What is CNC Milling?
A CNC router is a large and powerful router precisely controlled via computer software. It can cut and mill various hard materials, such as wood, composites, aluminium, plastics, and foams. A CNC Router uses a rotating bit to subtractively remove material from stock in order to shape a part by moving the router through the material in three axis or directions, X, Y and Z, or left, right, up and down. By moving the router in all three directions simultaneously allows the creation of three dimensional and curved parts such as site topography, curvilinear forms, or for 2 axis cutting of large materials.
Our CNC Machine
We have a large CNC router made by Multicam, a local Melbourne company. This CNC router has a large bed and the capability to use a variety of tools. This allows the machine to cut and shape a huge range of materials or all different sizes.
- Materials: Timber, Foam, Plastics, Thin metal
- Cutting Area: 2400mm L x 1200mm W x 100mm D
Why use the CNC Machine?
CNC routers are commonly used in industries like cabinet making, sign making, woodworking and furniture fabrication, because they can cut and shape large parts of varying geometry, quickly, precisely and cheaply. This has seen CNC machines become heavily use for application like:
- Industrial Applications: Cabinet making, sign writing, woodworking and furniture fabrication.
- Architectural Applications: Custom facade panels, joinery, moulds for casting, placing fold lines.
- Educational Application: 1:1 structural prototypes, site models, large custom components.
The FabLab offers a range of training to help you learn how the CNC router works, how to setup a file for CNC and how to submit it for processing. This training includes:
The Introduction to CNC playlist, found in the Training Center provides a comprehensive introduction to the technology, file preparation and submission process required for the FabLab. This is an excellent resource to start with.
CNC Introductory Sessions
If you prefer to learn about the fundamentals in person, each week a range of intro sessions are scheduled. For a full list of sessions, check the events page.
CNC Expansion Sessions
If you want to learn advanced techniques with the CNC, these are the sessions for you. Over the semester a range of sessions will be scheduled, each focusing on a particular technique or skill. You can come to one session or all to get a detailed understanding of the tech. For a full list of sessions, check the events page.
You can book a consultation with the FabLab’s experienced staff to get help with complex technical challenges specific to your project. Before making a booking, it is expected that you have completed the Introductory and Expansion sessions and attempted to resolve the problem independently. For a full list of consultation sessions, check the events page.
ABP students and staff are welcome to submit jobs to be processed by FabLab staff using the CNC router. If you are new to the FabLab simply follow the instructions below to submit a job. If you are an old hand at CNC through the FabLab simply submit a job.
Students are not permitted to enter the CNC room unless escorted by a staff member. For any enquiries please ask the Guru or an available staff member. The CNC Router is only operated by trained FabLab technicians, however through Technical Sessions users can be quite involved in the process and learn a lot about the technology.
How to submit
Create a CNC file
In order to use the CNC router, you must have a 3D file. Here are a few ways to get a file:
- Design an object to print in a 3D modelling or CAD program
- Scan an existing object with a 3D scanner.
For help creating your 3D CNC file please visit the Training Center.
Prepare your model for CNC routing
Prepare your model for CNC routing
Before sending a file to the FabLab, you must prepare the file for CNC routing.
- For a successful project please follow the tutorials prepared in the Training Center. Attending the CNC Introductory Sessions and CNC Expansion Sessions are excellent ways to aid your preparations.
- When you have completed the online training you can book a Technical Session with a staff member to further help.
Book a Consultation
Before you submit your first CNC job it is recommended that you book a consultation with a FabLab technician to review your file and ensure it is setup correctly. Please only book this consultation once you have completed all the online Training Centre material. If you are new to the CNC we strongly encourage you to submit a test job early in semester to familiarise themselves with the CNC process prior to submitting your final file.
Submit your job
When you are confident your model has been set up in accordance with FabLab requirements and it has been reviewed during a consultation you can submit it to the FabLab Job Centre. If it is not setup correctly you will be contacted by a FabLab staff member.
Collect from Fablab
You will be notified by email when your job is complete. Please come to the FabLab during opening hours to pay for and collect your job.
CNC milling typically requires post production work. The best way to learn these techniques is in person at one of the expansion sessions.
The CNC is more involved than the laser cutters, as a result we charge for our technician's time in processing and toolpathing the job, this is on top of the material cost and cut time. For large or complex jobs we recommend asking for a cost estimate prior to processing the job
- CNC cutting time costs $0.50 per minute
- CNC toolpathing costs $1.00 per minute
- Materials: Charged by Area of sheet used (material dependent).
My material is not on the FabLab material list; can I still use it?
Other materials may be able to be CNC routed, subject to FabLab approval. Please consult with the FabLab prior to purchase several weeks in advance. You will need to provide a material sample for testing and calibration before we can approve the material usage.
I am ordering material, can I have it delivered to the FabLab?
The FabLab is able to accept deliveries for larger material quantities, please coordinate at least two weeks prior to submitting your job.
I’ve heard CNC routing takes a long time; is that true?
CNC milling jobs can often take hours to complete and are charged on time. It is best practice to submit a test job early in the semester to familiarise yourself with the CNC Routing process. It is important students are aware of this so they can budget accordingly. Additionally, there may be a number of students in the queue for CNC routing so it is best to submit your job as early as possible.
What can CNC routed projects be used for?
The CNC router can be used to create projects including site models, furniture, sculptural and mechanical components.