9to5Toys Gift Guide: Patrick’s guide to the perfect maker space

The Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays are officially behind us, and now Christmas and the gift-giving season lie ahead. It’s our goal to help you find the perfect present for everyone in your life, and today we’re focusing specifically on building out the perfect maker space with this gift guide. Whether that’s 3D printing, CNC machining, or even laser cutting/engraving, we’ve got our favorite machines in all categories listed down below for you to browse through. Ranging from budget-friendly picks to all-out manufacturing powerhouses, we’ll have picks for everything you need to make the perfect maker space in our 9to5Toys gift guide.

Laser engraving is easy, fun, and super versatile

Lasers are cool. That’s just a fact. Having a laser engraver/cutter in a maker space will really expand the abilities of what can be created there. For starters, it has the ability to engrave on materials like wood, acrylic, and even metal in some instances. Lasers can also cut things out, with the primary cutting being done on cardboard, leather, or wood when you have a diode laser, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Really, lasers are just super versatile tools that make customizing, well, anything, a simple task. So, to start out our maker gift guide, let’s take a look at some lasers you might want to consider picking up this Christmas season.

All-in-one setups are nice

In my own maker space, I employ a number of laser engravers, but the latest addition will be the ATEZR P10 10W combo kit. This is really a one-stop shop for getting an all-inclusive laser engraver/cutter. At 10W you’ll be able to get through a wide range of materials, including 3mm, 6mm, and even 10mm wood, though the thicker materials will require more passes to complete.

One of the biggest benefits of the ATEZR P10 combo kit is that it includes everything you need to get started. Of course, there’s the laser itself, which outputs around 10-12W of power, making it a decent beam for a wide range of tasks. Then this kit also includes an air assist pump, which connects directly to the laser head. You’ll use air assist for things like cutting to help keep debris out of the cut line and to help keep any stray flames at bay – since you are using lasers to cut things. Then, there’s the rotary. The rotary that’s included also has a tailstock in the package, which can help level out irregularly shaped objects, like larger tumblers. On top of that, the P10 combo kit also features built-in Wi-Fi so you can use it without plugging in a computer or just run it from a smartphone app for those who don’t want to purchase Lightburn to run it.

With the ATEZR P10 combo kit, you’ll be able to make just about anything you set your mind to. From custom tumblers to homemade Christmas ornaments, name tags, coasters, cutting boards… you name it, and the ATEZR P10 combo kit can do it. Now, to get all these abilities, the P10 combo kit doesn’t come at an extremely budget-friendly price, but it is also quite versatile. Right now, you can pick it up for $699.99 direct from ATEZR, which is a $150 discount from its normal $850 going rate. On Amazon, the ATEZR P10 with the air assist pump (but no rotary) will set you back $600 with a combo deal going on right now. So if you don’t think the rotary will be used, this is a great way to save another $100 and still get a solid setup all around.

You can still get a solid setup on a budget though

Sticking to ATEZR in our maker gift guide so your accessories are interchangeable and compatible in the future, the P5 5W is a great place to start things out. It’s normally $460, but there’s an on-page coupon that drops it to $360, making it a good bit below the P10 combo kit above. Whether you cash in on that price or get it at the $460 normal rate, the P5 is a great starting point for someone who doesn’t want to spend nearly $600 or even closer to $1,000 on a laser setup.

It offers much of the same features, just with a slightly lower-power laser diode on it. This really just changes how fast things happen. 5W lasers can still cut through 3mm plywood as well as engrave on a wide range of materials. It’ll just take longer for the job to complete. So as long as you’re good with that, then the P5 would be a solid place to start your laser engraving/cutting journey.

3D printing is perfect for beginners

When it comes to ease of making something, few machines can touch the abilities of a 3D printer, which is why we’re focusing on them in our maker gift guide. You can use a 3D printer to create things from scratch and have a fully functional 3D object ready to go in a matter of hours. Lasers are great at 2D stuff, and CNC’s can do 2.5D or sometimes 3D if you put enough time and effort into it. But, with a 3D printer, there are millions of files already available to download as well as the ability to make your own, which will come out perfectly in whatever color filament you use.

The Monoprice Voxel Pro does it all, and then some

We’re also taking a look at a fairly premium option here, but one that offers essentially every feature you could want. The Monoprice Voxel Pro just came out in the past few months and is feature-packed for sure. You’ll find Wi-Fi connectivity here, meaning the printer can be placed just about anywhere, and you can start it without plugging in. There’s a touchscreen interface as well for doing things locally if that works better, and you’ll also find automatic bed leveling here…sort of. The auto-leveling still requires a bit of manual interaction but is a much better solution than having to use a set of feeler gauges yourself to get it set.

Also, the Voxel Pro packs a built-in HEPA filter for its air intake, ensuring that your prints will come out nice and clean, even in dusty environments. Another reason to choose this printer is the fact that it not only supports 1Kg spools of filament (which is rare to find in an all-enclosed system) but also up to 5Kg spools, should you decide to buy in bulk. All of this combines to deliver a simple, easy-to-use setup that’s ready to go out of the box, and Monoprice even gets you started with a full 1Kg spool of PLA filament included with your purchase. Most 3D printer manufacturers give you around 50g of filament to get started and require you to buy a roll yourself, making this an even better choice.

At $750, the Monoprice Voxel Pro is surely in the higher-end price range of 3D printers in our maker gift guide, but it does pack a lot of functionality for the cost. You can print without plugging in, have a build volume of 200x200x250mm, get an included 1Kg roll of filament, and even get a built-in camera to monitor a print’s progress in real time. So, if you’re looking for a preassembled 3D printer that can basically do anything, then the Voxel Pro is a great choice all around.

You don’t have to break the bank to get a solid 3D printer though

However, you don’t have to spend nearly that much to get a great, all-in-one 3D printer. Monoprice’s more budget-focused Voxel model would be a great place to start on a tighter budget. Available for $330, it’s far less expensive compared to the larger Voxel Pro above but also takes a step back on a lot of functions. Still packing built-in Wi-Fi, you’ll find that the Voxel only has a build area of 150x150x150, doesn’t support 5Kg spools (or include a free 1Kg spool), and doesn’t get quite as hot on the build plate or extruder. However, at the much lower price, the Monoprice Voxel would be the perfect starting place for someone who wants to begin 3D printing without breaking the bank.

CNC machining opens up a lot of options

CNCs are probably the most complex part of any maker space in our gift guide, but they are also an extremely versatile option. My own maker journey began with a small CNC around a year ago, and now my space is filled with a much larger CNC, multiple 3D printers, and multiple lasers. My abilities have grown with each machine, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the small CNC that began it all last year. With a CNC, you’ll be able to engrave just about anything on a wide range of materials, though wood and plastic are the two most commonly used on consumer machines. There are a ton of bit options and even more models to choose from when it comes to full machines.

Everyone starts somewhere, and the 3018 is perfect for that

My journey started last Black Friday with the SainSmart 3018-PROVer. With a workspace of around 30x18cm, or 300x180mm, the 3018 is one of the best beginner platforms for CNC engraving for sure. It won’t be the fastest, and surely isn’t the largest, but at a fairly affordable price of $279 at Amazon right now, the SainSmart 3018-PROVer includes everything you’ll need to get started. There’s a touch probe to set the Z height of your workspace, an emergency stop button, and also homing switches so it can start in the same place every time.

If the 3018-PROVer doesn’t have enough workspace at the start, that’s okay, as SainSmart sells multiple upgrade kits for it that are also on the budget-friendly side of the spectrum. For $48, you can expand the 30×18 space to 30×40, more than doubling the Y-axis range of your new CNC. This will give over 14 inches of room to use on your Y axis, which really expands the ability of your machine. And then, for another $24, there’s the 20,000RPM spindle upgrade. That’s double the speed of what you get from the included spindle when purchasing the 3018-PROVer and will allow you to work with even more materials than before. So, for just over $350 all-in, you can have a CNC with a 30x40cm work area and 20,000RPM spindle, which is a fantastic way to get started with machining.

Prepare for in-house manufacturing with a larger machine

I outgrew the smaller platform of the 3018 quite quickly, though, and my next upgrade was to a much larger Shapeoko 3 XXL. The latest from Carbide 3D, my personal go-to for larger CNC machines, is the 5 Pro, and it has a lot going for it. While the price is much more expensive, starting at $3,200, you’ll find that the Shapeoko 4 is a solid choice at $1,525 or more (depending on what size you get.) If possible, I recommend springing for the XXL model with around 33×33 inches of workspace, as that’ll limit you the least… unless you go with the 5 Pro at 48×48, then you’ll be limited even less.

Either way you go, the Shapeoko is a solid choice for a midformat CNC that has a lot of abilities. Since upgrading from the 3018, I’ve been able to complete larger projects in much less time, as the system can move faster than the smaller CNC options out there. Sure, the Shapeoko (or OneFinity, if you want to go that route) is expensive, but you’re essentially getting a full in-house manufacturing setup here, so that’s going to have some cost associated with it. No matter what route you go, having a decently sized CNC in your maker space is sure to give you abilities that you never thought possible in a home garage or shop.

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