What is a CNC Router
I am going to start off this article with an insight of what a CNC router machine is. This information might not be needed for some but if you feel the need to understand the topic more, read on.
CNC stands for computer numerical control. While that all sounds great but, what does that actually mean to us? It means that a controller will take what’s called G-code and interprets it into a movement. All movements are based on the coordinate system if you remember that from school. That is the X, Y, Z stuff we all enjoyed so much. X, Y, Z are not the only numerical values you might if you begin working any type of 5-axis machine.
So on a computer if you told a machine to move X5 Y10 it would be sent to the controller, then it would move 5” in the X direction and 10” in the Y direction. G-code can be a lot to learn and I suggest that everyone learns home to make basic edits of G-code before working with a machine.
Modern CAM packages today have given us the ability to not even have to touch code part of the program. But learning the basics of editing will only make you a stronger machinist.
A Little Background
Now that we have a little better understanding of how a CNC router works I wanted to give some background to my cnc experience. I debated on keeping or deleting this section because I didn’t want to seem like I know it all in this realm. When I clearly am just scratching the surface with CNC.
My background with CNC starts at my current day job in aerospace. I took the opportunity to cross-train into a different area and began learning a laser machine. This was definitely a learning curve in two aspects. First, one being that it was a new machine I have never ran in my life. The second was that the machine ran in metric and this was a new concept as well. My mind has always thought in inches. I always doing the conversions on my phone’s calculator to make minor tweaks to settings.
After running the laser for close to two years I took another opportunity that arose to learn a 60”x 144” CNC router machine in another building. I took this opportunity and it really changed my life needless to say. I enjoyed running the machine a lot. Running the router was much more manual than the laser. If a program needs to have a hole removed or a program to begin into a different location you had to physically go inside program and or remove the lines of code to complete the task. This was a much different workflow than I was use to running at the laser.
So after running the router for a few months and my knowledge of what the capabilities of a CNC router machine were. I began to think of all things I could do with a router in my home shop. The longer run programs on the router were like brainstorming sessions for me to be creative and how to accomplish a certain task in my own shop utilizing a CNC router.
All of this sparked a fire in me and I began building my own CNC router machine. Therefore began the rabbit hole I have begun to run down today! Comment below on how your interest of CNC came about.
What I Want A CNC Router To Do For My Workshop
What I mainly wanted a CNC for in my shop is to give me the ability to create more of a custom piece for my clients. What do I mean by that?
Let’s say, I’m, building a custom media cabinet for an Xbox gaming enthusiast. One the doors I could carve his Gamertag name, Xbox logo, favorite game, etc.
Also, a CNC router gives me the ability to batch out projects from a production standpoint. Let me give another example. We currently making American flags seen here. An American flag takes roughly 1.5-2hr run time, not including paint and finish. So for that 1.5-2hr cycle, my hands are free giving the ability to be working on another aspect of the project or a completely different project.
Are you running a CNC router in your shop? What has a CNC router done for your workshop? Tell us below.
CNC Router The Best Money I’ve Ever Spent
CNC router has probably been the best money I have spent on a tool in my workshop so far. It’s already paid for itself in just a few short months. Owning a CNC has given me the ability to really add some customization to my work. Customized products will also give you the ability to charge a little bit higher of a price point.
For the truly best thing of owning a CNC router, my wife has become involved. I am also sure yours will be too. It has let us become our own home decor store. We search out signs and other decor items together and my wife has even begun to help design and program. So if your wife is on the fence about you purchasing a router this could be just the leverage you need.
The CNC Router Conclusion
Having a CNC router in your home workshop is a great tool to own. It gives you much precision and accuracy in your projects. Plus it gives you that other thing I keep harping on which is the customization factor.
If you have never had any CNC experience don’t let that scare you. I would almost recommend getting some CAD/CAM software that is free and practice drawing objects and applying tool paths. The modern CAM packages have great simulation and will give you an idea of what your machine would be doing.
I hope you enjoyed this article and be sure to subscribe to my newsletter I am putting a detailed guide of building my CNC machine.
Thanks For Reading.