Interest has surged recently in 5-axis machining centers, with affordability and flexibility driving the trend.
“All the new equipment have very flexible configurations that can allow small batch production (batch one) or high volume production,” said Max Salmi, corporate communications manager for SCM.
Dave McFarland, senior manager, CNC Processing for Stiles Machinery, also attributed the rise in 5-axis offerings to two influences: unitized 5-axis heads available off the shelf and a downward migration of software incorporating 3-D or solid models. “Most of the major spindle motor manufacturers now offer fully integrated 4th/5th-axis units, with routing spindles, ready to mount. Today the OEM can purchase the complete set and integrate it with their machine configuration, with a minimal requirement for independent design or development.”
In addition to more affordable 5-axis machines, Jason Susnjara, Thermwood vice president of marketing, also noted the trend for “smart routers.” “It is interesting to note that the substantial benefits of a smart router are not only in actually cutting parts, but in all the details required to cut parts...Preparation, programming, hold-down, procedures, sorting, scrap, assembly and error handling are the main cost areas. [Smart routers] address the areas where you spend the most money,” he said.
Cesare Magnani, Biesse brand manager, also commented on developments to improve efficiency in the machining process. “We are experiencing a growing demand for CNC machining centers where material is loaded and offloaded automatically, either from a single feeding point or from an automatic storage system. More technological solutions are evolving to satisfy this growing demand,” he said.
Komo Machine President Mike Kolibas also noted the growing trend toward integrated load and offload systems as well as automatic positioning of consoles and pods. “Complete production workcells are becoming more popular as CNC manufacturers are offering integrated load and offload systems,” he said.
“Workholding, clamping systems continue to develop to provide flexibility and the ability to position and reposition accurately, to allow for multiple side machining,” added Michael Cassell, CNC product manager at Holz-Her US.
Also noted by many were continuing requests for smaller footprints. “The use of one large machine with productivity equal to two separate machines is becoming increasingly popular,” noted Robert Marshall, vice president of market development for AXYZ Intl.
“We see the trends continuing for additional machine offerings that machine the part vertically,” said Jeff Conger, Weeke product manager at Stiles Machinery. “These machines provide a large percentage of what most manufacturers are looking for: zero setup, wide variety of part size capabilities, small footprint and extreme user-friendliness make these machines more popular than ever before.”
“Machines that require less space is always important,” said Ruan du Toit, CEO of Felder USA. “Customers still want the benefits of CNC control, but need more production and don’t always have space available for the generally ‘big’ machinery available on the market today.”
Also trending are feed-through multi-station machining centers, said Larry Tolbert, sales representative for Solid Wood Systems. He also noted interest in woodworkers for equipment capable of machining long linear workpieces, such as furniture and door components, while allowing “access to operations on all sides of the workpiece without repositioning,” Tolbert added.
New capabilities, including laser edgebanding, are also gaining interest for CNCs in North America. Peter Tuenker, managing director at IMA America, noted that its incorporation on machining centers is a fast-growing area for his company.
Editor's note: a longer version of this article is available online. View the article, CNC Machining Centers for Woodworking: Trends & Tips at WoodworkingNetwork.com.
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