What Materials Can Be Worked in a CNC Router Machine?

What Materials Can Be Worked in a CNC Router Machine?

A computer numerical control or CNC router machine allows computer-driven cutting tools to work on materials carving in three dimensions. It offers several advantages, such as repeatable cuts, extreme precision and the ability to work on materials for a CNC router.

Also known as a milling machine, a CNC router machine can serve as a platform for engraving and cutting various metallic and non-metallic materials. For example, manufacturers use it to carve aluminum, acrylic and wood.

Different Types of CNC Router Materials

Since CNC routers can be used to carve a wide variety of materials, they can be used for any number of applications. For example, it can manufacture other engine parts using different steel blocks. In addition, they can be used for architectural millwork, cabinet making, sign making, metal fabrication and plastic fabrication.

The applications vary depending on the material the router has to work with. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the different material options you can work with to create the desired final parts you want to produce.


A CNC router machine can work with a variety of wood. Certain types of wood can be considered composite materials with resins, lignin cellulose and other materials included within its structure. A well-designed router can efficiently cut through all wood and wood derivatives, such as plywood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF).

Manufacturers use this machine to produce MDF and plywood furniture, signs, plywood industrial pieces, molds for thermoforming and other wooden articles. Wood has a low-level hardness, perfect for automated manufacturing processes using a CNC router.

However, the low ductility of this material causes chipping as you work on different wood pieces. This feature allows you to vacuum the excess wooden components in your work area easily.

Composite Laminates

You need to provide extra care when working on composite laminates like fiberglass, carbon fiber and plywood. You may encounter delamination of the layers as the router cuts through the material.

As a preventive measure, you can observe how cracks form when you attempt to pry the edge of the material. Cracks can spread along the shortest path along the edges (cross-layer failure) and spread across the plane of the entire sheet (delamination failure).

You can prevent this effect using a compression end on the material before you begin cutting. This method requires the application of pressure on the top and bottom sides of the material’s edge prior to carving or cutting.

Plexiglass and Acrylic

CNC routers can also engrave and cut on plastic materials such as plexiglass and acrylic. Some of its most common applications include:

  • The manufacturing of industrial parts.
  • The development of parts for LED lighting.
  • The creation of advertising materials.
  • The manufacturing of signages and souvenirs.

CNC routers have a better depth capacity compared to other tools. It can create engravings more than 25 mm or 1-inch thick. The hardness of plexiglass and other similar material is also not an issue for this tool since it can cut through them quickly and efficiently.

Polymer Foam

CNC routers don’t produce any noticeable wear at the ends of polymer foam, which is favorable for manufacturers. This allows manufacturers to build more complex shapes using this type of material. You can use CNC routers with different types of polymer foam to produce test geometry, aesthetic materials and custom packaging.

Steel, Brass, and Aluminum

Aluminum and brass are two of the most common metals you can work on with a CNC router. These router machines can have various blades and bits, allowing manufacturers to carve and cut with more power. You can use your router to engrave on steel with the correct setup.

Some of the applications include the following:

  • The production of door and window parts made of aluminum or brass.
  • Steel or brass parts for industrial machinery.
  • Manufacturing aluminum or brass parts for lighting fixtures.
  • The display of signs and other advertising materials requiring steel, aluminum or brass.

However, there are caveats when working on these metals. For instance, you need to adjust the router settings depending on the ambient temperature in your work area. These materials can heat up while you cut or engrave them. The metal surface can become more ductile, deforming the surface, which results in inaccurate cuts.

Soft and Hard Plastics

Soft and hard plastics like low-density polyethylene and poly methyl-methacrylate are excellent materials to use with a CNC router. They can be made into various parts and tools with multiple applications across various industries. However, you should cut these materials using less aggressive channels, so they don’t get deformed due to overheating.

Ceramic and Stone

Tile, sandstone, granite and sedimentary stone can be processed using a CNC router. However, since these materials are stiff and hard, it is best to use harder abrasive ends when working on them. You can use chip breakers, carbide or ends with embedded diamond.

Get Optimum Results with CAMaster CNC Solutions

CAMaster manufactures some of the best CNC router machines in the US, catering to companies of any size. Reach out to us if you need help figuring out which type of CNC router best suits the materials you’re working with.