CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and refers to a wide range of automated machine tools controlled by a computer. CNC machines use programmed computer commands to precisely direct the movement of tools, cutting heads, or other equipment. A CNC router is a special type of CNC machine used primarily for cutting wood, plastics, and light metals. Although a CNC router is a type of CNC machine, there are some differences between them.
The most significant difference between them is the materials they processed and their specific applications. CNC machines cover a wide range of equipment, including CNC lathes, milling machines, plasma cutters, laser cutters, and 3D printers. They are capable of machining a wide range of materials, from wood and plastics to steel, titanium, and aluminum. CNC routers are customized for processing wood, plastics, and other composite materials.
CNC machines are also typically heavier and stronger in construction than CNC routers. They can handle larger workpieces and apply greater forces during cutting. Industrial CNC machines—especially CNC routers and lathes—are extremely robust, which minimizes vibration and distortion when machining hard materials.
The cutting tools and tool holders also differ between CNC machines and routers. CNC machines use tools such as milling cutters, drills, and lathe tools to machine hard metals. They require very robust tool holding systems to handle the tremendous forces generated during the cutting process. CNC routers use router bits and holders designed for cutting wood, plastics, etc.
While CNC routers are CNC machines that share some similar components and controls, they have significant differences in application, construction, tooling, and functionality. Understanding these differences will help you choose the right CNC machine for your needs and materials.