Flexible and highly accurate, today’s CNC machining centers are growing in popularity for both large and small woodworking shops engaged in the processing of a diverse range of materials.
The machine’s growing usage also can be linked to a number of trends, including:
• Mass customization. Whether due to the economy or just a sign of the times, the number of manufacturers with large production runs is dwindling. The multifunction flexibility and easy setup of today’s CNC machining centers allows for batch processing of indeterminate quantities or even custom products, at an economical cost. “The repeatability, reduced setup time, the ability of the machine to run in pendulum process and the parametric capability of software are solid reasons for the use of CNC machining centers for customized processing,” said one equipment manufacturer.
• Lean and/or just-in-time manufacturing. According to many manufacturers, the reduced setup time, combined with the machine’s repeatability, have resulted in a reduction of waste (time and material) from the operation.
• Smaller footprints. In today’s factories and shops, both labor and space can be at a premium. Therefore, the flexibility derived from a CNC center, plus a smaller footprint of one machine compared to many dedicated machines, becomes a benefit. “We see a very significant trend going toward large and small companies alike needing small footprint, rich capability machines that have virtually zero setup,” said one CNC machinery supplier. “As lean principles encourage manufacturers to go away from purchasing ‘monument’ pieces of equipment, we see the trend for this to intensify to even greater extents in the future.”
• More diverse material usage. As well as variable sizes, wood products manufacturers must also contend with a wide range of substrates, including composite panels, solid wood, honeycomb, plastics, metal and more. This can require add-ons, such as oil misters or coolants to eliminate material re-weld.
• Benefits to small shops. In addition to changing designs on the fly, “With the on-board tooling ability to route, drill, groove, shape, saw, profile, sand, etc., the range of application capabilities on the CNC machining center is almost limitless,” one machinery expert said.
Added another, “The benefits are similar for a one-man shop as for a production facility of hundreds of employees: a reduction of manpower, shorter set-up and cycle times, improved quality and consistency, improved process and production flow. These are benefits any company can use and appreciate.”
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