What Are the Differences Between CNC Mill vs. Router Machines?

Many manufacturers, construction companies, and do-it-yourself enthusiasts use computer numerical control (CNC) machines to simplify their machine operations. However, with various CNC machines available, knowing the differences between each type can help you determine which is best for specific functions. 


Take, for example, the difference between a CNC router and a CNC mill. Knowing the difference between a CNC router vs. mill machine can be crucial in establishing efficiency within your operations. Here’s what you should know about the two. 


What Is a CNC Router?

CNC routers are machines used to cut a wider variety of materials. These include steel, wood, plastic, aluminum, and softer materials such as foam. CNCs can easily be programmed to create accurate and precise cuts, particularly for intricate details, and minimize material waste. 


CNC routers can create outputs with three-dimensional instructions. This makes it useful for manufacturers to develop prototypes or small-scale projects with complex designs. Depending on the user’s needs, you can find CNC routers with up to six axes. 

What Is a CNC Milling Machine?

Milling machines are one of the most commonly used CNC machines. Using computer controls, it can be programmed to perform several tasks using a rotating spindle. Depending on the instructions provided in the CNC, it can selectively remove parts of a material. 


Because of their stronger cutting tools, CNC mills are used for tougher materials like metals. However, they operate much slower than a router, which could affect your operations.

While it can cut materials similar to and harder than those used on a CNC router, it can also function for tasks such as:

  • Face milling (milling cutting is perpendicular to the material)
  • Shoulder milling (creating a plane and 90-degree shoulder on the material)
  • Tapping
  • Drilling
  • Turning


CNC Router vs. Mill: What Are the Differences?

CNC routers and mills can essentially perform similar functions. However, they have several key differences that affect features such as power and performance, especially for those using their CNC machine in industrial or manufacturing settings. 


While they may have similar functions in cutting, it’s important to note the differences between a CNC router vs. mill machine. These are some of the significant differences. 



CNC Router

CNC Milling Machine

What Is It?

Machine similar to a handheld router used specifically for engraving and carving. 

Machine with a rotating spindle used to remove parts from a material and reshape it.

Materials Used

Generally used for softer materials such as wood, plastic, and soft metals like aluminum.

Used for metals of all ranges and thicker materials.

Cutting Area

Bigger than a mill

Smaller than a router

Speed and Accuracy

Less accurate than a mill but performs faster

Comparatively higher accuracy, though requires more time

Best Used for 

3D cutting, engraving, and carving

Cutting thicker and harder materials, reshaping, and selectively removing parts of a material on an X-Y configuration.


Used in manufacturing, woodworking, and other applications that use softer materials.

Used in manufacturing and other large-scale industrial applications. 


Cutting Functions

Generally, CNC routers are designed to cut softer materials. However, softer materials can fall under a wide range – wood, plastic, and even softer metal, like aluminum.


Meanwhile, milling machines are made to cut metal. Milling machines can cut any metal, from soft aluminum to hard titanium. Milling machines can also cut thicker material and create more varied shapes than CNC routers because they can operate horizontally or vertically.


A CNC router is normally mounted on a set table. CNC routers feature a spindle with an X-Y-Z configuration. CNC routers usually have shallow clearance because they are designed to cut flatter materials.


Milling machines, on the other hand, feature an X-Y configuration with a rotating spindle set above the device. The spindle moves on a linear axis with much more clearance than a CNC router. This allows it to handle much larger materials. 

Output and Performance

When cutting softer materials in larger sheets, CNC mills are more precise, though smaller-scale projects can do fine with a CNC router. Milling machines can cut as close as a thousandth of an inch when cutting metal.


The CNC router, however, tends to work faster, so this may be the preferred machine for those who want to speed up production while minimizing material waste and error. Cutting speeds for milling machines are much slower than CNC routers. Milling machines often produce fewer than 1,000 RPMs, while CNC routers are more often up to 18,000 RPMs and higher. Keep in mind, though, that this can depend on the type of machine you’re working with.


CNC Router vs. Mill: Which One Should I Choose?

Considering these differences, here are some factors to help you choose between the two. While they can perform the same function, their differences can affect your operations’ efficiency and performance. 


Choose the CNC router if:

  • You need a larger work surface for more space and flexibility.
  • You aren’t working with tougher or thicker materials that require the additional power of a mill.
  • You’re creating large-format items or using large sheet materials. 


On the other hand, the CNC mill is better if:

  • You are working with harder materials that require rigidity and strength.
  • You need accurate cuts from the CNC mill’s together range of motion. 
  • You are creating parts that require more precision. 

Shop for Quality CNC Routers from CAMasters

Knowing which CNC machine is better for your needs ensures you’re making the most of your investment. This means considering factors such as your operations, the materials you’re working with, your budget, and how you plan to use your CNC machine. 


If you’re shopping for CNC machines and are still unsure about getting a CNC router, feel free to contact CAMaster to discuss your requirements in detail. Our shop carries a versatile range of CNC routers that are optimal for various industries and applications, and we can provide you with recommendations and a quote on our equipment. 


Whether you require an entry-level CNC router or a high-production model, we have machines that exceed your expectations. Our products are covered by lifetime technical support and an impressive warranty to ensure you work with quality equipment that streamlines your process. 


Get in touch with us today to request a quote for high-quality CNC routers.