CNC router file vs Laser cutter file Extension | How both the file formats differ?

Having a proficient knowledge and understanding of the tool types to cut and shape wood floor, customized wooden inlay, or wall panels is what they call “craftsmanship”. But, the software programming file used in the CNC machine plays another major role in the overall success/failure of your woodworking project. In this blog, I have compared a CNC router file with a laser cutter file to help you make better choices during tool selection. 

Before that, let’s understand why a majority of the woodworking professionals now prefer CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines to the age-old manual woodworking operations. The former, being a computer aided operation, it is less time and effort consuming to do a task using new and advanced cutting tools. However, apart from making the traditional form of woodworking more efficient, these tools open up newer possibilities to the woodcrafters. 

Comparing CNC Router File With Laser CNC Machine Cutter

  • Similarities 

Whether it is the CNC router or laser cutting device, the respective tool (usually a laser beam or router bit) is programmed to receive and convert the computed design, thereby assisting the cutter to process the workpiece accordingly. Firstly, a design is created by the programmer using CNC drafting software tools like AutoCAD or CorelDRAW. Then the workpiece is positioned on the work table. 

The created design is then fed to the CNC router/laser, which is in turn interpreted by the device’s CAD/CAM software into a sequence of directional moves. These moves then instruct the machine tool to make the cut, as per the shape of the design.  

Note: Both the machines are accompanied by a rectangular table attached to 2 parallel tracks running along the surface length (X-axis). A third track is rolled perpendicular to the above 2 tracks on which the machining tool is clamped.

  • Dissimilarities

CNC Router Files: By the “CNC cutters”, the  woodworkers mostly refer to the CNC routers. This router device receives the program; a CNC routing file designed by QuickCAM Pro, AutoCAD, or so to guide the cutting oath of the router tool for machining 3D parts. A router generally cuts following friction, where a cylindrical tool bit, that resembles a drill tool with sharp edges, turns at high speeds, thereby carving away the unwanted portions from the workpiece. But, unlike a CNC drill, a router can cut both side to side, and in and out. 

The primary benefit of using a CNC router file is that the programmed codes and data followed by accurate router tooling allow you to maintain accuracy while manufacturing repeatable parts. If you are looking for the best CNC router file programming platform,  then Aspire is currently leading the market followed by LINUX CNC, HeeksCNC, ECam, and many more.

CNC Lasers Cutter File: Similar to the automated CNC routers are the laser cutters as they, too, are supported by a CNC system. However, unlike a router that cuts materials with friction, lasers cut with heat and not friction. A high-power intensity light ray is applied onto the workpiece which burns the material into the desired shape/design  rather than etching away the material. Other than that, the entire procession in laser cutting is similar to that of a CNC Router. 

CNC laser cutting is open to many advantages; from creating simple designs/shapes to 3D models to engraving graphics, this CNC device has endless possibilities, provided that you get a laser cutting file alongside the laser cutter and workpiece. Similar to a CNC router file, laser cutter file guides the device into burning through the material to achieve the desired design or model. 

Now if you are wondering whether the same programming file is used in laser cutting technology, then it’s not. So, what sort of file will you need during the task is a really challenging thing as there are a number of such options already available on the market. 

They include the following: 

  • Raster files: These files are also called bitmap and graphic image files made up of pixels. The unique color codes and tonal data are contained in these  pixels. Together, These pixels combine to create an image displaying it on the computer screen, paper, or any other display surface
  • Vector files: These include images made of mathematical calculations and formulae. The images are made up of shapes and lines following  curved or straight paths 
  • Compound files: These files include both the raster and vector  graphic images 
  • CAD(Computer-Aided Design) and  3D design files: These files are designed using CAD software tools like AutoCAD, TinkerCAD, FeeCAD, Fusion 360, DraftSight, Solidworks, etc., and are vector in nature. But they vary from the vector files (that are widely technical) compared to graphic files.  CAD and 3D files are typically used to create complicated designs in 2D or 3D through CNC laser cutting

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