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Comments for “First impressions on the CNC 3020”

Hello Petteri,

I read your review of this CNC machine with much interest. I too spend some time with Electronics now and then, and it would be great to see you get started on using the machine. The parallel port issue can be overcome by using a 'USB to Parallel' data conversion cable. There are many of this type available on the internet for you to see. I hope this info can help you in some way. Cheers.

— John on 28.04.2014 at 15:25 (UTC)

I was going to make a similar suggestion on getting a "Parallel to USB" adapter. I wasn't sure if it needed male or female.

— Brandon on 21.07.2014 at 19:07 (UTC)

I am pretty sure that normal USB-parallel adapters will not work satisfactorily with this kind of realtime control. Perhaps with smart use of FIFOs this could be made to work, but smoothieboard seemed like a better solution to me.

— Petteri Aimonen on 22.07.2014 at 05:00 (UTC)

There are special USB to parallel adapters that have to be used, standard ones do not work.  Niche hardware manufacturers have realized the preponderance of parallel based CNC and absolute lack of parallel ports on modern computers.  A cheaper/simpler solution, if using a full size PC is to use a PCI card with parallel instead of USB.

— Mike on 29.09.2014 at 15:01 (UTC)

Can you please send me the P/N and manufacture of the microscope you use?

— George Astras on 25.01.2015 at 11:21 (UTC)

@George Astras: It is this one. Unfortunately no longer manufactured: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Konig-Microscope-Screen-Lighting-Magnification/dp/B003YUQ6CO . It is quite handy for electronics work, even if not very high quality.

— Petteri Aimonen on 25.01.2015 at 12:41 (UTC)

You need an UC100 usb to paralell adapter and a Mach3 plugin and then you can turn up the kernal to 100hz.

— Anders on 16.04.2015 at 15:00 (UTC)

Though even with such an usb-to-parallel adapter with special plugin, it still needs the PC next to it. More reasonable to just make a stand-alone device.

— Petteri Aimonen on 16.04.2015 at 15:01 (UTC)

Great write up. I saw another video showing how to modify this machine to use a TinyG controller, and purchased one of these and performed the modification. I printed a 3D holder for the new controller so it fits well in the bottom of the existing control box with no fuss. It works extremely well and I've been using ChilliPeppr to mill with the TinyG, which works over USB, but also over your LAN so your control machine doesn't have to be next to the CNC machine as long as there's a network connection near your CNC machine.

— Jimmy on 08.08.2015 at 14:40 (UTC)

Looks very interesting, I have looked for a milling machine for some time to produce circuit board prototypes

What is your opinion, will it perform exactly enough to suit that purpose?

I am also wondering about software, are you using Mach3?

Was the Smoothieboard modification hard to do?

Hope that you have time to help me out with some answers


— Mikael on 07.12.2015 at 20:04 (UTC)


Yeah, I've made a few PCBs with this machine. Best so far is: http://koti.kapsi.fi/jpa/stuff/pix/cnc3020_pcb.jpg http://koti.kapsi.fi/jpa/stuff/pix/P1010557.JPG 
The pin spacing on the STM32 in the middle is 0.5 mm and the passives are 0402 size.

Biggest issue for PCB milling with CNC3020 is the maximum spindle speed of 12 000 RPM. This limits the speed at which you can mill, so that the board above took 1 hour to mill with 0.1 mm V-bit. I've been planning an alternative spindle based on RC inrunner motor, but it's somewhat difficult to balance it to run at high speeds like 50 000 RPM.

With Smoothieboard, no, there is no need for Mach 3 or any other such software on PC. I simply copy the gcode file to Smoothieboard over USB (it shows up as an USB drive) and then select to run it on the LCD panel. However, Smoothie may not be the best choice for CNC machines after all; MachineKit may be a better alternative, though I haven't tried it myself.

Modification to Smoothieboard or MachineKit is pretty straightforward. It's just a matter of soldering wires up and drilling new screw holes to mount the boards.

— Petteri Aimonen on 07.12.2015 at 20:19 (UTC)

Thank you for a quick and informative answer!
I must say that your PCB looks really great :-)

I have looked around and found both CNC3020 and CNC3040 for a good price through Chinese suppliers. It seems like it is only the milling area that differs so I guess the mechanics is the same?

My concern is if it will be enough to stick with the original electronics at first or if I should buy a Smoothieboard or TinyG at the same time? And also which of them to go for? I am pretty handy so if it only is about soldering and the instructions are clear I hope that I could manage.

Thanks again


— MIkael on 08.12.2015 at 15:49 (UTC)

It is difficult to say whether the mechanics are the same or not. It seems that even within the CNC3020 family, there are variants with ballscrews (better) in place of trapezoid screws. But mine was the cheapest at the time, so I don't think you can find a worse one except with bad luck ;)

Original electronics work ok if you have a PC with suitable parallel port (hardware, or specialized USB converter). For me it was important to be able to run it without a PC attached so I went for Smoothieboard. Other than that, I think TinyG is a good choice also. I've considered upgrading to MachineKit with CRAMPS to get the more advanced control offered by LinuxCNC, but haven't bothered so far.

— Petteri Aimonen on 08.12.2015 at 15:55 (UTC)

Now I have ordered a CNC 3040Z-DQ with ballscrew, shipping directly from Germany for 790 USD to Sweden

Always a little worried when ordering such an expensive piece without having the possibility to touch and feel

But it seems that pretty many people have given them good reviews (for the money) and it also seems they are pretty easy to modify and find cheap parts for

I might contact you for some expertise advice later on :-)

— Mikael on 09.12.2015 at 12:59 (UTC)

750 USD € 682.2833 for me it is too much money for a 3020 cnc hobby use !! But I am unsure if I buy it and comes to 504 € shipped !! NO I have not read your opinions . I will do it ... ! Greetings.

— Paolo K. on 12.12.2015 at 12:56 (UTC)

Paolo, Mikael was referring to a 3040 (30cm x 40cm), not a 3020 (20cm x 30 cm). 750 USD is cheap for a 3040.

I would recommend finding a 3020 with ballscrews, and it will not be as cheap as 504 euro, more like 600-650 Euro. In which case you may as well upgrade and go for the 3040, like Paolo sensibly has. A 500 euro machine with non-ballscrews is actually expensive and false economy.

— David on 12.12.2015 at 21:54 (UTC)

Excellent article.   It pretty much convinced me to buy one.   Article mentions  ± 0.2 mm  of play.  Would an upgraded spindle help this issue?   Where can I purchase an affordable spindle that would fit the 3020?

— Bruce Stemplewski on 27.12.2015 at 03:11 (UTC)

The Smoothieboard was mentioned above that no special software is needed.   How is the machine calibrated with no software?  In fact how do you calibrate things like home position, x and y dimensions etc.  Is there a good tutorial somewhere?

— Bruce Stemplewski on 27.12.2015 at 03:15 (UTC)

Indeed a better spindle would help a lot with the play, especially in Z direction. I haven't however found any good affordable & high-quality spindles that could be substituted. I've been building a few myself, latest from brushless DC motor, but so far there has been too many problems with poor balancing to be useful.

With Smoothieboard, the calibration data goes into a configuration file on an SD card. One can also run G code commands with just a serial terminal, to execute manual actions for testing. I think 3D printing software such as octoprint works with Smoothieboard also, but I haven't used that myself.

As for tutorial, here is one: http://smoothieware.org/cnc-mill-guide

— Petteri Aimonen on 27.12.2015 at 09:27 (UTC)

Thank's Petter!    Any suggestions on which spindle to buy?   Something not too out of sight in price as it is a cheap CNC machine after all.    Maybe something $150US or less.

— Bruce Stemplewski on 28.12.2015 at 03:31 (UTC)

I'm not aware of any such spindle that would fit CNC3020 and be of better quality. If you find one, please tell me also :)

— Petteri Aimonen on 28.12.2015 at 09:25 (UTC)

I bought a cnc 3020 on eBay but have not been able to make run.
I will be welling to pay for somebody to help me set it up

— Louis on 10.01.2016 at 18:31 (UTC)

Just got mine in a few days ago.  Have yet to mill anything but I am still impressed.

So what is the secret of getting the collet out of the collet nut?

— Bruce Stemplewski on 11.01.2016 at 00:31 (UTC)

Found the answer here.


— Bruce Stemplewski on 11.01.2016 at 02:33 (UTC)

I am having trouble with one of on axis slipping.   The set screw is constantly coming loose.   It was happening on the Z axis so I swapped the Z motor with the X now the same issue occurs on X.

Is the shaft completely round on your machine, where the motor attaches to the shaft?

Any ideas of how to resolve this?   I thought about locktite but want to make sure I can still get the set screw out if need be

— Bruce Stemplewski on 30.01.2016 at 03:43 (UTC)


Just noticed you were have problems.   Exactly what is the issue?

What software are you using?

— Bruce Stemplewski on 30.01.2016 at 03:44 (UTC)


I have had some trouble with slip in the motor-axis connector, but tightening the screws has been enough to fix it. If I remember correctly, the motor shafts on mine have a small flat, while the leadscrew shaft is completely round.

I think loctite would be a good option. There are several "strengths" so perhaps start with the least strong to see if it is enough.

— Petteri Aimonen on 30.01.2016 at 07:10 (UTC)

I received my 3020 CNC machine with a USB port which (should) simplify things.  Mine was purchased on Amazon and delivery time was reasonable at 3 weeks. The package arrived on a pallet which might or might not be a good thing. According to the contents sheet, everything (seems) to be there.  HOWEVER, there were a few "loose" plastic bits, pieces and "chunks" in the box which had to have been shoved out the back of a C-130 without a parachute; or a defective one at best. The slightly bent controller box had "things" rattling around inside so I broke the broken seal - that little white thingy that read "NO BREAKIE SEAL" or something along those lines - and found a plastic cover and most of the connectors disconnected. Fortunately the lengths of the lines leading to said connectors made for reasonably good guesses on reassembling the controller. On the plus side: Upon plugging it in and turning it on, the lights all worked and it passed "the smoke test": It did not smoke. No smoke is a good thing. Oh, and the plug that goes to the box is a 220 v plug. I was a little apprehensive swapping it out for a left over 110 v plug I had, but like I said, it passed the smoke test with flying colors. I suppose it would be wise to take my meter and test the output voltages at the step motors just to be sure I'm not going to fry anything. Is it 5 O'clock yet? The Mach3 software disk won't install but the program is downloadable. I noticed a "crack" file on the disk so obviously the software is an "archived copy" - "pirated" is such an ugly word.  That probably explains why the seller said "sometime software CD not get through customs.  Prease contact me if no arrive."  I'm still wading through the installation and setup manual which is very much like one of those olde Chinese movies with English subtitles or the modern version: "Kung Pow". Assembling the unit was reasonably uneventful although Maker's Mark help considerably in reducing my frustration levels. Actually, after a couple drinks, the manual was a whole lot more intelligible! I found a link of "hacks" and upgrades for the machine today and will sort
through it all after getting my legitimate copy of Mach3 installed. If the machine works as advertised, I'll let everyone know. If not, I will buy stock in Maker's Mark and salvage what can be salvaged from the machine and possibly building a controller from another link that sells kits for CNC machines. Meanwhile, if anybody has any suggestions that would help me get this thing running, it would be much appreciated. It has to be 5 O'clock somewhere.

— CaptGene on 11.05.2016 at 17:22 (UTC)

How did you do the PCB conformal coating?

— SomeDude on 09.08.2016 at 23:42 (UTC)

@SomeDude Two supplies from eBay: "36W uv nail lamp" ($20) and "solder mask paint 100g" ($6). Then spread paint on pcb, put piece of cellophane in between, press with glass plate so that the layer is very thin and even. Then put printed transparency sheet on top and expose with the UV lamp for some 5-10 minutes. Unexposed paint washes off with isopropyl alcohol.

— Petteri Aimonen on 10.08.2016 at 03:28 (UTC)

i have used one of these for a couple of years i find it to cut circuit boards ok and shapes out off wood with no problems i have just used it to cut 3mm steel letters size 10mm they came out ok but the machine stuggled and i had to do many 0.5mm passes but letter looked correct once finished but the end bit used only did 2 letters 
so great little cheap machine for small wood and fiber glass milling 

i used old desktop i picked up local with xp and parrell port works great

— Tony on 15.09.2016 at 11:21 (UTC)

Hi there.

I have one of these, but the delrin nuts are starting to wear out and give me backlash on the X axis, which is becoming problematic for PCB work.
Have you even tried finding replacement parts? I have a feeling that it is really hard to find them.

Any insight is appreciated.


— Marcelo Dantas on 12.05.2017 at 01:24 (UTC)


No, I haven't yet had a need. But indeed it may be quite difficult to find, especially as there seem to be many variations of the basic 3020 model.

Perhaps it would be possible to mill a replacement using CNC3020 itself? The thread could be tapped manually, thread taps for trapezoid thread are not that expensive.

— Petteri Aimonen on 12.05.2017 at 05:37 (UTC)

Hi there

my 3020 arrived last week and I´m going nuts with it. I´m totally new to the whole CNC topic and watched hours of videos of how to set this baby up, but it won´t run. 

The spindle runs prperly but the stepper motors don´t even start to run. I tried so many configurations in Mach3 and tried Mach4 as well, but nothing happens.

Any hint would help me so much.

I run Windows 7 - 64bit
Mach 3

— Benni on 26.09.2017 at 02:36 (UTC)

The play on the spindle is more like 0.02 to 0.04 mm, right? Not 0.2 mm. 


— Kenny on 11.11.2017 at 00:32 (UTC)

But then again, maybe it really is 0.2 mm, which is nasty.

Did you need to make any adjustments on the frame and extruded aluminium rods (eg... using shims etc) to make everything square to each other? Any adjustments needed on the spindle mounts to get the spindle column to be square with the x-y plane?


— Kenny on 11.11.2017 at 00:41 (UTC)

@Kenny The spindle is indeed quite horrible. It is just a DC motor that someone slammed an ER collet on, the bearings aren't even properly preloaded. It is possible to open it and adjust a bit for slightly improved performance, but it will never be very good.

I haven't found a need to adjust the frame, though I haven't measured the squareness either. It seems good enough for my purposes as is, but if I ever obtain a good reference square I might measure it :)

Nowadays there seem to be some CNC3020 models that have a bigger, watercooled spindle that looks much better.

— Petteri Aimonen on 11.11.2017 at 11:01 (UTC)

I too am considering the 3020 as my first CNC mill/router.  I'm a retired machinist and have been fabricating parts and machinery for several decades but I'm not a computer programmer.  I plan on using one of a couple of off-line controllers that are available.  I have used CAD for many years and the off-line controllers only need a .dwg/.dxf (2D) or .stl (3D) file to be converted to G-Code and transferred to a flash drive that is inserted in the controller. Here is the problem. I have downloaded Mach3 and CamBam onto my Win 7 laptop but I can't get either one to work.  I have DesignCad (that produces .dwg) on the laptop and can't seem to get a G-Code file from CamBam.  When I try to load a"G-Code" file into Mach 3, I get an error and when I go to "edit G-Code" I get a script instead of a list of G-Codes. I have installed ".NETFramework3,5"(as suggested), reinstalled both programs and removed, downloaded and  reinstalled new copies of both programs, all to no avail.  Has anyone else had trouble like this with this software?  I'm only trying to simulate a run in Mach3, but if I can't verify the G-Code there I'm not going to start spending hundreds of USD on the hardware.  I'm not sure if this is an appropriate forum for my problem but I have been researching these machines as you all have been doing and I would surely appreciate any assistance  or suggestions on where to go from here.  


— Skip on 10.12.2017 at 08:09 (UTC)

you can try this parallel-to-USB port adapter:
that is an arduino nano running GRBL.

— Fernando on 16.03.2018 at 02:04 (UTC)