CNC ROUTER

The CNC router is a computer controlled machine which uses a range of different cutting tools similar to everyday drill bits to cut through a variety of materials.   The CNC router works in a similar way to a laser cutter but uses a cutting tool along path’s and can cut materials at different heights.  The benefit of using a CNC router over a laser cutter is that you don’t get a burnt edge on wood and similar materials.  The CNC router also gives you the ability to make things more 3D as you can vary the depth of the cut on several different paths.  The router can also be fitted with different tool thicknesses and shapes so that you can cut more material away faster and in different ways.

What materials can I use?

The CNC router is primarily for cutting sheet wood but will also cut some other materials.  We also welcome the use of experimental materials providing you can inform us of what it consists of.  The materials we can cut are:

  • Hard Wood (up to 20mm)
  • Soft Wood (up to 20mm)
  • MDF (up to 20mm)
  • Plywood (up to 20mm)
  • Hardboard
  • Acrylic
  • Polycarbonate

All thicknesses of material we can cut are dependant on tool size.  The larger the diameter of the tool, the deeper we can cut.  Small diameter tools are for thin materials and engraving purposes only.

What are the limitations?

As the CNC router uses cutting tools which are cylindrical they cannot cut angled inside corners.  To achieve angled inside corners you will be required to hand finish them.  The larger the tool the bigger the curve will be on the corners.

To achieve sharp corners or a 3D effect you can use a V carve tool, commonly used for traditional sign making.

What size can I cut?

Width (x): 980mm

Depth (y): 980mm

Please be aware that this is the absolute maximum size of the cutting bed. Materials we provide are smaller than this size so please check the max material dimentions before you submit your file.

How much does it cost?

The CNC Router is a charged service.  The price is based on the length of time it takes to cut the material.  The standard charge is 50p per minute so if a jobs cutting time is 10 minutes it will cost £5.  Thinner and less dense materials are cheaper to cut than thicker one’s.  Complex pattern’s do take longer and may cost more money.

How do I prepare a file?

For all drawings files need to be imported into another software known as V-Carve that generates the correct instructions for the CNC router to use to produce your drawing known as a G-Code.  Files for the CNC router have to be prepared by the technical demonstrator so please submit them for checking.  All files for the CNC router need to be saved as a .dxf.

We find the best software to produce a drawing in is Adobe Illustrator but sadly saving a file in Adobe Illustrator as a .dxf usually produces an unreadable file or a drawing which looks far different from that which you drew.  The way around this problem is to save your file as a normal illustrator file (.ai) and then import it into Rhino 6.  This way we can then export the file from Rhino as a .dxf and it will be exactly as it should be.

To assist you with your file preparation you can download a template on the Downloads page.

File Preparation for Rhino 6

To prepare your file ready for importing into ToolPath follow the following steps:

  1. Save your file in Adobe Illustrator as a normal Adobe Illustrator file.  This can be any version of Adobe Illustrator including CS6.  Alternatively you can draw your file in Rhino 6.
  2. Open Rhino 6. Click File>>Import and open your Adobe Illustrator drawing.  You may need to change the file type to ‘All Files’
  3. In the ‘Import Options’ dialog select preserve units and ensure that you make the unit type (e.g. mm, inch) the same unit you used in Adobe Illustrator.
  4. Once your drawing has been imported.  Select all of the drawing and go to File>>Export Selected
  5. Change ‘Save File Type’ to AutoCAD Drawing Exchange File (.dxf), name the file, choose a location and click save.
  6. When prompted choose the option ‘2004 Polylines’. Click OK and your file will be saved.

For more information on how to prepare a file for the CNC Router please visit our Downloads page.

Other CAD Software

Many other CAD packages can be used to prepare files for the CNC Router.  For these packages please look to save your files as a .dxf and send it to us to be checked.

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