8 Best CNC Router Materials to Use

CNC machining materials

Have you ever wondered what materials can be used in a CNC machine, aka a computer numerical control machine?

Regardless of what the end product is going to be, the raw material has to be hard enough to undergo a high-speed and highly precise routing process, yet soft enough to be cut, carved, and engraved into.

You also have to consider its flexibility, what temperatures and conditions it can withstand, its size and weight, what it costs, and how readily available it is.

Discover the most popular CNC machine materials below and why you should use them (and our services) for your next building or design project!

1. Solid Timber

CNC timber cutting is a common material and milling machine practice.

Timbers are ideal for projects that require a tough, durable and traditional material. There’s a wide variety of timber species to suit all kinds of applications, and each type has its own natural beauty and characteristics (grains, knots and colour patterns). If responsibly sourced, timber is also a sustainable and reusable material option.

Solid timbers have consistent properties, and this makes them a reliable choice for CNC routing. They are relatively easy to work with and respond well to various shaping, detailing, engraving and cutting depths and speeds. 

After machining, timber can be sanded, stained, or painted to achieve a sleek finish or a brand-new look, which adds another level of versatility.

2. Plywood

CNC plywood cutting is another popular practice.

Be it regular engineered plywood or birch plywood, both are dependable materials for architectural, decorative and load-bearing projects. They are cheaper per piece than raw timber and come in a variety of sizes, grades, and thicknesses.

Plywood has a layered, cross-grain structure and smooth surface, making it strong, uniform and unlikely to crack or warp under pressure. This also makes it the perfect choice for a CNC router machine.

Plywood can be easily and precisely cut, drilled, and shaped to meet various design requirements, and it uses the same standard settings as solid timber. You get consistent results and a fine finish without the risk of chips or splits.

3. MDF

Routing MDF boards is favoured in the CNC industry. This is because of how cost-effective medium-density fibreboard is and how well it holds up during the machining process.

MDF is more affordable than solid wood and high-grade plywood, making it one of the most economical wood materials on the market. 

It has great dimensional stability, which is the ability to maintain its original shape and dimensions throughout the manufacturing process. This makes it desirable for jobs that require intricate engravings or carvings without compromising the piece’s structural integrity.

Made from fine wood fibres and resins, MDF has a flat surface which is ideal for cutting into without causing splinters. It also makes it easy to paint or varnish.

4. Acrylic

Acrylic routing is recommended for people who want a highly versatile material.

Many manufacturing industries use acrylic instead of glass because it is lightweight, shatterproof and has the same crystal-clear finish. Despite being more durable than glass, it’s cheaper too.

It can come in many different colours and surface types, including transparent, translucent, and opaque. It’s impact-resistant and weather-resistant, so it can work in both indoor and outdoor settings, and there are even UV-resistant varieties that don’t yellow or crack when exposed to sunlight.

Acrylic is a great CNC cutting material because it allows the automatic tool to perform complex cuts, engravings, and patterns without chipping or cracking. It can handle being polished, sanded and re-shaped and will always come out with smooth edges.

5. Alucobond

Another one of our favourite CNC milling materials is Alucobond, which is a heavy-duty aluminium composite panel.

It has a high strength-to-weight ratio, meaning it can withstand stress without breaking or bending, while also being light and easy to handle.

Resistant to corrosion and UV, it’s commonly used as a cladding or facade, with its polyethylene core acting as thermal and acoustic insulation.

Alucobond tolerates CNC milling machines well. Despite being multi-layered, it’s softer than solid aluminium, so it won’t damage the router. The composite structure has a good balance of rigidity and flexibility, so if the CNC mill has standard grooving accessories, its layers are easy to cut through, drill into, flex and form without excessive vibration or deflection.

6. Foam

CNC foam cutting may not sound doable when you think of the messy bits of polystyrene packaging you get in the mail.

However, commercial high-density foam sheets and blocks have good dimensional stability, so they won’t crumble or compress when machined.

No matter the scale of the product, foam is lightweight and easy to transport, handle, and position on a CNC machine. Its smooth surface and layers make it a breeze to cut, with end mills able to scoop into or glide through foam blocks.

Foam has great thermal insulation properties too, making it useful for temperature-sensitive applications, and its natural softness, buoyancy and resilience make it an excellent shock absorber. It’s also a more cost-effective option compared to similar materials like cork.

7. Compact Laminate

Compact laminate is stronger, more durable, and more moisture, heat and wear-resistant compared to regular laminate.

As a CNC cutting material, compact laminate is ideal. It will maintain its flatness, structural integrity and aesthetic appeal during machining, and it won’t expand or contract in fluctuating temperatures.

Despite its sturdiness, it is relatively easy to cut with a router, so high-quality cutting tools and techniques can achieve precise and intricate designs on its surface.

CNC laminate cutting is an excellent choice for those wanting a waterproof, chemical-resistant, stain-resistant and fire-resistant end product. Compact laminate also comes in a range of colours, textures and patterns (such as mimicking materials like wood or stone!), so you can pick a variety to suit any application or need.

8. Corian

Finally, another one of the best CNC machining materials to use is corian.

Corian CNC cutting is popular for projects that require non-porous and bacteria-resistant qualities. The surface of Corian is smooth and scratchproof, so it’s suitable for use in environments where cleanliness and hygiene are important. 

It’s relatively easy to work with and can be drilled, milled, and carved with CNC equipment. It can be heated (thermoformed) and allow for the creation of curved or moulded shapes. This means it can be seamlessly joined together with other pieces using CNC routing techniques, enabling the creation of a large surface without visible joins.

Corian is also available in over 100 different colours ( as well as patterns and textures) allowing for diverse design possibilities.