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The Basics of a CNC Wood Router


If you want to grow your woodworking skills, then you need to have all of the necessary equipment. One important tool is called a CNC wood router. This tool is used to carve or etch into a piece of wood. CNC stands for computer numerical control. In this manner a CNC wood router works on the cartesian plane, meaning the X, Y, Z system, which provides an added layer of motion control. Because a CNC wood router should be one of the most important tools in your toolkit, it is important for you to know how this works. 

First, we are going to take a closer look at some of the advantages of this essential piece of equipment.

The Major Advantages of a CNC Wood Router

When you use a CNC wood router, you will enjoy a few major advantages. These include:

  • Reduce Your Waste: The more the wood falls on the floor, the more money you have thrown down the drain in the form of wasted supplies. A standard router does not have the same level of precision as a CNC wood router. This means that errors using standard routers are far more common. As a result, this leads to a tremendous amount of waste. With a CNC wood router, this is not a problem. A CNC wood router will eliminate waste due to human error, helping you get every penny of value out of your wood.
  • A Larger Cutting Field: If you are trying to make a large item, such as a stair riser, you might find that it is hard to keep a standard router accurate. On the other hand, a CNC wood router has a larger cutting field that can handle this task with ease. If you need to make a bunch of large pieces that are identical to each other, then a CNC wood router is the way to go.
  • Computer-Generated Repeatability: As alluded to above, a CNC wood router can produce many pieces that are almost exactly the same. Therefore, if you need to be able to repeat the same task over and over again, this is a job for a CNC wood router.
  • Easier To Use: When you use a standard router, there is going to be a lot of physical manipulation that has to take place. Your physicality is going to have a direct impact on the quality of the work and you might get tired after a while. With a CNC wood router, this is not a problem. You simply need to know how to work a computer, which allows you to achieve a greater level of expertise in a shorter amount of time.
  • A Safer Tool: When you remove the router operator from the vicinity of the cutting mechanism, you create a safer work environment. That is exactly what you will get with a CNC wood router. With a reduced risk of injury, you can produce better work in a shorter amount of time.
  • A Greater Production Capacity: Finally, you will have a greater production capacity with a CNC wood router. A CNC wood router is defined to produce accurate work in a shorter amount of time. When compared to using a standard router, there is no comparison. You can save both time and money with the mass-production capabilities of a CNC wood router.

These are just a few of the most important benefits of a CNC wood router. Now, let’s take a closer look at how you can use this important tool to your benefit!

How Does It Work?

For those wondering, “what does a CNC wood router do,” there are a few points to keep in mind. First, let’s take a closer look at how a CNC wood router operates from start to finish. First, you need to learn how to use the computer software that controls the machine. A CNC wood router operates using a mechanical drive system. This is the secret behind the accuracy and precision of a CNC wood router. It is far more accurate than a human who might be operating a standard router by hand.

A CNC wood router has been designed to move and cut in three separate directions. These directions include:

  • The x-axis, which is the horizontal axis and is usually the longest of the three. It runs from front to back on most CNC routers.
  • The y-axis, which usually runs from left to right.
  • The z-axis, which is the vertical axis that moves up and down.

As you are putting directions into your CNC wood router, you need to double-check the axes and make sure that you provide each input to the right axis.

A CNC wood router is a very efficient machine. It can cut in all three directions at the same time. This means that you can use a CNC wood router to make incredibly complex carving shapes.

The Components of a CNC Wood Router

Now, it is time to look at how to build a CNC wood router. This means knowing the components. Every part plays an important role in the structure and function of a CNC wood router. There are lots of components and additions available, allowing you to customize a CNC wood router to meet your individual needs; however, most CNC wood routers are going to contain each of these components. 

Once you know how each of the components works, you will be able to understand how your CNC wood router does its job so well!

The Computer System and CNC Controller

This is arguably the most important part of your CNC wood router because this is the brain of your machine. The job of the computer system is to tell the drive system and motors which directions they need to move. The controller also controls how far the machine is supposed to move in each direction.

When you use the computer system of your CNC wood router, you will start with a digital format of some sort. You will need to become comfortable using a CAM software package along with the controlling software that is provided with your CNC wood router. This software is used to convert an image into a tool path code. 

After this, your computer system is going to take these commands and turn them into a digital signal. This signal is going to relay the commands to the controller of your CNC wood router. Finally, this will power your mechanical drive system.

Eventually, controlling your CNC wood router will be as easy as plugging in the inputs and watching the machine go to work! You start with a digital design and use a software package to translate this design into a language that your machine can understand!

The Spindle

The spindle is the part of your CNC wood router that carries out the cutting. This is an actual router that is similar to function to a standard wood router. Usually, the router is going to be classified by the power it delivers. 

The spindle rotates a cutting tool at varying speeds to carry out its job. Sometimes, the cutting tools can be changed for specialized jobs. Usually, the spindle is meant to cut at speeds between 2000 and 10,000 RPMs. Sometimes, a CNC wood router can be used to cut through plastic and metal as well; however, it is important to read the instructions carefully and make sure that you use the right tool for the job.

Sometimes, you can control the speed of the spindle at the controller system. You can enter instructions that will change the RPMs based on the feed rate of the machine. Sometimes, you can also add other options to your CNC wood router to provide you with added degrees of control. 

The Cutting Bed

The cutting bed is where the cutting actually takes place. There might be different forms of cutting beds; however, the function is always the same. This goal of the cutting bed of your CNC wood router is to both secure and support the material that is being cut.

There are lots of different designs that your CNC wood router might use to do this job well. One of the most common is called the T-slot. Another common option is the vacuum table. You should take a look at the various cutting bed options and find the one that works well for the piece you’re working with.

The vacuum table is usually found on more advanced models. You might want to use a vacuum table if you are going to be cutting the same design numerous times per day. On the other hand, the setup of a vacuum table is usually limited to flat pieces.

If you need a piece that is more versatile, then you want to go with a T-slot. This is a cutting bed that can hold almost any piece; however, it doesn’t have the same efficiency as a vacuum table.

In some cases, you can even find a hybrid mix that uses both a T-slot and a vacuum design. Your cutting bed can significantly impact the speed of your tasks.

The Linear Drive Systems

Next, you need to know about the linear drive systems on your wooded CNC router. Each axis has a linear drive system that is responsible for controlling the spindles that move in that direction. The linear drive system of a CNC wood router includes:

  • A motor 
  • A linear bearing system
  • A lead screw assembly

The motor is the physical link that joins the electronics of your CNC wood router with its mechanics. The motor receives its power from the controller of the CNC system. The controller provides the rotational power that is needed to rotate the lead screw assembly. 

Overall, there are two separate motors that might be found on your CNC wood router. The first is called the stepper motor. This is a cheaper option and provides solid performance. They are also reliable. On the other hand, they are not a closed-loop system. 

The second type of motor is called a servo motor. This is a closed-loop system, which means that they not only receive signals from the controller of the CNC wood router but also send signals back. In this manner, a servo motor can let you know when the task is done. As a result, a CNC wood router that uses this system is usually more expensive. Each motor uses a different type of controller.

The motor is responsible for turning the lead screw assembly and actually carrying out the task. The job of the lead screw assembly is to move the spindle along the correct axis to complete the ask. There are lots of different ways that a CNC wood router might take rotational motion and convert this to linear motion.

Your CNC wood router probably uses some combination of a lead screw assembly or a ball screw and nut assembly. While each system has its own advantages and disadvantages, the best teacher is usually experience. You should take a look around at the various options and find one that works well for you!

Understand the Basics of a Wooden CNC Router

These are a few of the most important points that you need to keep in mind when you are learning how to use CNC router wood. Remember that a CNC wood router is operated by a computer. The computer is responsible for sending signals to the motors. Then, the motors are responsible for moving the spindles in three different directions. These move on the x, y, and z axes. The spindle is responsible for turning the cutting tools and carving the material on the cutting bed.

Over time, you will get more experience with your CNC wood router, allowing you to get the most out of your machine. A CNC wood router provides a greater degree of accuracy and a higher level of efficiency when compared to a standard router, making this an essential piece of equipment for your woodworking projects.

Check How to make your own CNC Machine under $200

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