Buyers of CNC routers are urged to take the long view.

Equipment buyers need to think beyond initial price and spec lists, and quantifying differentiation, said Todd (T.R.) Herzog of Accu-Router, Inc.

“So few take the time to do a controlled cutting test like we recommend, then sacrifice performance up front that erodes their ROI for the life of the machine,” he said.

“Tools like our spreadsheet are designed to help buyers think long-term beyond price and what (are) the actual productivity and ROI of this investment.”

Spreadsheet from Accu-Router helps calculate CNC router productivity.

Herzog said potential buyers should not shop to a checklist.

“We've made the comparison by benchmarking user-submitted programs with known cycle times on competitive brands, then replicating the cuts on an equivalent Accu-Router,” Herzog said. “We encourage all customers to stage a factory run-off among contenders before making a decision, using customer program(s), material, and tooling. It eliminates all the guesswork.

“Just because two machines have rollers, a 15 hp spindle, a fixed gantry, and Fanuc control doesn't mean they perform the same,” he said. “Quite the contrary, any machine tool (including an Accu-Router) is greater than the sum of its parts, and how they're engineered and tuned to work together.”

Spindles and controls

Herzog said that the company builds and services their own spindles in Tennessee, enabling them to cut more aggressively than most. A Fanuc control is highly customizable, which they leverage for performance. Lastly, Accu-Router designs for rigidity and acceleration over sheer weight.

While Accu-Router's business has swung back toward all new machines, they continue to promote and embrace Green CNC, which uses an older frame supplied by the customer, or acquired for them, then stripping and building a new machine on that frame.

“We have upgraded older Accu-Routers plus similar fixed-gantry competition (Komo, Northwood, Shoda, Heian), converting to our supply chain with latest technology, full warranty, and major savings,” Herzog said.

Today, electronics drive efficiency improvements for CNC routers.

“A few times over a router's life (which may be 20 years), electronics will take a quantum leap forward, so it's wise for users to stay plugged into vendor expertise,” Herzog said. “There may be cases where it's worth replacing a well-maintained machine sooner because of performance tradeoffs. Software for nesting and production scheduling can also accelerate throughput, yield, and ROI.

High volume and automation

A high-volume user may be focused on “making chips” if CNC routers are the backbone of their production and they run them hard. Most of Accu-Router’s plywood/OSB users are cutting upwards of 100 panels/shift/router.

“Volume can drive the justification, or pain, caused by excessive downtime or maintenance cost,” Herzog said. “The hourly cost of a $200,000 machine over 20 years is only $4.81 (40-hour shift) or $2.40 (80-hour shift). It helps to view it as buying bulk production discounted in today's dollars. The more producers struggle to find and retrain workers, they should ask ‘what more can we automate, and how can we drive performance?’”

The latest routers today are better integrated with user CAD/CAM systems and even direct loading of programs via ethernet.

“Automation is the main trend you'll see at places like IWF Atlanta, but it must be cost-justifiable and reliable,” Herzog said. “Robotic arms show well, but who will support problems? Can it grab warped material and odd shapes?”

For 20 years Accu-Router has offered automated material handling systems to minimize downtime between cycles, and Herzog believes they will keep gaining in popularity, and are already prevalent for large parts and shorter cycle times, such as in boating and plywood reels.

Accu-Router's niche has always been high-production panel processing, specifically North American upholstered furniture and boating. They also have success in aerospace, automotive, and more recently interior door production. See http://www.accu-router.com/.

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