Introduction to CNC Routers
For those of our readers that don’t know what a CNC Router is, let’s sum it up as easy as possible:
A CNC or also known as Computer Numerical Control is a piece of machinery that is controlled by a set of numbers (coordinates) that has been set by software called CAD (Computer Aided Design).
It is these numbers that translate into specific movements such as X, Y and Z (in terms of a 3 axis CNC Router). Meaning your machine will move left, right, backwards and forwards, as well as up and down – dependant upon the design you produce in CAD.
You can use different tools or cutters to produce different kinds of cuts out of the movement from the CAD software such as a simple profile, bevel, pocketing drilling and 3d relief etc.
Types of CNC router
There are many different types of CNC Router, the most popular being 3 axis (or basic nesting machine). You can also have 4 and 5 axis machines that will enable you to produce much more complicated products and designs more easily than the standard 3 axis.
However, with that added functionality comes a greater cost over 3 axis CNC routers. For simplicity, we will concentrate on 3 axis CNC Routers for the rest of this article.
What software do you need for CNC routers?
There are many different types of CAD/CAM software for CNC routers. Below is a list of what we believe is the easiest to learn with lots of tutorials and learning material available on the internet.
- Vectric V Carve – Tutorials & Learning Resources
- Fusion 360 – Also has a free hobbyist license available for non-commercial uses. Tutorials & Learning Resources
- AlphaCam – Industry leading commercial options with lots of module/plugin options. https://www.alphacam.com/
Of course there are many more software options available like Solidworks, Mastercam, Hypermill, EdgeCAM.
What can you make on a CNC Router?
The versatility that a CNC router gives any business is one of the main reasons to purchase. The vast amount of tooling options available ensures you can process an abundance of different materials such as:
- Timber – Oak, Birch etc
- HDPE Plastics
- Composite materials such as carbon fibre, compressed layers of paper (Richlite)
- Solid Surface such as Corian, Hi Macs, Stavon, Avonite
- ACM panels for sign making – Di-Bond composite material
Some of the applications CNC Routers are used in include:
- Furniture manufacture
- Kitchen manufacture
- Sign making
- bespoke and personalised gifts
- Tool box manufacturing
- Timber products – personalised & unique
- Name/ID plates
- 3D art
- Decor panels
- Privacy screens
The above is just a very small dip in the ocean as to what you could be producing with your CNC router. The doors that open up because you have the versatility, are enormous.
CNC routers are easy to operate
The most common way to operate a CNC router is either through a pendant hand controller or a computer-based system (sometimes both). With simple yet adequate training, you can be operating a CNC router within a few hours.
The hardest part is actually the production of your drawings if you are starting from scratch. This is where taking as many software tutorials as you can, will stand you in great stead for the production of your next CNC project.
All of the above software mentioned will have a fantastic set of tutorials you can use before you even receive your CNC router, enabling you to get a really good feel for the production process and best practices.
A CNC router is a fantastic addition or first purchase for almost any kind of industry you can think of. The options and versatility that these machines bring to a business are exceptional.
They help you save on precious production time meaning you can produce more and generate greater profits for your business. With such a positive impact on the way we work, these semi-automation tools will pay dividends.