How the CNC Router Differs from the Handheld Router and Its Benefits

CNC routers are some of the most popular wood working tools among woodworkers. They are simply automated cutting solutions that help boost productivity and enhance the quality of manufacturing processes. Routers have the ability to cut a variety of materials, ranging from wood to aluminium. With CNC routers, even the most unique manufacturing needs are well met. They offer the required versatility and efficiency in woodworking. We will cover in detail how the CNC router differs from the handheld router and its benefits.

What is CNC Machine?

The acronym CNC stands for Computer Control Numeric. It is a general term that denotes various processes that are utilised in manufacturing. As for the CNC router, it is a wood-cutting device that is completely controlled and manipulated using a computer or a laptop. The tool is not only used for cutting wood, but it is also used in cutting some other materials such as plastic and metal.

Types of CNC Routers

There are various types of CNC routers, they include:

  • Industrial CNC Routers: They make up approximately 80% of CNC routers available in the market. Most woodworking companies have these types of tools and use them for mass production of products such as signs, furniture, doors, and many others.
  • Mid Range CNCs: They are as accurate and precise as the industrial category and have same internal components. The only difference lies in their size. They are a bit smaller and lighter when compared to the industrial CNC routers.
  • Hobby CNCs: These are homemade CNCs. The owner themselves designs and makes these routers. The woodworker can download various plans or buy a plan. Each of these types of machines will have a unique design and built based on the parts used and the budget.
  • Specially designed CNC routers: Are CNC routers that are designed for specific purposes. They include Multi Axis CNCs and Specialty CNCs.

When to Use CNC Routers

There are scenarios when it makes sense to use a CNC router. These include:

  • Projects that require high precision: This is the major advantage of CNC routers. They deliver precise and accurate cuts with no variation from piece to piece.
  • Productivity: CNC routers are a huge advantage if you want to focus mainly on productivity. They save a lot of labour, time, and ultimately money.
  • Uniformity in quality: CNCs delivers exact copy products and thus they are ideal for maintaining quality in production. If you desire to maintain quality in production then they are the best option.

Advantages of CNC Routers

  • The major advantage with CNC routers is the fact that they can be operated continuously and will only be switched off when maintenance practices are to be carried out. They offer high-class accuracy and generally reduce the amount of waste.
  • These tools offer immense advantages with its technology allowing innumerable products to be built out of it.
  • It is quite a breeze to update your CNC router. Software packages for advancement make it so much easier to upgrade this power tool. They do not require the woodworker to purchase a prototype and one person can supervise several units of these tools with no need for manual operation. Once programmed, CNC routers deliver outstanding results.
  • The woodworker gets some other benefits from the suppliers. For instance, its virtual application coaches the user on how to use the tool. You realise within no time that you can work easily with the machine.
  • CNC routers are highly efficient. Unlike other wood routers, these machines require a few people to operate the machines. One person can handle several machines making it much cheaper to mass produce at a lower cost. They are the most effective in production and critics think they promote being out of work.
  • These routers are ideal for any skill level. Unlike other types of wood routers that require experience and skill to handle, these machines can be handled even by amateur wood workers. They can take the position of the skilled carpenter.

Difference between CNC Routers and Handheld Routers

Difference in How they are Controlled

This is the most notable difference between CNC and handheld routers. CNC routers are controlled by computer programs that are usually pre-programmed. Some other CNC machine programs can also be added by the user. Since CNC machines are automated they are generally preferred in handling woodworking operations that require mass production of exact copies of products. The handheld ones are controlled manually and may not deliver exact copies of the same product. However, CNC machines need special training, unlike handheld routers.

Functional Differences

There is a wide difference between CNC and handheld routers when it comes to pure woodwork. CNCs are capable of producing highly detailed work within a very short time. With handhelds, they come with the single cutting head which is unlike CNCs that have up to five. Therefore, with CNCs you can mass produce detailed woodwork.

Applicability Differences

Top grade CNC routers are generally ideal for industrial level applications and come at a higher price. Therefore, most woodworkers would rather settle for lower grade CNCs or use handhelds in handling the top grade CNC router work. In doing this, it takes the wood worker a longer time to complete the project. The second impact is that it results in wearing out of the router before its time. This is the long run will cost more in repairs than the amount used for buying a top grade CNC router. One rule to always remember is: buy only what you need.

Price Differences

Handheld routers are so much cheaper when compared to CNCs. You can get a handheld router under $1000 whereas a top grade CNC router may cost you up to $250,000. CNCs are highly priced due to their impressive capabilities. You can get a well-functioning top grade CNC router at a lower price by purchasing it from a professional seller who deals in used machines.


If thinking of buying a CNC router but just feel overwhelmed by the many guides about these machines, do not worry. Just like using other hand tools, it is quite easy to learn and use these machines. Once you understand all that is required to build or operate these machines, it becomes quite exciting to own and operate one.

  • Updated September 10, 2017
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