Design Futures Lab

CNC Fabrication

Get Making on the CNC Routers

Need to make a site model? Have grand ideas for new flat pack furniture? Or just want to make cool things using a CNC Router? This is the place to be! Read on to find out how to get access or follow the links to book in your tool-path consultation.

Getting Started

Before you dive into using the CNC routers read through the following learn modules which will give you all the information you need to make the best models you can! The learn modules will go through step by step everything you need to know about the CNC's so you can become a CNC wizard!

CNC Basics CNC for Site Models

Step 1: Get your CNC Monitor Badge

The CNC monitor badge allows you to monitor your job whilst it is running on the CNC. It provides you with essential safety and operational information to get you started in the AML and is a requirement for any student using the space.

Start your badge now by reading the guides and safety documents prior to your toolpath consultation, and we will run the practical badge training and grant you your monitoring badge on commencement of your first project on the CNC.

Become a CNC Monitor

Step 2: Prepare Your CAD File

New to CAD or need to brush up on your skills? Take a look at these tutorials!

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Check out our home made series on CAD for a general introduction to Fusion 360. This is great if you want to learn the very basics of 3D modelling in Fusion 360, or expand on any existing skills.

CAD Learning Modules
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Our operators in the AML have made this handy list of CAD tutorials that focus on learning CAD with a eye towards CAM and subtractive processes.

AML Guide to CAD in Fusion 360

CAD File Ready to Go?

Preparing Files for Toolpath Consultation

Given the varied approaches to CNC fabrication available, we may need a variety of files depending on the outcome you require. Ideally, you can design or import your CAD model into fusion, create a setup and basic tool path and bring an exported .f3d and or .f3z file to your consultation on a USB, or sent via teams. If you need assistance with fusion you can bring other types of files. In that case, please thoroughly check our file preparation guidelines below

File Preparation Guidelines

Toolpath Consultation Options:

Bring a file for review

  1. Review the file export guidelines for the software you are using and export the curves and surfaces to our specifications
  2. Make sure your exported files (and the original just be to sure) are on a USB drive for your consultation.

Bring-Your-Own (BYO) tool-path

If you would like to have a go at making your own tool-path we are more than happy to help! Take a look at the video resources below for tips on getting started. You will still need to book in a consultation with our staff before you can cut, but we would love to see your own generated tool-path!

CAM for Fusion 360

Step 3: Consider Materials

Material choice is an important part of the CNC process and will dictate some of the design choices you will need to make.

  • If the material you want to cut is not listed on the page, you will need to provide an SDS (Saftey Data Sheet) and bring a sample to your tool-path consultation.
  • All materials must have a finished, flat, smooth face/s to fix to the CNC
  • Your material may need to be larger than your desired outcome in order to fix it to the CNC.
CNC Materials and Pricing
Danny Ply CNC

Plywood and Composite Woods

Composite woods can be processed up to 2400 x 1200mm on our Multicam CNC's up to a maximum thickness of 50mm.

✔️ All grades of plywood including construction, film faced and furniture grade plywood's Bunnings has a great selection in stock, DMK or Plyco (Expect longer delivery times) for special orders.

✔️ Chip board and Oriented Strand board (OSB)

❗ Some laminated products will need particular attention to achieve a clean cut edge. For this reason, if your material is not listed above, please bring a sample of at least 100x200mm for cut testing.

MDF cannot be cut in the DFL as it produces toxic dust when machined.

Justin Site CNC


Hard and soft timber can be processed up to 60mm thick on our Low Gantry CNC, and with special care (and limited tooling) up to 120mm on our High gantry CNC.

✔️Jelutong and Kauri Pine

Jelutong and Kauri Pine are popular materials for making site models. They can be purchased in small quantities from the DFL or from Anagote Timbers in Marrickville and will require finishing prior to use.

✔️ Bench tops from Bunnings

Pre-finished, solid wood bench tops from bunnings can be one of the most economical ways to realise larger products from wood.

❗Dressing Unfinished wood

Many hardwoods and timber products come 'raw sawn' or 'unfinished' from the timber yard and will need to be 'finished' or 'dressed' prior to use. When selecting the thickness of unfinished timber for your project, anticipate that at least 5mm extra will be required to account for the finishing process.

The DFL workshop can help you plane your material up to 500mm wide and can help laminate dressed timber for $6 per linear metre.

❌ No Salvaged wood without special permission

Blue Foam

Foam and Plastics

Foam and plastics can be processed up to 2500 x 1200mm on our Multicam CNC's up to a maximum thickness of 120mm.

✔️ XPS (Polystyrene) and Polyurethane insulation foam are readily available foams that typically come in 75mm and 100mm thickness. DFL sells XPS in 300x300mm and 300x600mm sheets. Direct from suppliers, these sheets come in 2500x600mm.

✔️ RenShape and similar composites machine slowly but provide a clean and strong surface for mould making, models and fixtures.

✔️ PVC, HDPE, LDPE and other plastic sheets can be machined but require particular attention to achieve a clean cut edge, so please bring a sample of at least 100x200mm for cut testing.

Modelling Foams produce fine dust when machined, and requires special safety equipment, extraction and handling. Thus, we require that you obtain special permission to machine these materials.

Carbon Fibre, Fibreglass and similar composites cannot be cut in the DFL as they produce toxic dust when machined.

Acoustic Foam and Flexible Plastics cannot be machined as the material deflects instead of cutting.

Step 4: Schedule a Toolpath consultation, review cost, and make a booking on the machines.

Once you have created your file you will need to book a toolpath consultation with our AML staff. During the consultation staff will review your file and help build the toolpath ready for use on the CNC routers. To book a toolpath consultation click here to start a Chat to the AML on Teams or come and chat to our AML staff in the Design Futures Lab.

Please make sure your file is appropriately named using the following format studentname_zID_coursecode

When attending your consultation you will need to share your file Ideally imported into Fusion 360 and have your chosen material (stock) set up in the CAM workflow. If you are unsure of how to do this, please read our CNC for Site Models page which has information about importing your file into Fusion 360.

Chat with AML team

Estimated Costs for CNC time

Whilst costs are calculated individually during your toolpath consultation, the below examples act as a reference

  • 300 x 600mm blue foam model : $25 (1/2 hour) + material cost
  • 2400 x 1200mm Sheet of plywood cut into shapes with pockets and other details: $50 (1 hour) + material cost
  • 300 x 600mm timber site model: $50 (1hr) + material cost
  • 600 x 600mm timber site model: $75 (1.5hr) + $40 (glue up fee) + material cost

If you have any questions prior to this process please leave a question or request a call here

Machines in the CNC Fabrication

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