This week is a  3D Lab tour; we introduce you to our CNC milling machine, the Roland MDX-40A.

What is a CNC milling machine, you may ask?  A milling machine (without the “CNC”) carves shapes out of flat or cylindrical material, such as wood.  The cutting tool is a rotating bit (or “mill”) much like a drill that is mounted vertically.  The drill is manually moved up and down, left and right, as it carves the wood.  The bed moves forward and backward as well.

The “CNC” part of “CNC milling machine” means that the motion of the drilling tool and motion of the bed are controlled by computer.  If you draw text and simple graphics on the screen, the machine can carve it into the wood automatically.

What can you make with a CNC milling machine?  Lots of things!  Signs and plaques, especially.  Also gears, lampshades, furniture, sculptures,  jewelry, clocks, and so much more.  Check-out this Pinterest page and also here for ideas.

The milling machine at the Wayne College 3D Lab can mill most kinds of wood, most plastics, and interesting things like cork, ceramic, bone, glass, wax,  hard foam, even gold and silver!  It does not mill other metals, however.  The milling area is 12×12”.  The machine can mill detail as fine as 1/64”.

Our CNC mill can also carve three dimensional shapes, similar to a 3D printer!  You can carve shapes into flat wood such as the above frieze.  The software uses the same design files (STL) as used with a 3D printer.

The Roland MDX-40A also has a rotary that allows cylindrical or cubed pieces to be carved.  For example, you can carve chess pieces out of 2” dowel rods bought at Lowe’s or blocks of wood such as 2×2 or 2×4.  The material is slowly rotated as the drill moves up and down, left and right, to carve into it.

If you want to make something on the CNC mill but need a design, check-out these websites here and here, many of which offer designs that you can download for free.

Feel free to stop-by the 3D Lab; we’ll be happy to show you how to work the machine.  It’s a rewarding way to get into woodworking!

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