Comprehensive Guide to Using CNC Routers: Steps, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance

In the contemporary era, the essence lies in optimizing your valuable time. Achieving precision in the minimum possible time invariably leads to maximized profits. Irrespective of whether you are an enthusiast or a business proprietor, …

Comprehensive Guide to Using CNC Routers: Steps, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance

In the contemporary era, the essence lies in optimizing your valuable time. Achieving precision in the minimum possible time invariably leads to maximized profits. Irrespective of whether you are an enthusiast or a business proprietor, when it comes to imparting a sleek professional appearance while cutting or carving your design on wood or metal, a judiciously selected computer-controlled cutting machine is invariably the ideal choice. We understand that selecting the appropriate computer numerical controller can be a daunting task, especially for novices. Fear not, with well-structured categories, Hymson Laser has compiled some of the finest CNC routers that can cater to both hobbyists and professional business owners.

Why Should You Rely on Hymson Laser?

The market is inundated with thousands of precise cutting tools, making it a challenging task to procure the desired item you wish to possess. Fear not, Hymson Laser is here to guide you.

Hymson Laser offers customers a variety of practical and cost-effective machines. Regardless of your requirements, you can make a final price and service comparison, and decide which brand or supplier will be your ultimate choice. We offer an integrated R&D, design, sales, manufacturing, and service system, and provide round-the-clock online and offline service for pre-sale, in-sale, and after-sales service and support. You can purchase custom CNC routers with free designs from us. Compared with local services near you, you can also avail door-to-door service from Hymson Laser.

Comprehensive Guide to Using CNC Routers: Steps, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance

What Is It?

A CNC router is an automated power tool equipped with a computer numerical controller for smart cutting and milling of wood, MDF, plywood, foam, stone, ceramic, plastic, steel, copper, brass, aluminum, and other metals. It is used by hobbyists, home shops, small businesses, school training, commercial use, and industrial manufacturing. It operates with an automatic controller that transmits the designed and layout file information and converts the data into machine-readable G-code through a computer to drive the X, Y, and Z axes to accomplish the task with router bits for creating 2D, 2.5D, 3D projects with extreme precision and complexity. This automated kit is a significant upgrade compared to a handheld edition. It is also known as a computer numerical controller, C and C router kit, computerized router machine, computer-controlled router table.

A CNC router kit comprises a controller, software, operating system, machine frame (bed), spindles, gantry, motor, driver, guide rail, ball screw, power supply, T-slot table or vacuum table, vacuum pump, collet, limit switch, rack & pinion, and additional accessories & parts.

Technical Parameters

Brand: Hymson Laser

Table Sizes: 2′ x 2′, 2′ x 3′, 2′ x 4′, 4′ x 4′, 4′ x 6′, 4′ x 8′, 5′ x 10′, 6′ x 12′

Axis: 3 Axis, 4th Axis, 4 Axis, 5 Axis

Capability: 2D Machining, 2.5D Machining, 3D Machining

Materials: Wood, Stone, Foam, Metal, Aluminium, Copper, Brass, Plastic, Acrylic

Types: Hobby Computerized Router Kits for Home Use and Industrial Computer Controlled Router Machine for Commercial Use

Software: ArtCAM, Type3, Cabinet Vision, CorelDraw, UG, Solidworks, MeshCAM, AlphaCAM, UcanCAM, MasterCAM, CASmate, PowerMILL, Fusion360, Aspire, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor## Controller

DSP, Ncstudio, Mach3, Mach4, OSAI, Siemens, Syntec, LNC, FANUC

Price Range: $2,580 – $150,000

OEM Service: X, Y, Z Axis Working Area

Optional Parts: Dust Collector, Vacuum Pump, Rotary Device, Mist-Cooling System, Servo Motors, Colombo Spindle

How Many Types?

When it comes to expanding your own business or showcasing your creativity, it is crucial that you select the right type of machine that is specifically designed to accomplish the task you want to be done. In general, a computer-controlled cutting machine is categorized according to the axes types that the machine possesses. Many other subcategories can also be made. Here are some of the popular categories that will sum it all.

  • Hobby Router Kits (mini types, small types, portable types, desktop types, benchtop types, tabletop types)
  • Large Industrial Router Kits (wood, metal, stone, foam, plastic, aluminum, and glass).
  • Based on Axis Features (3 axis types, 4th axis (rotary axis) types, 4 axis types, 5 axis types, and multi-axis types.

A CNC router table is a type of automatic workbench kit with all the parts and accessories needed to build the complete mechanical portion of a standard machine tool. The most common types of table kits (by feet) include 2×2, 2×3, 2×4, 4×4, 4×6, 4×8, 5×10, and 6×12. The types are also known as 16×16, 16×24, 24×24, 24×36, 24×48, 48×48, 48×96, 60×120, 80×120, 80×160 in inches. Someone might refer to a tabletop as 4040, 6040, 6060, 6090, 1212, 1218, 1224, 1325, 1530, 2030, 2040 in terms of millimeters (mm).

DIY Router Table Building Plans

Inches: Feet: Millimeters (MM)

24″ x 24″: 2′ x 2′: 600 x 600

24″ x 36″: 2′ x 3′: 600 x 900

24″ x 48″: 2′ x 4′: 600 x 1200

48″ x 48″: 4′ x 4′: 1200 x 1200

48″ x 72″: 4′ x 6′: 1200 x 1800

48″ x 96″: 4′ x 8′: 1300 x 2500

60″ x 120″: 5′ x 10′: 1500 x 3000

72″ x 144″: 6′ x 12′: 2000 x 4000

How Does It Work?

A CNC router machine is a smart computer-controlled cutting tool that operates automatically with at least three axes of X, Y, and Z to accomplish the task, which is an upgrade version from the handheld router and digital router. The X-axis is horizontal, the Y-axis vertical, and the Z-axis refers vertical to the other two axes. A computer controller reads G-code or other machine language instructions and drives a tool for motion control. The spindle holds the tool, moves along X, Y, and Z axis, following the tool path generated by the software. In the 3-axis machine, the tool is always vertical, and undercuts are not possible. Additionally, the 3-axis kit can be equipped with a rotary axis (4th axis) around the X, Y, and Z axis, which is known as an automatic lathe machine. It is primarily used for cylinder carving & cutting projects and some 3D projects. A genuine 4-axis machine has one additional axis, which refers to X-Y-Z-A, X-Y-Z-B, X-Y-Z-C. Four axes are linked, which can work simultaneously. 5-axis has two additional axes, which refers to X-Y-Z-A-B, X-Y-Z-A-C, X-Y-Z-B-C. The machine moves a tool on five different axes at the same time. The spindle can be rotated left and right by 180 degrees around. These additional axes allow for shorter project time due to their capability of carving five edges of the material simultaneously. The position is determined by a computer. The computer will instruct the motors how much to move in each direction. Any location within the work area can be defined by using the method of positioning. The machine can be moved within that space, and the machine is connected to a computer, the computer will instruct it where to move. First, the operator should create the tool path, the operator uses CAD (Computer-Aided Design) & CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software to draw the shapes and create the tool path that the machine will follow.

Overall, when you have plans in your mind, what kind of table sizes should be chosen? Which all depends on your needs and budget.

What Is It Used For?

Computer-controlled router machines are used for woodworking, sign making, furniture, cabinetry, fixtures, custom millwork, channel letters, model making, joinery, orthotic manufacturing, point-of-purchase (pop), jewelry manufacturing, CAD/CAM instructional, prosthetic manufacturing, educational, solid surface production, prototyping, radius mouldings, aerospace, foam packaging, countertop production, plastic packaging equipment manufacturers, mannequin production, metal working, musical instrument manufacturers, packaging, store fixtures, boat building, extrusions cutting boards, PCB fabricators, safety enclosures, conveyor manufacturers, engraving, pool cues, magnetic, gun stock manufacturers, knife template manufacturing, fan blade manufacturers, pistol grip manufacturers, korbal manufacturers, kneuls manufacturing, artistic carvings, name tags, MDF doors, puzzles in industrial manufacturing, small business, small shop, home business, home shop, school education, hobbyists, and SMBs.

Applied Materials

CNC routers, exemplified by the Hymson Laser line of products, are sophisticated, computer-controlled machining tools that offer the capability to cut and mill a diverse range of materials. These include, but are not limited to, various types of wood, foam, plastic, acrylic, stone, and a plethora of soft metals.

Wood Types

Solid and Hardwood: These routers can handle a wide variety of hardwoods, including but not limited to redwood, cherry, cottonwood, ash, oak, pine, birch, mahogany, poplar, beech, hard maple, walnut, teak, purple heart, tigerwood, hickory, leopardwood, cocobolo, bloodwood, aspen, basswood, alder, yellow birch, red elm, beech, cypress, gum, hackberry, pacific coast maple, pecan, red oak, bolivian rosewood, sycamore, sassafras, white oak, hondura mahogany, black walnut, spanish cedar, african padauk, willow, and wenge.

Softwood: Softwoods such as soft maple, pine, fir, hemlock, cedar, spruce, and redwood can also be processed.

Composite Wood: Composite materials like MDF, OSB, LDF, plywood, masonite, particle board, and melamine are within the capabilities of these routers.

Other Materials

Plastic: A variety of plastics, including ABS, PVC, PET, polyethylene, polycarbonate, polypropylene, polystyrene, cast and extruded acrylic, uhmw, phenolic, luan, vhmw, hdpe, mica, acetate, sintra, lucite, marine PVC, nylon, lexan, wood plastic, and solid surface materials can be processed.

Stone: Stone materials such as tombstone, granite, natural marble, milestone, jade, artificial stone, bluestone, sandstone, and ceramic tile can be worked on.

Metal: Metals like copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, honeycomb aluminum, mild steel, and stainless steel are within the processing range.

Foam: Various types of foam, including sign foam, polyethylene, polyurethane, polystyrene, EVA, styramfoam, urethane, precision board, foam rubber, and silicone rubber can be processed.

Other Materials: Other materials that can be worked on include PCB, ren board, fiberglass, vinyl coated panels, machinable wax, mat board, butter board, gypsum, magnetic rubber mats, composites, leather, wood veneers, mother-of-pearl, delrin, rubber, and modeling clay.

Cost Implications

The cost of CNC machines, such as those from Hymson Laser, is influenced by several factors including table sizes, features, durability, performance, quality, assembly, and optional accessories. Other factors that impact the cost include customer service and support from different manufacturers and brands, tax rates, customs, and shipping costs from different countries. The cost of these machines is therefore highly variable and dependent on your specific needs.

A DIY kit can start at around $1,800 for your own building plans. Small entry-level kits for hobbyists range from $2,380 to $5,080, while some large format types can be as expensive as $6,780. Professional tables for enthusiasts range from $3,280 to $18,000, depending on the machine’s features and capabilities. Enterprise and industrial CNC machines for commercial use range from $16,000 to $150,000.


TypeMinimum PriceMaximum PriceAverage Price
3 Axis Types$2,380$22,800$5,280
4th Axis (Rotary Axis) Types$2,580$25,980$6,160
4 Axis Types$22,800$37,800$26,120
5 Axis Types$80,000$150,000$101,200

Parts & Accessories

A well-programmed CNC kit, such as those offered by Hymson Laser, is constructed with a machine bed frame, X, Y table (T-slot table or vacuum table), spindle, gantry, ball screw, guide rail, vacuum pump, driver, motor, controller, operating system, software, collet, rotary 4th axis, limit switch, power supply, and rack and pinion.

The best machine tool kits are built on the brand and quality of the core hardware, and what software is used.

Spindle Motor

The spindle motor is the heart of the machine and is used for high-speed cutting, milling, carving, engraving, and drilling, spanning a wide range of industries. The machine is generally equipped with a high-performance spindle to fulfill its role. When the spindle is working, high-speed rotation will generate a lot of heat. If the heat is not dissipated in time, it will have a significant impact on the service life of the spindle, and in severe cases, the spindle will be burned. There are two main cooling methods for the spindle: water cooling and air cooling.

Machine Beds & Components

The manufacturing process of machine beds and components is crucial. High-power machinery requires the body to be precise and stable when working. Therefore, long-term high-power machining should use the casting body to ensure its accuracy and stability.

CNC Controllers

CNC controllers are generally divided into two types: one type of controller is only driven, and all computing operations are completed by a computer. The computer is in a waiting state while the machine is working, and cannot perform typesetting work. Another type of controller is controlled by a single board computer or a single-chip computer.

Ball Screw & Guide Rails

Ball screw and guide rails are also important parts. High-quality ball screw and guide rails are the guarantee of machining precision and performance when the machine is used for a long time.

Table Kit

The table kit is mainly divided into the table top of aluminum profile (T-slot fixturing table) and the table top of vacuum adsorption. The workpiece on the T-Slot table needs to be fixed manually with rivets, while the vacuum table can automatically fix it.


The CAD/CAM software are free, cracked, or paid, all depends on your requirements. The most common software includes Type3, ArtCAM, Aspire, AutoCAD, Cabinet Vision, CorelDraw, UG, Solidworks, PowerMILL, and Fusion360.

How to Operate a CNC Router

The operation of a CNC router has often been a concern for many prospective customers. In the minds of many, it is perceived as a fully automated machining equipment capable of making precise cuts. The complexity of operating such a high-precision computerized router machine can be daunting, causing people to shy away from learning and understanding it. However, CNC routing is not as difficult as it may seem. With dedicated learning and understanding, even beginners can easily use it without any difficulties.

Now, let Hymson Laser introduce the five operation steps in detail as a reference.

Step 1: Start the Machine

  1. Turn on the power of the control computer and monitor, and start the software.
  2. Press the power switch to turn on the machine.
  3. Turn on the spindle motor cooling water pump and check the cooling water flow.
  4. If it is the first time turning on the machine today, depress the handle of the lubricating oil injector once and add lubricating oil to the lubricated parts.
  5. Perform the mechanical origin return operation in the software to eliminate any possible collisions before operation.
  6. Manually move each feed axis 1 to 2 times back and forth within the full stroke.

Step 2: Clamping the Workpiece

  1. Place the cushion material in the center of the workbench.
  2. Position the workpiece to be processed on the mat.
  3. Use at least 4 sets of pressure plates to firmly fix the workpiece on the worktable.
  4. Check whether the workpiece is clamped securely.
  5. Find the edge and set the workpiece origin:5.1. Move the spindle along the feed axis to accurately set the origin until the tool touches the workpiece.

    5.2. Start the spindle.

    5.3. Switch to single-step movement with a step size of 0.01mm or 0.05mm.

    5.4. Move the spindle in one step until the rotating tool touches the workpiece. A slight noise will be heard at this point.

    5.5. Set the workpiece coordinates to zero for this axis or record the current machine coordinates.

    5.6. Move the axis to move the tool away from the workpiece, and ensure that the moving direction is correct.

Step 3: CNC Tool Changing

  1. Disconnect the power to ensure that the spindle motor stops.
  2. Move the spindle to a position where it is easy to change the cutter, and place a soft material directly under the cutter to avoid damaging the cutting edge in case the cutter falls.
  3. Fix the spindle with a small wrench and turn the chuck nut clockwise (viewed from top to bottom) with a large wrench, taking care not to hit the cutting edge with the wrench.
  4. If you need to replace the chuck, unscrew the chuck nut and replace the chuck to remove any foreign objects in the machine chuck and chuck nut.
  5. Check whether the cutting edge of the router bit to be clamped is intact.
  6. Install the collet and nut on the spindle.
  7. Insert the bit to be clamped into the hole of the chuck, as far as possible according to the actual situation (but the cylindrical part of the bit cannot be fully inserted), and tighten the nut by hand. Note that this step cannot be reversed from the previous step: do not insert the bit before installing the nut on the spindle.
  8. Tighten the nuts with two wrenches, being careful not to apply excessive force and ensuring that the cutting edge is not hit by the wrench.
  9. Confirm that the wrench is away from the spindle and turn on the power.
  10. Set the bit again and set the Z coordinate of the workpiece origin.

Step 4: Start CNC Programming

  1. Confirm the following:1.1. The bit is firmly clamped.

    1.2. The workpiece origin is correctly set, especially the Z coordinate of the workpiece origin after tool change.

    1.3. The workpiece is clamped securely.

    1.4. The NC program is loaded correctly.

  2. Adjust the feedrate override to about 30% in the software and start programming.
  3. After confirming that there are no abnormal operations, adjust the feedrate override to the normal value.
  4. Ensure that someone is present and on duty during the operation.

Step 5: Shutting Down the Machine

  1. Return to the mechanical origin.
  2. Remove the bit, but allow the chuck nut to remain on the spindle.
  3. Turn off the machine.
  4. Turn off the computer. Note that this step should not be reversed with the previous step.

Router Bits & Tools

The installation and operation of router bits are crucial for achieving accurate cuts. Incorrect installation of bits not only increases wear but also results in decreased accuracy and routing difficulties. Therefore, it is essential to pay careful attention to this process.

Hymson Laser has summarized the following methods for correctly installing router bits and tools.

  1. Before installing the tool, first check the condition of the bit. If there are any defects such as chipping or severe wear, replace the bit with a new one or use it after repair to ensure accurate cuts.
  2. Thoroughly clean the relevant surfaces before installation. Remove any gaskets and burrs, ensuring that no dirt or burrs affect the accuracy of the tool’s installation position.
  3. When clamping the tool with a washer, ensure that the two ends of the washer are as parallel to each other as possible. If the bit is found to be skewed after installation, adjust the position of the washer to minimize cumulative errors. Keep adjusting until the bit does not shake during operation.
  4. Straight shank milling cutters are typically installed with spring chucks. When installing, tighten the nut to make the spring sleeve shrink radially and clamp the shank of the milling cutter.
  5. Installation of taper shank milling cutters: If the size of the taper shank matches the taper hole at the end of the spindle, it can be directly installed in the taper hole and tightened with a tie rod. Otherwise, use transitional taper sleeves for installation.
  6. After inserting the tool holder into the spindle, tighten the bit with the tightening screw. Pay attention to ensuring that the direction of rotation of the bit is consistent with the thread direction of the tie rod. This ensures a tighter connection between the thread of the tie rod and the milling cutter during rotation, preventing the milling tool from coming loose.
  7. Whenever possible without affecting the routing process, position the bit as close to the spindle bearing as possible, and keep the hanger bearing as close as possible to the bit. If the bit is far from the main bearing, install a rack bearing between the spindle bearing and the milling cutter.
  8. When installing the bit, do not remove the key. The presence of the key on the cutter shaft prevents the bit from slipping during milling or heavy-load cutting. Uneven forces during milling can cause the cutter shaft to bend and damage the fixing gasket.
  9. After installing the bit, double-check all related washers and nuts to prevent loosening. Use a dial indicator to check the radial or end runout of the bit, ensuring that it falls within the allowable range.
  10. When the tool axis shaft is removed, it should be hung on the rack to prevent bending and deformation. If it needs to be stored horizontally under special circumstances, use wood chips or soft items as padding to prevent scratches and deformation.

Buyer’s Guide

There are several important factors to consider when choosing the right CNC kit for your specific needs. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional business owner, selecting the appropriate machine is crucial. Here are the top five aspects to help you choose the perfect machine for your application:

  1. Consider your field of work: Different applications have varying demands. Enthusiast wood engravers can achieve their goals with a small or mid-sized computer-controlled router. On the other hand, professional business owners may require larger or multiple machines for heavy-duty wood carving.
  2. Assembly: Most computer-controlled machines come with a complex assembly process. It is essential to have the knowledge and skills to assemble all the parts correctly. If you are not confident in doing the assembly yourself, seek the assistance of a professional mechanic.
  3. Material compatibility: Determine the type of material you will be cutting. Computer-controlled routers can handle wood, plastic, or aluminum, depending on the machine’s capabilities. Choose a machine suitable for the materials you will be working with.
  4. Additional features: Modern machines often come with extra features such as laser engravers, which enhance the visual appeal of designs. Consider these additional features to maximize your production output.
  5. Price: Affordability plays a significant role in the decision-making process. Research machines that fit within your budget and compare their features and capabilities.


While using a CNC machine, you may encounter various issues. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

Alarm Failure

If an over-travel alarm is triggered, indicating that the machine has reached its limit position during operation, follow these steps to resolve the issue:

  1. Check if the designed graphic size exceeds the processing range.
  2. Inspect the connection between the motor shaft and the lead screw for any looseness. Tighten the screws if necessary.
  3. Ensure that the machine and the computer are properly grounded.
  4. Verify that the current coordinate value does not exceed the value range set by the software limit.

Overtravel Alarm Released

When overtravel occurs, all motion axes are automatically set in jog state. By continuously pressing the manual direction key, the machine will leave the limit position (overtravel point switch), and the motion state will be restored.

Note: When moving the workbench, ensure that the direction is far away from the limit position. Clear the soft limit alarm for X, Y, and Z in the coordinate settings.

Non-Alarm Failure

  1. If the repetitive processing accuracy is insufficient, refer to the second item in the first unit for checking.
  2. If the computer is running but the machine is not moving, inspect the connection between the computer control card and the electrical box. Make sure the connection is secure and tighten the fixing screws if necessary.
  3. If the machine cannot find the signal when returning to the origin, check the proximity switch at the origin as it may be malfunctioning.

Output Error

  1. If there is no output, check the connection between the computer and the control box.
  2. Verify that the routing manager’s storage space is not full and delete any unused files.
  3. Check the wiring of the signal lines, ensuring that all connections are secure.

Routing Failure

  1. Check for loose screws in each part of the machine.
  2. Verify the correctness of the path you have processed.
  3. Check if the file size is too large.
  4. Adjust the spindle speed to suit different materials (usually ranging from 8000 to 24000 RPM).
  5. When tightening the tool chuck, turn the tool in one direction and clamp it, ensuring that the bit is upright to avoid uneven routing.
  6. Inspect the tool for any damage. Replace it with a new one if necessary and restart the work.

Care & Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity of your CNC kit. Hymson Laser, with over 10 years of experience in manufacturing CNC machines, has compiled the following care and maintenance guidelines:

Spindle – Core Parts

  1. Provide reliable lubrication adjustment. For oil-air lubrication spindles, ensure a stable lubrication condition. Filter the lubricating oil to prevent impurities and oil mixing. Regularly check the oil level and add oil to avoid oil depletion. Clean the filter element and filter screen regularly.
  2. Maintain reliable cooling conditions. Water-cooled spindles require regular checks on coolant usage and timely replenishment. Air-cooled spindles need periodic maintenance of the spindle air cooling system to prevent malfunctions.
  3. Follow the manual instructions for standardized operation. Familiarize yourself with the selected spindle and its specifications, including rated power and speed. Avoid operating the spindle beyond its rated power to prevent damage and higher maintenance costs. Carefully read the manual and adhere to the recommended operations.

CNC Controller Box

Regularly clean the dust inside the controller box, considering the working environment. Ensure that the power is turned off before cleaning. Excessive dust can lead to wire joint ignition or computer malfunction, resulting in signal errors and misalignment.

Transmission Parts

Transmission parts include guide rails, racks, and ball screws. Clean the machine thoroughly after each use, removing dust from all parts. Machines with automatic pump oil lubrication will oil automatically, but manually pump oil every 3-5 days if using a manual oil pump. Manual oiling machines require lubrication of guide rails and screw rods every 3-5 days.

Note: Use engine oil for guide rails and racks, and high-speed grease for screws. In low-temperature environments, clean rods and polished rods (square or circular rails) with gasoline before applying oil to prevent excessive resistance in the transmission parts, which may lead to machine misalignment.

Motor Drive

CNC machines use stepping motors, hybrid servo motors, or pure servo motors as drive motors. If you notice abnormal noise during machine operation, shut down the machine promptly. Manually run the machine to identify the source of the noise. Contact maintenance personnel or the manufacturer to repair or replace the motor as needed.

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