CNC machines can not only mill or turn, there is also cnc cutting machines. One of the most used equipment in the industry for the production of parts from blocks, plates, sheets, etc., making cuts in different ways. In this guide you will be able to know everything you need to learn to choose this type of machinery for use as a DIY enthusiast or for professional use. Plus, you'll see some great buying recommendations, types (based on how the cut is done), materials they can cut, and more.
Table of Contents
- 1 The best CNC cutting machines
- 2 cnc cut
- 3 Software for CNC cutting and engraving
- 4 Learn More
The best CNC cutting machines
These are the best cnc cutting machines that you can find for DIY, or for professional use, that you can buy at a good price:
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This CNC cutting machine can be multifunction, since it can laser cut, mill, laser engrave, etc. And all with a 7.5W module for engraving and cutting, capable of working with MDF, paper, wood, fabric, plastic, leather, wood, plywood, foam, and anodized aluminum. Based on Arduino and with the NEJE app compatible with iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows.
Includes a integrated protection system, and when the recorder is working the gyroscope will record the working position and if you accidentally touch or move the machine it will stop working to avoid accidents.
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this machine high precision metal laser engraving It can also work as a fast cutter for wood up to 10-15mm thick, acrylic and leather. It has a laser power of 5.5W, with an ultra fine and sharp focus of only 0.06mm. It can also work to carve stone, ceramic and stainless steel. Its protective cover prevents radiation from going outside and you will not have to wear protective glasses.
It is very easy to assemble and use, to have it up and running in less than 30 min. It is compatible with a multitude of software, for macOS and Windows platforms. Accept formats like JPG, PNG, DXF, SVG, G-Code, NC, BMP, etc. And it can work with surfaces up to 410×420 mm.
Atomstack P9 M50
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This other model is also a good engraving machine 10W CO2 laser. Works for wood and metal, being able to even cut up to 20 mm thick wood and with quite high speeds compared to conventional machines. It includes an HD control panel, it is easy to use, effective, and safe thanks to its panoramic filter coating.
This CNC machine is compatible with different engraving software, in addition to accepting file formats such as DXF, PNG, JPG, BMP, NC, etc.
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The next alternative is this other laser engraving machine and also with a cutting function. Allows you to operate with wood and acrylic, and metal, including stainless steel, and ceramic (can cut acrylic and softwood up to 15mm thick). It has great performance, protection screen, good precision, reliability, 5.5W laser power, 0.08×0.08mm focus, and ease of use.
It's compatible with macOS and with Windows, with software like LightBurn, LaserGRBL, etc., and supporting file formats in BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF, NC, and more.
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Finally, you also have this other CNC cutting/engraving machine for jobs up to 41×37 cm. Ideal for DIY, to work wood, leather and vinyl, as well as paper, felt, etc.. It's affordable and easy to use, and has several control modes to get your jobs done at home or for small jobs.
It is compatible with Windows and macOS operating systems, in addition to being able to use it with mobile using Android and iOS/iPadOS. It also allows offline control.
Our cnc cutting machines They can be of very different types depending on the size, the type of cut, and the material they can work on.
laser cutting machine
La laser cutting machine It is one of the types of CNC machines intended for cutting parts that use a very powerful laser beam to make cuts with great precision. These types of machines are usually quite common in the industry, and the results of the cuts are among the cleanest.
When choosing a cnc laser cutting machine several things must be taken into account:
- Focus position and diameter: will influence the intensity of the beam and the shape of the cut.
- laser power: will determine the energy applied for the engraving or cutting of the material. The more power, the greater thicknesses and hardnesses it will be able to cut.
- nozzle diameter: the shape and amount of the gas jet will depend on it.
- Operating mode: laser control applied by pulses or continuously.
- Cutting speed: It will depend on the material, the thickness and the type of cut. In addition, the speed will not only determine the time it takes, it can also generate burrs or roughness if it is not adequate.
- Cutting gases and pressures: various gases are applied from the nozzle, such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen or argon, and with variable pressures.
The laser is mounted on the head like any other CNC tool, but in this case, a laser emits a high-energy thermal beam capable of separating parts during the process. All that beam is concentrated in a tiny point raising the temperature until melting or vaporizing the material. Thanks to this, pieces of different materials can be cut:
- Wood and plywood
- Paper and cardboard
- Plastics (acrylics, POM, PMMA, PVC, polycarbonate or PC, ABS, HDPE, polyethylene, polypropylene, fiberglass,…), not all, as some can burn
- Metal (stainless steel, aluminium,…)
These types of cutters are used for multitude of applications, from the manufacture of medical parts, to art and engravings, jewelry, the manufacture of many different parts, etc.
As for the the advantages of laser cutting are:
- Great precision and clean cuts.
- High level of detail, for complex cuts, small radii of curvature, etc.
- Cost savings by not having to invest in consumables, nor having to carry out polishing or other processes to leave the cutting surfaces well finished.
- It allows to dispense with cutting dies.
- You can work with a wide variety of materials and thicknesses.
- It can also be used at lower power for engraving logos, QR or bar codes, letters, etc. indelible
- Very clean, no contaminants.
- The heat barely affects the area.
- Great versatility.
- The tool does not wear out or lose its properties.
Between the disadvantages of CNC laser cutting machines are:
- It can produce toxic gases in some cases, such as when it is used to cut plastic, since it vaporizes plastic. Therefore, it should be used in a well-ventilated place.
- You are also limited in the type of materials you can use. Materials that reflect a lot of light cannot be cut.
- The consumption of electrical energy can also be a factor to take into account, since the more power of the laser and the larger the size of the machine, the more consumption it will have. In addition, the total consumption of the machine is not the same as that of the laser. For example, there may be a machine with a 5.5W laser and the total consumption of the machine is 30W. Obviously, the industrial ones have much higher powers.
plasma cutting machine
On the other hand, there is also the plasma cutting machine. Another type of very powerful cut, and that uses plasma instead of a laser to make the cut. It is a process widely used in the metal industry, and uses high temperatures of up to 20.000ºC to make cuts easily, even in very high thicknesses. The gas used in these machines is in a plasma state, that is, that gas becomes a conductor of electricity when it is ionized. If it is passed through a fine nozzle facing the cutting area, it can be cut with the high temperature produced by a direct current electric arc and by concentrating the kinetic energy of this gas.
Plasma cutting can be used for metals such as aluminum, copper, stainless steel, steel, bronze, and other metals/alloys. These machines are often widely used in metal workshops or metal carpentry, as well as in the industry that produces metal parts.
Between the main advantages of plasma cutting are:
- It can cut non-ferrous conductive metals, something that other cutting methods such as flame cutting cannot.
- It has fast and efficient cutting speed.
- The precision of this type of cut is greater than the oxyfuel or other types of cut, although not as much as the laser.
- The cost is low of maintenance.
Furthermore, the disadvantages of this type of plasma cutting are:
- It can generate small damages in the cuts. For example, when they are very thick materials, the cut will be V-shaped and not straight.
- If the metal is less than 5mm thick, deformation will occur during cutting due to heat.
- To cut thicknesses of more than 30 mm, high power and expensive sources are needed.
- It produces noise, dust, harmful gases, and pollution, so it is not a clean method.
water jet cutting machine
When the water is projected with sufficient pressure and speed, you can make cuts even in very hard materials. Due to the simplicity of this type of machines and the extreme power they achieve, they are among the most used in the industry. In this case, instead of plasma jets as in the previous ones, water jets are used. The molecules of this liquid will collide with such force that they will transform into projectiles capable of cutting even thick metal.
Unlike other types of cutting, which have some limitations with certain ferrous, non-ferrous, reflecting, etc. materials, in this case you have a machine that can cut it all: meat, wood, metal, plastic, etc., and all in a very versatile, simple and economical way. The operation is simple:
- There is a water tank or water source to power the CNC machine.
- An ultra-high pressure pump will be responsible for putting pressure on the water flow, which can reach up to 6500 bars.
- This water will be channeled through tubes to an extruder nozzle similar to that of 3D printers, causing the water to come out at very high speeds in a very fine jet. They can reach speeds of 4 times the speed of sound, that is, about 1235 km/h times four, or what is the same, about 4 Mach, like some jet fighter planes.
- In some of these machines there is an abrasive injector next to the nozzle, inserting solid materials into the water jet to act as an abrasive element and speed up the cut.
- Pure Water – Can cut softer materials such as foams, plastics, paper, insulation layers, cement board, carpet, foods such as meat, etc.
- Water with abrasive: can cut metals, ceramics, stone, glass, etc.
- This jet will be projected on the surface or piece to be cut supported on the cutting bed or table, and will be able to cut up to 30 cm thick steel beams.
- At the table, the speed of the water will be lowered and it will be collected to return it to be reused.
Our Advantages of this type of CNC water cutting machines they are very interesting:
- It is a cold process, it does not involve heat, so the pieces are not deformed or there are burns.
- It does not use toxic or generate any other problem, just water that can be reused. Abrasives are also usually harmless solids.
- You can get fairly clean cuts in any type of material.
- The thicknesses it can cut are very large, even more than some laser tools.
But this water cut it also has disadvantages:
- Cutting is slow compared to plasma machines.
- The machine is quite expensive compared to others such as plasma and oxyfuel, although they are usually somewhat cheaper than lasers. Above all, it is expensive due to the enormous pressure generated and the security measures it has.
- They are big and heavy machines.
- It consumes enough electric power for the compressor.
CNC flame cutting machine
El oxicorte It is another fairly widespread technique in the metal industry. This type of cut is used for ferrous metal parts such as steel, or others, with great thickness. They can even cut parts that other cutting machines could not cut. Its name comes from the fact that the cut is made by flame oxidation using a gas (it can be hydrogen, acetylene, propane, trethene, crylene, etc.) as fuel and another gas (always oxygen) as an oxidant. And its operation is simple to understand:
- First stage: the gases pass from the liquefied gas tank or cylinder to the cutting head heater where the flame is generated, generating temperatures of up to 900ºC.
- Second stage: an oxygen gas jet (at 6 Bar) will cut the metal by reacting with the iron and generating iron oxide in the reaction (ferric oxide or Fe2O3). As it has a higher melting temperature than steel, this oxide will come off in the form of sparks and the metal will be cut. That is to say, as the torches act, but controlled by CNC.
Our and advantages of this type of court are:
- They are usually not as large as water cutting machines.
- The cutting source does not depend on an electrical outlet, it will only need electrical power for the other subsystems of the machine.
- It is a relatively cheap type of cut. It does not require large investments or expensive maintenance. Only pay for gaseous fuels, which are cheap gases.
As for the disadvantages:
- It is limited to cutting iron and steel, that is, ferrous metals. The material must be a current conductor.
- It's not a very fast cut.
- It is not as precise as other cuts.
- It produces slag that sticks to the cutting edges, although it is not very difficult to clean.
knife cutting machine
Of course, there are also cutting machines using other methods that go beyond the previous ones. For example, some milling cutters, blades, etc. can be used. These types of cuts are usually used for softer materials or when other types of cuts are not possible for some reason.
Software for CNC cutting and engraving
To carry out these cutting and engraving processes by CNC, you can use different software. Some may be the same ones that we saw in previous topics that are also used for other types of machining, however, there are also specific ones. Here are some of the most important:
It is an application of open source, free and which is used for laser cutting and CNC milling tools. It is capable of translating your vector files with the designs to what the machine needs to process it. It accepts quite a few file formats, and it has a fairly active community. It can be run on various operating systems from the browser, as a web service, on Raspberry Pi, Linux, macOS and Windows.
T2Laser is a replacement for Benbox and Elekscam for GRBL-based CNC cutting machines. It supports grayscale images, vector graphics, you will also be able to add images, text, etc., and convert it to G-Code format so that the CNC machine can understand what it needs to do to recreate the design.
LightBurn is another control program for CNC cutting and engraving. It also includes an editor and can be imported even from vector or bitmap images. It is a paid software, although it is not too expensive. It works with most G-Code controllers and has a simple interface.
Inkscape + Endurance plugins / J Tech Photonics
It is a software of open source, free, free, and very powerful. It doesn't have too much to envy Adobe Illustrator, and it's also available for Linux, macOS and Windows. It can also be used to make your vector designs (SVG) and use them on laser cutting machines.
Dassault Systèmes has created this software, as well as his older brother SolidWorks. In this case, you will be able to use this tool for 2D CAD design and you will be able to use your drawings to reproduce them on laser cutting machines. In addition, it can also work with photos JPEG, BMP, PNG, etc. It is not free, you can try it for 30 days for free, and then pay for the license that is paid by annual subscription. Previously it also supported Linux, currently only Windows and macOS.
SwiftCAM is an easy to use software for anyone, even if you only have basic computer skills. It can be used for CNC plasma cutting machines, and you can start with designs created easily and quickly from scratch.
FlashCut also offers powerful, intuitive and flexible standalone software. Have integrated CAD/CAM/CNC tools for the control of this type of cutting machines. It is one of the most adaptable solutions for different industries and can work with plasma cutting, water jet cutting, oxyfuel cutting, laser cutting, CNC routers, milling, turning, 3D printing, knife cutting and other types of automation.
LaserGRBL is another one of the best CNC cutting software for Windows. You can even use a simple image or photo to use as a pattern for engraving or cutting the pieces with the laser machine. It is a software designed for fans, it is free and easy to use compared to others. Regarding compatibility, it is compatible with any GRBL v0.9 or GRBL v1.1 recorder.
It is a kind of CAD/CAM software for plasma cutting on CNC machines. A powerful package, with a nice graphical interface to offer a good work environment, which you can get as an alternative to the previous ones.
- CNC machines: guide to numerical control
- How a CNC machine works and applications
- Prototyping and CNC design
- All types of CNC machines according to use and characteristics
- CNC lathe types and characteristics
- Types of CNC milling machines
- Types of laser engraving
- Other CNC machines: drilling, Pick & Place, welding and more
- How can a CNC machine help in the company
- Buying Guide: How To Choose The Best CNC Machine
- Maintenance of CNC machines
- Definitive guide on plotters: what is a plotter and what is it for
- The best CNC machines for leisure and professional use
- The best printing plotters
- The best cutting plotters
- The best consumables for potters: cartridges, paper, vinyl, and spare parts
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