What Do You Use a CNC Router For?

There are many woodworking enthusiasts out there who will ask the questions: Do I need a CNC router? What can you use a CNC Router for?

A CNC router table is now almost indispensable in any woodworking workshop. CNC routers can produce intricate and complex designs and cut on wood as well as metal and synthetic materials like acrylic. What’s more, they do this with efficiency and accuracy that is hard to find in a manual router. Even better, they can clone a design over and over again.

Read on for more details about CNC router and how it can be a great addition to your woodworking workshop.

Any woodworking workshop requires a router. No doubt about that. However, for more complicated woodworking, your workshop may require a CNC router. Now what exactly is a CNC router?

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are those that are controlled by a computer. A CNC router is controlled by a computer to produce complicated designs. CNC routers use the Cartesian coordinate system (X-, Y-, and Z-axes) to produce designs on a flat surface. 

Like a normal router, a CNC router has a bit on the router head that can produce cuts on any material. The router bit is controlled by the computer. The CNC machine has three motors that control the movement of the bit on the X-, Y- and Z- axes. A CNC router bit rotates at a much higher speed as compared to a normal router and needs to be used with care to avoid bits snapping or wood chip flying.

To operate, a CNC router needs to have a workspace or router table. So, a CNC machine for woodworking would have a CNC router with a workspace or table. CNC machines have been used in woodworking for a long time. Before, these machines were expensive. But there are now cheaper, tabletop versions that are available even for woodworking hobbyists to produce realistic designs and etchings.

CNC routers are used for working with wood, metals, and synthetic materials as well.

To recap, a CNC router is a computer-controlled router that can produce complex and complicated designs and cuts on flat wood, metal, or synthetic material. A CNC router usually is a part of a CNC machine that has the router and a router table.

CNC router tables may be of different sizes. The older, larger, and more expensive machines had a much bigger bed or table and could work with bigger pieces of wood or metal. However, cheaper CNC machines are now available with smaller beds or tables to work with smaller pieces of wood or metal.

Another important need for a CNC machine is that the table is stable for precision cuts. Also, the material on the machine needs to be clamped down firmly for precise cutting.

Let us have a look at some common materials used for the table of routing machines.

Table Types for CNC Router Machines

  • Disposable Tabletops. The most common tabletops for a CNC router are made of high-density MDF. This should be the tabletop of choice for novices who are still learning how to use the CNC router. These tabletops may get damaged if the router tip and head are not controlled properly. That is OK because the inexpensive tabletop can be replaced.
  • Perforated Table Tops. These table tops have perforations that allow the dust to fall into a collection bin, keeping the surface clean.
  • Vacuum tabletops. A vacuum tabletop uses vacuum suction from below to keep the workpiece in place. The advantage of a vacuum tabletop is that the work is held in place with the same amount of suction. On the downside, vacuum tabletops require maintenance and repairs. These tabletops are available on more expensive CNC machines.
  • T-slot tabletops. T-slot tabletops are found on hobbyist models and the more inexpensive CNC machines. It is made of tooling steel.

Do You Need a CNC Router?

Those who have used manual routers sneer at CNC machines. However, CNC machines are extremely handy to have in woodworking workshops. They can produce complex and intricate designs and cuts, which may not have been possible with manual routers. They can also produce exact clones of the same design over and over again on a commercial basis. A CNC machine can work non-stop and without much supervision with the same precision and speed.

So, yes, if you are a woodworking enthusiast who would like to do some intricate woodworking with a router, investing in a CNC router machine is a must. These can be game-changers in your woodworking workshop.

Pros and Cons of Using a CNC Router

Pros:

  • CNC machines can work non-stop for days on end. The only stops required are for maintenance.
  • CNC machines can produce the same design with the same precision over and over again.
  • Once you give the design to the CNC machine and load the material, the machine can continue working on its own with no interference.
  • Compared to handling a manual router, the only skill you need to use a CNC router is knowing how to control the CNC machine. And how to convert your design into a format the machine can understand.
  • Your workshop will require less manpower as one person can supervise and handle the CNC machine.

Cons:

  • Those who learned woodworking find their skills are redundant with CNC machines.
  • CNC machines are more expensive than manual machines.

Final thoughts

Any woodworking workshop needs a router. People have been using manual routers that are cumbersome and require some skill to operate. However, CNC routers can produce intricate and complex designs and cuts. CNC routers used to be a very expensive option that only big workshops could afford them. However, now there are affordable CNC machines available even for casual hobbyists.

Do you need a CNC router in your woodworking workshop? Definitely yes! Without a doubt, a CNC router will enhance the value of your woodworking workshop and take your projects to the next level.