A trick to turn your CNC into an automated shop vac
December 14, 2016 | 2:11 pm CST
Tracy Yarborough figured out how to make his CNC router clean up after itself with a simple program.
After using our CNC machine for more than eight years, we still find ways to be more efficient. One area we were looking at was bed cleaning after sheet processing. It was a chore to vacuum the bed with a shop vac after removing the processed pieces from the bed to ready it for the next sheet. 

I noticed a supplier selling a hose and wand system that integrated into an existing dust collection system and installed it thinking that it would eliminate emptying the shop vac. It did that and also reduced the clutter around the machine. This was a better way. 

Cabinet Makers Association expert David Buchsbaum shares CNC Tips & Tricks April 11 at the Cabinet Conference, April 11 in Schaumburg, Illinois

Then, while attempting to resurface the spoilboard one day, I forgot to reset the depth of cut. As the fly cutter flew across the bed at a depth of 0, I noticed that the dust hood was just touching the spoilboard and was sucking out the dust.

That's when I realized that I could program a spoilboard program that would swipe the board at the width of the dust hood instead of the cutter width. After storing the program in an easily accessible area, it now takes less than 60 seconds to vacuum the spoilboard and have it ready for the next sheet. No dumping a shop vac or swinging a heavy vacuum hose and wand in the process.

When I mentioned this tip on the Cabinet Makers Association (CMA) online forum, I got this response from Randy Nightengale:
“Good tip, Tracy. I also do that, but the guy who built my machine told me it could get dust in the collet. So I programmed the spindle to run at 500 rpm to help keep dust from sticking inside the spindle taper. I found out 500 is as slow as it will turn. Been doing it for couple of years now with no noticeable problems.”
Custom cabinetry and finish carpentry firms can learn how to grow sales and profits in a day-long conference, Power Up Your Business, on April 11 at the Cabinets & Closets Conference near Chicago. The event includes a plant tour and free admission to Cabinets & Closets Expo April 12-13. 
Two parallel business tracks – a Closets Conference, “Growing a Profitable Business,” and a “Lean Management Conference” conducted by the Center for Lean Learning – are also being offered. Registrants for any of the tracks may elect to attend any of sessions in any of the three tracks.
The Cabinets Conference includes lunch, refreshment breaks, a plant tour and free admission to Cabinets & Closets Expo, which follows on April 12-13. The events take place at the Renaissance Conference Center & Hotel, in Schaumburg, Illinois, near Chicago. The Cabinet Conference track was developed in partnership with the CMA, and a number of its members are presenting. 

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About the author
Tracy Yarborough

Tracy Yarborough is the owner of Maple River Woodworkers, a three-man custom cabinet shop that produces made-to-order pieces for the residential market.