Buying a new CNC – 7 questions you need to ask

The purchase of a CNC is a big commitment to any cabinet making business. Automation, accuracy and speed come to mind when thinking of what the promise of a new CNC brings. Picking the right CNC though for your business isn’t as straight forward as you think. We’ll dive into 7 areas and questions that you need to ask yourself when you buy your first or second CNC.

 

  1. European or Chinese ?

This a question for the ages and the lines get blurrier every day it seems with some European vendors now setting up secondary operations in China and India to deliver lower cost offerings to the market. European made has always stood for quality but the Chinese manufacturers are quickly learning that adding European parts to their machines bridges the gap between the two.

Brands like Woodplus sit in the middle between European made and Chinese made by designing and engineering the product in Germany but delivering the build in China with European parts. It’s a best of both worlds offering. Check the spindle being used, the linear guides and where they are from, the controller and more.

 

  1. What’s the best vacuum to use ?

This is a tough question and often gets missed by buyers. Becker has a long established name in the market but this comes at a price. Having the right vacuum suction is super important to your business and it’s always best to over compensate on this front. If maintenance free is what your after then look closely at the Busch range of pumps. Unlike Becker they don’t have veins and therefore the maintenance side of equation is greatly reduced. If your price sensitive then there is always the Chinese Becker pump or pumps as low as $1,500 that can be sourced straight out of China. Be warned they have a relatively poor track record and be prepared for some downtime and be sure to figure that out in the total cost of ownership of your CNC.

 

  1. To label print or not ?

We all love automation and what’s even better is that while your CNC is routing, other parts of the process are moving and shaking. Automated label printing offers you an added hand in the automation process by adding labels to a stacked board prior to it being routed. This all occurs very quickly and is generally always done by the time the CNC has finished routing the board.

So it’s a no brainer right ? Wrong. There are a few software solutions out there that haven’t quite worked out the automated label printing function properly leaving you with a huge boat anchor if that part doesn’t do its job. Also, most automated label printing options require a gantry which will chew into your floor space, so be sure to plan for the space needed.

 

  1. What’s the real speed of the machine ?

We all hear that some machines move at over 100 metres a minute.  This may be true but the truth is a CNC won’t cut anywhere near that speed. Board density with today’s router bits mean that it’s simply not feasible. So what top end speeds should you expect ? 60 to 70 metres a minute is pretty much the norm for most of the top end machines from Europe and China. At the other end of the market you might save on price but the speeds of some of those machines get as low as 15 metres a minute.

 

  1. Not all warranty’s are the same.

We have all been burnt at some stage in our lives by product warranties. The industry standard on CNCs has always been 12 months but there are vendors now offering 2 year warranties in the market. Ausmach offer an industry leading 3 year warranty on the Woodplus range of CNCs providing you with the piece of mind that you’ll be looked after and protected from costly repairs should they arise. Be sure to ask what’s included in the warranty, parts, call outs by service technicians, etc.

 

  1. Make sure your software and CNC get the best out of each other.

As much as you’ll love your new CNC, it’s important to understand that it’s only as good as the software that drives it. With the level of integration you can get today with machinery and software it’s important to understand what limitations exist and that you don’t buy a machine or accessories that can’t be supported.

What you need to think about with software:

– label printing support

– post processor support and availability

– drilling support

–  optimisation engine (yield rates)

 

  1. After sales support and spare parts

This goes with anything you buy. After sales support is imperative and the truth is every machine will break down sooner or later. It’s how the vendor responds to your calls for help that become critical to your business. Evaluate the service technician charges so you know what your potential costs could be for future call outs. Ask the question if they offer remote support for you and what that looks like. Many vendors now can login to the computer if needed and diagnose some issues without stepping onto your floor.

Mitigate the possibility of failure by making sure you adhere the service regime proposed by your vendor. Just as important is the need to understand the cost of spare parts. Be prepared for a nasty surprise if you haven’t properly researched the costs of spare parts with some vendors.

 

All in all the purchase of a CNC is a great step forward for most businesses and represents growth in the right direction. Stick to the 7 points above and you’ll be headed in the right direction for years to come.

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