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    Default Professional Advice First CNC Router

    Hello, First post to Wood threads.
    I am a Machinist but have a couple people asking me about CNC Routers.
    I dont know anything about the brands or capabilities.
    When I look to suggest a Newbie machine that is capable of turning into a full business for say cabinets, all I see from my experience is starting prices of $35-50K
    Im used to ball screws, liner ways, large speed/torque motors, with my experience I couldn't recommend a machine with rack and pinion, Windows based Control software, and stepper motors.

    I know someone who has a DMS Patriot, Starting price at $36k, I see balls screws, liner rails, and a tool changer,and industrial control. But thats a expensive start.

    One guy likes the Laguna machines, but I dont know the drive brands, and their most expensive still has rack and pinion, but at a even higher starting price than the Patriot, I see Fanuc controllers.(but rack and pinion?)

    Can some one give me a direction to point someone in for a machine that could possibly do cabinet work at low production, 1 man show.

    If it was a "Vertical Machining Center" and not a router, I would tell them a Used Haas, least expensive actual full production machine.

    Thanks
    CHEERS!
    Last edited by Houdini16; 08-14-2019 at 10:55 AM. Reason: better context

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    Wow, nothing, The wood threads suck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Houdini16 View Post
    Wow, nothing, The wood threads suck.
    Because we have nothing to do but check here all day to see if anyone posts anything new.

    I have 2 routers both with ball screws servos and linear bearings. One is the Patriot the other is a machine with a windows based controller. I bought the one with the Windows based controller first and did get some Data starving issues when I first started using it but with better CAM software and dialling in some of the parameters it works well.

    The Windows based controller is WAY more user friendly and intuitive than the Fagor on the Patriot and I suspect most Industrial Controllers. Things like setting tool offsets, pausing and re starting a toolpath, loading a program and setting a WCS are so much simpler and are 1/4-1/10th the number of keystrokes. The controller on my machine is not a PC it is an industrial cabinet with a controller type keyboard. The learning curve coming from no experience with CNC will be way shorter with a lot of the Windows Based controllers

    Part of the reason for buying the DMS was the industrial controller which I had hoped would allow me better feedrates on some complicated geometry and was quoted impressive look ahead numbers etc. I had them run a sample part for me and compared run times. I should have had them courier me the part because I bet it had a terrible finish. I have had parts the Fagor controller would not cut without significant gouging even running at 1/4 the feedrate that I did the part on the Windows based controller. I have to pick and choose the jobs I run on it and sometimes it will hang up in an area feeding code at about 2 or 3 lines of code per second while barely moving. It works pretty well for bigger jobs apart from the occasional hanging up.

    That being said the Patriot router is a reasonably heavy duty machine for the money much heavier than AXYZ etc. It's not as heavy duty as a Komo or Onsrud but is also a third of the price of one of them. Someone doing cabinets is not going to have the issues I have with choking on code.

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    With a little bit of searching here you should find that both patternmaker and I have already answered similar questions...

    There are so many different machines available in the cabinetmaking realm that it is really hard to give good advice without knowing alot more info about how your buddy wants to process jobs and what style of cabinets etc. Are they doing euro style or face frames? Do they have an edgebander? Do they have a drill tub? Existing machinery can help point them to the next step and stay within their way of doing things.
    It will also be good to know how savvy is he with technolgy? The machine is most times the easy part. You have to get all the systems working together or you end up with a machine that sets alot and is a source of frustration. Any idea on what software he wants to use? The better/best cabinet software is running upwards of $30K, but it will do what the salesman says it will. Once setup, which can take years, it will draw and nest all the parts and puke out the code ready to load on the machine. It also prints out labels etc. The cheaper software or ones not designed for cabinets require the programmer to nest all the parts manually/individually, apply toolpath etc for each sheet. If you have a kitchen with 40 sheets worth, that runs into a lot of time. Does he currently draw cabinets with CAD or ?

    If he is strictly making cabinets, he is going to want to invest in a machine with a drill bank at minimum, you need to be able to drill system holes multiples at a time, vs one at a time. I would also say it needs horizontal boring/drilling on the drill bank. This would require a pod a rail machine or to set up pods on a full table nesting router. It would be nice to have a saw on it, but that is not as high of a priority especially if he is not doing 1/4" backs.

    Rack and pinion if done right can be very good performing machines. It is also the only way I know of to run machines with 24 ft plus lengths. I ran some Onsruds with 16+ ft tables with a moving gantry with rack and pinion. The way they make them accurate and precise is to power both pinions and to use some compensation in the control. I do not know if less expensive machines with a rack and pinion do this.

    I too do not like PC frontend machines, but unless they go expensive or old versions of expensive machines I don't think there is much out there. Most wood working machines, especially cabinet focused machines are going to be PC frontends, even on the expensive ones.

    I would suggest finding out if there is any dealers close and see what they offer. The bad thing in the wood world is there isn't a MTB with a Haas like HFO in every state. Most OEM's are the only support, so any install, training or repairs are over the phone or you are flying a guy in. If there was someone close, it can make a big difference in the long run.

    If I was only doing cabinets and didn't have a thing for big American Iron with Fanuc controls, I'd be looking at a Biesse or Weeke. I'd prefer an Onsrud, but used ones are still expensive.

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    Thanks for the responses, This is his first CNC machine, and he currently is a wood worker, nut has a lot of background in computers, that will minimize learning curve.
    He was talking about buying a 80/20 kit for $10k and trying to get it to pay for up for something real.
    In the Machining world, the Hobby grade tools are not really capable of being used to start a business, but make some prototypes in your garage.
    At a starting price of $35k new or possibly $20k used, you could buy a commercial machine, and have no worries, anything less is really a waste of money.

    Now to the point, is this the same in the router world?, I have a friend who I helped to buy a Shopbot 4x8, All he does is make custom car audio boards from MDF.
    The machine works fine for this, low production, low tolerances, and cosmetically parts get wrapped in vinyl.

    If my friend buys a 80/20 kit machine for $10k, is this a waste of money? I dont know the answer, but from my world yes.
    It would be like me suggesting he buy a Tormach to start a business. If it was just for Hobby great, but thats it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Houdini16 View Post
    Wow, nothing, The wood threads suck.
    Damn! Waited a whhhooollleeee daaayyy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike1974 View Post
    Damn! Waited a whhhooollleeee daaayyy!
    yeah! no kiddin, WHat the!
    Haha, Im used to the machinist forums, I usually get a couple answers in a few hours. Haha

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    From what I have seen, there are quite a few kits that can be either a plasma cutter or router. I think it would be tough to take the time to build one and try and run it to make a profit. Most of the ones I have seen, the person has done it because they want to, as in that is the goal, not to use the machine to make money.

    I went though lots of different scenarios before I bought mine, one was to buy two old Shodas that had been in storage for 15 years. I decided to pass even as cheap as they were because I needed to have a running machine on the floor, not a project. I think an 80/20 kit with a hand held router motor would possibly be better than nothing, but barely. I honestly don't know how tight of a tolerance they can hold. I envision him getting it together and then realizing that he still has to go and redo and tweak the parts to put a box together. He will also have to deal with not having a toolchanger or an option to have other tools without changing them mid program. Even with a tool touch off it would suck. I think if he is going the kit route, I don't see it being any faster or better quality than using a slider or panel saw and drill tub, because he is still going to have to do lots of 2nd ops manually and possibly resquare the parts etc. At that point, I don't see a reason to do it. Now if he planned on doing mostly curved or artsy stuff that wouldn't be as big of a concern.

    I bought a '92 Komo VR805 multispindle machine. It was $19k from a dealer where I got to go test drive it. I had alot of experience running one just like it, had the post processor etc all ready to go as well, so it was painless to start making money with it. It has 8 spindles that I can use like a toolchanger or I can use it like a duplicator. I do cut cabinet parts on it as that is what I have, but to be honest if that was most of my work, it is not the best machine for it. It doesn't have a drill bank on it, so when I do a closet side with a hundred plus holes in it, it takes forever and a day one at a time compared to a machine that could do them 3,5,7,9 at a time. I honestly spent more on it than I should have, but I couldn't gamble on one that was unknown, I needed it going as soon as possible and the one I got I had making money within 2 hours of setting on the floor. There are the exact same machines on ebay right now for less than that, but they may not be powered up etc, so you roll the dice.

    Back to the hobby machines, yes he could probably make cabinets with them, but there are so many corners cut on them that it will be harder to tell realistically if it is profitable. The tormach example is a good one, they work, but not at a level that inspires confidence. The same issues that hamper a tormach hamper a router. If it is not rigid, you give up feed rate and DOC, then you put heat into the cutter and you give up tool life and sometimes actually burn the material, which can catch on fire... If it happens to be rigid, but not enough hp to run a tool properly, same results.

    Now the feature that most people overlook. If you can't hold the part, you can't cut it. Most of the cheap machines I have seen don't have a vac table, they use a few t slots and you have to clamp the material down to the table, then move them around so you don't cut them and all that fun BS. Those tables typically are thin extrusions that aren't the most rigid either, so you can get deflection in Z
    .
    The next step up machines that do have a vac table don't have a very good one and you have to be very cautious and very methodical and maybe do a song and dance and sacrifice something to the vacuum gods to keep the parts held. Some of the reasons are the pump itself isn't big enough, good ones aren't cheap. And anyone that believes a regenerative blower is a vac pump needs to their head examined. The cheap machines tend to have one big zone instead of multiples. By that I mean you can't section off zones on the table to apply vacuum to certain areas. If you are cutting a full sheet all the time then not a problem, but if you want to run half sheets or smaller, then it makes life much easier if you can turn on the specific zone you need.

    Then the physical table itself, many aren't made with any thought to airflow, so the vacuum pump may be good, but it is hamstrung by the table design and the plumbing of hoses or tubes. The better the flow, the better the vacuum will be applied to the parts. The design of the actual table top makes a difference as well. If it is just a open plenum with a few islands holding up a pc of mdf, it will be much harder to do less than full sheets. You'll have to to tab most of the parts, may have problems holding anything besides melamine, especially if it is warped or bowed any. The better ones have some version of a phenolic top that has a grid cut into it and vac holes. It sets on the open plenum and is usually sectioned off for the zones. The grid is typically larger slots around larger islands. Then the one I like best is an aluminum top with a grid of 1" square islands and grooves 1/4" wide and 1/4" deep. The vac holes are app every 6" and the islands have a shallow cross cut in the top to allow more area for vac to reach. This is really nice because you can use oring material and section off a small area or weird shape etc to apply vac to only where you want it. It is pretty fast to changeover. You can do the same thing with dedicated fixtures, but for low volume the oring grid is cheaper and faster. (See NEMI grid tables)

    I think instead of spending $10k and and unknown amount of time building a kit, he would be better off to get a good used machine for $15-25k.

    One thing he could look into is to sub out some parts to see how they are processed and if he likes the results etc, then based on what he sees them do, he can pick what he wants a little easier.

    Thought of something else, a 5 ft vs 4 ft table is nice if you ever want to cut any real baltic bich ply in the 5x5 sheets, you can also get 5x_ sheets in most anything else too and it can really help the yield on certain jobs.

  9. #9
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    Listen to Jason I have learned a lot from his posts here. He has experience with way more machines than I have and does cabinet work which we turn away here. I did do as the OP's friend here and buy a machine without ever having run one and did look at the cheaper options because I could not afford to spend a lot of money either.

    I looked at a machine made from 80/20 extrusion before I bought my first machine. It was a local small time builder who had made it. He was making a bigger one for the guy who was selling this one. They had had to beef it up with some angle and I could still feel the table flex down when I leaned lightly on it. Totally unusable for my application making Patterns. Unusable if you want to cut dados for assembling cabinets, possibly usable if you are just doing 2d profiles and drilling holes for shelf supports as long as you don't mind them all being different depths. The guy who was using it was using it to cut out MDF forms for Cedar strip canoe and Kayak kits, Depth control was not that important for what he was doing.

    We don't have a Vacuum table and only occasionally use vacuum fixtures but we are typically running cycle times of 3-6+ hours. We cut almost no sheet good jobs maybe 1-2 sheets per month. As well much of what we cut we can usually just throw screws though and then fill later. In the past we were doing maybe 2-3 sheets every other week and even with that volume fastening them down was time consuming. If I were doing even 10% sheet goods I would definitely get a good vacuum system.


    With a one man shop who has to do sales,program and load the machine,finish the cabinets, and install the cabinets I suspect a machine without the drill bank etc. will still be able to easily outwork the person doing all the other work. Compared to setting up a jig and drilling holes with a hand drill a basic router will still be lightening fast and more importantly doing it while the owner is working on something else. Drilling the holes one at a time is maddening to Jason because he has used a drill bank on high end machines and is comparing the speed. If the router sits doing nothing for 6 hours a day vs 4-5 how much money is it saving. I think a good vacuum system and a tool changer are more important. To me for a small wood shop saving operator time is more important than saving machine time.

    The one advantage for buying a new lower mid level machine over a used for someone new to CNC is training/customer support. You will typically get some training and there is some customer support if you have a problem. That can be very useful and reassuring if you have not run a CNC before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by macgyver View Post
    From what I have seen, there are quite a few kits that can be either a plasma cutter or router. I think it would be tough to take the time to build one and try and run it to make a profit. Most of the ones I have seen, the person has done it because they want to, as in that is the goal, not to use the machine to make money.

    I went though lots of different scenarios before I bought mine, one was to buy two old Shodas that had been in storage for 15 years. I decided to pass even as cheap as they were because I needed to have a running machine on the floor, not a project. I think an 80/20 kit with a hand held router motor would possibly be better than nothing, but barely. I honestly don't know how tight of a tolerance they can hold. I envision him getting it together and then realizing that he still has to go and redo and tweak the parts to put a box together. He will also have to deal with not having a toolchanger or an option to have other tools without changing them mid program. Even with a tool touch off it would suck. I think if he is going the kit route, I don't see it being any faster or better quality than using a slider or panel saw and drill tub, because he is still going to have to do lots of 2nd ops manually and possibly resquare the parts etc. At that point, I don't see a reason to do it. Now if he planned on doing mostly curved or artsy stuff that wouldn't be as big of a concern.

    I bought a '92 Komo VR805 multispindle machine. It was $19k from a dealer where I got to go test drive it. I had alot of experience running one just like it, had the post processor etc all ready to go as well, so it was painless to start making money with it. It has 8 spindles that I can use like a toolchanger or I can use it like a duplicator. I do cut cabinet parts on it as that is what I have, but to be honest if that was most of my work, it is not the best machine for it. It doesn't have a drill bank on it, so when I do a closet side with a hundred plus holes in it, it takes forever and a day one at a time compared to a machine that could do them 3,5,7,9 at a time. I honestly spent more on it than I should have, but I couldn't gamble on one that was unknown, I needed it going as soon as possible and the one I got I had making money within 2 hours of setting on the floor. There are the exact same machines on ebay right now for less than that, but they may not be powered up etc, so you roll the dice.

    Back to the hobby machines, yes he could probably make cabinets with them, but there are so many corners cut on them that it will be harder to tell realistically if it is profitable. The tormach example is a good one, they work, but not at a level that inspires confidence. The same issues that hamper a tormach hamper a router. If it is not rigid, you give up feed rate and DOC, then you put heat into the cutter and you give up tool life and sometimes actually burn the material, which can catch on fire... If it happens to be rigid, but not enough hp to run a tool properly, same results.

    Now the feature that most people overlook. If you can't hold the part, you can't cut it. Most of the cheap machines I have seen don't have a vac table, they use a few t slots and you have to clamp the material down to the table, then move them around so you don't cut them and all that fun BS. Those tables typically are thin extrusions that aren't the most rigid either, so you can get deflection in Z
    .
    The next step up machines that do have a vac table don't have a very good one and you have to be very cautious and very methodical and maybe do a song and dance and sacrifice something to the vacuum gods to keep the parts held. Some of the reasons are the pump itself isn't big enough, good ones aren't cheap. And anyone that believes a regenerative blower is a vac pump needs to their head examined. The cheap machines tend to have one big zone instead of multiples. By that I mean you can't section off zones on the table to apply vacuum to certain areas. If you are cutting a full sheet all the time then not a problem, but if you want to run half sheets or smaller, then it makes life much easier if you can turn on the specific zone you need.

    Then the physical table itself, many aren't made with any thought to airflow, so the vacuum pump may be good, but it is hamstrung by the table design and the plumbing of hoses or tubes. The better the flow, the better the vacuum will be applied to the parts. The design of the actual table top makes a difference as well. If it is just a open plenum with a few islands holding up a pc of mdf, it will be much harder to do less than full sheets. You'll have to to tab most of the parts, may have problems holding anything besides melamine, especially if it is warped or bowed any. The better ones have some version of a phenolic top that has a grid cut into it and vac holes. It sets on the open plenum and is usually sectioned off for the zones. The grid is typically larger slots around larger islands. Then the one I like best is an aluminum top with a grid of 1" square islands and grooves 1/4" wide and 1/4" deep. The vac holes are app every 6" and the islands have a shallow cross cut in the top to allow more area for vac to reach. This is really nice because you can use oring material and section off a small area or weird shape etc to apply vac to only where you want it. It is pretty fast to changeover. You can do the same thing with dedicated fixtures, but for low volume the oring grid is cheaper and faster. (See NEMI grid tables)

    I think instead of spending $10k and and unknown amount of time building a kit, he would be better off to get a good used machine for $15-25k.

    One thing he could look into is to sub out some parts to see how they are processed and if he likes the results etc, then based on what he sees them do, he can pick what he wants a little easier.

    Thought of something else, a 5 ft vs 4 ft table is nice if you ever want to cut any real baltic bich ply in the 5x5 sheets, you can also get 5x_ sheets in most anything else too and it can really help the yield on certain jobs.

    Nice!, Thank you, This was the bread and butter I was looking for to confirm what I had already thought.
    I am trying to get my buddy with the ShopBot, that doesnt have a permanent table currently, to lay down some steel/aluminum extrusions for a sub table, and buying a piece of 3/4-1" 6061 plate, or even better stress relieved aluminum plate, and machining the grid table, its a mere $1300, he has a vacuum and doesnt have a table built for it.
    He wanted to use plastic, but I had mentioned some plastics cost more than aluminum, and they might be hydroscopic, if they were hydrophobic, ok, but plastic is soft.
    When I told him Phenolic, or similar composite, he shit at the prices.

    Ill pass on the info mentioning the negates on the hobby machine, and roll with a used industrial,
    Thanks for your time, and the novel,CHEERS!

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    (Pattnmaker)
    Thanks for your response, yeah being the 1 man show has different aspects, In a normal shop I used to try to get parts out of the machines ASAP, if there was some features that could be done manually, I would remove them from the machining, because we had button pushers standing around that get paid to work, So I created work for them, and got parts out of the CNC's quicker.
    But the shop I worked at burned down after 10 years of working there,Now I do my own thing, 1 man show from my garage, but I do full speed production of smaller parts with $150,000 in 2 machining centers.
    I now do the opposite, I have no time, So I program the machines to do everything they possibly can.


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