Have you ever dreamt of creating intricate designs and cuts in wood, plastic, or aluminum? CNC routing can turn those dreams into reality. Our guide is here to equip you with the fundamental knowledge to take your first steps into the exciting world of CNC routing.

We'll break down the core concepts, from the machinery to the tips on whether you need a CNC routing service. 

What Is CNC Routing?

CNC routing involves using computer-controlled machines to cut, carve, and shape materials according to designs. It is usually applied to create complex structures such as cavities, concavities, patterns, and texts. The process relies on digital instructions from a computer-aided design (CAD) file to ensure accuracy and consistency in each cut. 

Understanding the CNC Router

A CNC router serves as the core of CNC routing processes, mainly composed of a frame, worktable, tool system, drive system, and numerical control system.

The frame is the main structure for providing robust stability. The worktable is used to fasten the workpiece for accurate processing. With various tools and their driving devices, the tool system allows for different cutting and routing operations. Moving parts of the CNC router, such as the worktable and tools, are controlled by the drive system. The numerical control system is responsible for the digitalized control of the machine, enabling precise machining operations.

Generally, a CNC router uses digital control to accurately carry out cutting, drilling, and engraving operations based on pre-set programs. The worktable moves according to the programmed instructions, while the tool system performs cutting operations under the control of the drive system.

CNC routers can work with materials like wood, plastics, metals, and composites with high accuracy.

The Advantages of CNC Routing

CNC routing offers a range of advantages compared to traditional hand routers. With its accuracy and ability to work with materials and designs, CNC routing boosts efficiency, reduces waste, and maintains consistency in production cycles. 

Fast turn-around time

CNC routing enables prototyping, helping manufacturers and designers bring their concepts to life swiftly and precisely. 

High automation

The automation of CNC routing also minimizes the need for labor, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring a higher-quality end product. 

Suitable for both low-volume and large-scale production

Moreover, the precision of replicating designs with CNC routing supports large-scale production, making it fit for custom projects and mass production. 

By reducing time and materials used for trial and error, CNC routing proves to be a cost-effective manufacturing solution. 

Applications of CNC Routing

The flexibility of CNC routing is evident in industries such as aerospace, automotive, furniture, and sign production. It plays a role in crafting parts like aircraft components, car prototypes, unique furniture pieces, and personalized signs. The accuracy and versatility make it an essential instrument for manufacturing long-lasting products that adhere to the strict standards of these sectors. 


For example, in aerospace, CNC routing is utilized to create resilient parts capable of enduring harsh conditions. In the industry, it contributes to designing appealing and functional elements ranging from dashboard panels to engine parts. 


The furniture sector benefits from CNC routing by enabling the production of designs and patterns on wood surfaces, introducing artistry to contemporary and classic pieces. 

Sign production

Sign manufacturers employ CNC routers to cut through materials effectively, producing intricate signs suitable for indoor and outdoor applications. 

When to Consider CNC Routing Services

Deciding on the time to incorporate CNC routing into your production process can impact the success of your project. When considering CNC routing services, consider project complexity, material selection, and precision requirements. 

Project complexity

CNC routing can be applied when projects call for levels of precision that manual methods may not deliver reliably or when the design includes patterns and details that necessitate the advanced capabilities of CNC technology. 

Production volume

Moreover, it can be the solution when businesses seek to expand their production capacity without compromising quality. CNC routing enables adjustments to meet evolving market needs. It can handle both small and large order volumes with consistent accuracy. 

Material & design flexibility

Additionally, CNC routing is suitable for companies aiming to broaden their product range since it accommodates a variety of materials and designs. 

By considering these aspects, businesses can make informed decisions about integrating CNC routing into their processes, thus enhancing competitiveness and meeting customer expectations by delivering top-notch products.


Is a CNC milling machine the same as a CNC routing machine?

No. CNC routers are for softer materials such as wood, plastics, and even some aluminum) as well as a different form factor (typically 3/4″ thick sheets).

CNC milling machines are typically Vertical Machining Centers (sometimes Horizontal Machining Centers). And those are much heavier with more powerful spindles (cutting heads).

They are different but definitely in the same family.

What are the cheapest CNC routing materials?

MDF: MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is a widely available and affordable sheet material that's easy to machine. It's great for prototyping and creating signs or basic shapes.

Plywood: Similar to MDF, budget-friendly plywood can be a good option for initial projects. Choose a type with a smooth surface suitable for routing.

Foam Board: While not the most durable, foam board is inexpensive and easy to cut with a CNC router. It's perfect for creating mockups or lightweight signs.

What is the largest machinable area of a CNC router?

A CNC router can have a machinable area of 60″ X 216″ X 8″.  

Old CNC machines are big and take up a lot of room in your workspace. Newer ones are much smaller. Some even fit right on a regular table. It makes them not only easier to store but also simpler to use.