A question came up about CNC routers and scrollsaws. I have had a CNC for about 3 years now. They will never replace the scrollsaw, but they can do some fantastic work. I guess there are some people out there with CNC, I know lasers are doing it, that are trying to pass their work as scrolled. Well it doesn't take a lot to tell the difference. The thing we have to consider is that this is progress. Just a few years back all patterns were hand drawn, now most are computer drawn. So it makes sense that people with computers and CNC machines will try to cut scrollsaw patterns. They cannot for the most part just take a pattern and cut it as easy as a scroller can paste it on the wood and cut it. It actually takes some computer knowledge and getting the pattern into a format that the CNC can understand. The jpg. that most patterns are posted in or are scanned in as will not work very well. Some programs will allow using a jpg. file and auto trace it, but the quality of the finished product usually suffers too. Not too many I know of will waste the time of using a CNC to cut a poor pattern file when they know the machine is capable of so much accuracy. Most programs need a vector graphic, normally a dxf. file. That is because the CNC programs plot points on the table for the cutter to move to, it does not follow lines, it only goes to the next point that the file plotted for it to move to. So first off someone using a CNC need to be able to get that scanned pattern into a format that the program can recognize. I have done a few projects for people that bring a printed image for me to work from. It normally takes a few hours to trace that image to be ready to use. Next you need to understand how to use the CNC program to convert that dxf. file into the g-code format that the CNC really uses. Then you cut it once and never use it again. Actually I make more money per hour doing it on the scrollsaw than doing it on the CNC doing one project. Where the CNC helps is if I need to make multiples of the same pattern. The CNC will produce the pattern over and over.
Cost may be a factor in this too. My CNC machine I purchase ready to use. I had to furnish my own computer. My guess is that I have about $6000-$7000 in just the machine. The router bits are not cheap either, they run about $10 each because they are solid carbide and precision made. A bit will last for many projects or you can bump it with a finger and break it. I have used 3-4 bits for one small project cut form mother-of-pearl. Would probably have used 2-3 scrollsaw blades to do the same project.
I still have and use the scrollsaws. But I use my CNC too. Each machine has it's own capabilities and you have to have the knowledge to use them to their potential. I know the CNC will do 3D, from the top only. It does not have the ability to turn and cut from the side too, it only cuts from the top down. So the elevation of the contour can only be as deep as the bit is long. Myself I have not learned to draw the files to make the CNC do this. I keep thinking about going to night school to learn to use a cad program to draw the 3D files. That is a part of the CNC I have not used yet, but would sure like to.
I sell most of my patterns in a format that can be easily used on the CNC machines. Mainly because there are getting to be more CNC machines in the hands of the public. A few are even building their own machines a whole lot cheaper than buying a machine ready to go. About the same percentage of people that own CNC machines are capable of drawing a pattern as there are scrollers that draw their own patterns. That makes many people with the CNC machines very limited with what the machine does for them. I would say maybe 5% of my pattern sales have been to CNC users, so there are not many buying patterns. Being able to buy a pattern in a format compatible to the CNC is like a scroller being able to buy a pattern printed. I have found so far that most of the patterns I sell are used by the home hobbyist with a CNC machine. I have had inquiries about production work and have not given permission for them to make any more than I would have given to a scroller.
Just like the computer helped the pattern designers, the CNC will help some make projects that resemble a scrolled project. I can tell you that the CNC router will never be able to get the detail that a scrollsaw can do. The diameter of the bit will dictate how square corners are, and how tight a V cut is. The thicker the material the larger the bit diameter will be. So the more radius the corners and V's will have. The price of the machines are coming down so there are going to be more CNC machines and lasers in the home hobby market as time goes on, so we are going to have to accept it. There is a place for scrollsaws and a place for CNC, they just don't do the same thing very well.