CNC router vs. CNC machine, what is the difference?

The main difference between CNC engraving and laser engraving is that a CNC machine uses a rotating spindle with an end mill attachment to drill into the material to create the desired engraving, whereas a laser engraving machine uses a high-energy laser to heat and vaporize the surface of the material to create prints.

The specific differences are as follows:

  1. The methods are different. CNC engraving is a direct contact machining process, a CNC manufacturing process in which material is removed by a cutting tool attached to a high RPM motorized spindle. A high-speed rotating cutting tool is inserted into the material, and a computer system directs its movement to create the desired engraving. However, laser engraving is a non-contact process that uses a high-energy laser to heat and vaporize the surface of the material to engrave.
  2. Accuracy differences. Standard CNC machines can provide an accuracy of approximately 0.001" to 0.005", while special processes such as polishing provide repeatable accuracy of 0.00005". Laser engravers can create high-resolution engravings with dark and light contrasting areas.
  3. Engraving material. CNC machines can be used to engrave almost all machinable metals, as well as non-metals such as wood, foam, plastic, etc. Laser engravers can work on glass, wood, acrylic, leather, paper, and some treated and soft metals.
  4. The tools are different. Commonly used tools in CNC engraving include fixtures, drills, end mills, flying knives, etc. Whereas in a laser engraver, the laser module is the only tool used for different applications.

Which is better, CNC or laser engraving machine?

Whether CNC engraving or laser engraving is better depends on the needs of your and the materials to be processed. CNC is the best choice for cutting and engraving thick materials such as MDF, aluminum, wood, acrylic, etc., while laser cutting is much better for thin workpieces. If you need 3D engraving, CNC engraving is the best choice, but if the contrast between dark and light colors is required, laser engraving is better.


CNC engraving machines and laser engraving machines are different in method, engraving accuracy, tools, materials, etc. Which type is better to choose still needs to be decided according to your needs and processing materials.

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