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A CNC router is a machine similar to a handheld router used to cut materials like wood, steel, aluminum, plastic, composites, and foam. The device is computer-controlled to perform a range of carpentry tasks that would ordinarily be performed by a panel saw, a boring machine, or a spindle molder.
It uses a computer numerical controlled program to create paths that enable the machine to work. The program also determines the machine’s speed of rotation, rate of movement, and motion type for the specific project.
Such features help the CNC router increase productivity and reduce waste-producing items within a shorter period compared to other machines. Usually, the device is mounted on a large, stationary table that has a spindle moving along three axes- x, y, z.
A CNC router is similar in concept to a CNC mill, but there are a few notable differences. First, while both use rotational speed as the driving force to make cuts, CNC routers operate at a higher speed compared to CNC mills.
Also, CNC routers are primarily used to cut soft materials, while CNC mills cut through tough materials like metal. Another notable difference is that CNC mills move in an x-y direction as the spindle moves on a linear axis above the workpiece.
This feature enables CNC mills to make thicker cuts and use torque, not rotational speed. The following table should summarize their differences:
|Device/Feature||CNC Router||CNC Mill|
|Material||Wood, plastic, foam||Metals and other tough material|
|Configuration||X, Y, Z axis||X-Y configuration|
|Spindle movement||Rotational||Higher torque|
CNC routers use a series of pre-programmed commands to operate. The most common programming language is the G-code, but there are other languages like Mazak and Heidenhain.
Upload the image into the drawing software and allow the program to convert it to vectors. A vector is a DXF file extension that provides details about x, y, z-axis and dictates how the image will appear on the surface
It would help if you chose the tool you want to use. It can be a 0.75-inch core box bit or a 0.25-inch v-bit. During this step, you also adjust the speed of the router and set the cutting depth. When choosing the toolpath, you can either trace the vectors, cut inside, or outside the vectors.
This helps convert the vectors into a language the software and the device can interpret. The G-code also has the X, Y, and Z coordinates. X is the horizontal of the table, Y, the vertical, and z the perpendicular to the tables.
It is key to proceeding to the next steps. Find the center point of the material, place it on the table, and secure it with clamps. Then jog the machine until the router bit is above the marked center point and begin cutting into the surface.
Woodworkers use CNC routers to cut and create different shapes of wood. For example, if you have a project to design an antique wooden chair, you can use the router to cut the wood. You need CAM and CAD software to direct the CNC router to cut the wood at precise angles.
Then take the newly cut pieces of wood and use screws or bolts to put them together to make the rustic patio chair. Note the computer controls the CNC router once the coordinates have been uploaded into the machine controller using a separate CAD program.
CNC router manufacturers provide CAD and CAM software applications. Usually, CAM converts the CAD design or drawing into the g-code language. This is the code the CNC machine can understand.
CNC routers can be controlled manually too. CAD/CAM software creates possibilities for speeding up the programming process, contouring, and operating the device manually.
The operation of a CNC router depends on the kind of machine you have. There are four types of CNC routers:
While the routers come in different configurations, they all have common parts: one or more spindle motors, a dedicated CNC controller, stepper motors, ball screws, AC inverter frequency drives, servo amplifiers, servo motors, a workspace table.
Also, some routers come equipped with vacuum pumps and grid table tops for holding the parts in place for cutting.
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