A CNC wood router uses CNC (computer numerical control) and is similar to a metal CNC mill with the following differences:
- The wood router typically spins faster — with a range of 13000 to 24,000 RPM
- It typically uses smaller tools — typical shank size 20 mm or at most 25 mm.
- It typically uses smaller toolholders MK2 (Morse taper #2 – on older machines),ISO-30, HSK-63 or the tools just get held in a collet tool holder affixed directly to the spindle nose. ISO-30 and HSK-63 are rapid-change toolholding systems. HSK-63 has begun to supplant the ISO-30 as the rapid change standard in recent years.
A wood router is controlled in the same way as a metal mill, but there is a lot of CAM software like Artcam, Mastercam, and Featurecam specifically for wood routers.
Wood with different grain must be approached with unique strategies, and wood CAM software is less likely to need to have hog-out strategies than the metal ones. Wood routers are frequently used to machine other soft materials such as plastics at high speed.
Typical three-axis CNC wood routers are generally much bigger than their metal shop counterparts. 5′ x 5′, 4′ x 8′, and 5′ x 10′ are typical bed sizes for wood routers. But can be built to accommodate very large sizes up to, but not limited to 12′ x 100′. Most table routers use a three motor drive system (xyz) utilizing either servo or stepper motors that drive the router motor via a gantry system. The gantry system isolates the XYZ movement in the top part of the machine with a stationary table holding the workpiece. Many CNC metal mills have the cutter motor moving on the Z axis, and a table which moves in X and Y for added stability.
Many wood routers can run at machining speeds of 25 metres/min (linear) or faster with a few machines such as the Anderson capable of 40 metres/min, Onsrud capable of 86 metres/min.