CNC Router or Machining Center?

For complex work on small parts, a pod and rail machine works best. A router table setup is better for cabinet production. But hybrid machines exist that offer the best of both worlds. March 6, 2006

We are considering a CNC for our shop and the first thing we need to decide is whether to get a machining center or CNC router. We want something for shaping solid wood curves, making complex profiles on wood, panel processing for cabinets, etc. We really want it to be flexible, not really for loading a truck of plywood to be chopped into cabinet components.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor T:
Perhaps you should also consider the fixturing and how you will hold parts. Depending on what they might look like, you may be better off with a strong machining center or a router with pods. There seems to be a lot of overlap between the two machines these days.

From contributor M:
Router with a grid table underneath the bleeder board will give you the most flexible machine. My shop sounds close to yours with lots of solids and one-offs. Email if you'd like and I can send you pictures of fixturing examples and aggregate work for complex stuff.

From contributor J:
I've had a pod and rail machine (Busellato) for 4 years now and just purchased another Busellato, a router table machine, so I have the best of both worlds. Here is my observation:

1 - If you don't have real good software to send your nests to the router, you're better off with a pod and rail machine. You can run it like a giant drill press successfully.

2 - A pod and rail machine will hold small parts much better. With the router you will need more fixturing or auxiliary pods for this. You are not going to hold a 3" x 24" part on a router table and cut a 1/2" groove in it! It will not hold; however, that part on pods will hold tight!

3 - If you plan on end drilling, as in dowel construction - the pod and rail machine is the way to go. If you get a router, also consider a PTP dowel and insert machine.

4 - Don't buy a cheap router - there is a lot of inexpensive stuff out there. You get what you pay for and you will need tech support. And don't buy a used machine. As tempting as it may be, consider the rigging costs, set up, parts and support. It will add up in a hurry. Get a new machine and start making money.

My conclusion: a pod and rail machine can be run like a jackass and will be more versatile on the fly. A router table machine will require fixturing for small parts and you have to have design and nesting software up to speed. This is big time important, or you just bought yourself a big workbench! However, if you are primarily building casework and couple a router with a dowel inserter as we have done, there is no faster way to build cabinets - period!

Check out They have steered me right on all my equipment. After 3000 hours on my machine, we had our first service call and it was very minor.

From contributor M:
I am also a Busellato user for more than 15 years. We currently have a hybrid machine (Busellato). It has a 5'x10' router table and a 5'x10' rail and pod area. We can do huge parts as well as the very small parts. Horizontal and vertical boring, panel processing, solid woods, fixturing, shaping, routing, all no problem. The best of both worlds with one machine. The software that comes with the Busellato machines has one of the most user friendly interfaces you can find. Programming is simple, straightforward and intuitive. Nesting software is available and also a post processor if you want to export drawings. If your volume of product is not very high, you can nest in CAD and then export the drawing to the post.