Mill vs. CNC Router vs. Laser Cutter: What to Pick?

The technique of engraving is a popular approach in our industries. The modern industry works on digitalized systems. Hence the carving industry also introduced software-based machines to increase their productivity. Mill, CNC router, and laser cutters are digitalized cutters that make the engraving process quick and easy.

CNC stands for computer numerical control. Designs are fed into the computer database, and the machine automatically engraves that design on the material. The three most common machines for carving and engraving different materials include CNC millers, CNC routers, and laser cutters. Let us dig into these three machines’ details to see what matches exactly with your need and requirements.

Mill vs CNC Router vs Laser Cutter

Difference Between Mill vs. CNC Router vs. Laser Cutter

CNC mill is a computer-controlled cutting machine that is used for carvings and engravings. It can carve hard materials like aluminum, brass, wood, and resins. At the same time, the CNC router carves and engraves the designs that you input in it. However, it has less power and is not efficient enough to carve on hard materials, such as steel or aluminum.

On the other hand, the laser cutter is quite different from both cutting machines. It is an advanced cutting technology that gives an authentic 3D look to the product. CNC mill uses heavy machinery to process hard materials, so it is heavy to lift. Whereas the CNC router is comparatively less heavy, you can easily take it from one place to another.

However, both the CNC machines need a large area to accommodate. A sharp contrast laser cutter is very easy to accommodate at a small place, even in your house. CNC mill is used for heavy-duty jobs as it easily carves on large and heavy products. On the flip side, the CNC router is used for carving signs, keychains, decoration items, and musical instruments.

A laser cutter can do multiple tasks and can process almost every material. It can engrave smaller items like key chains and etch on pre-made products to larger items, i.e., aerospace products. CNC mill and CNC router are comparatively easy to operate. But laser cutter requires high skill requirement for operating laser techniques.

CNC Mill

CNC miller is industrial machinery of timber. It works with high precision giving efficient and complex designs on materials. Mostly CNC miller is made up of hard material like die-cast iron, due to which it is heavy and not lightweight like a router. This firm nature makes it suitable for high power work and carving designs on hard materials.

CNC Mill

The special feature of the CNC miller is its spindle that moves in the Z-axis, and the workpiece is capable of moving in X and Y directions. This feature facilitates cutting the material in multiple planes. Also, it allows you to rotate the needle in multiple directions and to make intricated designs.

CNC millers can carve on hard materials like aluminum, brass, wood, and resins. So, it does heavy-duty jobs very efficiently. CNC miller is used in large industries to produce large intricated products such as assembly products.


  • It is suitable for a wide range of parts of a machine.
  • It facilitates your workers with a large workspace and facilitating carving in multiple planes.
  • It is a cable for producing larger products.


  • The tool radius is limited, so carving gets limited, especially when engraving letters.

CNC Router

CNC router is an automated carving machine capable of engraving multiple materials like wood, plastic, acrylic, and foam. It consists of a controller, spindle motors, an AC inverter, and a table controlled by a computer. You can use this machine for various carving tasks such as carving signs, keychains, decoration items, and musical instruments.

CNC Router

The CNC router has a spindle that moves in X, Y, and Z directions. It has a wide cutting surface, so this can handle large width of materials as well. Usually, it is not a massive machine and varies in size, ranging from desktop to the large counter’s size. It has less power, due to which it is not recommended for hard materials, just like steel or aluminum. 


  • It has a fast speed that lets you accomplish your assigned tasks very rapidly.
  • It is not heavy hence easy to lift and move.
  • The machine gives very little chance of errors.
  • It produces finished and refined products.
  • Being moderate in size, it provides an extensive workspace for the users.
  • It allows the movement of the spindle in three directions.
  • It is economical as waste production is very less.


  • It is not suitable to work on hard materials.

Laser Cutter

A laser cutter uses the technology of laser for carving on different materials. The high power of the laser makes the carving process more precise. Generally, the finished products of laser cutting are more refined, with a beautiful finish. It is more accurate than other non-laser technologies that can process the products within very little time. The laser cutter is suitable for tough materials like aluminum, carbon steel, and high graded steel.

Laser Cutter.jpg

The unique feature of laser cutting is its ability to carry out complex tasks. The laser technology makes it a suitable choice for etching inlays giving an artistic look. Also, you can engrave on thin sheet metals using laser cutting. Moreover, it uses movable parts, which means fewer wear and tears chances. The precision and professionalism of laser cutting make it widely used in technical industries like aerospace industries manufacturing.


  • Despite its high-quality laser cutter is not expensive and is an economical choice.
  • It is one of the most accurate machinery for engraving purposes.
  • It accomplishes tasks in less time.
  • It allows engraving on hard materials like high graded steel.
  • It does not demand extensive maintenance.
  • The heat-affected areas in it are less.


  • It requires highly trained professionals for usage.


CNC mill, CNC router, and laser cutter have their pros and cons. It is concluded that laser cutters are the most efficient, modern, and versatile machine to carve on different materials. It produces a good 3d look of your model, and it is widely used in industries. However, picking any one of these still depends on your choice and need. 

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