How to Operate a CNC Router? | A step by step guide for beginners

Any CNC machine as well as a CNC router is an equipment that is completely controlled by computer numerical commands. A CNC router works according to the tool paths given via the controlling computer. CNC routers are generally used for machining different types of materials that include woods, plastic, stone, aluminium, composites, foam etc.

However, as the operating system of a CNC router is totally based on computer actions, the user must be aware of the proper command settings procedures to ensure the CNC router to work accurately according to the settled tool path for every particular machining job. 

So, in this article we will be focusing on the operating system of a CNC router¬† from the grassroot level. Let’s zoom in to know the details!

How to Operate CNC Router in 9 simple steps?

Step 1. Setting on the CNC router

It requires a number of parts to be plugged in to kick off the CNC router.

Let’s find out those parts below.

  • Turn the ON/OFF swift placed near the wall to switch on the Router controller box
  • Then thumb on the green start button to start the remote controller
  • Switch on the dust collector and check if the dust collector bags are attached
  • Then push the white button to turn on the vacuum table 

Step 2. Select End Mill 

To administer any project on a CNC router machine, it requires choosing a perfect blade for the particular job from the set of different blades of the router machine. The blades are fitted to router bits that are also known as end mills. The end mills can be of different shapes and sizes. There are some aspects to understand the end mill operation of a CNC router machine that are attached below:

  • Understanding the number of flutes followed by their actions
  • Shapes of the end mill; like Ball nose vs. Flat vs. Vbits
  • Sizes of the end mill flutes

Step 3. Selection of the end mill – Flutes

The edges of the CNC router bits can have two and four edges accordingly. These edges are called flutes. 2 flute end mills are used to cut softer and lighter materials like cedar, plywood etc whereas 4 flute end mills are used to machine the harder and heavier materials like aluminium, teak, plastics etc.

Step 4. Selection of end mill – Shapes

There are different types of end mills according to their shapes. Such as, Flat, Ball Nose, V-bit, Mystery bits. You need to choose one as per your project requirement.

Step 5. Router blade or end mill changing procedure

If your required end mill is already set in your CNC router machine then assure it’s tightness by checking the following instructions

  • Keep the remote controller aside and never press on spindle start button during the changing procedure
  • Loose the collet from the CNC router spindle with the wrenches of the router table 
  • Remove the CNC bit first and then go for the collet. Put aside the old end mill in the tool box before resetting these tools
  • After loosening the bit and collet, attach the new end mill to the collet at a certain high position that must grab enough part of the shank. Sometimes new bit can come outside of the collet, just push it back into the collet in case of smaller end mills
  • After attaching the end mill tighten the loose. parts like nut, collet etc as well as the spindle but avoid overdoing it

Step 6. Setting up workpiece on the router table

  • Before cutting your project material, please check all the 4 vacuum zones under the MDF. Ensure that the rubber strips are properly placed around the vacuum zones’ edges. This determines the strength of the vacuum and how much air pressure will be needed to hold down your project material
  • If your workpiece is small and not covering an entire vacuum zone, you can go for shorter rubber strips and plastic plugs and vice versa in case of bigger plates

Step 7

Now you need to set all the axises to zero point, so that the CNC bit only cuts the suggested part. Position the tip of the CNC router bit over the surface of the project material at the left back. After finalizing the new zero set, confirm it by pressing (XY=0) followed by the OK button.

Step 8. Setting up Z axis

There are mainly two different procedures to establish the Z axis. Let’s check them below:

Toolsensor method

Keep the tool sensor on the top of the project piece that you will cut under the mill bit and place the tip of the mill bit down. This will help to terminate the sensor plate 8-10 mm and then press Shift + (~) . After that the tool will spontaneously move down and the zero point Z axis will take place.

Paper Method

Take a normal A4 size paper and place it between the router bit and part. Now put forward the Z down carefully to the paper and set the position 5 mm from the top shift and then press (~) to stepper it’s movement. Now slowly move closer to the  bit so that just the surface of the paper touches the tip of the CNC bit while moving between. Finally, click on Shift + (XY=0) and OK to set zero point.

Step 9. Load file from the CNC router software

Now it’s time to put the files into the CNC controller box. You need to use a flash drive to load the file from the CNC router with your CNC cutting file.

Steps to load the file

  • Insert flash drive into the reader
  • Then wait for a while for the read USB message window to be appear
  • After that click on OK button
  • Find out your project related file by scrolling up/down or side by side from the usb library
  • Tap on OK button to upload and press 1 to confirm
  • After loading completed click on the start button

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