A desktop computer numerical control (CNC) router, or mini CNC router, is a small, lightweight machine used in manufacturing and woodworking. Depending on the make and model of the desktop CNC router, it is capable of engraving or doing light routing work in various materials, such as plastic, wood, granite, acrylic and non-ferrous metals. As demand continues to grow for this compact machine, the price has consistently been declining, allowing individuals to enter the commercial market or hobbyists to complete home projects.
Typical uses of a desktop CNC router include engraving, instrument making, prototyping and carving. It is used for projects in a variety of industries, such as manufacturing, arts and crafts, decorating and advertising. The purchase of a desktop CNC router instead of a full-size machine is more common among small businesses and hobbyists. Hobbyists purchase desktop CNC routers for projects such as upgrading their homes with elegant cabinetry and furniture, or creating unique toys for their collections.
A standard feature of a desktop CNC router is an engine providing one or two horsepower, running off 120 volts of electricity. This makes the machine convenient to use inside a typical commercial or home workshop. Its compact size also saves on space and storage, as well as cost of transportation. Selecting a machine that does not take up much space is especially important if the business is planning to expand in the near future, since a smaller size machine is easier to shift around or move to a different site.
Limitations may be significant for a desktop CNC router in comparison with industrial CNC routers since the size and lower price generally mean it will have fewer features. Before making a purchase, verify that the machine is able to handle all the functions the business requires and will allow additional functions to be added in the future. Cheap desktop CNC routers usually focus on the needs of a specific industry, material or task, so research should be done beforehand to make sure the proper model is selected.
It is believed that the rising popularity of desktop CNC routers will eventually replace traditional woodworkers. These machines provide the opportunity for ordinary people to create intricate designs in a fraction of the time it takes experienced artisans. Software used in conjunction with a desktop CNC router helps individuals or businesses become top performers. The software provided with the purchase of a CNC router is usually simple to learn and does not require the user to have advanced technical skills.