CNC milling

(Computer Numeric Control)

What is it?

CNC milling is the automated machining process whereby rotary cutters remove material from a workpiece. A CNC machine typically consists of a flat work area (the bed that supports the workpiece) and a tool held by a rotary spindle which moves across the work area along the X and Y axes and vertically along the Z axis. This process is set-up using CAD and CAM software that produces programmed commands for the machine to operate.

What’s it for?

CNC machines are widely used in manufacturing and come in many different sizes. The most basic use for them is for profiling and engraving in 2D, but they can also be used to mill 3D surfaces making them an ideal alternative to sculpting by hand. The uses of CNC milling for prototyping at the DPL include: making landscape or site models, moulds used in combination with casting, laminating or vacuum forming, intricately designed machine parts and even full-size architectural building components.

How can I use it?

The DPL has two small Roland CNC machines for smaller jobs with a quick turn around, and one large AXYZ CNC machine for bigger projects. They are operated by the DPL staff only and as such there is no online booking available. In order to use the CNC machines you must first prepare your work in a specific way to make it CNC-ready. For more information on how to do this, please see the tutorials below. Once ready, submit your file in person to the DPL staff, between 10am-1pm, Mon-Fri.

What materials can I use?

The CNC machines can be used to cut many different types of material – anything from soft foam to hard plastics or wood. Generally we are happy for students to experiment and try things out provided it doesn’t create too much of a mess or damage the machines. The DPL also stocks the following materials for sale to AA students:



Blue StyroFoam
(low density)

Size (approx)

400mm x 500mm x 50mm
1200mm x 600mm x 50mm
2400mm x 600mm x 50mm



Yellow PU Foam M300
(medium density)

290mm x 500mm x 50mm
400mm x 500mm x 50mm


Pink PU Foam M450
(high density)

290mm x 500mm x 50mm
400mm x 500mm x 50mm


Birch Plywood – 9mm

1220mm x 1220mm
1220mm x 2440mm


Birch Plywood – 12mm

1220mm x 1220mm
1220mm x 2440mm


Birch Plywood – 18mm

1220mm x 1220mm
1220mm x 2440mm


Technical Information

The DPL has the following CNC machines:

2x Roland MDX 540 CNC 500mm x 400mm x 50mm Machining Area
AXYZ 4008 CNC 2440mm x 1525mm x 75mm Machining Area

Please note that due to health and safety reasons these machines can only be operated by DPL staff between 10am-6pm Mon-Fri.