What Size CNC Router Do You Need? | Choosing the Right Machine for Your Needs

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Wondering which CNC router size will be fit for your job? After reading this article, you will get a clear idea of what size router you would need. I will start with asking you a few questions:

  • What type of project do you mostly deal with? 
  • Do you have any special model preference from the CNC router catalog?
  • What type of products do you still wish to continue making?
  • Do you need to add more capabilities to expand the versatility in goods production of your workshop?

Give a hard look to these aspects before deciding what size of CNC router is for you.

It is basically the shape, volume, and most importantly the size of the output parts you plan to process determine the size and type of CNC router that you buy or take on lease. For instance, if your workshop deals in making picture frames or stairs, then its machine requirement will be way different from business essentially that manufacture Ready-To-Assemble (RTA) furniture for institutions or build cabinets, etc.

What does your workshop make? Does the production return you enough profit? Or, you just want a CNC router to expedite your current production and efficiency to expand your services to new markets? Or, is it both that you want?

Identify your motives before settling for a CNC router. A proper roadmap is really important to determine your goal and know how to reach there so that you can begin the purchase. 

Selection Begins With Machine Dimensions

You can use a smal, CNC machine to achieve a large project. You just need to split the project into small units. More importantly, before that, you have to determine the table size which will ultimately decide the work space for your project. But, for that, your work table has to be open-ended so the gantry movement is not limited to the work length but its width. Then you can individually work on every small unit before combining all the splits into a single major project. This idea of CNC machining also overcomes other technical issues like limitations in spindle movement, clamping, and the amount of table area supporting dust collection. 

Tiling the worktable to meet large projects is also effective with the new generation advanced mobile CNCs. These small machines can be clamped to the job, or can be made to track a toolpath (created by sticky tape) attached to the job. You can use the machine for milling purposes such as large beam carvings, and can be hovered along the material to finish the remaining couple of feets to be carved. This way, you can essentially limit the coverage area to work on larger projects. Also, your workshop won't run out of its work space. 

Sadly, every good thing comes with some bad conditions. Here also, the tiling method on the work table to manage the coverage area of CNC machining will require several setups. Tiling is basically meant to achieve the off jobs or prototypes that you do once in a bluemoon. But, if your primary production work is related to creating parts requiring repetition, then tiling is not a better fit. 

Again, due to its small size, the small CNC routers do not contain enough body-mass (to its framework) in terms of cast-iron, Aluminium, or Steel. Consequently, if you put the machine in work for a whole day for batch processing, it may gradually run out of accuracy, lose stamina, and hence, efficiency, causing the machine components to wear out before time. All these may happen due to continuous heat generation and absorption over a long time period. These are some of the points you must check on while purchasing a miniature CNC machine. So, ask the salesperson to suggest you a more robust option within a favorable machine size.

Who Should Buy Small CNCs? 

If you are a DIY hobbyist or a serious CNC router working enthusiast, then small CNC is for you. Startup entrepreneurs can also introduce this little beast in their workshop having limited space for installation. The machine is also ideal for a woodworking professional, who takes custom furniture building orders or small off-bit projects like manufacturing of gun stocks or exceptional musical instruments. Starting from detailed carvings or making reliefs for cabinet doors, creating corbels, finials, milling attractive wooden knobs and handles for doors and drawers, mantle brackets above the fireplace mantle brackets, remaking historical carves to detailed trimming, etc., all can be done with a small CNC. 

Who Should Buy Medium-sized CNCs?

Previously, the discussion of CNC machines for smaller workshops were limited to small floor and desktop models. But now, even the full-sheet, beginner-level CNC machines are available on the market at an affordable budget which was otherwise a primary restriction before. On the other hand, the physical work area coverage has become a serious issue, especially for the one or two-men workshops where it doesn't have enough space to allow a large machine installation or to support power or dust collection substructure. 

However, if you are looking for a CNC machine that can process an MDF(Medium-Density Fiber) board or 4×8 plywood sheets, a medium-sized CNC is what you would need. Note that the machine would require more space than the actual footprint of the sheets. It is similar to a table saw where you will require sufficient free space on both sides of the machine to feed, remove, pile, and sort the finished parts.

Who Should Buy Large CNCs?

If you want to increase the production speed and efficiency that require repetition in the work, you will need a slightly larger CNC machine. A large CNC router gives you the privilege to add new and more accessories, attach larger cutters, improved end mills or bits of different shapes, upgrade the auto-tool changing or holder options, and lastly, you get enough space to develop newer clamping systems. The only thing is that your workshop should have enough space within to entertain the giant beast. Upgrading the CNC spindle and introducing hold-down vacuum table systems for easy auto-loading and unloading of the work material. 

Bottomline: Which is the Best?

Every CNC router size is differently useful to meet a variety of project requirements. So, there is no universal verdict that could conclude that only the small or the medium or the large CNC machine is the best of the three. All are equally required in the industry at different professional levels. What is yours?

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