Frequently Asked Questions for CNC Machining Centers

Posted by Karen Koenig | Posted: 06/04/2013 10:07AM

 

CNC router, Scm GroupScm Group NA Wood Products queried machinery manufacturers and suppliers regarding frequently asked questions on purchasing and using CNC machining centers for manufacturing furniture, cabinetry, millwork and more from composite panel and solid wood. Here are their answers.

Q: With all of the CNC routers available in the market today, what makes a CNC router different from another?

A: CNC routers for the most part are built with a lot of similarities when it comes to the mechanics. They all use motors to drive the different axes, steel/aluminum for the construction and have some sort of spindle/router to machine the parts. It is interesting to note that the substantial benefits of a smart router are not in actually cutting parts, but in all the details required to cut parts. Most companies considering a router for the first time do not realize that the vast majority of their cost will not be running the router, but instead, will be in a myriad of details required to run the router. Preparation, programming, hold down, procedures, sorting, scrap, assembly and error handling are the main cost areas. Ordinary routers do not focus on these areas. They rely on the user to take care of them and usually it’s not all that easy. The operator must be both skilled and well trained to work within the limits of these systems. Smart routers address these areas in a big way by utilizing a high-end control. They address the areas where you spend the most money because that’s where you can make the most money. – submitted by Thermwood

Q: What should I look for in a machine ?

A: First you need to thoroughly examine and prioritize your requirements in a machine. The questions you need to ask yourself are “how important to me is precision, finish, productivity, tool life & price?” Raising and addressing these questions will help narrow the field. The price question should be addressed last; it will pretty much answer itself once the other questions are addressed. The day after the machine is put in operation the purchase price is all but forgotten; performance and productivity are the criteria by which this investment will be judged daily, for the rest of the machine’s life. Ultimately the question to answer is what is my cost per part? Have I lowered the cost by increasing quality, increasing tool life, increasing throughput, increasing productivity (reducing the time/labor required to produce each piece)? — submitted by KOMO Machine Inc.

Q: Nested based or cell manufacturing?

A: This requires a review of a series of question, what products are being produced, construction method, production requirements today and future, present equipment, facilities, software and what growth do you envision on for your company, among others. There is no simple, easy answer. It requires a well thought out review with you, your team and your machine builder partner. Anyone providing a simple immediate answer is not looking out for you present and long terms needs. – submitted by Holz-Her US Inc.

Q: How can I process a narrow rail?

A: The vacuum clamping system can be equipped with mechanical clamping devices in place for the vacuum cups on the machine. You can then process the part without any limitations. – submitted IMA

A. The most common question we always heard was do I buy a pod and rail machining center or a flat table router. Now we are most commonly asked: Do I buy a pod and rail CNC machine, a flat table router or a vertical machining center? The great news is that consumer choices have never been greater. - submitted by Stiles Machinery

Q: How difficult is a CNC machining center to program and operate?

A: Nowadays, thanks to modern programming systems it really is very easy to create complex programs. It is all done with interactive 2D or 3D graphics with no manual coding required. The actual machine operation is also much easier than it used to be. For example, our controller has a ‘Smart Console’ hand-held interface which uses a clever context sensitive menu system to guide the operator at all times. It even has a graphical display which provides useful program verification and editing before actual running. – submitted AXYZ

Q: What software should I buy for the machine?

A: When you look at a quality machines you will have enough software on board to allow you just about any design you can imagine. Don’t jump in with both feet and buy costly software packages without even being comfortable with the machine. Once you have run the machine you will understand and know more and then can make a more educated decision on the extra software you might need. Any good machine manufacturer would have contact with the different software companies and most of the time incorporating that software into the use of the machine is not a problem at all. – submitted by Felder USA


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About the Author

Karen M. Koenig

Karen M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Wood Products (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at kkoenig@woodworkingnetwork.com or Google+.

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