Five ways to tell when your CNC control needs upgrading

Replacing an older controller, such as the one shown at left, can result in more efficiency and ease of use for the operator. New controller shown at right. Photo: MachMotion

If you have CNC machines that are beginning to show signs of aging, your production is at risk of experiencing unexpected downtime. To keep your CNC machines in production, inspect these five components to determine if you could benefit from a controller upgrade.

1. Control system
Begin by evaluating the performance of your existing controller. Wear and tear can be expected on any machine. If you experience frequent glitches, slow startups, squinting to see the screen, or have to use floppy discs to load your programs, this indicates that a controller upgrade is overdue. Modern control systems can offer enhanced functionality, remote support, more intuitive user interfaces, and updated software with network security compatibility. 

2. Software
Is your CNC control running on obsolete operating systems, such as Windows 7, XP, NT? If so, it is no longer likely supported or updated. CNC machines running old operating systems connected to an online network are susceptible to internet security breaches. To maintain your system’s security and take advantage of IoT (Internet of Things) benefits, updating the control system is recommended.

3. Machine frame
How well has your CNC machine been maintained? This includes regular preventative maintenance on the frame, cutting table, drive screws, ways, and bearings. If you have kept up maintenance and its size, capability, and production quality meet your requirements, the machine is an excellent contender for upgrading. If you are unsure of the condition, find a controls company that provides a total machine health inspection to decide if an upgrade is worth the investment.

4. Servo systems
The motors, sensors, and drives in every CNC machine have a limited lifespan. Are you experiencing any inconsistencies or a general decline in the quality of your cuts? Check for any irregularities, such as abnormal movement, vibrations, excessive noise, or overheating. It is critical to recognize these signs of wear and tear to identify issues that go beyond the surface level. 

Also, you might have found that it has become difficult to get replacement parts or that repairs cannot be completed without excessive delays. An upgraded controller should come with new AC brushless motors and drives.

5. Wiring and components
Examine your machine’s electrical wiring and components. Are there any temporary fixes on the cabling? Cables are constantly flexing, running through the cable chain, which can result in faults that shut down production and are a challenge to repair. 

Damaged or aging wiring can lead to connectivity issues, affecting overall performance. Make sure when choosing a controller upgrade it includes new, high-quality wiring, ensuring reliable connections to all components and reducing the risk of electrical failures. 

Maintaining the maximum performance of the CNC machines you already own requires examining these critical components regularly. If you identify problems in any of these areas, your machine is ready for a control upgrade. Upgrading the controls is a cost-effective alternative to replacing a whole CNC machine.

Choosing a new control system
Find a company that provides remote support for the new control, local sourcing and distribution of replacement parts for 20 years of service, and can ensure you are back up and running with minimal downtime. 

A good controller should allow for regular security updates and be backward-compatible, so you can easily update it in the future. You also want a system without any postprocessor changes, ensuring you will be able to keep the programs you already have and start right back up after the installation of your new controls.

Don’t let outdated controls hinder your productivity. Invest in a long-term solution that offers not only immediate benefits but also ongoing support. You can easily modernize your control system for enhanced functionality, remote support, and improved security. 

Upgrading your CNC machines isn’t just a solution, it’s a strategic move to enhance efficiency, ensure quality, and keep the machines you own running for years to come.

Source:  MachMotion. For more information call 573-368-7399 or visit


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