The right job for the tool

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CNC router

The CNC router is for cutting and shaping large flat pieces of wood, metal or softer materials working from a 3D model or 2D design file. It can carve solid shapes, cut out outlines and engrave surface designs.

Use it if:

  • You want to cut a large solid piece from a flattish piece of material

Don't use it if:

  • You want very fine detail (use the Roland mill, or one of the CNC axminster mills once operational)
  • You want a tall workpiece over 100mm (?) thick
  • You need a flat piece cut from thin wood/plastic sheet with fine detail (the laser can do this better)
  • You only need to drill round holes in a workpiece (use the pillar drill)

Laser cutter

The laser cutter can quickly and accurately cut flat shapes from sheets of wood, acrylic, paper, leather and other flat materials by burning a narrow hole through the material.

Use it if:

  • You want a 2D shape cut from a sheet of material less than 10mm thick

Don't use it if:

  • Your material is overly flammable, or will release harmful gases when cut (this includes PVC and rubber)
  • You need a three-dimensional form (use one of the CNC milling machines)
  • You need to cut metal

3D printer (Makerbot, UP!)

The 3D printers can produce a plastic model from a 3D design file by forming successive layers of plastic on a flat bed. They can produce a variety of shapes but often take a long time to do it.

Use the 3D printer if:

  • You want a plastic part produced to a complex shape which you can model using CAD software or download from the internet

Don't use if:

  • You need a part made from a stronger material- our 3D printers only work with ABS and PLA
  • You need to make something that wouldn't fit in a shoebox
  • You need something made quickly, or particularly cheaply- expect to spend hours and several pounds on 3D prints
  • You need very precise dimensions (use a CNC mill or hand tools)