Introduction: The DIYLILCNC: Open-Source Plans for a Low-Cost, Easy-to-Build CNC Mill. (v1.0.2)

Picture of The DIYLILCNC: Open-Source Plans for a Low-Cost, Easy-to-Build CNC Mill. (v1.0.2)

The DIYLILCNC project is a set of plans for an inexpensive, fully functional 3-axis CNC mill that can be built by an individual with basic shop skills and tool access.

CNC devices are used to fabricate physical objects with a high degree of precision. Some CNC devices, including the DIYLILCNC, feature a gantry-mounted cutting tool (like a router) that can move in two or more directions. The operation of the tool is controlled by a computer, which is tasked with translating a digital design into actual tool movement.

The DIYLILCNC can be built for around $700. This cost includes all the stock hardware and sheet material used in construction. CAD files for custom laser-cut parts are distributed along with the plans. Anyone with access to a laser cutter can use these files to fabricate all the panel parts necessary for construction; those without ready laser-cutter access can use local or online laser-cutting services.  Some users have even adapted the files to be cut using another CNC mill.

Plans and instructions for building the DIYLILCNC are distributed freely and intended for wide distribution and modification with few restrictions. The plans are formatted to facilitate easy fabrication, especially for beginners. The DIYLILCNC can be built by an individual, a student group, or a class. Besides being immensely fun, building the DIYLILCNC is a great way to learn about motion control and CAD/CAM/CAE.

-Cutting bed size: ~12” x 14” x 2”
-Spindle speed: 0-35,000 RPM
-Total cost for hardware, sheet material, motors and driver board: ~$700
-Tested cut materials: foam, hardwood, acrylic, MDF, thin copper sheet

The plans and source files for this project are released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work and the work of previous authors, even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit all authors/contributors appropriately and license their new creations under identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on the information presented below must carry the same license.

Authors’ names and sponsor institutions referenced below must be attributed in any future modification or redistribution of these plans.

This project is a fusion of two instruction sets published by Stuart McFarlane/Oomlout: CNC1/desktop CNC router (2007) provided the basic design for a functioning CNC mill; How to Make Anything (Using Acrylic and Machine Screws) (2009) details a solution for constructing 90° joints in laser-cuts stock using simple hardware.

The plans and source files presented below were adapted and expanded by: Chris Reilly (, and Taylor Hokanson ( with generous support in the form of funding and facilities from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Step 1: Download the Plans.

Picture of Download the Plans.

Visit and get the CAD Files & Assembly Instructions for version 1.0.2. 

Step 2: Order Parts and Hardware.

Picture of Order Parts and Hardware.

Use the parts list on pages 19-22 of the instruction PDF to order all the parts, hardware and stock you'll need.  The MDF and some hardware can probably be sourced at lower prices from a local hardware store.

The parts costs for these plans include all of the hardware, stock and electrical components needed to build the mill/gantry, driver board and driver board enclosure.  The total cost does not take into account the cost of the controller PC, nor does it account for the cost of laser cutting services, should you need to use them.  Prices listed were accurate at the time of publication, but may currently be higher (or lower).

In addition to the parts on the list, you’ll have to acquire a PC that can be used to run the controller software (see page 62 of the instruction PDF for specs).

Step 3: Hand-Cut a Few Parts

Picture of Hand-Cut a Few Parts

Some parts of the DIYLILCNC must be fabricated by hand.  These are mostly done with easy table-saw or chop-saw cuts. 

Pages 23-26 of the instruction PDF cover the details.

Step 4: Laser-Cut (or CNC) Gantry Panels.

Picture of Laser-Cut (or CNC) Gantry Panels.

Use the .dxf file included in the CAD Files & Assembly Instructions for version 1.0.2 to generate your gantry panels from the 1/4" Masonite/MDF stock.

Beware, as not all 1/4" stock is exactly 0.25"-- we found materials to range in thickness anywhere from 0.2"-0.25", and this can make a big difference when trying to fit parts together. Measure stock thickness with calipers before you cut your parts!

Too-thick parts can sometimes be sanded to fit toghether; alternately, you can visit the DIYLILCNC downloads page for an Illustrator symbol file that links all the connection patterns to central symbol shapes--just change the depth of the symbols, and the new thickness settings will cascade out to all the cut patterns in the file.

If you don't have access to a laser cutter, you can use online service bureaus like Ponoko , or look for local providers at a site like ThomasNet . Several cities now have a TechShop , sort of like a Gold's Gym for CNC fabrication. Additionally, many colleges and universities are now acquiring laser cutting equipment, and college students (or professors, for that matter) can easily be paid off in beer and pizza!

Step 5: Assemble the Hardware.

Picture of Assemble the Hardware.

Follow the detailed assembly instructions, starting on page 35 of the instruction PDF.

Step 6: Set Up a Computer.

Picture of Set Up a Computer.

Find a computer with a parallel port, then install EMC LinuxPlug in your configuration settings and you're ready to roll!

Don't have a computer with a parallel port? Here's a detailed walk-through of setting up a $175 PC, including software installation and EMC setup.

Step 7: Make Something!

Picture of Make Something!

For a detailed list of free/cheap design software for CNC milling, see this link.  CNC fabrication can be very simple or very complicated depending on what you're doing.  Don't be afraid to ask questions at the DIYLILCNC forum, or at local hacker spaces near you.


techknowdroid (author)2017-02-18

This is a nice Instructable Sir! Your detailed Plans and explanation are truly appreciated!

I too have made a small CNC
machine using inexpensive parts and open source free software from github etc., to keep the cost down. Do check it out.

Here is the link :

Thanks a lot for giving your time.

bharatmali05 (author)2015-09-04

please can you suggest me what outcome is possible after making this machine

Ephrayim (author)2015-01-05

you guys realize that you can build for less than $20, a circuit that not only allows you to convert a parallel port to a USB port, but also allows you to monitor using 3rd party software (or even hardware if you wanted) literally every SINGLE sensor, motor, etc... and save it to either a visual or text based representation of the data I/O. extremely useful for debugging and trouble shooting buggy controllers, you could also even build your OWN CNC data controller using the same type of technology and have it communicate with a secondary CPLD or MCU to ensure data accuracy and cyclic redundancy checks, that way you can basically customize your tooling/controller software down to the most intricate details and even add things like sensors to automatically adjust your tool speed using heat sensors, add cooling fans/blowers that you can manually or automatically control... a little TTL and logic circuit design exp. is all thats needed...

gobot (author)Ephrayim2015-03-18


yosheego (author)2014-02-18

Hi, very nice! exactly what I'm looking for. Reading up on this on and saw it had a 2.0 version...This is the old version I assume?

Very nice

mambre (author)2012-04-27

How big are your stepper motors and where did you get them?

halfmumi (author)2011-08-29

Does it work with USB?

DIYLILCNC (author)halfmumi2011-08-29

The driver board we have specified in the current design only works with a parallel printer cable. We are looking into other options for version 2 (specifically, the TinyG) that support USB interfaces.

DDW_OR (author)DIYLILCNC2012-03-08

at work they use this
for a "bed of nails tester".

pfred2 (author)halfmumi2011-10-03

Search "USB real time", read, then decide for yourself. For me the answer is no.

bramanti bekti (author)2012-03-06


ilpug (author)2011-10-18

So... you use a CNC machine... to make more CNC machines? quite diabolical.

Very nice. I hope to make one soon, once i get a job.

TBKCNC (author)ilpug2012-02-24

Im a Junior in highschool and we are building this exact model from the guys at DIYLILCNC and so far everything is running great. Its a very well rounded group project that needs a verity of skills.

Electronics Man (author)2012-01-19

Great Instructable!!! Im making a CNC machine of my own but I have a few questions. Has anyone used the HobbyCNC EZ Driver Board Kit or the PRO series? Im not sure how to adjust the boards output voltage to match my steppers

gbredemeyer (author)2011-10-18

Project looks good. i know some folks who built a very similar model. It looked great, thanks for the post!

-Graham, -The online community for makers

ProMt8Pge (author)2011-09-11

It looks like the following page also provides a method for making your own CNC mill:

Has anyone tried building it? (author)2011-07-19


nnsg (author)2011-07-07

Does the software contain the calibration to tell the step settings, how do you configure software to the motor.

DIYLILCNC (author)nnsg2011-07-07
Yes it does. See these links for explicit how-to's:
88nightrider (author)2011-07-02

Is this CNC meant only for wood or can it be used on harder materials as steel etc?
Looks like a nice piece of machinery.

DIYLILCNC (author)88nightrider2011-07-02

It can definitely work on other materials. Steel and ferrous metals are probably too hard, but we've had good luck with thin copper so it would probably work with softer metals like aluminum or brass.

88nightrider (author)DIYLILCNC2011-07-02

If applying this design to metal parts instead of MDF would it not be more rigid?
And converting all the movement to threaded shafts.
Then using bigger motors, and maby something other then my dremel, then It might machine harder materials?
Just looking at designs that would work for me.

DIYLILCNC (author)88nightrider2011-07-02

Ultimately, the DIYLILCNC--or any CNC for that matter--can cut any material that it's tool is capable of cutting, given enough time and the proper setup (eg, coolant, ventilation, ect). So while the DIYLILCNC could technically cut anything a Dremel can cut, it may not be the most practical way to go about the job.

When you're working with harder metals like steel and iron, you'll need to use lots of coolant & lubricant during milling. This would pose some problems with the MDF, which generally doesn't respond well to moisture.

A more common way to incorporate CNC milling with harder materials is to mill a blank out of wax or plastic, then use that in a casting process, similar to what's outlined here:

Hope that helps!

88nightrider (author)DIYLILCNC2011-07-03

Thank you for your answer.
Well then im thinking about (like I have read in the comments) using Acrylic instead if the MDF.
The Acrylic should have no trouble with the use of coolant/lubrication right? Or heat?
So structurally there should be no problem to mill steel?
I am realy liking the idea of being able to make things in steel or aluminium myself, making parts for for my RC car etc.
Casting of parts would also be cool to do, but I dont see myself doing that with smaller parts.
No problems involved with making changes to the design? Like height and size of the table?

88nightrider (author)DIYLILCNC2011-07-02

Maby a better question.
What is it that limits how hard of a material this CNC can work with?

DIYLILCNC (author)2011-06-24

We just launched a kickstarter campaign for DIYLILCNC version 2.0! Contribute now and we'll even name a part after you!

mgauvin8810 (author)2011-01-20

ok I received 3 quotes for having all the parts laser cut for me. On 1/2" MDF or Acrylic they were all over 3K$. Who would cut these for blue collar pricing???

arthurwhitt (author)mgauvin88102011-05-12

I will be glad to quote you blue collar pricing for all your laser parts. Please send me drawings of what you want lasered and I will give you a quote. If there is an interest here I will be glad to provide a complete kit of required lasered parts at one Price. If anyone is interested, I need a set of plans to bid on. If you would be interested in the kit please also send me a email so that I can determine if there is enough interest to go ahead with the kit project. Please send to My mailing address is Laser Etch 531 North 150 W, Kaysville, Utah 84037. My telephone number is 801-682-8711.

DIYLILCNC (author)arthurwhitt2011-05-13

arthurwhitt, you can get the DXF file from We've also been selling laser-cut panel kits for a few weeks now at

mgauvin8810 (author)DIYLILCNC2011-05-13

from your website "Sorry, panel kits are currently out of stock! "

DIYLILCNC (author)mgauvin88102011-01-20

First of all you want 1/4", not 1/2" material. This project is specifically aimed at students or other makers with direct access to laser cutting (or with access to friends with access, etc.). That said, DIYLILCNC is in the process of establishing an L3C (or low-profit, mission-based LLC) to provide inexpensive laser-cut panels to folks like you. Prices will be about $250 for a Masonite/hardboard panel set including shipping. If you're interested, keep an eye on We'll post availability the moment we get a business bank account up and running.

mgauvin8810 (author)DIYLILCNC2011-01-20

Thanks, I realized the size mistake, I guess I overlooked that in the excitement of the project. Would Acrylic work for this as well? Also, I would pay $250.00 all day long for these parts! Have a great day! (^^,)

The House (author)2011-03-27

700 dollars? what? Seems like a lot....

johnfanok (author)2011-02-09

Assuming I build a machine to accommodate a 4' x 8' piece, will the software allow for any size material parameters? Also, how do you keep the material in place while it's cutting? thanks!

DIYLILCNC (author)johnfanok2011-02-13

Double-sided tape is great for hold-downs, or just screwing into waste sections of stock.

The software will accommodate whatever size you want, however take a look at these posts on the DIYLICNC forum for some caveats on & examples of building bigger.

tgsnyder (author)2011-01-11

I'd really love to see the plans in a format readable by free software (maybe svg for inkscape). I haven't been able to get the files open with any of the software I can get my hands on, to see if the TechShop RDU laser cutter bed is large enough. I don't think it is.

Other than my file format problems, the instructions and parts list in this project are great!

DIYLILCNC (author)tgsnyder2011-01-11

Hey tgsnyder, what software are you using? The DXF specs are out in the open, and most programs play pretty nice with the files. If you still can't get it to work, there are a few other formats in the Sandbox section of the DIYLILCNC downloads page. If that still doesn't work, we'll throw some SVG's up there.

What size is your laser bed? I think the longest piece is about 31".  We're about to start work on V2, which will hopefully accommodate more of the laser cutters out there. Keep checking the site for updates. 

tgsnyder (author)DIYLILCNC2011-01-11

I have tried the AI files in the sandbox section, but the version of AI I had access to was too old, and both inkscape and Corel both didn't want to import them. I tried a lot of different (free) software to open the dxf, and only had luck with one (which helpfully merged all the layers for me).

Unfortunately, the laser cutter at TechShop RDU is 18" x 24" so this version is out. I'll definitely keep an eye on the site though.

Thanks for the great documentation on this project!

jmatthias (author)tgsnyder2011-01-13

While both of those programs should be able to read the plans just fine, how about trying an intermediary program. There are actually many versions of the DXF format (and then some are binary and some are ASCII), so you might need something that can play well with the distributed files and your software. DraftSight is totally free and works really well. It's from the makers of Solidworks. It's out for both Mac and PC. Here's a link:[]-[]-S-[draftsight]

Open the files in DraftSight and then "save as..." them, making sure to use R2000-2002 Binary Drawing .DXF. (I know the years are right, the only thing you might need to change is to ASCII)

After that, the file should open in either piece of software just fine. Hope that helps!

XTL (author)jmatthias2011-01-13

has anyone put this on Ponoko ?

DIYLILCNC (author)XTL2011-01-21

Sure, one of our forum members did a while back:

GlobalVillageIdiot (author)2011-01-14

>>Anyone with access to a laser cutter can use these files to fabricate all the panel parts necessary for construction . . .

Could you use the DIYLILCNC to cut the panel parts for a second (third, etc.) DIYLILCNC instead of a laser cutter?

That's right! With the exception of a couple pieces that are longer than the tool's working area, all of the gantry pieces could be fabricated with an existing DIYLILCNC (or most any CNC mill). See for examples of designers who are trying to address the issue by breaking down larger elements into bite-size pieces.  You'll also need "bunny ears" to handle the enlarged kerf of non-lazer fab.

Steinzel (author)2011-01-10

I built one from scratch that could handle a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood for around 1500.00 for making signs. It was mostly wood and used roller blade wheels.
This one is nice, I like it!

useraaaaa (author)Steinzel2011-01-11

1500 !!!
holly cow

real thing
$780 with shipping

Steinzel (author)useraaaaa2011-01-11

The bed on my CNC could handle a FULL SHEET of plywood. I think I got off pretty cheap. LOL

edknue (author)Steinzel2011-01-13

My hat's off to you. To make a cnc machine that can handle a full sheet of plywood is one thing but to it for $1500 that cool.

2ManyProjects (author)2011-01-13

I started in with a group building one of these and abandoned the project. You really need a laser cutter to build it and I had trouble getting time on one. Additionally, hardware cost was high and you have to tailor the size of the slots based on material thickness which is very variable from sheet to sheet. Alternative plans that don't require a laser cutter are available at I also like the plans is selling. Your mileage may vary, this is just me 2 cents...

iangclau (author)2011-01-12


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Bio: Help us produce more tutorials by supporting our kickstarter campaign! The DIYLILCNC project is a set of plans ... More »
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