What Is The Difference Between A CNC Mill And A CNC Router?

A CNC Mill And A CNC Router

We’ve been covering CNC routers and have helped people learn how to earn money in their garages with the help of a CNC router.

CNC machining is growing in demand in both manufacturing facilities and hobby shops.

The addition of CNC capabilities to your business could result in new revenue.

When you are looking to purchase your very first CNC router, you’re likely to encounter CNC milling equipment. This article will provide an overview of these machines, along with an analysis of their functions.

A CNC router uses more rotational speed to create quicker cuts in materials that are less dense such as plastic and wood. On the other hand, the CNC milling device uses slower rotational speeds and greater torque to cut steel and heavy metals.

What Does CNC Mean?

CNC is a computer-controlled control. CNC machines can receive the coordinates typically input by computers. Then, it performs a sequence of cuts by the instructions programmed by the computer.

CNC Mill
Image Source: Thomasnet

Most of the time, products are created using computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) software like AutoCAD. A CNC Machinist will then get the coordinates from the software and then input these into the CNC machine.

What Are CNC Machines?

CNC machines include computer-controlled lathes and routers that cut, mill or drill raw materials like aluminum, steel, and wood to produce novel products used by the final consumer.

Because the material is removed to create a final product, this is known as subtractive manufacturing. It is a CNC milling machine that takes away material, not adding it the same way the 3D printer could (additive manufacturing).

CNC Machines
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Every aspect of the CNC machines is programmed in the coordinates of a grid that is x-y (and certain large machines come with the “z” grid for 3-dimensional milling.). More than the position of the cuts, the instructions programmed into the machine indicate the speed at which they move and drilling depth, the speed of rotation, and the route of the cutting machine.

Both share the same functions. We will examine the main distinctions.

CNC Routers

CNC routers are made to deal with sheets of material. Rarely do they include lathes that spin the sheet while the head of the router is moving above it.

A CNC router is utilized to cut soft materials. They are commonly used for wood plastic, foam acrylic, and soft metals. The material will generally be clamped onto a larger surface, and then the cutting heads move across it using an x, y, z Axis.

CNC Routers
Image Source: DirectIndustry

The cutting tool rotates at very high speeds. For example, it could spin at 22,000 RPMs to make the cutting process in plywood; in contrast, a mill may be operating at just 1,000 RPMs when working with steel.

CNC Router Summary:

  • More Affordable
  • Only the spindle rotates around an unmoving workpiece
  • It is used to cut soft materials like foam, wood, and aluminum
  • Cuts along X-axis, Y-axis, and occasionally also Z-axis
  • The head is operated at high speed of rotation
  • Less Torque
  • It can also be equipped with a laser cutter

Routers usually employ a gantry frame, and mills use the more durable C-frame. The gantry is moved on the x- and y-axis but has a restricted ability to move along the Z-axis.

A CNC router is a substitute for the work carpenters typically complete. In addition, the automated process can increase the speed of woodworking.

Router Workspace Area

The CNC router is equipped with a huge flat area of work ideal for cutting signs or large Acoustic wall panels. They typically have a smaller Z-axis, which limits the thickness of the timber to which they’re suited. This means that the CNC router is more suitable for thin boards like signs and cabinets. They’re not designed for large wood blocks or to create 3D designs (although particular models are available to accomplish these tasks at a higher price.)

The router may employ various cutting tools, and it is crucial to select the correct type of cutter for the task to be performed. Examples of bit types could be rabbeting, beading, straight, and chamfer bits. Every bit will run at a speed that will be suitable for the job.

A better-quality tool can increase their usefulness, cut downtime for changing bits, permit fore resharpening to be done, and also reduce chatter and artifacts in the final product.

Router Workspace Area 1
Image Source: Medium

CNC Milling Machines

While the CNC mill may fulfill many of the same tasks as a CNC router, CNC mills are usually employed to work with metal. As a result, the cutting heads can move slower, focusing on the power and torque instead of speed.

They are several hundred pounds higher than the router.

CNC mills do not have stationary tables. Instead, they can hold the material and be rotated at any angle that the cutter head can access. The CNC mills rotate using an X-Y-shaped pattern over the workpiece.

Image Source: 3D CNC Africa

Although operating speeds are slow, they have to cut more deeply in harder materials.

CNC Mill Summary:

  • Useful to cut metals that are hard and other tougher materials
  • The workpiece is moved
  • Useful for cuts with a greater thickness.
  • Slower operating speed
  • Clearance Increased over Z-axis
  • Cuts are made using a greater torque
  • More precision
  • Better for complex shapes

CNC Milling Machine WorkSpace Area

The CNC mill is equipped with a huge central chamber that can accommodate larger pieces of the source material. In general, there are clear plexiglass coverings over the space to protect the operator from debris that could fly. In addition, this Axis design provides more clearance on the Z-axis.

Most often, the CNC mill can flip its material to allow it to be carved on various surfaces. The majority of the machine is made of die-cast iron to give the structure to perform the high-torque process.

CNC Milling Machine WorkSpace Area
Image Source: Interesting Engineering

Milling machines use an end mill rather than the router bit. Milling cutters appear similar to drill bits and offer additional torque from a CNC mill. They are available in standard types, including ball or flat end mills. In addition, they influence variables like feed rate and chip load.

The operator and quality assurance staff must examine each piece of equipment to check for wear and tear, which could cause imperfections. In certain instances, bits may have to be changed several times during one milling session.

Metalwork requires more time and practice and more supervision by a skilled CNC operator.

CNC Milling Machine
Image Source: Industry Today

CNC Router Vs. Mill – Choosing The Correct Machine

Both machines reduce human error, increase precision and make it easier to make highly replicable products. Both machines make complex products that can’t be easily manufactured by hand. As a result, these devices help save thousands of hours and boost profits from car brackets or cabinet doors and cabinet doors.

Both systems provide you with the precision of a Computer Numerical Control. In addition, the CAD software eliminates human error and gives all supply chains an extremely high degree of consistency.

It is possible to cut parts according to the exact specifications. The measurements can be precisely entered. Even the most intricate cuts can be made perfectly, allowing it to make special, limited-run pieces that require a fraction of workers previously needed.

Software for CAD requires skilled and well-paid people. The CAD drawings could be input into machines by less-paid machinists, which can lower an enterprise’s total cost of labor.

CNC Router Vs. Mill
Image Source: GeekyViews

Both machines are noisy and require a dust-capture system. In addition, the operator must wear protective equipment, and the equipment and area that operates them require regular cleaning to get rid of shavings from the product.

While in operation, machines must be monitored closely for shaking and skipping. The CNC machine operator should shut down the correct machine issues and restart them without losing their place.

The primary distinction is that the CNC Router is specifically designed to work with flat, soft, thin materials. On the other hand, the CNC mill is made of metal and thick materials.

  • Materials A CNC router is ideal for soft materials like foam, plastic, and wood. A CNC mill is the best choice for hard materials like titanium, steel, cast iron, and brass.
  • Speed It is true that a CNC router will be your most efficient choice. If you require a lot of copies of a piece, the router can cut them quickly. A CNC mill is likely to operate more slowly and with more accuracy.
  • Accuracy – Both instruments offer a high degree of accuracy when used with the right speed and using the right bits; a CNC mill is more precise. Mills can cut across multiple axes and create greater precision than routers perform. The accuracy of both tools will be determined by the precision of the machine’s components they are made of. For instance, THK rails are more precise than round rails used on the CNC router.
  • Cutting Area The largest routers can work with flat materials five feet by eight feet or more. They don’t typically provide a lot of drilling depth. For deeper drilling, the milling machine will be the best alternative. The CNC mill is larger on Z-axis that allowing for greater 3D-based work.
  • Cost – Although both models are available at various prices, CNC routers are typically the most affordable basic models suitable for DIY.
CNC Miling
Image Source: Manufacturing Tomorrow

Why You Need Both

The first thing you notice that is different is the materials used in each handle.

A CNC router is likely to be the most effective choice in woodworking. It allows you to offer an improved product over the competition. CNC routers can provide a great degree of precision from doorways to the fronts of drawers, signage, along chair spindles.

CNC mills are typically used to make components utilized in other products. From automotive gearing to aircraft brackets to automotive brackets, the CNC mill can be used for complicated milling of high-value items. The main distinction in this regard is that CNC mills are more rigid; however, they work with a smaller space than routers.

Every machine is functionally compromised. It’s a matter of finding the proper machine for the task you do the most.

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