4x8 cnc router woodcutting machine

4×8 CNC Router Features To Look For

CNC router machines have emerged as a game-changer in the dynamic manufacturing and design world. These versatile machines, employing the precision of computer-controlled cutting, are opening up new possibilities across various industries. From carving complex patterns to crafting furniture with absolute accuracy, a CNC router is the ideal blend of technology and creativity. In this guide, we delve deeper into the critical features of CNC routers, showcasing their capabilities and exploring how they are revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape.

But first, here is a brief look at these CNC machines to help you determine if they are right for you.

What is a 4X8 CNC Router?

A CNC router is a computer-controlled cutting machine used for machining various materials including wood, metal, plastics, acrylic, MDF, and foams. It’s a vital tool in many industries, particularly manufacturing, where precision and efficiency are paramount. The machine operates on the Cartesian coordinate system (X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis), allowing three-dimensional cutting and milling.

The 4×8 CNC router has a cutting area that is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. The 4×8 is on the medium/large size for routers. Its size means it can handle full sheets of wood like plywood, which makes it perfect for woodworking. Some routers, referred to as desktop/tabletop routers, come in smaller sizes, while other routers are much larger still.

It is programmed with a set of specific commands, or G-codes, which control the cutting and movement of the machine. The precision of a CNC router ensures repeatability, allowing for the same design to be cut or milled multiple times with negligible variation. This makes them indispensable in large-scale production where consistency is essential. Moreover, CNC routers can also be used for intricate and detailed work in smaller settings, such as woodworking shops, due to the flexibility provided by their control software.

Which Industries Use CNC Routers?

CNC routers are extensively used across multiple industries due to their high precision and efficiency. The woodworking industry, for example, utilizes CNC routers for intricate carving, engraving, and cutting tasks, while the metal industry uses them for their precision in metal fabrication. CNC routers offer precise shaping and cutting of materials in the plastics industry, while signage companies also utilize them for creating detailed and complex signs. Additionally, CNC routers find applications in foam industries for cutting various foam materials and in the arts and crafts sector for creating intricate designs and patterns.

Which Features Do the Best CNC Routers Offer?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) routers are revolutionizing the manufacturing and woodworking industries with precision, versatility, and efficiency. With features ranging from intricate carving capabilities to high-speed automated routing, these machines deliver exceptional accuracy, often unattainable with manual operations. Let’s look at the top features of CNC routers that make them an invaluable asset in modern production environments.

1. Automatic Tool Changer

Automatic tool changers (ATCs) are critical components of modern CNC routers, enhancing their versatility and efficiency. ATCs vary in design, but their primary function is to enable the CNC router to switch between a variety of tools in a quick, automated manner. This capability significantly reduces machine downtime associated with manual tool changes, thereby increasing productivity. Moreover, ATCs facilitate precision and repeatability in machining complex parts, thereby maintaining high-quality standards. With the integration of ATCs, CNC routers become more adaptable and capable of efficiently handling complex, multi-step machining tasks.

2. Steel Frame for Durability

Steel frame construction is paramount for CNC routers, providing stability, durability, and precision. The rigidity of the steel frame ensures that the machine can withstand high-intensity operations without deformation, maintaining an accurate routing path over time. This feature translates to consistent, high-quality outputs even in demanding work environments. Remember, steel’s inherent longevity affords a longer lifespan to the machine, yielding a higher return on investment.

3. A Table Top Matching Your Requirements

One can use several types of tables with CNC routers, each with distinct advantages for particular applications:

  • The most common type is the T-slot table, which allows for easily adjustable clamping to hold workpieces of varying sizes.
  • Vacuum tables, on the other hand, use suction to hold materials in place, especially useful for thin, lightweight materials that might otherwise shift during cutting. These tables should come with valves, plumbing, and a vacuum pump.
  • Perforated tables utilize a series of small holes to create a secure mount for workpieces using vacuum or mechanical hold-downs.

Understanding the capabilities of each type of table is crucial to maximizing the efficiency and precision of your CNC routing tasks.

4. Sufficient Work Area

Most full-size CNC routers feature 48″ x 96″ table sizes. However, they offer substantial table sizes such as 120″ x 240″ or even more significant for larger commercial and industrial applications. These measurements can handle large sheet materials, making them ideal for extensive production operations.

5. Servo vs. Stepper Motor

Servo motors have several advantages that make them better suited for CNC routers. For starters, they offer higher precision and accuracy in their movements, owing to their feedback loop that provides real-time adjustments and reduces the risk of errors. Servo motors also offer superior speed control, essential in CNC routing applications where maintaining a consistent speed is critical. Additionally, they have a higher torque-to-inertia ratio, allowing for quicker start and stop. They can hold their torque even at lower speeds, ensuring the CNC router operates efficiently across various speeds.

Alternatively, the NEMA23/34 stepper motor is vital in automation and robotics. It has superior torque, precision, and durability. The designation “NEMA23 and NEMA 34” refers to the motor’s faceplate dimensions, making it adaptable to various applications. This stepper motor is prevalent in CNC machining for its ability to perform intricate movements with extraordinary accuracy.

6. Dust Collection System

Dust collection systems for CNC routers are essential. As these machines cut, carve, and shape materials, they inevitably produce dust and waste. Without an effective dust management system, these particles can accumulate, leading to operational inefficiencies and potential health risks for workers. A dust collection system effectively captures and removes these particles, ensuring the cleanliness and safety of the work environment.

7. Ball Screw Drive System

Ball screws are optimal for CNC routers due to their efficiency and precision. They operate on the principle of rolling contact, resulting in significantly less friction than rack-and-pinion drives, leading to higher mechanical efficiency. Ball screws require less energy to deliver a specific force, reducing power consumption. Furthermore, they provide smooth, backlash-free motion and excellent positioning accuracy, vital characteristics in CNC machining. The wear and tear on ball screws is also lower, making them more durable and ensuring a longer lifespan for the CNC router.

8. Safety Features

CNC routers need to incorporate several safety features to ensure their safe operation. An emergency stop button should be easily accessible, enabling operators to immediately halt machine functions in case of any potential hazards or malfunctions. Additionally, the machine should include protective shields to prevent accidental contact with the cutting tool, which can cause serious harm. Dust extraction systems are also critical to maintaining a safe and clean work environment, reducing the risk of respiratory problems. Also, advanced CNC routers should come with software to detect potential design errors before execution, reducing the risk of damaging the machine or workpiece. Finally, proper grounding and insulation protect users from electrical shocks.

9. Heavy-Duty Gantry

Heavy-duty gantries are crucial in CNC routers, contributing significantly to their efficiency and precision. Specifically, they support the cutting tools, ensuring smooth and accurate movement across the working surface. The robustness of a heavy-duty gantry enables it to withstand high levels of vibration and stress experienced during the routing process. Minimizing vibration enhances the output quality and extends the lifespan of the CNC router, making it a cost-effective investment for businesses involved in industrial manufacturing.

10. Electrical Requirements

A CNC router necessitates a robust and reliable electrical setup to function optimally. Typically, these machines operate on single-phase or three-phase power, with the requirement depending on the machine’s size and design. Although many small to medium-sized routers will run efficiently on single-phase power, usually requiring 110-220 volts, industrial-grade CNC routers often demand three-phase power setups and 220-440 volts. These machines also need a stable power supply, as fluctuations can cause performance issues or damage the electrical components. Therefore, it is crucial to account for the CNC router’s electrical requirements during the planning and installation to ensure safe and efficient operation.

11. Variable Speed, Liquid-Cooled Spindle Motor

Variable-speed, liquid-cooled spindles bring significant advantages to the operation of CNC routers:

  • They offer a broad range of speeds, allowing for optimal tooling performance across varied materials and tasks, resulting in improved accuracy and quality of work.
  • The variable speed function can enhance the tool’s life by reducing wear and tear.
  • The liquid cooling system minimizes heat build-up, a vital factor in maintaining the spindle’s longevity and ensuring consistent output.

It helps maintain the spindle’s stability, reducing the chances of deformation and resulting in more precise machining. By mitigating the impact of heat, it allows the CNC router to function for extended periods without downtime, thus boosting productivity.

12. Plug and Play NEMA 34 CNC Control System

The Plug and Play NEMA 34 CNC Control System is a revolution in CNC routers. This system embodies a seamless blend of power and precision, delivering robust performance for various routing tasks. Its user-friendly interface facilitates an easy setup process, significantly reducing the learning curve for hobbyists and DIY operators. The system harnesses the power of NEMA 34 stepper motors, known for their high torque capabilities, ensuring excellent control and accuracy even under demanding routing conditions. This plug-and-play system truly simplifies the operations of CNC routers, making it an indispensable tool for novices and professionals.

13. CAD/CAM Software

CAD/CAM software in CNC routers has modernized the manufacturing industry by offering enhanced precision and efficiency. CAD (Computer-Aided Design) allows for detailed 3D modeling of products, enabling designers to visualize and tweak designs before manufacturing. On the other hand, CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) takes the CAD designs and converts them into machine-readable instructions, automating the control of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines. Look for brand names like VCarve Pro and Vectric as you research the software.

CNC Router Machines vs CNC Mills

CNC routers and CNC milling machines, while both being computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, serve different purposes and are used in varying applications. CNC routers are typically used in large-scale applications, including sheet material cutting and carvings. As mentioned, they are ideal for cutting softer materials like wood and plastic, and routers run at higher travel speeds, measured in inches-per-minute (IPM). They can handle larger sheets on their 4’ x 8’ table tops, making them popular in the sign-making and furniture design industries.

Conversely, CNC milling machines are commonly employed in jobs requiring more strength and precision. Milling machines can handle more rigid materials, such as steel and titanium, and are used to produce machine parts, tools, and intricate designs. Their heavy-duty construction, higher torque, and increased rigidity allow for precise, heavy-duty cutting. Milling machines are prevalent in industries such as aerospace and automotive, where precision is paramount.

Routers and milling machines, while both used in manufacturing and woodworking, employ different types of cutting tools. Routers typically use a rotary tool called a router bit, which allows diverse shapes and designs to be cut into the workpiece. Milling machines also use various cutting tools depending on the task at hand, including end mills and face mills. Unlike router bits, these tools can cut in multiple directions and are typically used for heavier-duty milling operations.

Remember your application when choosing between a 4’ x 8’ router and a large mill. The router was designed to comfortably handle a full sheet of plywood and spoil board. Most mills cannot!

Additional Considerations

As you shop for a CNC router, keep your budget in mind.

The cost of a full-size CNC router can vary significantly based on its specifications, capabilities, and the manufacturer. A basic model, primarily used for hobbyist or educational purposes, may start at $5,000 – $10,000. However, industrial-grade CNC routers with advanced features for precision manufacturing can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000 or more. These high-end models typically offer superior accuracy, speed, and durability, making them well-suited for heavy-duty operations in the automotive, furniture, and aerospace sectors. It’s important to note that additional costs may also accrue from maintenance, software upgrades, and tooling requirements.

Check the machine’s warranty and spec sheet to ensure everything you need from the machine is included there. Finally, confirm where your machine was manufactured. If “Made in the USA” is important, verify that your machine was made here!

About Peter Jacobs

Peter Jacobs is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters, a leading supplier of CNC mills, milling machines, and CNC lathes. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights for various blogs in CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn.

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29. Create a Peck Drilling Program in Circular or Rectangular Patterns
Using the Circular or Rectangular Drilling Wizards, you can program the machine to drill an un-limited series of holes along the X and Y planes. Program it to drill straight through to your total depth, use a high-speed pecking cycle, or deep hole pecking cycle. You can program the cut-in depth and return point for a controlled peck drill application to maximize chip clearance.

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20. Change up to 30 tools with compensation, and store your tool offsets for other programs
The MX supports…

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21. Use the optional ATC rack up to 8 tools for milling, drilling, and rigid tapping applications
The CNC Masters Automatic Tool Changer Rack and Tools (US Patent 9,827,640B2) can be added to any CNC Masters Milling Machine built with the rigid tapping encoder option. The tutorial will guide you through the set-up procedure using the ATC tools.

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22. Use the optional Rigid Tapping Wizard without the need for tapping head attachments
When you order your CNC Masters machine, have it built with the optional rigid tapping encoder. You can take any drill cycle program and replace the top line with a tapping code created by the wizard to tap your series of holes up to 1/2” in diameter.

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23. Use the optional Digital Probe to scan the profile and/or pockets of your fun/hobby type designs to write your tool path program and machine out a duplicate of your original design To “surface” scan an object, you can program the probe along the X or Y plane. The stylus will travel over the part starting on the left side front corner of the object and work its way to the end of the part on the right side. Depending on how the stylus moves, it will record linear and interpolated movements along the X, Y, and Z planes directly on the MX Editor.
To “pocket” scan an object containing a closed pocket such as circles or squares, the scan will start from the top front, work its way inside of the pocket, and scan the entire perimeter of the pocket.
Under the Setup of the MX software you will find the Probe Tab which will allow you to calibrate and program your probe. Your “Probe Step”, “Feed”, and “Data Filter” can also be changed on the fly while the probe is in the middle of scanning your object.

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24. Use work offsets G54-G59 for nesting applications
The work offsets offer you a way to program up to six different machining locations. It’s like having multiple 0.0 locations for different parts. This is very useful especially when using sub-routines/nesting applications.

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25. Create a Rectangular Pocket / Slot with our selection of Wizards to help you build a tool path program
The Cycle Wizards for the mill or lathe makes it easy to create a simple tool path without needing to use a CAD and CAM software.
On this Wizard, the Rectangular Pocket / Slots, can be used to form a deep rectangular pocket into your material or machine a slot duplicating as many passes needed to its total depth.

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26. Create a Circular Pocket Wizard
Input the total diameter, the step down, and total depth and the code will be generated.

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27. Do Thread Milling using a single point cutter Wizard

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28. Cut a gear out using the Cut Gear Wizard with the optional Fourth Axis

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19. Disable the axis motors to manually hand crank each axis into place
Easily de-energize the axis motors by clicking [Disable Motors] to crank each axis by hand, and then press [Reset Control] to re-energize the axis motors.

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30. The MX interface can easily be interchanged from Mill Mode to Lathe Mode
Use this interface for your CNC Masters Lathe. It contains all the same user-friendly features and functions that comes in Mill Mode. Simply go to the Setup page and change the interface.

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31. Use Tool Change Compensation or the optional Auto Tool Changer Turret if your application requires more than one tool in a single program
You can offset the length and angle of each tool and record it under Tools in your Setup. The program will automatically pause the lathe’s movement and spindle allowing you to change out your tool, or allowing the optional ATC Turret to quickly turn to its next tool and continue machining.
On the MX interface, you also have four Tool Position buttons. Select your desired T position, and the auto tool post will quickly turn and lock itself to that position.

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32. Use the Lathe Wizard Threading Cycle to help you program your lathe’s internal or external threads in inches or metric

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33. Use the Lathe Wizard Turning / Boring Cycle to help you program simple turning and boring cycles without having to go through a CAM or writing a long program with multiple passes

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34. Use the Lathe Wizard Peck Drilling Cycle to help you program your drill applications or for face grooving

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35. Facing / Grooving / Part Off Cycle Wizards – with Constant Surface Speed
These cycles can be used with Constant Surface Speed allowing the spindle speed to increase automatically as the diameter of the part decreases giving your application a consistent workpiece finish. With CSS built into the wizard, there is no need to break down the cycle into multiple paths and multiple spindle speed changes.

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36. This is our list of supported G and M codes which can be found under Tools > G Code/ M Code List in the MX
If you plan to use a third-party CAM software to generate your tool path program, use a generic FANUC post processor and edit it to match our list of codes. As an option, we also sell Visual mill/turn CAM software which comes with a guaranteed post processor for our machines to easily generate your tool path programs based on your CAD drawings.

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37. Our pledge to you…

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10. Run each tool path independently to study its movement
1. Run the machine on Trace mode. You can run each tool path independently, one line at a time to study the tool path movement on the machine to verify the position of the application and if any fixture/vise is in the way of the cutter’s path.

2. You can also verify your program by clicking on the Trace and Draw buttons together. This will allow you to view each tool path independently one line at a time in the Draw Window.

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2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!

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3. Features Tour and Tutorials Included
The Features Tour will give you a quick run-down on all the features the MX can do for you. The Tutorials are easy to follow even for the first time CNC machinist.
Feel free to download the MX on any of your computers. We recommend downloading the MX along with your CAD and CAM software there at the comfort of your office computer to generate your tool path programs. You don’t need to be hooked up to the machine either to test your program in simulation mode.

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4. Navigate and Edit Your Program through the MX interface with Ease
With a few clicks of the mouse or using touch screen technology, you can easily navigate through the MX interface importing saved programs into the Editor from the File drop down menu. Using standard windows features to edit your program you can then lock the Editor Screen to avoid accidental editing, and if you need to insert a line in the middle of a program, just click on [ReNum] to re-number your tool path list.
You can create a program or import CAM generated G-code tool paths into the Editor
The X Y and Z W arrow jog buttons are displayed from the point of view of the cutter to avoid confusion when the table and saddle are moving. You can also adjust your spindle speed and coolant control while jogging each axis.

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5. Feed Hold – Pause in the Middle of your Program
Feed Hold lets you pause in the middle of a program. From there you can step through your program one line at time while opting to shut the spindle off and then resume your program.
You can also write PAUSE in the middle of your program and jog each axis independently while your program is in pause mode.

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6. Hot Keys
Hot Keys is an alternative method to easily control your machine using your hard or touch screen keyboard. One can press P to pause a program, press S to turn Spindle On, G to run a program, Space Bar to Stop, J to record your individual movements one line at a time to create a program in teach mode.

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7. Pick Menu – for conversational mode programming
Write FANUC style G-codes directly into the Editor or select commands off the [Pick] menu and write your tool path program in conversational mode such as what is written in the Editor box. You can even mix between conversation commands and G-codes in the same program.

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8. Pick Menu List of Options
Use commands such as MOVE, SPINDLE ON/OFF, COOLANT ON/OFF, PAUSE, DELAY, GO HOME…. to write your tool path programs in conversational mode.

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9. Draw the Tool Path to verify it before pressing Go
Hit Draw to view your tool path program drawing, check out its run time, or even simulate the tool path in 3D mode. This can be helpful to quickly verify your program before running it. You can also slow down or speed up the drawing or simulation process.
You can also hit Go within the Draw Window itself to verify the cutter’s position on the machine. The current tool path will be highlighted and simultaneously draw out the next path so you can verify what the cutter will be doing next on the program.

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MX Software – Easy to Use, Easy to Learn – Included with your machine purchase
The MX software is designed to work seamlessly with your CNC Masters machine. It is made to work with Windows PC – desktop, laptop, or an all in one – on standard USB. Use it on Windows 8 or 10 64-bit operating systems.
No internal conversion printer/serial port to USB software or additional conversion hardware is used with the MX.

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11. Counters display in Inches or Millimeters – Continuous Feed
1. When running a program, the counters will display a “real-time” readout while the machine is in CNC operation without counting ahead of the movement.
2. The current tool path is highlighted while the machine is in operation without causing slight interruptions/pauses as the software feeds the tool path to the machine. The MX internally interprets a program ten lines ahead to allow for “continuous machining” avoiding slight interruptions as the machine waits for its next tool path command.
3. “Run Time” tells you how long it takes to run your tool path program.

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12. Use the “Go From Line” command to start in the middle of your program
If you ever need to begin your program from somewhere in the middle of it, use [Go From Line] which you can find under Tools. The Help guide will walk you through how to position the cutter without losing its position on the machine.

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13. Exact Motion Distance without over-stepping on an axis while jogging
Use “Relative ON” to enter a specific coordinate to jog any of your axes to an exact location without having to write a program. It’s like using “power feed” but easier. You can jog an exact distance on any of the axes without needing to keep the key pressed down and mistakenly over-step the movement releasing your finger too slowly off the jog button.
Let’s say you need to drill a hole exactly 0.525” using the Z. So you enter 0.525 in the Z box. Next, adjust the JOG FEED RATE slider for the desired feed rate. Then “click once” on the +Z or -Z button to activate the travel. In this case you click once the -Z button first to drill the hole exactly 0.525”. Then click once on the +Z button to drive the axis back up 0.525”.

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14. Teach Mode – Jog Input
You can create a tool path program by storing each point-to-point movement by simply jogging an axis one at a time. Click on either of the Jog Input buttons to store each movement on the Editor Screen. You can then add Spindle ON, feed commands, and press GO to run the new program as needed. This is a great feature to help you learn to create a program by the movements you make on the machine without necessarily writing out an entire program first.

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15. Override on the fly to adjust the Jog Feed to Rapid or the Spindle Speed during the middle of a program
1. Jog Feed and Rapid with Override: You can adjust feeds using the slider from slow minimum 0.1″ per minute to a rapid of 100″ per minute of travel. You can even micro-step your jog as low as 0.01”/min. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.
2. Spindle Speed with Override: You can adjust speeds using the slider from a slow minimum RPM to the max RPM according to the machine setup. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.

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16. Adjust Counters using Pre-Set if you cannot begin the program from 0.00
In a situation where you cannot begin your cutter at it’s 0.00 location, you can “Pre-Set” directly into the counters by typing in your beginning coordinate. You can press Go from here to run your program. You can also “zero all” or “zero” your counters independently. With one click of the [Return to 0.0] button, all axes will travel back to its respective 0.0 on the machine.

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17. Set and Save your 0.00 position for future runs
Set and save your 0.00 position on the machine. These coordinates will be recorded as the first line of the program in the Editor Screen. Should you desire to return to this program at a later date, you only have to click on the Set Zero Return button. This will command the machine to automatically jog each axis to its saved “set” 0.00 position according to the recorded coordinates at the first line of the program.

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18. Create a “Home” position to clear your application and run multiple times
Let’s say you need to machine one application times 100 pieces. This usually requires a jig to retain that physical 0.00 position. But in this case, you want the program to end with a clearance of the axes to easily switch out the next piece of stock and start again. With Save Home, you have the ability to save this offset (home) position while still retaining your Set Zero position where the machine will mill your part out. Pressing [Save Home] will record this new position under the Set Zero line in your program.
Pressing [Go Home] will jog your axes back to your “saved home” position where you originally pressed the Save Home command. You can also input GO_HOME from the Pick Menu as its own tool path in your program. At the completion of your program the axes will end at your Home position. Replace your part, then press [Return to 0.0] button to allow the axes to return to its zero position, and press Go to start your next run.

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