To successfully operate a CNC router, shops usually need at least one fully trained operator who is an expert on the necessary software. This includes the design and manufacturing programs (CAD/CAM), as well as for the CNC router’s controller.
The learning curve has been made easier through the years with better training resources and streamlined products, but it’s still a time-consuming task. Thermwood offers a new approach with its Cut Ready Cut Center, which integrates the CAD, CAM and controller software. Rather than learning a bunch of code and commands, the operator simply answers a few questions on the machine’s touchscreen control. The machine comes preloaded with cutting instructions to make more than 10,000 different cabinet combinations, plus doors, drawers, furniture and more.
Load and go
Thermwood took the ideas and techniques behind its eCabinets and Smart Router systems, integrated the design and machine control software, and made the user interface visual to create the Cut Center concept.
To make cabinet parts with the Cut Center, the operator answers a series of questions via the touchscreen monitor and inputs the dimensions. The machine takes over, automatically generating the tool paths and optimizing the parts layout, all based on the cabinet style selected from the machine’s extensive digital library. All that’s left for the operator to do is load the material and press start. If the design calls for two-sided cutting, the machine will flip the sheet after the first cut, saving time and the operator’s back.
The operator can also specify frame and drawer preferences and the types of slides and hardware to be used.
What is most interesting about this digital library is that it will allow for almost any style of cabinet construction and it places unique assembly marks on each piece to minimize mistakes. The Cut Center can also print parts labels and produce an exploded-view drawing showing how everything fits together.
The Cut Center software will easily produce countertops and tabletops in rough or finished dimensions. It’s particularly useful for making those dreaded cutouts for kitchen and bathrooms sinks.
The machine can also be used to cut straight or curved lines in long pieces of solid lumber, such as for a valance or to surround a vent over a stove. There are built-in programs to design and cut MDF doors and to manufacture straight- and curved molding from any material.
For a shop that already has a CNC router and might be thinking about upgrading, but wants to continue using its CAD/CAM programs, the Cut Center offers a “CNC Access” capability. In other words, it can be operated as a CNC router, executing programs generated by just about any software.
The user can also “teach” the Cut Center to make custom products using Thermwood’s eCabinet software. Once the programming is done, it can be installed in the machine and run in a typical fashion.
Thermwood recently added a mobile app for the Cut Center, allowing the user to select and create jobs using a smartphone or PC. The jobs are stored on “the cloud” where they can be accessed by the Cut Center, processed and cut.
The company says it developed the Cut Center with the idea that an average person could walk up to and run it with no prior knowledge, no training and no manual. It’s certainly a novel concept and removes a significant annual operating expense associated with a CNC router.
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue.