PCBWay : CNC Machining


My 3D Printed CNC machine project has been sitting in my basement for over a year now. Unfortunately, some of the parts turned out to be too weak with the 3D printing technique, and I needed to find a solution. Ideally, I needed metal or aluminum parts that could support the constraints of the belt. I searched for an affordable online CNC service for a long time, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finally succeeded.

CNC Machinery

Let's start from the basics : 
CNC, or Computer Numerical Control, encompasses the manufacturing process where machines cut, carve and form parts based on computer codes that control the cutting tool speed and movement.
You can watch the below video to have a complete view of what CNC can achieve :

The industrial revolution has truly reached new heights with the advent of CNC machinery/milling, which makes it possible to create almost anything with incredible precision and speed. I was enamored with this technology a few years ago and was delighted to come across a "DIY kit" that included 3D printed parts, as well as other hardware, motors, and electronics. I began assembling the kit myself in early 2021, but soon encountered a problem with some of the 3D printed parts that were too weak to complete the project. Specifically, I struggled with the belt tensioner.

The full project can be found here at https://www.makerfr.com/en/cnc/.

My Problem

Yes, the problem. It always starts with a problem no ? Mine, as explained above was the lack of robustness of the 3D printed parts in PLA+. When applying tension on the belt, it leads to breaking the part.

The weakness points are marked on the images above by the orange arrows.

Below pictures of the actual (broken) parts currently mounted on the CNC I'm building. I added a cable tie to mitigate the risk, but still, when applying the required tension on the belt, it's cracking and breaking ... I share this concern with other people building this CNC and they all facing similar issues and had to replace the part from time to time. Some created it with wood instead of 3D printed parts.

The only viable solution to this problem is to use metal pieces produced with an industrial CNC machine. I've tried to find a company that can manufacture these parts for me, but I've either been quoted exorbitant prices or told that they aren't willing to produce small batches.

That was until PCBWay contacted me.


Yes, PCBWay contacted me to give a try to their CNC machinery service.

PCBWay is a China based online manufacture who offers different types of products/services : PCB, 3D Printing and CNC machinery.

The company has been created in 2013. They have 5 factories - 2 for PCB service, 2 for PCBA service and 1 for CNC machining. All in Shenzhen (the Chinese Silicon Valley). In total, PCBWay employs more than 2800 people. They are able to process 2100 orders per day. That's impressive, but let's see the real outcome.

Let's create the parts

To send your files for CNC milling, you need some specific format, .STL used in the 3D printing world are not supported. Hopefully, MakerFR.com is providing the .step equivalent.

PCBWay supports .step, *.stp, *.x_t , *.iges and *.sldprt. You should be able to find the format of choice.
Similar to the PCB making process, you simply upload your files, chose the finish and you are good to go.

There are a lot of available materials :

I'm going with Aluminum.

You can chose about 25 surface finish options (different options for other materials). I have decided to go with anodized blue.

Depending of the material and finish you have chosen, it will give you a different build time. My selection is giving 13-15 days.

I received my order within the announced time without any delay. I received the package from DHL. I had to pay for customs as I'm in Europe and any order above 25 EUR is have customs duties.


I was pleased by the quality of the packaging ! They created custom inserts in foam to make sure my parts arrived in an outstanding condition.

The parts

The first impression when looking at the parts is amazing. This is the first time I see my 3D printed objects in aluminum with such finishing quality.

Analysing the finish, we can see some imperfections on the edges - nothing serious though. I've seen on the website this is related to the anodized finish I've chosen : 

Good to know prior to select the finish you want. But honestly, I will never see this in real live usage of my parts, so we can remove this concern from the list ! ;)

FYI, here is the total order I made

Fitting tests

Having those parts is nice, but what about using them ? Let's see how they actually compare with the 3D printed version I currently have on my CNC.

The 3D model (STLs) and the CAD drawing (STEPs) are not exactly the same but they serve the exact same purpose.

Below, the part in PLA+ and the CNC milling. The result is amazing, all screws fit perfectly. The finish is giving confidence and strength.

The parts in place in the CNC, I was able to perfectly tight the belt. It really works like a charm !!

The cost

Of course, we cannot give a fair review on a product and service without comparing the cost. 

The bill for my parts is the following (As you have seen above, I ordered more than the 2 parts you see here)

At first glance, the cost might seem high. However, I did some research and compared their prices with other services based in Europe, hoping to avoid any customs fees. To my surprise, I found that even without custom fees, PCBWay's prices were still more competitive. In fact, the lowest price I found for the same order was USD 630, which is significantly more expensive than PCBWay's pricing.

Some may argue that the downside to ordering from China is the lengthy delivery times. However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive my order from PCBWay just three days after the parts were completed. This impressive turnaround time is a testament to PCBWay's dedication to efficient and reliable service.

PCBWay gave me a coupon to share with you guys. For any order above USD 59, you have USD 10 discount entering the code PCBWayTech here (valid 3 month) :


Based on my experience, I highly recommend PCBWay for anyone looking for CNC machining services. Their expertise in creating PCBs and other precise components make them a standout player in the industry. Whether you're seeking durability or a polished finish, PCBWay is a reliable choice for meeting your specific requirements. While custom fees may be a consideration, the quality of their products and the ease of their online shopping experience make them well worth it. Above all, their commitment to customer satisfaction and transparency ensures that you'll have a positive experience from start to finish.

I hope this helps you finishing your DIY projects ;)


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