If you’re not sure about getting a CNC router, this blog is for you. This blog will focus on
three-axis CNC routers, which are the most popular. CNC router shop options include the LongMill, Shapeoko, and X-Carve, to name a few.
The basic workflow required to run one of the CNC router shop options can be broken down into three main sections:
- Come up with a clever design on the computer.
- Take the design and create instructions that describe how to carve it. Also called CAM.
- We need to hand these instructions over to the machine. This is usually done with a digital interface.
We can then hit the start button, and the machine will cut out the design. Of course, each of the three sections has many different subsets.
CNC Router Process
The first step of the process is often referred to as CAD, which stands for Computer-Aided Design. It simply means we’re using computer software to create the design. Most CNC projects use one of three different cutting strategies:
- Two-dimensional cuts
- Three-dimensional cuts
- 2.5 D cuts
Once we’ve created the design, we need to make the instructions for the machine. This second step uses CAM or Computer-Aided Manufacturing. That means we’re using a computer to control a device that can manufacture things. Remember, CAD is design, and CAM is manufacturing.
The first step when creating our CAM instructions is to define our material. Second, we need to choose our cutting tool. Our cutting tool must be smaller than the
objects we want to cut. We can also define the speeds and feeds. The cutting speed is defined as how fast the cutting tool moves concerning the material. The feed rate is defined as the distance the tool travels during one revolution of the instrument.
Once our material and bit info is defined, we need to write the body of the instructions. This is where we inform the software what shapes to cut out.
The most significant advantage of CAM software is that we can simulate our cut before sending it to the machine. This helps us catch any potential problems before we plow through our material. We’re done creating our instructions once our setup and toolpaths are complete.
To get the machine’s instructions, we’ll need to export them in a language that the machine can understand. Most machines read something called G-code.
Once we have our G-code, we have to find a way to get it to the machine. CNC router shop machines often have a control box that includes a microcontroller, such as an Arduino.
First, we need to strap in our material. We can screw in the material, strap it in place with clamps, use double-sided tape or a vacuum table that sucks the material down. We also need to place the appropriate bit in the collet. Next, we need to place the machine in its starting position. We can then hit the run or play button, and the machine starts to cut!