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July 03, 2019

Common CNC router mistakes and how to avoid them

By scribe

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CNC routers feature state-of-the-art technology that allows us to achieve increased precision and efficiency in the shop to create signage, furniture, aluminum and brass machining, and more. But these advantages only exist if we know how to effectively use our equipment.

CNCs are highly complex machines, and even some of the most experienced tradesmen can make mistakes in their work, reducing their productivity and causing errors they could otherwise avoid. When you’re operating on a tight timeline, that loss of productivity almost certainly translates to a loss of profitability, as well. And that’s a problem.

From programming to production, here is a rundown of some of the most common mistakes we see in the use of CNC routers and how to avoid them in your everyday operations to maximize your output.

Setting the machine correctly

This is the first step in the process, and if it’s not done correctly, it will negatively impact your project the rest of the way. From tool selection and feed rate to spindle speed and depth of cut, there are many factors that will go into the overall success of the job.

As you become more experienced using your machine in a variety of applications, you’ll become more skilled in effectively setting it for success at the project outset. If you’re ever unsure about the settings you’re using, contact an industry professional or a trusted fellow tradesmen for support.

Remember – as a ShopSabre customer, you receive the industry’s best support to help you maximize your success.

Choosing the right tool

This partially relates to the previously mentioned error, but it’s a key one. Selecting the right tool will produce the best result at the end of the job, but it’s important to understand that there isn’t always a singular right choice when a project begins. In many cases, multiple tools will be able to get the job done, but there’s always one that will achieve the result you’re looking for – and you need to be able to identify it.

Your tooling vendor will typically provide cutter guides to help determine the right tool for a given project. Don’t be afraid to run some test cuts if you’re working with a new material to see how different router bits or knife blades perform.

Making sure your work is held in place

Given the manner in which CNC routers perform, it is essential to ensure your materials are properly held in place before you cut. If not, inaccurate cuts and excess scrap are likely to become an issue.

You can’t cut what you can’t hold, so before you begin, make sure the material you’re cutting is smooth and clean. Check for leaks in your vacuum system and around gaskets (if applicable), as these are a common culprit in causing work to not be held down properly. If the material you’re cutting isn’t perfectly flat, you’ll have a much more difficult time completely securing it for the duration of the project.

Proper vacuum pump sizing is key to vacuum hold-down success. The numbers have to make sense for the size of the working area you’re using. Be sure to consult a CNC professional to make sure you are using a properly sized system.

It may be necessary to mechanically secure materials or parts depending on the material or the size of the parts.

Performing proper maintenance

As with any high-powered technical machine, CNC routers need to be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis in order to ensure continual functionality. If not properly maintained, dirt, dust, and debris can build up in the machine and cause errors in operation.

Materials can start to slide which can lead to errors in precision – among other things. Along with regular cleaning, lubrication of moving parts will also ensure nothing is sticking during operation and that everything is moving as smoothly as it should be.

Making sure your router is in working shape before every use will help achieve the best result and will save you from wasting time and scrap on rerunning projects.

Streamline your shop’s production with ShopSabre

ShopSabre delivers the best CNC routers in the industry at the best value. Our products are proudly made in the USA and built with top-rated technology to provide a lasting edge in your shop. Get a quote today to start making the most of your operation.

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