best wood cnc machine usage
Assuming you’re planning on working with wood in your CNC router, the best place to start is to learn how wood behaves with cutting tools. First starting with hand tools, then moving to powered hand tools and stationary machines and finally moving on to the CNC Router.
Wood is what we call an orthotropic (or anisotropic) material meaning that depending on the orientation, it has different material properties. This does seriously affect cutting strategies etc. Learning to plane wood using a hand plane immediately illustrates that there’s a right direction and wrong direction to cut wood.
Once you have a grasp of how wood behaves when cutting you can move on to learning the router.
Control Software - your CNC router will have a controller and control software that actually runs the machine - you’ll have to learn the specifics of the control software for your machine. Jogging the machine, loading files, Homing, Zeroing…..
CAD software - to cut something with a CNC machine, you must first be able to draw that part using CAD software (yes, you can write G-code by hand but there’s little point in doing that these days).
CAM software - you have your part drawn in CAD, now you’ll use CAM software to generate the tool paths to be followed by your router using your CAM software.
G-code - this is the actual language understood by the CNC router control software. It’s very basic and very easy to learn. While it’s no longer necessary to write g-code by hand, it’s helpful to know the basic commands so you know what’s happening when something goes wrong, or you might want to modify the program by hand rather than heading back to the CAD/CAM computer.
Work holding - one of the most challenging things to do when using a CNC router is to figure out how you’ll be holding the work when cutting. Vacuum is very useful but it doesn’t work for all parts.
Feeds and speeds - when it comes time to generate those tool paths, you need to tell your software how fast to cut it. Again, Google is your friend here. Cut too slow and you’ll dull your tool prematurely. Too fast and your part could move, you might stall your spindle or you might break a tool.
Those are the basic things you’ll need to know to operate your machine. You don’t have to be an expert to get started but you’ll want to have at least a very basic knowledge of these topics.
Once you’ve skimmed these topics, you can start playing with your machine. Jog it around. Write a simple g-code file to cut a square and “air cut” it. Air cut means that you don’t actually cut anything, just cut “air”.
Now, don’t let your lack of knowledge keep you from starting - pick a simple project, e.g. engraving your name in a piece of wood and give it a go: Draw the part it CAD. Generate the G-code with your CAM software, Post the file and try cutting it out. Use the simulation a lot!