What is Cnc Router (+ How Does it Work)

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is a wide range of technologies being used today in the manufacturing industries and in this post we will be answering the question: “What is a CNC router?”

A CNC router is a popular machine in which the CNC system is being used. 

image of what is cnc router

The CNC router machine can be compared to the conventionally used handheld router. This handheld router is used for cutting a wide range of materials. 

A CNC router is highly helpful in cutting hard materials like steel, wood, plastics, aluminium, and sometimes foam. It is precise in cutting and gives the most efficient result. 

A CNC router machine works like a CNC mill (check out these CNC mill projects). It makes use of computer numerical controls to control the path that makes the machine work well. 

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CNC routers do work efficiently without wasting time and they are the most productive machines. 

How Does A CNC Router Work?

A CNC router works using a computer software and this makes it more precise and faster than humans. It operates numerically using computer codes, and production is done automatically by the control panel. 

The numeric system in which a CNC router works is called g-code. This G-code gives the instruction to the machine through the different CNC parts. Then the CNC machine cuts material (blank/work piece) into the desired shapes by removing extra materials. 

The CNC router does this using a variety of tools. 

What Is A CNC Router Used For?

Photo of a cnc router

A CNC router is used predominantly but not exclusively for woodwork. Having one and using it in making projects is a good way to generate income. 

With a CNC router, you can make clocks, toys, musical instruments, doors, cabinet doors, signs, and any type of artistic project you can think of. 

Top areas/industries where CNC routers are used daily are: 

  • Manufacturing 

Industries that produce items in large quantities use the CNC router. This helps them keep up with the demand. 

Things the CNC router can manufacture in large quantities are:

  • Windows 
  • Window frames 
  • Doors 
  • Door frames 
  • Portraits 
  • Chairs 
  • Crafts, etc. 

Many manufacturing industries use them because it makes work fast and easy. CNC routers also make brands stand out by giving room for unique architectural designs. 

  • Decorations 

In the past, hand carving wooden decorations was tedious. It could even take days or weeks depending on the project and the decorations being made. 

It also made it quite difficult to use hand carving for commercial projects. However, that is in the past now as the CNC router has made decoration processes easier. 

All you have to do is to put the design of the decoration into the computer using the software and the machine will do the rest. 

With a CNC router, you can make 10 times the same project, compared to hand carving, in the same time frame. 

  • Musical instruments 

CNC routers can make wooden instruments like guitar, violin, cello, flutes, keyboards, harmonium, etc. perfectly. The CNC router ensures that everything is accurate because if an inch or a few inches are missing, it can negatively affect how the instrument works. 

This is why hand carving is not the best option when it comes to making wooden musical instruments. Hand carving is prone to many errors. 

As usual, all you have to do is put the design into the computer and the CNC router will do the work perfectly. 

  • Furniture 

The CNC router is also perfect for making furniture. Furniture is present in every home and we use them every day of our lives. Furniture plays important roles in the lives of people. 

CNC routers make designing and producing furniture easy, fast, and accurate. You can produce chair legs, bed headboards, dining table, gates, and many more using wood routers. 

Consult a professional for guidance if you want to purchase a CNC wood router. 

A CNC router can cut and make anything out of almost any material including: 

  • Fiberglass
  • Fabrics 
  • Leather 
  • Foam 
  • Plastics 
  • Metals 
  • Composites 
  • Aluminum 
  • Wood, etc. 

No matter the kind of material you are using for your project, a CNC router will provide automation, accuracy, speed, and exceptional productivity. 

Advantages Of CNC Routers

Reduces the cost of manpower 

Excess labor is reduced because the CNC routers automates production processes. With a CNC router, the cutting process is accurate, fast, and easy. 

You just need a small team to program the CNC router software and complete the routing process. 

It has high precision and accuracy level 

Manual operations are prone to errors, the CNC router eliminates these by offering high precision and accuracy. 

A computer software controls the CNC router, this means it is getting precise instructions on the routing parameters. This, in turn, makes the work accurate and it also saves time and money. 

It is easy to use 

CNC routers offer ease of operations. This therefore makes work easier. 

Also, it is easier to train technicians on how to use the CNC router than teaching them how to safely perform router operations manually. 

Improved safety 

CNC routers have safety features that can protect you from serious accidents. 

You can easily repeat projects 

The CNC router allows you to repeat projects several times with high accuracy and speed thereby saving you a lot of time, money, and energy. 

Since the processes are automated, you can leave the machine to do the work overnight. 

Components Of A CNC Router

Photo of a cnc router; many people wonder what is cnc router

Cutting bed 

This is the flat surface where you will place the material you need to cut. Then screws, vacuum suctions, adhesives, clamps, and bolts are used to firmly secure the material to the board. 


The spindle is used for cutting. Its cutting edge is rotated by the machine at different velocities. The velocity used depends on the type of material you are using. 

Soft materials need fast speed too cut while hard materials need slow speed. 

Drive systems 

CNC routers have parts that allow the router to move along the X, Y, and Z axis. These parts are what is known as drive systems and they consist of motor, guiding systems, and means of moving. 

The mechanism of this movement can consist of a lead screw system or a ball system. 

CNC controller and computer 

The CNC controller needs a computer before it can work. The computer software enables you to create your project designs for cutting. 

This software communicates with the CNC router, it tells it the design through a post-processor that translates the design file to g-code for machining. 

The work of the CNC controller is to move the drive systems thereby performing the tasks. 

Things To Consider When Buying A CNC Router

Photo of a cnc router

It can be quite challenging buying a CNC router especially if you are buying it for the first time. So to make things easy for you, we’ve included a list of factors to consider when buying a CNC router. 

The capacity 

The capacity of CNC routers varies. So you should choose CNC routers based on the size of projects you will be doing. If you will be doing bigger projects, you will need to buy a high capacity CNC router. 

However, if you will be doing small projects and you are a beginner, you can go for a CNC router of 4X8 capacity. 

The size of the CNC router 

If you will be using CNC for home use and just for small projects, then you can go for the small-sized CNC routers. They work effectively and can connect with a desktop computer. 

The bigger sized CNC routers on the other hand take more space and they are more efficient than the small sized CNC routers and they can do bigger projects. 

Duty cycle 

If you want to use your CNC router for commercial purposes, you have to check the duty cycle of the CNC machine. This will enable you to choose the right one that can meet the demands of your projects. 


The power depends on the type of project you will be doing using the CNC router. So, it is important you check the horsepower of the machine and even the quality of the motor and spindle. 

It is the power of the machine that ensures accuracy and speed. 


It is also important to check the extent to which a CNC router is durable. All CNC machines cannot operate well for a longer period of time. This can be due to friction, wear and tear. 

So you need to choose a durable machine and the durability to choose depends on the kind of work you will be doing. 


Make sure you get the value of what you are paying for. Go for quality because you are investing your hard-earned money. So ensure that the CNC router you are buying is quality, appropriate, and can meet the demands of your projects. 


You have to do your research well and find out if a company is trustworthy or not. Check how long they have been into production, if they have the experience or not, and if they offer after-sales support service. 

All these are very important. 

Drive systems 

To get speed and accuracy with your CNC router, you have to check if the manufacturer combined the pinion, rack, and ball screw. The best CNC router machines should combine this. 


Make sure the software has advanced features and it should also offer regular updates. 


Things to watch out for on the spindle are the torque, the RPM, the HP, load rating, and power requirements. 

Other factors to consider when buying CNC routers are: 

  • Motor system 
  • Automatic tool changer 
  • Table size 
  • Software 
  • Machine features 
  • Vacuum 
  • Dust collections, etc. 

CNC Router Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Photo of a cnc router

What does the term axis mean when working with a CNC router? 

Axis simply means the direction at which the machine is moving. When you are facing the machine and the worktable is moving right or left, it is called the X-axis. 

If the worktable is moving away from or towards you, (like an in or out movement), it is called the Y-axis. 

When the spindle, the part of the CNC router that holds the cutting tool, is moving towards or away from the worktable, (that is up or down movement), it is called the Z-axis”. 

A 3-axis CNC router can move along all these three axes simultaneously as it creates three dimensional shapes you have already designed in the computer using the software. 

What materials does the CNC router cut? 

The CNC router works on a wide range of materials. Some of them are: 

  • Fiberglass
  • Fabrics 
  • Leather 
  • Foam 
  • Plastics 
  • Metals 
  • Composites 
  • Aluminum 
  • Wood, etc. 

Must I learn G-code or other programming languages before I can use the CNC router? 

No! This is not necessary. CNC router has a software that will permit you to do all your designs, import the drawings and even edit them. 

After your work, the software will generate the code that the machine will use to create your projects. 

What program is the CNC router compatible with? 

CNC router is compatible with many programs, some of them are: 

  • Cabinet vision (Cabinet software)
  • Mozaik (Cabinet software) 
  • EnRoute 
  • Rhino (3D) 
  • Vectric Aspire (3D software) 
  • Vectric VCarve (2D software), etc. 

Is it advisable to use a hand-held router instead of a CNC router? 

Well, if you have money to buy the CNC router, please do so because it has so many advantages over the handheld router. Some of the advantages of a CNC router have been listed above. 

Which CNC router is right for me? 

To know the right one for you, you have to decide first what you want to make with it. This will give you an idea of the size, shape, and even number of parts that your CNC machine should have. This will help you in making the right choice. 

You can also check above to see the factors to consider before buying a CNC router. Also, always remember that there is always a CNC router that fits your budget and meets your needs. 

CNC routers come in a lot of shapes, sizes, and prices. All you need to do is know what you will be making and how much you can afford. 

Also, have the future in mind. Will you start making larger items later in the future? If you think you will be working on full sheets later in the future, you can get a CNC router with a work area of 4’ X 8’


A CNC router makes production easier, faster, and cheaper. This post explains everything you need to know about the CNC router and essential things to consider when you want to buy the best CNC router. 

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