CNC Routers

Last Update: 29 October 2019

A CNC router is a specific type of CNC machine which is a category of machines that receive and execute incoming commands from a computer.  Just like any 3-axis CNC router, the LongMill is able to move its cutting head (whether that’s a router or spindle) in three independent directions which gives it the ability to cut out 3-dimensional objects.

3-axis movement is possible through many different means, but for the LongMill we’ve opted to use the widely available ‘L’ extruded aluminum profile paired with v-shaped wheels and driven by ACME lead screws. This setup works well because you get reliable linear movement due to the manufacturing accuracy of extruded aluminum, paired with the power of a screw-driven system. Industrial CNC milling machines take all these concepts a step further by introducing more directions of movement, more powerful and repeatable drive systems, and sometimes much larger build volumes as well.

 

CNC routers are quite capable when it comes to manufacturing a variety of objects. Most can handle cutting into materials like: wood, plastic, foam, machining wax, and similar soft material variants. A handful can also handle cutting soft metals like aluminum, brass, and copper and even harder materials like stone, tiling, and tougher metals like high-carbon steels; although these start to overlap with the more industrial CNC Milling Machines.

Jobs can vary from being a simple surface engraving or v-carving to cutting line profiles, pocketing, carving reliefs, or even making multi-orientated jigs for cutting from many sides. Most of the time when making things like signs, shelving, toys, etc. the majority of these projects can be made with simple 2D cuts (shown with the first four blocks on the left) and can be designed with simple drawings or pictures.

Surface cut, v-carve, profile cut, pocket cut, inner round countour, outer round countour, whole sphere.

Certainly more complicated objects can be made on a CNC router though, and this is usually possible by diving into the world of ‘3D’ carving. Cuts like these are normally made by first finding or making a 3D file, then processing that for the machine to cut. This is a slightly more involved process than using a drawing or picture. These “relief” cuts, as well as a few other examples of classic CNC router projects can be seen below.

Surface cutting the Osmo logo for their booth
Cutting a profile and pocket combination to make custom coffee coasters
Greg running a basic v-bit engraving on a wood cookie
A much more complicated v-carve to create both the text and images
Detailed relief of frozen Han Solo cut out of pink foam
Another detailed relief of a ram by the lake, carved out of cedar

Now that you know what a CNC router is and what it’s capable of, you should be able to get an idea of how you might use your own LongMill to make parts or projects in your home or for your business. The next pages should act to further deepen your knowledge on the primary elements that drive the operation of your CNC router and will also show the process of how a project can be made on a machine like the LongMill.