CNC questions

Hey I don’t know if this is the right forum for this thread, or if there’s even another similar one somewhere but what the heck…

I have never used the ones at school but we do have three. I only know very basic details about what they are and do and hope the experts on here can gimme some intelligent answers – which is what I am looking for.

my questions:

  1. what is the diff between a CNC Mill and a CNC Router?

  2. What is the diff between 2-axis, 3, etc…?

  3. I wanna make giant custom wall stickers. Can I cut them out with CNC machine? I’m talking about the non-adhesive ones that can be re-stuck over and over again on glass or on interior wall surfaces without leaving a mark.

  4. Can you export a 2d file to these suckers or only 3d data?

  5. Is it possible to make very limited run plywood furniture from CNCs without having to send your shizznit over to a country like China?

If my questions sound ignorant it’s because i probably am. Thanks in advance!

  1. CNC Mill…

CNC Router

Typically your CNC mill does small machining with very tight tolerances. Small parts less than 12" x 12" or so. A CNC router typcially does very large products much like a water jet table or laser table. can fit 6’x12’ sheets of material or larger.
They have some common traits but I’d say its material size that is the main difference.


2 axis is moving on an X-Y plane. 3 axis is moving at X-Y-Z plane. Meaning the bit can move towards or away product while moving on an X-Y axis. There is such a thing as 2.5axis, but its pretty inconsequential.

3.) Wall stickers are usually cut on a CNC knife plotter that is either friction fed, sprocket fed, or flat bed table style. Commonly its sprocket or friction with a maximum size of 48"… typically.

Knife Plotter - Sprocket Fed.

4.) a 2 axis cnc mill/router can only accept 2D Data. A 3 axis mill can accept 3D data depending on the software running the mill/router. There is an underlying programming code called G-Code that controls all aspects of the CNC, just for your information. Its kind of a weighty subject to get into here.
A knife plotter can only accept 2D data (usually vector graphics from Illustrator or similar)

5.) Of course. There are any number of shops that cut plastics, wood, etc. in small quantities on a CNC table.

Of course these answers are somewhat basic, but I think they represent the average answers to your questions. Hope this helps.

You the MAN Nurb. just what I was looking to see/learn. the attached pics are helpful since i’m 90% a visual learner. If there was a rating system on this forum for satisfactory answers, Id give you a 10/10. no joke. I tried asking a bunch of kids at school but the majority have never even used anything other than belt sanders, drill press and band saws. Thank goodness for this forum.

why don’t you just get the stickers laser cut? it’s faster & you don’t have to go through heaps to prepare the data for it.

Is laser cutting cheaper?

Also… What is the main difference if any between a sprocket-fed cutter and one which is not? Is this just for single color stickers with vinyl fed through or can you actually print w/ink jet and then cut out the shapes on these machines?

I would question lasers… very expensive to run vs. knife plotter, or even flat bed router and its just not necessary. Plotters can cut very fast, and your digital output to the device is almost identical. Plus, most of your product would have a burn mark on it. Generally not a good thing for finished products.

Sprocket fed product generally cuts more accurately on a small scale. The down side is that you waste more product. Using either 15", 30" or 48" wide material on a roll of 50 yards. If you want a 4" x 60" piece, you waste the width of the roll. With a friction plotter, you can cut small scraps if you wish, but the cutting is not necessarily as accurate on small scale text.

You can print and cut products and there are many ways to do it. Some printers work with specific plotters and create registration marks to align with. Some printers have integrated plotters that do all that work at once (almost.)

This is a large topic, and there are obviously more than one way to get something done. My answers just represent my experience.

30 seconds is too slow for you to get your data from Illustrator to plotter?

thanks again nurb. in your opinion what type of material is best for cutting shapes that will stick sans-adhesive to walls and glass? static-electricity is my guess how they stick. i’m planning for stickers that stick without leaving a mark and can be reused over and over again indefinitely.

Check out this site:

Blik are fairly well know for creating adhesive wall stickers and even have an option where you can design your own custom ones.

I’m sure you may be able to get it done cheaper through a local vinyl cutter however there is some good information and inspiration to be found on the site.

also check out these guys…

Static decals work great on glass, but not to wall surfaces. Re-stick-able vinyl products do exist (see VanID’s links for examples of usage) but I’ll have to look into what companies offer them. I’m interested in the re-application adhesive types, too. My guess though is that “over-and-over-again” is more like 3 or 4 times, then its done. Just a thought.

that was kinda for his 2D vs 3D thing…and i don’t really know about CNC plotters, whereas laser cutters are mostly there in schools.

thanks VanID and Nurb… I knew about Blik but want to make my own to sell in limited runs. I don’t really care about making any money, I just want to offer my own custom vector artwork in sticker form. Blik already seems to be a well-known player in this market and I don’t intend to try to compete with the big-wigs, I’m just trying to find my humble niche.
Never heard of dVider, but they do have some very cool products! Their stickers are nice too – though quite expensive.

It is the material they use for the stickers that I’m after. If anyone finds out exactly where to purchase this stock, let me know. Also the plotters I’ve found are around $300-600. Does this figure sound right?

Yes even the static decals for glass application will do… I’d like to do window stickers too. Do you know what those are made from?