Seeing is believing

39_laguna_toolMost of the large CNC manufacturers were absent from IWF 2010 in Atlanta. Companies such as Stiles, Biesse America and Delmac decided not to exhibit at IWF and instead hosted a NexGen event, a tour of their North Carolina facilities earlier this year. A second NexGen event is scheduled for early October.

CNC machinery still had a large presence at IWF. Many of the machine manufacturers such as Laguna Tools, General International and Oliver have now taken the plunge into the CNC market. They exhibited CNC routers as small as 18" x 24" to more standard models up to 5' x 10' and even large machines with capacities of up to 7' x 18'. It was clearly evident that the landscape of CNC machines and the companies selling them has changed. It has become a highly competitive market.

Laguna Tools

"CNC is the future," says Torben Helshoj, president of Laguna Tools, who brought five CNC routers to IWF. "We sell a lot of panel saws to a lot of cabinet shops, too, and we have watched our traditional shops with a panel saw and edgebander and seen those sales go down. We also know that is because the economy has gone down, but is also because people are moving into these machines. And, if you think about it, [the Laguna Puma], which we sell for $35,000, can put out a cabinet every seven minutes and that cabinet is better than anything you can build with a panel saw. The quality is better, the material yield is better, so one man in his shop can build two kitchens a day, no problem.

"We are getting into it in a big way. Our flagship - we call it our Puma - is a machine that has a carousel tool changer, has eight tools, an 11-hp HSD tool spindle - all Japanese, Chinese and Italian. The frame is made in China and then we assemble it in the U.S. We have a 5x10, a 4x8; that is our most popular machine; we call it our SmartShop. It has an automatic tool changer - eight tools - it has a 7.5-hp motor with a liquid-cooled spindle. Those are our big machines and they really cater to the cabinetmaker. There are vacuum tables and pumps included in the price. We also have a small laser carving machine for sign makers and deep relief carving for less than $10,000 and a CNC lathe that is a $10,000 machine also." www.lagunatools.com

40_cnc_bOliver Machinery

Oliver Machinery unveiled its 1015 Intellicarve model, which has a maximum object size of 15" X-axis, 20" Y-axis and 4" Z-axis. It is capable of working with wood, plastic, ceramic, acrylic, Corian, Avonite, Plexiglas or other composite materials. It is designed for cutting, engraving, etching or routing. It is ideal for sign makers or people performing deep-relief carvings.

The machine has an LCD digital controller, 500-watt DC brushless motor and USB interface that accepts standard memory sticks. It has a maximum depth of cut of 1", spindle speed of 23,000 rpm and is capable of generating three-dimensional carvings from digital images in various formats. www.olivermachinery.net

General International

40_cnc_cGeneral International of Canada, which recently opened U.S. operations in Murfreesboro, Tenn., is another machinery company that has dipped into the CNC market.

"We have seven models, different configurations into three different series - the Pro Series, the Junior Series and the small carver," says Scott Box, General spokesman. "The tool changers will only be available on the Pro Series. We're working on the vacuum tables. We're using Vectric software on all the units; it's proven itself over the years as very reliable."

The carving machine measures 15" x 20"; the Junior Series machines come in two sizes, 20" x 20" and 24" x 36"; and the Pro Series is available in 48" x 48" and 48" x 96" sizes. www.general.ca

Biesse America

Biesse America decided not to attend IWF, but released its new Gantry Series of machines in August - the Klever, Skill FTG and Rover G. There are three machines, but numerous sizes and configurations.

"Basically we have introduced a completely new gantry line of machines," says Cesare Magnani, spokesman for Biesse America. "We have always been known for the open gantry-type of machines, which we still use, obviously."

The machine sizes are 4x8, 5x10, 5x12, 5x21, 6x12, 7x14 and 7x18. Prices range from $60,000 to more than $100,000 depending on the machine and configuration.

"We are able to produce a fully automatic nesting cell where we are not only able to automatically load sheets of material on the machine, but we are able to [place] nested sheets to a loading table or a conveyer," Magnani says. "We are also able to automatically apply labels to identify the single component of the nest because one of the challenges in nesting is you have all the different components and you need to identify what is what, because then you need to bring it to assembly. All of them have tool changers; all of them have an HSD electric spindle."

The machines are designed for woodworking, plastic and composite materials and are suited for shops of two employees or more.

"I think the advantage of this line of machines is, for most of them, a reduced cost of ownership because we have put on the machines solutions that allow them to save energy so they are 'green,' if you want. The other thing is they are very, very low-trouble maintenance, solutions that really diminish the amount of maintenance dramatically and, finally, the efficiency of the machines." www.biesseamerica.com

ShopBot

42_cnc_dIt is hard to believe, but ShopBot has been around for 14 years. Known initially for providing CNC routers for small shops that are priced at under $10,000, the company has expanded its offerings with a larger range of price offerings.

"We have a new PRSalpha 108" x 60" machine," says Ted Hall, president of ShopBot. "For us, it is different because it is very easy to frontload it. Instead of the rails, which usually go down the long side, on this machine they go across the short side. There is a lot of flexibility with how you set this machine up.

"We have been selling a lot of tool changers and that has surprised me. The tool changer uses the same components as anyone's tool changers does and about one-third of our machines are going out with ATC [automatic tool changers] these days. In terms of automation of what many shops need right now, I think the 108" x 60" is in the right price range [approximately $40,000]; it is still at a price point that makes it almost affordable for the small shop.'

ShopBot also introduced its PRSalhpa BT48 model, which has a four-axis rotary indexer, which is developed for turnings as large as 12" in diameter as well as deep-travel 3-D carvings. A third machine, the 32" x 18" ShopBot Tabletop Fabricator, was also introduced at IWF.

"There's the smaller Buddy ... and a five-axis ShopBot and we also have two of the new desktop ShopBots running. We're kind of excited about these little guys. We don't know if they are going to help broaden the digital fabrication market or not. They are kind of an engraving level tool for woodworking, but they have the potential to do some aluminum and metalworking. It's taken a little longer than we would have liked, but we are pretty excited about them. We start shipping them in October. The 18" x 24" Buddy goes for just under $5,000." www.shopbottools.com

MultiCam

41_cnc_eThe MultiCam 3000 Series has undergone a few changes with the 3000 Series NB router. Designed specifically for cabinetmakers and other woodworkers, the router system provides a multitool routing system that is both heavy duty and economical.

"What we've done with the 3000 NB is to put together a completely nested base configuration for the woodworker that has nine vertical spindles, three double-sided horizontal spindles, a 90-degree indexing saw and an 11-hp spindle that is all enclosed," says company president John Harris. "We put it in our 3000 frame, but we put a very large drill on it, a heavy-duty spindle and we've incorporated some of the heavier-duty components from our 5000 series in terms of the Z-axis. We have 16" of stroke, a wider bearing spread and we've just made kind of a hybrid version of a 3000 that is a very nice heavy-duty machine. And it is still featured at an extraordinarily affordable price. A 5x10 machine that is complete is going to be under $80,000. That would include vacuum pumps - everything - it is a full-blown system." www.multicam.com

43_cnc_fThermwood

The new CabinetShop43 machine from Thermwood features a 61" x 121" fixed table to accommodate laminated panels, a 12-hp HSD spindle and an 11 position bar-style automatic tool changer. The CNC has high-end Siemens drives throughout, THK rails and three-dimensional volumetric position compensation. www.thermwood.com

AXYZ International

AXYZ showcased its 4000, 5000, 6000 and 8000 series of CNC routers at IWF in Atlanta. The 4000 Series router is the company's smallest, with a maximum process width of 60". It is popular in the commercial sign, woodworking, marine and education industries for its fit with many materials and its overall footprint. The company's 5000 Series router is its most popular, accommodating materials up to 72". The machine specializes in working with plastic fabrication, aluminum composite fabrication, sign making, woodworking and solid surface, and other materials. The 6000 Series handles similar materials up to 85" and the 8000 Series has a 103" process width.

44_cnc_gAXYZ also offers the Camtech brand of CNC routers, its entry-level of full-sized systems. The Z7 series of routers is known for its solid construction and aimed at the budget conscious customer. It is a multipurpose routing machine, designed for cutting all types of wood, plastics, foams and metals in both 2-D and 3-D. www.axyz.com

CAMaster

The Cobra CNC Router series from CAMaster consists of five machines ranging in table sizes from 48" x 48" to 60" x 120". The machines are loaded with standard features including heavy-duty Hiwin rails and bearings, rack-and-pinion drive on the X and Y axes, Teknic servo-drive system, a 4-hp HSD spindle with maximum rpm of 18,000 and a control PC with a flat panel monitor. The standard models start at $16,995. Upgrade options include 5- to 10-hp spindles, an ATC with 5-20 options, drill banks, a T-slot table, vacuum table, design software and more.

The machines are designed to produce cabinets, signs, various woodworking applications, instruments, millwork, prototyping and more. www.camaster.com

Techno Inc.

Techno Inc. CNC Routers has released a new 4-axis CNC router with both lathe and carving modes. This new machine is designed to handle both flat sheet stock work as well as large and small rotary turnings. Techno's engineers created a universal machine to rout flat sheet stock material as well as round parts all on one machine. The 4-axis CNC router is based on the LC Series machine model. It has the same ability of processing sheet materials such as plywood, MDF, melamine, plastic, aluminum and foam, and has the added ability to turn round parts as well. The 4-axis Spira-R1 Rotary table can turn parts up to 8" in diameter. www.technocnc.com

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue.