3D printers are the darlings of the maker community, because they are affordable, easy to use, and very versatile. But they aren’t suited to every job. If you need to fabricate metal parts, you should use a CNC mill. If you need to cut large parts from wood, you should use a CNC router. But both of those machines are expensive, which is why Ivan Miranda has been building his own using 3D-printed parts. He has designed a few CNC mills and routers over the years with varying degrees of success, but his most recent 3D-printed CNC router is the biggest yet.
3D printers fall under the umbrella of “additive manufacturing,” meaning that material builds up to form the final part. CNC mills, routers, lathes, punches, etc. are “subtractive manufacturing” tools, because material gets removed from a large piece of stock to form the final part, like a sculptor carving a statue from marble. CNC mills have powerful motors and can machine metals with a very high level of precision. CNC routers are often less precise and can only handle soft materials like wood, but they are quite large. It is common for a CNC router to have a table big enough for an entire 4×8 foot sheet of plywood.
Miranda’s newest creation is a CNC router and it is very large, though not quite big enough for a full sheet of plywood. It is 4 feet wide, but only about 6 feet long. However, the ends of the machine are open so full-size sheets can slide in. That means Miranda can cut a full sheet, he just has to do so in two jobs. He constructed the frame using a combination of aluminum extrusion and 3D-printed parts designed in Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD software. The spindle is a handheld Makita router, which has plenty of power for cutting through wood. As you can see in the video, this CNC router works quite well and Miranda is now able to cut huge parts from plywood and other soft materials. If you want to make your own CNC router, Miranda is selling the plans on his website.