The cutting beds of CNC routers vary by machine. A can have a bed that ranges from a few feet across to several yards wide. The bed may also contain unique features such as a vacuum, a perforated top, or a disposable top. When shopping for a router among , woodworkers should understand the benefits of the following cutting bed features before they invest in a certain piece of equipment.
Table size is important as it pertains to the size of the raw material and/or the number of pieces that must be cut in a certain time. A large top will obviously facilitate the production of large pieces, but it can also expedite the production of smaller pieces; the large cutting area means less reloading is needed to finish the production run. Regarding size, it is better to choose a table that has more space than necessary than one that is cramped.
A vacuum table keeps material securely in place by applying a vacuum from underneath. Typically available in high-end new or used CNC woodworking machines, a vacuum table replaces clamps. The advantages of this technology are the vacuum can be released faster than clamps, and every inch of the material is held in place with the same amount of force. The biggest disadvantage is, unlike clamps, the vacuum pump requires special maintenance, uses electricity, and may be subject to repairs.
Disposable tabletops, which are typically composed of layers of high-density MDF boards, are ideal for first-time CNC router operators who may accidentally bypass limit switches and sensors, and cut into the table. Disposable tops can also be added to tables that already have non-disposable tops. They are typically used for hobbyist woodwork.
Perforated tops tend to be the least expensive because they require the smallest amount of material to produce. Available with various types of perforation, perforated tops allow dust to fall through the slots into a collection bin. While letting gravity do the work of a dust collector is an inexpensive option, it may complicate the dust collection process. If you perform a low volume of work, and do not perform dust removal until the end of the day, using a router equipped with a perforated top would be optimal.
T-Slot tops are typically found on hobby grade routers and commercial models reduced in price. A T-slot top has some attractive advantages: it is inexpensive, easy to use, and does not consume much electricity. The biggest downside to T-slot tops is traditional clamping methods must often be modified to prevent the spindle head from hitting the clamps. The software that comes with T-slot routers might lack the programming capacity to create paths around the clamping system.