CNC Router Education

What is CNC?

Computer Numeric Control, also known as CNC is a way to automate machine tools with highly-specific commands programmed into the machine itself. This is in contrast to manual control accomplished with levers, hand wheels or mechanical automation limited only to cams. A majority of numerical control is accomplished by a computer, which produces the acronym CNC.

Today’s CNC systems are built with a high degree of automation. As a result, they are compatible with modern Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programs. A computer file produced by such programs follows the precise commands necessary to operate the machine. Because an individual component may need several tools during its manufacture (router, saw, drill, etc.) contemporary CNC machines frequently offer several tools in a single “cell.”

In different settings, a variety of different machines, coupled with an outboard controller operated either by a human or robotically, transfer the parts between machines. In both instances the steps necessary to produce a component are automated to a high degree. This produces components that are a very close match to their CAD design.

What is CAD?

 Computer-Aided Design (CAD) uses a computer or workstation to create, modify, analyze, or optimize a design. CAD software can enhance designer productivity, design quality and productivity, documentation, and provide a manufacturing database. CAD output usually takes the form of electronic files that control machining, manufacturing and printing functions.

What is CAM?

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) controls machine tools with computer software. CAM also supports manufacturing operations such as planning, management, transportation, and storage. CAM is used to increase production speed, as well as provide components and tooling with more precise dimensions and material consistency. It can also reduce waste and energy consumption. CAM is a follow-on to computer-aided processes such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE).

What is is G-Code?

G-code is the most commonly used programming language for Numerical Control (NC) installations. It is primarily used to control automation functions of machine tools in CAM applications. G-code is also referred to as G programming language.

G-code tells computerized machine tools how to operate. It provides detailed and precise instructions on movement, speed and direction. A typical example of this is a cutting tool within a machine.

The cutting tool follows directions as it moves through a toolpath to produce a finished piece. A similar approach is used with tools that provide functions such as forming, burnishing and photo-plotting, as well as operations that include 3D printing, or measurement.


What type of files are associated with CNC?

A number of files are compatible with CNC manufacturing. These include, but are not limited to:

  • STL (STereoLithography). STL is used to create prototypes, in 3D printing and in CAM
  • DXF (Drawing Interchange/Exchange Format). DXF allows interoperability between AutoCAD software and other computer programs
  • VectorVector allows designers to communicate efficiently and keep Building Information Modeling (BIM) central to the design process.

What software is compatible with CNC?

CNC manufacturing is compatible with a diverse software programs. Some of the programs used most frequently in conjunction with Laguna Tools machine tools include:

  • Vectric VCarve – 2D software
  • Vectric Aspire – 3D software
  • Rhino -3D software
  • EnRoute
  • Mozaik – Cabinet software
  • Cabinet Vision – Cabinet software

What are some of the applications for CNC?

CNC can be used by anyone from hobbyists to billion-dollar Fortune 500 companies. Typical CNC machines such as routers and MT (Multi-tool) units are used in the manufacture of products made of:

  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Composites
  • Leather
  • Fabrics
  • Aluminum
  • Foam Steel
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