The early 1990s saw the onslaught of the personal computer, or PC. The use of CNC metal working routers began to take shape for the small shop and home use. Prior to that time, the CNC controllers were the size of five or six full sized refrigerators and required a large cooling unit to keep the heat out of the electrical workings. Through the development of Motion Control cards that fit into the PCI slot of the home computer the revolution began. Programs now exist were the operator of a CNC bench top metal working router can draw a design in 3-D and click the mouse for the machine to cut it out.
There are two basic types of a CNC metal working routers, whether it is a full sized industrial or a small bench top model. The three-axis router allows all three axes, X, Y and Z to be controlled by the computer and servomotors. The servomotors drive the axis to a determined spot and begin the cutting. The X-axis is the width of the router table, Y-axis is the length of the table and the Z-axis is the depth or up and down stroke of the tool head. The tool head is a motor driven router that rotates the tool for the removal of material, much like a wood router. A two-axis machine is only driven in the X and Y direction while the Z is either manually controlled or set by a predetermined depth of the operator. Only a three-axis machine is completely automatic.
The CNC metal working bench top router can perform a large variety of tasks depending on the drawing software that is used to generate the code to drive the axes of the machine. Letters for signs, perfect circles and elaborate fitting pieces can be created on the bench top router. Small intricate carvings that show the smallest detail can be done with the proper tooling in the router's bit holder.
Bench top models can range in size from something that is no bigger than a modern day printer to ones that cover the size of the kitchen table. The size depends on the material that is desired to be cut. Material for small finger rings, address signs and lawn ornaments can fit in most bench top models.
The precision of a machine controlled by a computer can be the most stunning effect of all, when someone first uses this type of device. To watch the piece take shape before your eyes, from a computer drawing can be most humbling. The detail and quickness of the metal working bench top router can create finished materials that resemble a fine artistic hand. The give away though, between machine done and hand done, is the lack of imperfections by the CNC machine.
Not all use of the CNC metal working bench top routers is a bed of wonderful roses. It does take time to understand the workings of the software and how to hold down the material to be cut. Fine intricate detail takes fine intricate tooling to perform the task. This tooling can run into many dollars for just one tool bit. One mis-step in programming and the tool can be rendered into a piece of scrap in less than a microsecond. Frustration and joy can be in the same moment as a piece comes together under the guidance of the computer driven machine. Today's technology has truly made these CNC metal working bench top routers a tool for small business owners and the home hobbyist.