Which router do you need for your CNC? A high RPM one or a high-powered one?
Depending on your intended application, the best router for your CNC can vary.
In this article, I break it down for you by picking the best routers for CNC for various use cases such as CNC woodworking, and CNC aluminum cutting.
I evaluated several router choices on various parameters like size, weight, speed range, tool size, and capabilities to come up with this list.
Finally, I have talked about the advantages and disadvantages of a router over a spindle at the end of this article.
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Here are the best routers for CNC in 2021:
|Router||Power, Speed range||Price|
|1||Makita RT0701C||1.25 hp, 10,000-30,000 RPM||Check Price|
|2||DEWALT DWP611||1.25 hp, 16,000-27,000 RPM||Check Price|
|3||Bosch PR20EVS||1.00 hp, 16,000-35,000 RPM||Check Price|
|4||Carbide Compact Router||1.25 hp, 12,000-30,000 RPM||Check Price|
|5||Porter Cable 7518||3.25 hp, 10,000 -21,000 RPM||Check Price|
Best Routers for CNC in 2021
1. Makita RT0701C - Best Overall Router for CNC
|Speed range||10,000 - 30,000 RPM|
|Warranty||1-year, 30-day return policy|
Quick summary of Makita RT0701C router
Makita is a Japanese power tools manufacturing company that has a presence in over 40 countries and is quite popular in the United States.
The RT0701C is a router with good precision and performance in a compact design with a power of 1 ¼ hp.
This router draws 6.5 A of current at maximum draw and can be connected to any standard wall socket.
You can use the 8.2' power cord that comes pre-attached to the router to connect it to a power socket or extension cord.
It has an outer body diameter of 65mm with a length of 7 ⅞", and you will need a 65 mm mount on your CNC machine to attach the router.
The body is made of heavy-duty aluminum that is tough and light, weighing around 3.9 lbs which is light enough to be used with most NEMA 17 stepper motors.
You can use it at speeds ranging between 10,000 - 30,000 RPM, and it has an electronic speed control that keeps the speed constant under load.
It has 6 speed settings that allow you to operate the router at 10,000, 12,000, 17,000, 22,000, 27,000, and 30,000 RPM.
The low RPM range makes it a good choice to be used with CNC machines for cutting aluminum.
Additionally, it has a soft start feature that helps prevent sudden jerks during startup and reduces the shock loading on your CNC machine.
You can use ¼" collets with the Makita RT0701C, which lets you hold tools with a shank diameter between 0.236" and 0.276".
You get a one-year warranty for this router, and it also has a 30 days return policy wherein you can return the router within 30-days for a full refund.
It is a good choice for cutting wood, soft materials, and soft metals due to its wide speed range. You can check the price and buy it from Amazon.
2. DEWALT DWP611 - Best Router for CNC Woodworking
|Speed range||16,000 - 27,000 RPM|
|Warranty||1-year warranty, 3-year limited warranty, 90-day return policy|
Quick summary of DEWALT DWP611 router
DEWALT is an American power tools brand that has been around since the early 1920s.
The DWP611 is the most affordable router from DEWALT that you can use with your CNC machines.
It is considered an excellent router for woodworking and can stand the test of time but is not suitable for cutting aluminum or metals due to its high RPM range.
The router has a power of 1 ¼ hp, and the build and quality are similar to the Makita RT0701C with an aluminum construction that weighs 4.6 lbs.
DWP611 is light enough to be lifted with most stepper motors with more than 10 oz-in of torque depending on the weight of the gantry.
It has an outer diameter of 69 mm with a length of 8 ½", and you can easily find the CNC mount for DWP611 on Amazon.
The DWP611 draws a maximum current of 7 Amps and works with the standard wall socket at the maximum draw.
You get an 8' long power cord that is pre-attached to the router for the power supply.
It has a speed range between 16,000 and 27,000 RPM that you can select by adjusting the dial on the router.
DEWALT DWP611 is considered a good router to pair with woodworking CNC machines.
It comes with a ¼" collet that can clamp down tools with a shank diameter between 0.236" and 0.276".
DWP611 has two LEDs at the bottom that illuminates the cutting area, improving the cutting process's visibility.
DEWALT provides a one-year service warranty and a three-year limited warranty for the DWP611 router.
Additionally, it has a 90-day money-back guarantee wherein you can return the product within 90 days of purchase for a full refund.
You can check the price and purchase DEWALT DWP611 on Amazon.
3. Bosch PR20EVS - Highest RPM Router for CNC
|Speed range||16,000 - 35,000 RPM|
|Warranty||One year warranty, 30-day return|
Quick summary of Bosch PR20EVS router
Bosch is a German brand that manufactures various mechanical and electromechanical systems and has a significant presence in the United States.
The brand is known for making products that are reliable and stand the test of time.
PRO20EVS router from Bosch is a variable-speed compact router with a power of 1hp.
At the maximum draw, this router will draw a current of 5.6 A and can be powered via any standard wall sockets.
The pre-attached power cords are 10' in length, which is sufficient to clear the length of the gantry and drag chain on most hobbyist CNC machines.
It has a rigid aluminum body that offers precision and reliability and weighs around 3.3 lbs, which requires stepper motors with more than 20 oz-in of holding torque depending on the weight of gantry.
You need a 95 mm mount to attach the PRO20EVS to your CNC machine, and it has a length of 7 ½ inches.
It has a variable speed ranging between 16,000 and 35,000 that can be adjusted using the dial provided on the top.
The high speed means you can work with high fed rates and will reduce project completion time.
However, the lack of low-speed ranges means you will find it difficult to cut hard metals as cutting metals requires low speeds.
It has a constant response circuitry that maintains a constant RPM when the load is applied. This improves the precision and accuracy of your cuts.
While starting a router, jerks and jumps can produce shock loading on your CNC machine and stepper motors.
PRO20EVS has a soft start circuitry that reduces the torque when starting up to provide a smooth startup.
You can use tools with shanks that fit into ¼" collets as this router is compatible with ¼" collet.
Bosch provides a one-year warranty for the router and has a 30-days return policy that allows you to return the router for a full refund.
Bosch PRO20EVS is available on Amazon and you can check its price there.
4. Carbide Compact Router - Most Affordable Router for CNC
|Speed range||12,000 -30,000 RPM|
|Collet||1/4" and 1/8"|
|Warranty||No official warranty|
Quick summary of Carbide Compact Router
Carbide Compact Router is made by Carbide 3D, the manufacturers of the popular Shapeoko series of CNC machines.
The Carbide Compact router is a stripped-down version of a regular compact router.
All the parts except those necessary for CNC routing have been removed from the router, making it much more efficient and smooth running.
It looks and feels the same as the Makita RT0701C and has aluminum construction.
The Carbide Compact router has a 1.25 hp power rating, and you can connect it to any standard power socket using the 12' power cord that comes pre-attached to the router.
You can mount it onto your CNC machine using a 65 mm cylindrical spindle mount.
You can use the router at speeds that range between 12,000 to 30,000 that can be adjusted via the dial on the router.
The router is suitable for woodworking, cutting soft materials, and machining aluminum and non-ferrous metals.
It comes with a ¼" and ⅛" collets that you can use to hold tools with a shank diameter between 0.236" and 0.276" using the ¼" collet and between 0.118" and 0.157" using the ⅛" collet.
You can buy the Carbide Compact Router from the official website of Carbide 3D for around $80.
The official website does not mention a warranty for the product, but users have received replacement parts and support from Carbide 3D within a reasonable period after purchase.
|Diameter||4.2” , 106.7 mm|
|Speed range||10,000 -21,000 RPM|
|Warranty||3-year limited warranty, 1-year free service, 90-day money back|
Quick summary of Porter Cable 7518 router
Porter tools is an American power tools manufacturer that has been around for more than 100 years.
The 7518 router from Porter Cable is a 3 ¼ hp fixed base router that is popular among CNC users.
You can remove the fixed base and mount the router onto your CNC machine using a 4.2” mount.
The length of the router is around 11”, and it has aluminum construction. The router weighs around 14.5 lbs.
You can use this router for cutting wood, soft materials, and non-ferrous metals as it has a wide speed range.
This spindle can work at 5 speeds, 10,000 RPM, 13,000 RPM, 16,000 RPM, 19,000 RPM, and 21,000 RPM.
It comes with ½” collets, and you can use large diameter bits for faster cutting. However, if you want small diameter tools, you will have to install ¼” or ⅛” collets.
Porter Cable’s 7518 router has a soft start feature that prevents sudden jerks when the motor starts spinning.
At the maximum draw, it can draw upto 15 A of current and work off any 120 V socket. However, you must use a socket with a 20 A breaker.
The power cord provided with the router is 6’, which is short for CNC applications, and you might require an extension cord depending on the size of your gantry and machine.
It uses a quick-release collet system that helps you change tools quickly using a single wrench.
Porter Cables offers a three-year limited warranty and a one-year service warranty for this router.
Additionally, they also provide a 90-day money-back guarantee wherein you can return the device for a full refund.
The 7518 router is a powerful machine that can cut through several materials at a quick pace.
You can choose this router if you need a router for completing projects in a short time.
Router vs Spindle for CNC Machine
Routers are consumer-grade equipment that is good for cutting materials for short periods of operation.
On the other hand, Spindles are constructed specifically for CNC machining applications and can run for long durations without losing precision.
If your project demands are low and do not require continuous operations, a router is an affordable alternative for spindles on a CNC machine.
Routers are easy to set up and do not require a complex drive mechanism to run them. You can plug in the router to any wall socket, and you can start cutting.
Whereas, most spindles will require you to have a separate controller or drive circuit to function optimally.
However, when you choose a router, you lose the precise speed and torque control levels that a spindle offers.
Additionally, routers are noisier than spindles and do not have water cooling options.
The runout on routers is more than that on spindles which affect the accuracy of your CNC machine.
However, for beginners, routers are much easier for getting started with CNC.
On the other hand, choosing a CNC spindle is an exercise that requires a lot more research.
If you need high precision and long hours of operation you will need to use a spindle for your CNC machine.
In conclusion, if you are a hobbyist or maker who does occasional works on your hobby CNC machine, a router might be enough for your requirements.
Factors to consider while selecting a router for CNC
Speed is one of the major criteria to be considered while selecting a router.
Different applications require different speed ranges.
When using tools with large diameters it is advised to go at slow speeds.
Additionally, using small tools requires high speeds to keep the feed rate efficient.
Woodworking typically requires speeds that are over 16,000 RPM and machining metals like aluminum requires speeds lower than 20,000 RPM.
So, choose a router that has a speed range applicable to your requirements.
The horsepower determines the material removal rate and also the speed at which you can cut.
A high-powered router can cut faster than a low-powered router. If you need fast project completion time you should prefer a router with a higher horsepower.
It is always advisable to have a router with at least 1hp of power. Anything lower than 1hp will be too slow for CNC applications.
The collet size determines the size of the tool you can use for cutting.
Select a router with a collet that can accommodate all the tools that you intend to use.
Routers are devices that are in constant motion for long periods. Hence they are prone to damage, and having a good warranty period can be an advantage.
A warranty will save you from additional costs in repairing your router, and the warranty of a device is also a testament to its build quality.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q)
Can a router be controlled via G-code or software?
You can turn a router on and off via G-code or software. You will have to create a relay circuit in order to achieve that. The relay can be controlled via the controller of your CNC machine and it will turn the router on and off. You can also use controllers provided by many manufacturers to achieve the same. For example, Carbide 3D makes BitRunner, an accessory that can turn the spindle on and off via G-code.
However, the speed cannot be controlled as the speed control in most router is through manual adjustment of the dial on the router.