What's the Difference Between a CNC Mill and a CNC Router?

CNC mills and routers are two of the most popular types of computer-controlled machining tools. However, there are subtle differences, and it pays to know what these are so that you can decide which is best for your needs.

What is CNC?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and is used to refer to any machine tool that is operated by a computer program. Routers can cut complex shapes by using CAM software and a common programming language such as G-code. Both CNC mills and routers use this type of control to create parts from various materials, including wood, plastic, metal and composites. The main difference between these two machines lies in their cutting tools and their capabilities.

CNC Mills

CNC mills have rotating cutting tools that move along several axes. They use the X/Y/Z co-ordinate measurement system, where X is left-to-right, Y is front-to-back and Z goes up and down. This allows for the precise cutting of complex shapes with great accuracy. They are also capable of drilling holes into metals with high-speed spindles. CNC mills are best suited for industrial applications such as creating highly intricate moulds or dies for manufacturing precision parts. They tend to be larger than CNC routers, requiring more space in the shop. However, they can handle heavier materials and higher feed rates than routers, making them ideal for production runs when speed is important.

CNC Routers

CNC routers are similar to CNC mills, but they typically have more axes, allowing them to cut complex shapes with ease in all directions. These machines use relatively small cutting tools compared to mills so they can produce much finer details on smaller pieces without compromising precision or accuracy. They are extremely versatile as they can be used for both 2D and 3D projects, such as engraving signs or carving sculptures from wood or other materials. While routers tend to be slower than mills due to their smaller sizes, they are still able to handle large projects with multiple parts quickly enough for most applications. Plus, routers take up less space in a shop than mills, making them the preferred choice when space is limited.

What's the Takeaway?

Both machines offer unique advantages depending on your needs, but in general, if you're looking for speed, then opt for a mill, while if you need versatility, then go with a router instead.

For more information about CNC manufacturing, contact a local company.