CNC machining experts offer solutions to the frequently asked questions by manufacturers of furniture, cabinetry, millwork and more.

Q: What should I look for in a CNC 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 and 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

Q: How difficult is it to program and operate a CNC machine?

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. Many of today’s controllers have a ‘smart’ hand-held interface which uses a clever context sensitive menu system to guide the operator at all times. They even have a graphical display which provides useful program verification and editing of the program before the actual running. Submitted by AXYZ Intl.

Q: When choosing a machine, should I look for nested-based or cell manufacturing?

A: This requires a review of a series of questions: what products are being produced; what is the construction method; what are your production requirements today and in the future; what current equipment, facilities and software do you have; and what growth do you envision 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 your present and long terms needs. Submitted by Holz-Her US Inc.

Q  With all of the CNC routers available in the market today, what distinguishes one 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: Preparation, programming, hold-down, procedures, sorting, scrap, assembly and error handling are the main cost areas. Ordinary routers 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 How can I process a narrow rail on the CNC?

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 limitation. Submitted by 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  What software should I buy for my router?

A: When you purchase a quality machine, you will have enough software on board to produce just about any design you can imagine. Don’t jump in with both feet and buy costly software packages without first being comfortable with running the machine. Once you have run the machine you will understand and know more about its capabilities and then you can make a more educated decision on the extra software you might need.

Any good machine manufacturer will 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


Editor's note: this information is excerpted from the June 2013 Wood Products article on CNC machining.


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