CNC machines were originally designed to help facilitate faster and better manufacturing. From the amount of CNC cabinet door designs out there, it’s obvious that these machines have found a home in the kitchen arena.
But, how do you design and create cabinet doors with a CNC machine? Below, we’ll take a closer look at:
We’ll also look at some other elements that you might not expect. For example, did you know that you get other types of CNC machines that do things like drill, sand, and polish? We’ll take a closer look at machines like:
We’ll also investigate some of your options if you don't have these machines but still want to make cabinet doors. Let’s get into it.
Yes, CNC cabinets are of excellent quality when properly designed and executed.
If you use your CNC as a cabinet machine, and you create designs that work, you can produce reliably high-quality cabinets. However, as with anything, there’s a certain margin of error.
Not every cabinet produced with a CNC will necessarily be of good quality. But, in the right hands, CNC machines make excellent tools for creating cabinets and cabinet doors.
When you’re doing any type of project with a CNC machine, there are a fair amount of technical details that you need to consider. When you use a CNC machine for cabinets and cabinet doors, you’ll need to do several things.
CNC machines generally follow a fairly set process, that involves the following aspects:
As you can see, a large part of the technical side involves the use of CNC software. However, there are other aspects to consider as well. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the above in more detail. We’ll also discuss some other considerations which are vital to a successful project.
A design is possibly the most important requirement when making a cabinet door on your CNC machine. There are two ways to go about getting one: designing it yourself or downloading a pre-created design.
Both of these have advantages and, depending on where your focus lies, you may prefer designing or downloading.
Designing your own work model allows you to:
However, it also:
If you download a design that someone else created, then:
On the other hand:
Irrespective of which option you choose, you will need a design when using your CNC router to make cabinet doors.
Once you’ve chosen or created a design, and completed it to your satisfaction, you’re ready to plan and program the manufacturing aspects of your project.
There are a few things you’ll need to consider when you get to this part:
Polycrystalline diamond (PCD)
Solid Tungsten Carbon
Carbide or Carbide-tipped
Carbide or Carbide-tipped
High Strength Steel (HSS) or Carbide
Apart from the bit material, the selection is as usual, with rounded bits for outside edging, straight bits or tapered bits for engraving and carving, etc. You may want to consider using compression bits for composite materials like plywood, to prevent damage.
If you’d like to learn more about which bits to use in which situations, check out our comprehensiveCNC router bit guide.
Next, you’ll need to program toolpaths so that your machine routes, carves, drills, and performs other functions in the correct order.
Remember that, if you’re using different bits to create an effect, you’ll need to run the toolpaths in the correct order. For instance, you may make a deep channel with one bit, then use another bit to create a wider surface over it. Another bit entirely may come into play for cleaning up edges and corners.
If you don’t set the toolpaths and bits for this process in the correct order, you’ll end up with fuzzy edges and a design that isn’t cleanly cut.
For reference, you generally want to set your bits for any design in the order of:
The more complex your designs are, the more effort needs to go into the CAM portion of the process. If you’ve downloaded a CAD file and you’re using it as is, it will take you considerably less time to wrap up this portion of the process.
When you’ve just spent a fair amount of time creating, editing, and adjusting a design, you want to ensure that your design will work out as planned. That’s why CNC simulators are incredibly useful.
They take all the design and manufacturing inputs that you’ve put together and run a three-dimensional simulation so you can see if the effect is what you’re looking for.
By running a simulator before you ever run the code, you’ll also be able to find any major mistakes. If, for instance, you chose a bit that doesn’t accomplish what you want. Or, if your cutting depth isn’t deep enough.
Once you’ve run the simulator, make any necessary changes, corrections, or design alterations before proceeding to the next step. This step is especially useful for ensuring that you’ve programmed all the toolpaths and bit choices in the correct order.
Once you’ve programmed the toolpaths, the materials used, and the cutting bits you’re using into your CAM software, you’re ready to set up your workpiece in the CNC machine. Whether your particular model uses clamps, screws, or some other attachment method, now’s the time to attach and center your workpiece.
Finally, use a CNC controller software or G-code sender to relay your CAD and CAM instructions to your machine. If you’ve programmed the manufacturing aspects correctly, the machine will create a beautiful cabinet door that you can be proud of.
Once you’ve gone through all the effort of getting the door done, you still need to do the finishing touches. We’ll discuss it in more detail later on, but now is the time to profile the edges, band them, and then sand and polish or paint the doors.
When you’re creating a cabinet door with a CNC machine, there are a few practical aspects to consider. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the practical, and less technical, side of making cabinet doors with a CNC.
The first thing you need to do when making a cabinet door on a CNC machine is to calculate the door sizes. When calculating the size, remember to take into account the hinges, hasps, and any other hardware.
Using your CNC router, mill, or even laser cutter, you can easily cut your workpieces to size if you program the design into your CNC. A simple height by depth by width design with the correct dimensions and cutting tools will quickly reduce a square of wood to a cabinet door in the making.
What makes a cabinet door pretty? For one, they generally have beautifully rounded outside edges. Additionally, they typically have curves rather than corners.
To complete this step, you need to figure out how much of the corner you want to turn into a curve. Then, create a simple CAD design of the right dimensions and degree of curve.
A nice finishing router bit and a G-code sender later, and your doors will have beautiful, rounded edges and corners.
You can also buy a machine specifically for finishing sides and corners. Called a profile finishing machine, this device can be handy if you make hundreds of cabinet doors. However, we prefer the versatility of a CNC router as you can easily change the shape and depth of the profiling cuts.
If you’re working with any sort of composite material (Formica, melamine, etc.) you’ll need to edge band the doors to give them that finished look. Edge banding is when you take a strip of material (specially made for this purpose, and readily available for purchase) and wrap it around the outside edge of the doors.
You can use a machine to do edge banding, or you can do it by hand. We’ll discuss those options later on, but edge banding is vital for protecting your doors and making them look complete.
Once you’ve shaped the door for a cabinet on your CNC machine, you’re ready to tackle the visual elements. Whether you’re creating a relief, engraving a pattern, or just making a simple design with flutes, now’s the time.
It’s best to preprogram your designs so you can just set up your workpiece and activate the CNC. You may also want to take this time to drill and countersink any holes you’ll need for the hinges and other hardware.
Since you’ve finished all the major structural work the doors will need, you can now move on to the finishing touches. Depending on the look you’re going for and the materials you’ve chosen now is the time to sand, seal, varnish, or paint your cabinet doors.
Most manufacturers prefer to sand the doors, then paint them, when working with composites like melamine or Plywood. In the case of solid wood, they either sand and polish, or sand and paint.
Once you’ve completed all the previous steps, you’re ready to wrap up your CNC cabinet doors. All you need to do now is attach the hinges, clasps, door knobs or handles, and any optional hardware you’ve decided to incorporate.
Fortunately, since you’ve already drilled the holes, and recessed the spaces for the hardware, you can simply screw them into place. Once your hardware is attached, the cabinets are complete and ready for attachment.
If you’re not sure that your CNC router is the ultimate cabinet door-making machine, you probably want to know more about other machines for cabinet-making. As with anything, there’s an entire host of additional options for making cabinets with CNC machines.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the many cabinet door-making machine options.
If you’re working with melamine, Formica, and other composites, you’ll need to band the edges. If you don’t band the edge of a composite, it leaves it exposed to the elements. This kind of exposure shortens the lifespan of the product and can lead to water damage.
Additionally, unbanded edges don’t give you that neat, finished look that you undoubtedly want to present to the public.
Edge banding machines are relatively compact and easy to use. They take a roll of banding, of the appropriate color for your cabinet door, and use adhesive or heat to apply the banding to the door’s outer edge.
These devices also handle the additional aspects of trimming excess banding, removing excess end material, scraping and smoothing, and general neatening.
Edge banding machines come in straight and curved models. When you need to band around curves or have a rounded-edge project, you may require an edge-banding machine that can deal with curves. Straight-edge banding machines have no curving abilities, while curved models generally have a folding arm that can wrap around curves.
Let’s take a closer look at how the process for these machines works:
If you’re a small operation, you may not have the resources to purchase a CNC machine and an edge banding machine. Not to worry, you still have options for getting that picture-perfect finish on your cabinet doors.
The first option is to rent a banding machine on a part-time basis, though this still may cost more than you can comfortably pay without cutting into your profit margin.
Failing to possess or rent a device, you can consider doing the edge banding by hand. If you use a banding that has heat-activated adhesive, you can easily apply the banding using a heat gun. Some people also have great success with using a towel and an iron.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying banding without an edge banding machine:
If you’re making hundreds or thousands of cabinet doors weekly, then having a machine that can shape your materials is very useful. When you’re making cabinet doors, you’ll start with a door that has sharp, angular corners.
Profile trimming machines can do the shaping for you. They take a normal square or rectangular piece of material and trim the sides and corners into the shape that you want.
Here’s how to use a corner rounding machine in your workshop:
A lot of how-tos and other informative articles can make it seem like you have a plethora of different machines to do the job. Fortunately, if you don’t have a machine specifically for trimming edges and corners, your CNC router can do the job.
Here’s how you can use your CNC router to shape and edge your cabinet doors:
Many large-scale producers of cabinet doors have sanding and polishing machines that can sand the entire door at once. These machines can make a tremendous difference in the amount of time and effort it takes to sand the doors.
They’re relatively easy to use, but here’s a step-by-step guide:
These machines make things significantly faster since they can keep sanding and polishing almost non-stop.
While machines that finish your doors for you can save a lot of time, they’re an expense that small businesses can’t always afford. Fortunately, people have been sanding and polishing since long before the advent of these machines.
Let’s take a look at a few alternative options to sanding.
When it comes to polishing, you have only two real alternatives:
It’s worth noting that in edge cases, like when you’re working with acrylic or stone, you can buy polishing bits for your CNC router. These bits allow you to use your CNC router for finishing, as you’d finish spoilboards. Just run the machine and it will buff the surface to a perfect shine.
When the time comes to install your cabinet hardware, such as hinges and clasps, a side boring machine can be very useful. It can drill holes where you need them without your having to stand the door on its side.
Here’s how to use a side boring machine:
While a boring machine can be helpful, you may not have one yet. If that’s the case you can easily:
We hope that this article about how to make cabinet doors with a CNC machine has been incredibly useful to you. Always remember that, while machines make your life easier, there are always alternatives.
In almost any part of the process, your CNC router can do the job. It can:
Truth be told, the only thing your CNC router can’t do is paint the doors. Everything else you can do with a bit of ingenuity.
If you’re still trying to figure out which CNC machine is right for you, we’d be happy to help you. Feel free tocontact us, and we’ll help you find the right machine, and accompanying package, for your business.If you’d like to learn more about 3-axis machining, choosing the right bits, and other CNC-related tidbits, be sure to check out ourblog. We add detailed articles monthly to help you take your CNC skills to the next level.
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