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What Is A CNC Router? Why Use It Over Other Tools?

May. 2016

A common question that people have when it comes to woodworking is whether to use a manually controlled router or a CNC wood router. The quick answer to this is that a CNC router is much better. Keep reading to find out what a CNC router is, what it can do, and why it is preferred over a manually controlled version.

What Is A Wood Router?

A wood router is a tool that is most often used in wood working, especially for the making of cabinets. The wood router is a tool used to dig or hollow out the faces of fairly hard pieces of wood. It is great for creating straight and curved edges in order to produce a slot and an edge for a shelf to rest on in a cabinet or shelf. Wood routers can be used to make round over edges, rabbets, round nose cuts, dovetail cuts, coves, and other various edging cuts. Routers can also be used to cut patterns into pieces of plastic. The normal routers can come in 2 versions, these being the manual spindle routers and the electric driven router. There is a third type of router which we are here to talk about today, that being the CNC router.

Photo Credit: https://woodgears.ca/

What Is A CNC Router?

A CNC Router is a greatly improved version of the normal router due to one specific aspect, that being the computer. CNC stands for computer numerical control and to use this machine the user simply has to enter the parameters, shapes, and specific cuts that are to be made on a piece of wood (using special numerical code), and then let the router go to work. A CNC router is convenient because the user can make a file specific to a piece of wood which can then be saved onto the machine and reused for the same products in the future, thus eliminating the need to re-enter the parameters every time. CNC wood routers are often used for cutting multiple pieces of wood that all need to look and feel exactly the same. Of course on of the main advantages to the CNC router is that it eliminates almost all cases of human error.

Photo Credit: http://salecnc.com/

Why Use A CNC Router

It’s A Time Saver Of course one of the biggest advantages to using a CNC router over a manual or electric powered router is that it is much faster. Routing wood by hand can take a lot of patience and accuracy, not to mention a lot of time too, especially when the finished product is to be complex and intricate. A CNC router does not use human hands or human thoughts; it simply does what the user has programed it to do. Therefore once the file for a specific cut of wood has been programmed, the machine itself gets through the work very quickly. This is just like anything else and for a reference you could imagine tilling a whole farm either with nothing but a garden hoe or with an advanced tractor. The concept is the same and the fact of the matter is that the automated process works much quicker than human hands ever could.

It Is Much More Accurate – Another great part about using a CNC router as opposed to using a normal router is that it is much more accurate. When using a normal router, a person has to be accurate all the time and one little slip or wrong movement can ruin the whole product. On the other hand a CNC router only needs to be programmed correctly, and once programed most CNC routers will show you an example of what the finished product will look like on screen. This means that you can program the router to cut a certain piece of wood and then see if it needs adjustments on screen before actually cutting it; this makes a CNC router much more accurate than a conventional router. Another thing that makes it much more accurate is of course the fact that human arms are not bound and can make a wrong movement; a CNC router will never make a wrong cut as it is a machine. Machines don’t make errors and they only cut where they have been told to cut.

Quality Is Key – The next reason as to why you should use a CNC router is because they can produce much better quality results than a manually controlled router. A CNC router is accurate down to .01 millimeters and that means that it can execute even the most difficult, complex, and the smallest of cuts without any problem. The finished product of a CNC router will always be higher in quality than a product made with a manually controlled router.

Photo Credit: https://www.quora.com

The Quantity Factor – CNC routers are especially useful in situations where you have to make multiple things that all need to look the same. For example if you are mass producing cabinets and shelves for sale at a retail store, then all of the pieces need to look exactly the same, have identical patterns, and also fit together the same way (in case that replacements need to be made). A manually controlled router will never be able to perfectly duplicate a cut from one piece to the next, however that is not the case with a CNC router that can reproduce the same cut and pattern time after time.

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