Welcome CNC Essentials!

We currently have 5 CNC machines available for Student use.

  • 2 Roland SRM-20s (called Peter & Bernard)
  • 1 Roland MDX-50 (called Rem)
  • 1 AXYZ 4004 (Called Renzo)
  • 1 AXYZ 4008 (Called Norman)

The 3 Roland Mini Mills are our entry level machines. They are used to introduce you to the concepts and ideas behind CNC Machining. They are safe, fun and easy to use and perfect for any small jobs you have.
Renzo and Norman can seem more intimidating due to their size but they work in the exact same way as the smaller machines. Our induction process is designed to give you the basic knowledge needed to use any of our CNC machines!
To do you CNC Essentials you must first complete the Fab Lab Essentials and Laser Essentials.

Machine Properties

Our range of CNC’s are good quality machines designed to cut very accurately and to produce a fine quality finish.

  • Peter, Bernard and Rem (The Roland Mini Mills) are meant for smaller parts and are only designed to cut softer materials. The materials you can use are restricted to foam (polystyrene and polyurethane) and balsa wood. These materials are however both very useful themselves, and also a great starting point for other manufacturing processes like casting.
  • Renzo is a knife. It is designed to cut anything that you would be able to cut with a knife. Corrugated Cardboard and Honeycomb Card are the most popular choices however it is capable of cutting all of the paper & card we stock. Using Specialist tools it can also make a 45 degree cut perfect for folding nets. It can cut similar materials to the Lasers however it is considerably slower than the lasers.
  • Norman works in a similar way to the Mini Mills however it is considerably more powerful and larger. It can cut Plywood, MDF, Acrylic and Foam. It can create 3D models or 2D components. Cutting any type of wood or acrylic on Norman is a potential fire hazard. You must be in the room the entire time you are machining any of these materials.
  • I can't wait to get started - what do I need to do?

    Before you can use the machines by yourself, you will need to complete the 'Balsa Challenge'. This is a simple task we've carefully designed to be quick while also including all the basics you need to make something in the mill without hurting yourself or breaking the machine. It covers both file preparation and operation of the mill.
    The task is simple - you must join two small pieces of balsa wood together using a CNC joint cut in the mill. Note the following parameters for the challenge:

    ● We will give you two pieces of Balsa wood stock, each 65 x 35 x 4.8mm
    ● Your design for each part of the joint must be maximum 50 x 20 x 4mm
    ● You can design your joint in any 3d software, but we recommend Rhino. If you use other software, import it and bring it as a Rhino file ready to cut.

    Once you have completed your design you have to program it using RhinoCAM. This tells the machine how to cut and which paths to take. RhinoCAM is available on all PC’s in the CNC Lab. Follow the ‘How to RhinoCAM 3D’ Guide available on the Website. If you are having trouble with RhinoCAM book into a CAMClinic to get some help.
    Once you have completed your RhinoCAM bring it to the CNCShop in P1 and we'll book you a time to show you how to use the machine so that you can cut your joint. You can see the induction schedule below. Be sure to read through the following guide and complete your design before coming to the Lab. Neither of these things should take you very long.
    For examples of the sort of thing you can make, Google 'CNC joint', or come along to the Lab to get inspiration from joints other people have made.


    No Undercuts


    No Narrow Cuts

    Always add extra 0.2mm to tool thickness

    No Long Reaches

    No deeper cuts than tool lenght

    Manifold Edges

    Have edges properly joined

    No holes

    Extrude solid, watertight mesh

    Bed Size

    Maximum stock size 150x200x40mm



    Choose Material

    Light materials only (foam, balsa)

    Check The Size

    Maximum material size 150x200x40mm

    Stick It

    Put Double-sided tape on the back of the stock


    SET UP

    Insert the Tool

    Insert tool up to the black line.


    Tighten the Tool with allen key


      1. User Coordinate System : A coordinate system in which the location of the origin point can be freely changed. Machine Coordinate System : a machine-specific coordinate system in which the location of the origin point is fixed.
      2. Coordinates: The current position of a cutting tool is displayed.
      3. Speed: The movement speed of a cutting tool is displayed.
      4. Spindle: in [ON] and [OFF] rotation of a spindle is started and it stops.
      5. Feed Buttons: clicking these buttons moves the spindle head or table. Holding down the buttons performs continuous movement.
      6. Cursor Step: specify how much the cutting tool should move every time you single-click the X, Y, Z buttons.
      7. View: moves the spindle head to the center and moves the table to the very front. XY/Z: Moves the cutting tool to the XY/Z origin point. Stop: stops the cutting tool at that point when it is moving.
      8. Set Origin Point: select the coordinate system for setting the origin point.
      9. XY/Z: sets the current XY/Z position to the base point.
      10. Adjust Speed: the feeding speed of a cutting tool.
      11. Adjust Spindle Speed: adjusts the spindle speed. (The spindle speed cannot be specified from any
        application other than VPanel.)
      12. Setup: sets the cutting machine's operating conditions and the correction values for the axes. Cut: configures cutting settings. Pause: pauses and resumes cutting. Cancel: cancels cutting.
    1. Output File List : cutting files are listed in the order they are output. Make sure the Roughing Path is set first.
    2. Add : adds the file to cut to the list.  Delete : deletes the selected file from the list. Delete All : deletes all files from the list. Up/Down : moves the output order for the files. Test : if a cutting data file is written in NC code, you can test the output of the file to check for the presence of mistakes (bugs).
    3. Pause at each file : select this check box to pause output after a single file is output.
    4. Save List : the output file list and output order can be saved to a file.  View List : opens a file saved.
    5. Output : outputs the files in the output file list to the cutting machine in order from the top. The dialog closes once the output begins Cancel : edit of the file carried out in the dialog is canceled and a dialog is closed.

    Remove the tool from the machine and return it to the tool holder on top of the machine.

    Tidy your workstation.