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What is a CNC Router and How Does it Work?

By ShopBot Tools, March 6th 2020

ShopBot CNC cutting wood templates for vacuum forming.

CNC routers have changed the way many individuals and industries fabricate their creations and products by increasing efficiency beyond previous levels. But what is a CNC router and how does it work? Here is an outline of CNC routers so you can better understand the basic mechanisms behind them.

Definition

CNC routers are machines used to cut many types of materials, such as wood, plastic, aluminum, and high-density foam. CNC stands for computer numerical control, which indicates computer software and electronics controlled machines instead of a direct human operator.

In most cases, CNC machines can cut along three directions known as the X, Y, and Z axes. The X-axis is the front to back direction, which is usually the longest. The Y-axis is the left and right direction and the Z-axis is the up and down direction. Because they run on computers, CNC routers are faster and more precise than humans, making them useful in manufacturing.

Components

Spindle

This is the piece responsible for the cutting. It sits on the end of the robotic framework by which it moves around. The spindle cuts by rotating its cutting bit at different speeds depending on the material. Softer materials generally require higher revolutions per minute (rpm), while it will cut harder materials at slower speeds.

Cutting Bed

The cutting bed is the flat surface on which the CNC works. It is where the user will place the materials that they need to cut. The operator can then secure the material to the cutting bed firmly by using screws or adhesives, or clamps and bolts in T-slot deck variants, or through mechanisms like vacuum suction which is available on an array of CNC tools. This ensures the material will not move.

Drive Systems

Drive systems encompass the parts that allow the router to move along each of the three axes, and therefore, there is one for each direction. A single drive system consists of a motor, a bearing or guiding system along which the router moves, and a means of moving. Typically, it can move due to a mechanism consisting of a ball or lead screw system or a rack and pinion setup.

CNC Controller and Computer

The brains of the machine, the CNC controller, and a computer work together to direct its functions. A person can create designs for cutting in the computer first with the help of software. Then, the user will communicate these designs to the CNC controller through a post processor that translates the design file (CAD) to g-code for machining. The CNC controller then uses this to move the drive systems and perform the task.


It’s undeniable that any person or business that needs an advanced design and production method can greatly benefit from the precision, versatility, and productivity of CNC machines. If you are in the market for any type of CNC cutting machine, ranging from small-scale portable tools up to 5-axis CNC gantry routers, ShopBot is the perfect place to go. We provide reliable CNC routers of various sizes for your specific needs. Call us today: 1-866-528-6175

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