July 04, 2022 12 min read

If you are thinking about buying a CNC router machine but don’t know where to start, then this guide to CNC router machines should help you understand what a CNC router machine is and how it works. Below, we’ll explain what a CNC router machine is, how it works, and what are the different types of CNC machines. In a nutshell, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to choose a machine that will best fit your material processing needs. Whether you’re looking for a CNC router machine for commercial use or as a DIYer, this guide should answer many of your questions as you move forward.

What is a CNC Router Machine?

Starting with the basics, a CNC router machine is an automated machine with specialized tools that utilize a CNC system for automatic carving, cutting, engraving, drilling, and decorative grooving across an array of materials. One of the more popular types is a CNC wood router machine for processing both hard and soft woods. But CNC machines are also great for processing acrylic, PVC, MDF, marble, rubber board, stone, brass, aluminum, and metals such as aluminum as steel, and much more. 

One of the biggest advantages of processing material with a CNC machine is its ability to produce complex and precise shapes and contours by machining materials with a tool. That being said, CNC router machines provide commercial and individual users with efficiency and precision that other tools cannot match. These are some of the many reasons why the demand for CNC machines is growing.

A CNC router machine can be used for numerous applications, including:

  • 2D and 3D carving,
  • Woodworking,
  • Acrylic fabrication,
  • Aluminum fabrication,
  • Cabinet making,
  • Door making,
  • Furniture making,
  • Musical instruments,
  • Architectural millwork,
  • And more.

How Does a Wood CNC Router Machine Work?

The Acronym CNC stands for “Computer Numerical Control”. Dictionary.com defines it as an automated operation of a machine by a computer program. A standard CNC router machine (as well as other popular CNC equipment such as plasma, water jet, 3D printers, or CNC laser cutters) is controlled by a computer using a dedicated CNC program. This  program stores all the necessary data in the form of so-called G-codes. In short, the G-codes consist of a ‘G’ followed by a number and milling instructions. These codes are standardized, meaning they can be used in practically any type of CNC router machine. Once all data has been entered into the CNC program, the machine can start its work.

What Are the Types of CNC Router Machines?

There are several different types of CNC router machines one can opt for. At Tork, we provide you with four ATC CNC machines, available in the following sizes - 4x4 wood CNC machine, 4x8 machine, 5x10 CNC router machine, and 6x12 wood CNC machine. We also offer custom CNC sizes based on client specifications.

What differentiates ATC CNC machines from standard CNC router machines is that they come with automatic tool-changing functionality (hence the name - ATC). In other words, an ATC machine can quickly and efficiently meet the tool change requirements without any manual involvement during processing. 

An ATC CNC router machine has a separate tool magazine with various tool heads. It uses a computer program to change the required tools, meaning the machine can work without breaks during processing. Generally speaking, ATC CNC machines are considered the most efficient, offering faster  tool changing speeds without  sacrificing precision. 

As covered, at Tork, we offer four sizes of ATC CNC router machines. Also, we offer full customization sizing for your machine. Additionally, you can also equip any router platform  with such features as CO2 laser, surface mapping tool, and of course vacuum pumps, a micro misting system, or a dust collection system. 

4x4’ CNC ATC Router Machine

Tork’s 4x4’ CNC ATC router machine is a space-saving router machine that will provide you with precision and quality not many other CNC machines can match. It was designed for shops with limited orkspace, without taking too much valuable real estate.

You can utilize the machine to process wood, aluminum, steel, acrylic, foam, fiberglass, and composites. It also comes equipped with ATC spindles, an all-in-one PC workstation, and Tork Touch - our dedicated motion control software. 

4x8 CNC ATC Router Machine

The second type of CNC machine in our range is the 4x8 ATC router machine. It offers the same level of precision as its smaller 4x4’ counterpart but doubles the workspace, providing an operator  with more working area and enhanced efficiency. 

Like Tork’s 4x4’ CNC machine, the 4x8’ router machine can be used on a wide range of materials, including aluminum, steel, acrylic, and fiberglass. It comes with ATC spindles, a dedicated PC workstation, and Tork Touch software as well. 

5x10’ CNC ATC Router Machine

For accommodating greater material sizes, you can take advantage of our 5x10 CNC router machine. It will provide you with enough space to carry out sizable projects, especially those involving fabricating 5x10’ sheet metal, offering the same precision and quality of work as other Tork CNC machines.

It works perfectly when processing such materials as wood, acrylic, foam, plastics, steel, and aluminum. Also, like other Tork CNC machines, the 5x10’ model comes with a large PC workstation, Tork Touch motion capture software, and ATC spindle. 

6x12 CNC ATC Router Machine

Outside of a custom sized platform, the 6x12 CNC ATC router machine provides the largest material handling  solution for industrial needs. It offers a convenient  amount of work space for larger material processing requirements. However, despite its size, it provides incredible precision, as well as ease of use. 

Whether your application requires efficient processing of wood, fiberglass, steel, aluminum, or foam, you can rest assured that Tork’s 6x12 router machine will  get the job done. It comes equipped with ATC spindles, Tork Touch motion capture software, and an all-in-one PC workstation, just like other machines in our range. 

What Are the Core Components of a CNC Machine?

To better understand how CNC router machines work, we need to take a deeper dive into how they are built. Essentially, a standard wood CNC router machine is equipped with five core components - a CNC spindle, motor, router table, control system, and linear rails. We’ll explain them in more detail in the following section.

CNC Spindle

CNC spindles are electric spindles used for high-speed engraving, drilling, and milling. There are two types of spindles used in CNC router machines - air-cooled and water-cooled spindles. They can be both processed at high speeds and used for similar projects. What differentiates them from each other is their cooling method. 

Air-cooled spindles use fan cooling systems. They are easy to maintain and come at a relatively low cost compared to water-cooled spindles. Essentially, they are suitable for users that often experience water shortages or those living in colder regions. 

Water-cooled spindles, on the other hand, utilize water circulation to cool the heat generated during the high-speed rotation of a spindle. Their primary advantages include an effective cooling effect, long service life, and low noise. They are more expensive than air-cooled spindles, though, and require more maintenance and attention. 

Motor

The Motor is the heart of a CNC router machine. Its performance affects the efficiency of the entire machine, and even the tiniest malfunction can have a massive impact on the machine’s performance. When it comes to motors used in CNC router machines, they are divided into two categories - precision machining motors and high-power cut-off motors. 

Precision machining motors are generally quieter and come with higher precision properties. They work best when processing fine work pieces, such as nameplates or stamps. They are, however, relatively low when it comes to the power output, which usually doesn’t exceed 250W. This automatically disqualifies precision machining motors from cutting thick materials. For this purpose, it’s better to use a high-power cut-off motor. 

High-power cutting motors generate more power and are therefore suitable for cutting and engraving thick materials. 

Router Table

As for the CNC router table, it’s used to carry out the processing work. It’s important to note here that various materials and their shapes may require different types of CNC tables. When it comes to the most common CNC router tables used, you can choose between an aluminum T-slot working table or a T-slot vacuum table. 

Aluminum T-slot tables are generally more suitable for pieces with irregular shapes. Such tables use fixtures to keep a work piece steady, ensuring it won’t shake during processing. 

As for T-slot vacuum tables, they are composed of a vacuum pump and bakelite board. One of its many advantages is that it’s possible to divide it into six or eight sections, enhancing vacuum adsorption. In general, T-slot vacuum tables provide much more convenient loading and unloading, improving the efficiency of a CNC machine even further. They work best when used for large-scale plate engraving and wood processing. 

Control System

Essentially, a CNC machine can use either a manual control system or a computer control system. While still popular, manual CNC machines are slowly being replaced by computer-controlled router machines. Router CNC machines are generally more efficient and less prone to making mistakes, as they continuously make corrections and adjustments when processing. 

Router machines are also very convenient, as they don’t require practically any human involvement when operating. An operator  can display all the functions at the control panel, which is straightforward to understand and operate. Of course, manual machines also have their advantages, requiring less space and effort to learn how to operate them. However, when it comes to production efficiency and precision, they are inferior to  computer-controlled CNC machines. 

Linear Rails

The mounted linear rails on a CNC machine are responsible for securing and guiding the tools. Square rails have a higher load capacity and provide more stability when operating. They also offer more precision and a low-friction resistance, making them suitable for large format processing, especially when working with wood and foam. 

What Are the Advantages of a CNC Router Machine?

Based on the information above you should have a better basic understanding of the advantages of utilizing a CNC router machine. And if you still aren’t sure whether a CNC router machine can benefit your workflow, here are some of the most significant advantages. 

  • Enhanced precision and accuracy. As accurate as a human can be, we’re no match for computer-controlled machines. The story is no different for CNC machines, where those operated by computer software are much more precise than manually operated machines. 
  • Ease of operation. While CNC router machines may look intimidating at first, in reality, they are exceptionally straightforward to use Tork’s software interface was designed by Tork for intuitive, user-friendly operation without having to learn G-code. Learning CNC software can be accomplished with some simple training, and you don’t need to be an IT expert to operate it.
  • Repeatability. Since the entire process is automated, CNC router machines can reliably repeat the same operation over and over againwith measured repeatability up to +/- 0.001".  This is allwhile maintaining 1,800 IPM traverse or 1,200 IPM processing speeds.
  • Improved safety. Even when operated by a professional, a manual CNC machine still poses some risk to the operator and their surroundings. Computer-controlled CNC machines significantly decrease any risk involved in operating through the use of emergency stop features, keeping the operator at a safe distance from the processing tools,   all of which improve safety in the workplace and decrease the chances of  work place injuries 
  • Cost-efficiency. Although usually more expensive, CNC router machines are much more cost-efficient in the long run when compared to manual CNC machines. As discussed their precision and speed  translates to greater production efficiency together with less wasted material. Secondly, they require a smaller team to operate, decreasing industrial workforce costs. 
  • What Are the Applications of CNC Router Machines?

    CNC router machines are very versatile and can be used for a wide range of 2D and 3D applications. Some of the most important include:

    Furniture Industry

    Furniture making, especially cabinet manufacturing, is by far the most popular application of CNC router machines. They are used both to create customized and standardized furniture pieces due to their higher efficiency, precision,and the ability to create custom modifications. Besides cabinetry, a CNC router machine can also provide exceptional work when it comes to producing closets, countertops, doors, chairs, and tables. 

    CNC router machines’ main application  within the furniture industry include carving, cutting, embossing, and even hollowing out out a cavity. What’s more, due to their precision and repeatability, they give an operator the ability to CAD design and manufacture on the fly.

    Stone Carving Industry

    CNC router machines can also be used in the stone carving industry. Their many applications here include stone lettering, stone carving, stone relief, stone cutting, and stone hollowing. As for materials, CNC machines are applicable for marble, blue-stone, granite, jade, and many more. 

    Sign Making

    CNC router machines are perfect for creating small-scale 2D sign projects to more complex 3D signage designs. They can be used to engrave and cut artificial stone, foam, wood, acrylic, aluminum, or brass, getting the job done right and fast. Here again their accuracy and repeatability ensure any sign you make will look perfect, be it for advertising purposes or something else. 

    Modeling and Prototyping

    Repeatable accuracy and precision for CNC router machines enables it to efficiently design and create intricate and impressive  models and prototypes. A CNC machine running on dedicated computer software allows you to quickly and easily scan, copy, engineer, and reverse-engineer any job  you may require to create exactly the finished prototype you need to create. What’s more, its speed ensures real rapid prototyping, which in turn significantly speeds up the entire manufacturing process. 

    Musical Instruments Manufacturing

    Designing and manufacturing a musical instrument requires attention to detail and a tool with incredibly high accuracy and precision. As previously discussed, a CNC router machine can provide exactly that, cutting every component to the exact specifications and precision needed to produce an instrument capable of producing a clear range of sounds. What’s more, CNC router machines can be used for larger-scale projects, too, due to the repeatability of their processes. It ensures every integral component of a musical instrument  is crafted to the highest standards. 

    What to Consider Before Buying a CNC Router Machine?

    Before you decide on the purchase, you should know one thing. While incredibly efficient, a CNC router machine is a significant investment. Depending on the size, software, and features, CNC router machines can range anywhere from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are also different types of machines that suit various unique applications. That being said, it’s vital to take several things into account before making your final decision, such as:

  • Manufacturer. There are numerous CNC router machine manufacturers out there, and not all of them offer the same quality. Consider only reputable companies preferably based within the USA when looking for your CNC machine, such as Tork CNC. Tork ATC CNC router machines meet all the quality standards you might want from a CNC machine. They include a certificate of guarantee and a 2-year parts warranty.
  • Your Application. Why do you even need a CNC router machine? That’s obviously the question you should thoughtfully consider f before making a purchase. Consider your unique application and your output requirements to ensure profitability. Then finally evaluate your current  power and space limitations to decide what type and size of a machine are right for you. 
  • Financing. As previously mentioned CNC router machines aren’t cheap, and you might need to consider your financing options. Tork can help you with that. We’ve teamed up with a specialized commercial lender. Ascentium Capital has provided established and even new clients with a convenient and secure way to purchase a new CNC router machine.
  • How to Set Up a CNC Router Machine?

    Also, don’t worry. Setting up a CNC router machine can look intimidating at first.  In reality, it shouldn't take you too long until you get your brand-new machine operating, especially with the help of Tork’s tech support. All Tork CNC machinery is thoroughly quality controlled and tested prior to leaving the facility.  Tork also includes a safety manual with basic safety and operational procedures for operators to follow.

    For more information regarding the setup, read the machine manual carefully and ensure you follow each step. Also, if you have any questions regarding setting up the CNC router machine, again feel free to reach out to Tork’s customer service.

    How to Use and Maintain a CNC Router Machine?

    Considering how significant an investment a CNC router machine is, you obviously want to maximize its operating capacity for the long term. For this reason, you need to ensure that you follow several precautions during operation and while maintaining the machine. These include:

    • Try to keep your shop environment around the machine clean of dirt and debris. Also try to avoid a high humidity environment which can lead to corrosion, especially with the machine's electrical components. 
    • Clean up the dust and debris in and around the gantry rails that have accumulated during operation to maintain optimal movement and prevent premature wear.  
    • Lubricate the transmission system regularly with light oil to keep transmission smooth.
    • To prolong the life of your machine, consider equipping it with a dust-collection system as it continuously sucks in debris and chips within the work area directly into a collection bag.  

    Key Takeaways

    CNC router machines are exceptional pieces of equipment. They can serve multiple applications and are used on numerous materials, including wood, steel, foam, or aluminum, and many more. What’s more, they come with many advantages over their manually-operated counterparts, providing users with a much-improved accuracy and precision, cost-efficiency, and repeatability. Due to all these upsides, CNC router machines can be used both for small-scale and large-scale projects.

    To learn more about CNC router machines and their applications, be sure to check out our Tork blog. There, you will find the latest manufacturing trends within the CNC industry including numerous posts explaining in more detail the fantastic world of CNC router machines. And if you’re interested in our state-of-the-art ATC CNC machines, contact us directly to receive a free quote. Our experienced tech’s and fabricators are here to assist you design and create a great product. The future of CNC machining is now. Let us help you become a part of it!


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