A CNC router is a machine that is able to cut complex shapes like a milling machine. Unlike the milling machine I have now, allowing something to be computer controlled would allow one to cut out complex arcs and, if needed, make the same cutout over and over without any human interaction.
Unfortunately, these machines run in the tens of thousands of dollars for a professionally built one. Since this was out of my budget, the two other options would be to build one myself or build one from a kit. As I have little experience with routers, I opted for the second one.
I have read quite a few reviews on routers, and decided that a good cost-effective model would be the Zen Toolworks 7×12 router frame along with the associated control board, power supply, and switches. The kit itself runs for $399.99, which is only $70 more than the 7×7 inch model. The extra 5 inches should give this machine quite a bit of extra capacity, so it seems like a good place to start. Although this is an incredible price for a CNC machine frame, keep in mind that you will need to purchase software and other electronics, which will probably run around $800 without a computer.
Over the next couple of days/weeks I’ll be outlining my experience building this machine and when my impressions are of it starting with an “unboxing” section. I’ve started the build, and so far it seems to be a solid machine, but check back for the full review/assembly outline.
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Update 10/13/2011: This CNC machine is up and running. Check out the mechanical assembly, or the latest post on cutting out a “random tree” model. All of the posts are found in the CNC section of jcopro.