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Inspire Maker Lab: CNC Routing

Makerspace technologies guide. What's in the makerspace, how it works, and what you can do with it!

CNC Routers

What is a CNC machine?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and works through a software program sending the machine directions, which it then uses to cut, engrave, or carve your project.  Models are designed in a number of different softwares, then put into V-Carve, the Shopbot machine software, and programmed to make specific types of cuts.  The machine itself uses different bits to create your project.

Brand new to CNC routing?  Check out this beginners guide by ShopBot.

ShopBot Desktop

ShopBot Desktop

ShopBot Desktop

This CNC router can cut up to 24" x 18", and a number of materials.  The Inspire Maker Lab has plexiglass, 1/8" baltic birch wood, and green foam for student use.  Students may also bring in their own materials to use with the ShopBot.

CNC Examples

cnc Clock

created by: Michael Tyler

cnc tea chest

created by: Michael Tyler

metal luminaria

created by: Michael Tyler

cnc block mirror

created by: Michael Tyler

Step by Step Instructions

1.  Create the design that you would like to use with the CNC router.  This design can be either created in a 3D modeling program (such as Rhino) or an illustration program (such as Illustrator, Inkscape, GIMP or Photoshop).  Also have an idea of what type of material that you would like to cut or engrave.  The shopbot doesn't do a full 3D cut, so be aware that there will be a flat side to your project.

2. Email either Hannah Pope ( or Karl Moretz ( for use of the machine.  Using the CNC router requires an appointment to ensure that the cuts are made the way that they were envisioned.  The appointment should not last longer than 30 minutes and will be during the times that the makerspace is open.

3. Bring your file and ideas with you to your appointment time.  The Inspire Lab worker will help you create the cuts that you want, and then will set up the machine.  You will be emailed when your project is completed.


Programs to use:

Rhino CAM

Rhino CAM, an add on for the Rhinoceros program, is a great way to customize your design before bringing it to the Inspire Maker Lab.  Choose the right settings for your cuts all within a 3D program.  Rhino CAM has Mill, Turn, Nest, and Art modules.

RhinoCam logo

VCarve Pro

Packaged with the ShopBot, VCarve Pro is the software used by the library for creating the cut and engrave settings on a project.  

 VCarve pro logo

Adobe Illustrator

Use Illustrator to create designs that can be imported into VCarve Pro.  Just save the vector objects as toolpaths.  Adobe Illustrator is located on all of the computers in the Digital Media Studio.

Adobe Illustrator logo


A free, open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape can also create vector toolpaths to import into VCarve Pro.

Inkscape logo

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is another program that can be used to create vector images.  Transfer into Illustrator may be necessary for file conversion when attempting to add toolpaths in Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop logo


Image credits

ShopBot Desktop:

Rhino CAM logo:

Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop icons:

Inkscape icon: