the time of this publishing the Ortur Aufero CNC Engraver is $270. Gearbest seems to always have their CNC's and lasers on a perpetual sale, so you should be able to find it under $300.
This compares pretty well to the other desktop budget CNC's and is a good bit less than the Pro Desktop machines and the larger hobbyist machines.
The frame looks to be almost exactly the same. The biggest difference is with the Z-Axis assembly. Again the Ortur Aufero is all metal with the 3018 is hard plastic. And the Ortur has a touch screen and the motherboard is not exposed.
The biggest benefit of the 3018 is the ability to add a laser engraver and replace the spindle. I imagine that Ortur isn't currently providing this since they would want you pick up the ORTUR Laser Master 2 instead.
When you compare this to the other desktop units like the Nomad from Carbide Create, Carvey from Inventables and Bantam Tools the biggest difference is going to be in the overall build quality and the type of things you'll be able to machine.
The higher-end desktop units you'll get an increase in overall performance as well as the ability to machine metal. But this also comes as a cost, $2500 for the Nomad Pro and $3500 for Bantam Tools.
These machines are really positioned for the pro small scale market. You can think of the Ortur Aufero as a great inexpensive option to get into using a CNC and upgrade from there.
When you think of CNC you might be most familiar with Inventables X-Carve or Carbide3d Shapeoko. The biggest difference between in the Ortur Aufero and these units is overall size and speed. If you are looking to make larger parts or engrave large signs then one of these would be a better option.
So would I recommend the Ortur Aufero? Like everything it depends. If you are looking to get into CNC and want something that won't take up much space and not break the bank then this is a great option.
I can see this is a great entry point in the CNC world, as you play around with it you will see where the limitations are and figure out what upgrade path would make the most sense for you in the future.
Also if you are trying to batch out small Etsy orders in wood/acrylic/PVC then this will be great, just know that the milling time will be a good bit more than larger and/or pro machines.