CNC Basic Questions

What is CNC?

CNC is short for “Commuter Numerical Control.” It is the process of utilizing a computer to control and operate tools and machinery.

Is CNC right for you?

If you are looking to expand your capabilities of home manufacturing whether it be wood working, engraving/carving, PCB making, 3D Printing, Foam Cutting, or you just want to make things, than YES!, CNC may be right for you. If you can work decently with a computer, are somewhat mechanically inclined and can follow instructions for basic wiring, then you should have no problem assembling and using one of our many CNC options.

Does CNC require a computer?

Yes. The heart of CNC is your computer. Depending on the software you choose to control your CNC Machine, you may need a Windows or Linux computer that has a parallel port that will be used for communication to your machine (Mach3). We also carry control packages that only require USB for communication (Arduino). The choice is yours.

What accessories are needed with a Zen Toolworks machine?

We sell our machines in a couple different ways. Either you can purchase the bare CNC machine platform that does not come with any electronics, software, or accessories, OR you can choose one of our many CNC packages that come with most everything needed to start building and using your machine.

The essential components to a CNC machine are:

  • The machine itself
  • Electronic control components, including power supplies
  • CAD software, or a source for 2D/3D models
  • CAM Software for creating GCode
  • Any accessories/attachments to perform whatever task you are trying to do ie.(rotary spindle for milling, extruder for 3D printing, hot wire kit for foam cutting, etc.).

All of these components are available through Zen Toolworks. If you are new to CNC and don’t know where to begin, one of our “Complete Packages” would make a good choice as they will include everything you need to get started.

Do I want a 3D Printer or Milling/Cutting type machine ?

This really depends on what type of end product result you are looking for. The milling machine is capable of creating things in a wide variety of materials and is capable of producing professional looking results. 3D printing is great for complex shapes or prototypes, but the materials are limited to specific plastics that can be extruded (commonly ABS and PLA).

The best part about your Zen Toolworks machine however is that it is capable of both. The machine platform we use for milling is the same used for 3D printing. To switch between the two would require a slight electronics change and switching from your rotary cutting head to a 3D printing extruder.

Please keep in mind that this Q&A is just to help answer some of the most common questions we receive before customers decide to purchase one of our machines. If you have ANY other questions regarding what you should purchase or what you will need to get started with CNC, please do not hesitate to ask. We are happy to provide advice to get you on the right path for success with your new CNC machine. Thanks for considering Zen Toolworks!