Large-scale routing involves a lot more than just the ability to cut parts from sheet stock. Material handling is just as essential a part of the process as tool-changing, nesting or robotics. The industry’s shortage of highly qualified operators is a factor, too, but as controllers get more user-friendly that learning curve may be shortening a bit.
All of these considerations are critical, but so are several aspects of the machines themselves. Does the unit being considered have enough power in the spindle, or speed in both movement and cutting? Are there enough axes and aggregate options to handle a shop’s needs, especially in custom work that goes beyond basic boxes? What work fixturing is available, and what infrastructure will be needed in the shop in terms of power for vacuums and space for the machine itself. Footprints and dust collection may be issues, or work cell layouts and flow. It’s not just a matter of looking at machine specs. Plus, financing and resale value need to be considered.
Choosing a CNC for serious production is a very serious process.
The decision needs to begin by narrowing down the field of potential suppliers. Step one is to find a reputable dealer – one that offers great support in installation, comprehensive training, and also ongoing help with both maintenance and operation.
Stiles Machinery in Grand Rapids, Mich. is home to more than two dozen Homag CNC machining centers. While its website (stilesmachinery.com) is a good starting point, a shop faced with such a wide array of choices might want to directly contact a salesperson at the outset for guidance. The range covers every possible configuration and option, including nested-based CNC routers, CNC vertical drilling machines, flat- and twin-table machines, and much more. Even a basic machine can become something else when options are added. For example, the Centateq N-800 from Stiles is a machining center that can be transformed by automated material handling.
Anderson America also offers a healthy catalog of CNCs for larger woodshops. Based in Pineville, N.C (andersonamerica.com), the company offers several series of panel processing machines including Stratos Pro, Selexx Plus and Andimaxx. The company recently introduced its new MLS (multi-bunk loader system), which is designed to load a full sheet of manmade material, chosen from either two, four, or six available pre-staged bundles of materials. This is done using the same control system as operates the CNC router, and the design allows for the loading of full bunks of material up to 48” tall. It lifts (rather than drags) the panel and places it on the staging conveyor, and loading can be done from either side of the machine.
The SCM Group shows 37 CNC machining centers in its online catalog. A truly global supplier, its North American division (scmgroup.com) has locations in Georgia, California and North Carolina. Again, this is an offering of such breath that professional sales help is needed just to navigate the options. There are machines for tasks such as drilling, routing or edgebanding, and all sorts of combinations of functions. Among them is the Accord NST, which is a family of CNC machining centers that are integrated with automatic loading and unloading systems so they can be controlled by a single operator. Its Prisma machining heads, with five interpolating axes, are designed for heavy duty profiling. When nesting, its integrated vacuum and T-grooves make quick work of fixturing. And its Maestro software, with modules for different applications, delivers simple and intuitive programming.
Another Italian manufacturer, Casadei-Busellato (casadeibusellato.com) recently signed a deal that made JKL Machinery in Brighton, Mich. its sole importer. Among the company’s offerings for large shop CNCs is the Jet Master RT, which comes in a standard (146” in the X axis) or XL (217” in X) version. Dubbed by the company as “the new frontier of nesting”, the machine has a 9.5 kW standard spindle for the 3/4 axis, with the option of upgrading to 15 kW. On the 5-axis, the choice is either 10 kW or 12 kW. It has a phenolic table, innovative fixing methods, and rear rotating tool changers with 16 or 24 positions. There’s a tool depth pre-setting unit for quick set-ups, built-in panel thickness measuring, and Genesis Evolution software installed on a Microsoft operating system that gives real time control of the machine with a 3D display of the working table for easy programming. The Jet Master also comes with Jet CAD software.
Robots and other options
Biesse America (biesse.com) is located in Charlotte, N.C. Among the new members of its Rover line is the Rover A 12/15 processing center, which comes with a 5-axis operating head and a 13 kW HSD spindle that has 360-degree continuous rotation on the vertical and horizontal axes. It has safety features such as the new Full Bumper, which allows the operator safe access from any side. And because Biesse is among the industry leaders in robotics, the Rover A can take advantage of the company’s ROS program to add robots to both production and handling (loading and unloading). There’s also an advanced and very ergonomical motorized/manual clamping system that uses linear sensors in the table and collision control software to avoid mistakes, and gives immediate feedback on positioning. The Rover A can also become a complete system with the addition of Synchro, which is an automated cell (no operator required) for machining a batch of panels or doors. And the Rover A Smart FT is the new high-performance CNC machining center designed for nesting with its compact gantry structure.
Another company with a huge catalog, C.R. Onsrud (cronsrud.com) in Troutman, N.C. offers almost 50 standard models of 3-, 4-, and 5-axis CNC routers, mills and machining centers. They come in cast-iron fixed bridge, twin table, single table and steel frame moving gantry designs. Most include 12-position tool changers, high grade off-the-shelf standard components (easy to replace), and 24/7 tech-support. All of C.R. Onsrud’s routers can be customized through a full menu of standard options including multi-spindle drills, aggregate ability, rotational C-axis, 5-axis, and dual process configurations.
Felder Group USA (felder-group.com) is headquartered in New Castle, Del. and also has locations in Texas, North Carolina, Colorado and California. It offers 22 CNC machining centers, including the Profit H500 16.56 s-motion. This is a 5 axes machine that has 18 independent drilling spindles and an integrated grooving saw aggregate. Some of that European engineering shows up in the details, such as loading supports that help with large or heavy parts, which reduces the need for a second operator. Or the ability to use templates so that complex shapes that don’t quite work with vacuum pods can be secured. And there are special stops that help place and process sheets that have a veneer or laminate overhang. Plus, one can deactivate consoles individually, so that it’s possible to shape solid wood parts without releasing the entire vacuum that is holding the workpiece. And Felder creates both the software and the machine.
For large production needs with a single operator, CNC Factory (cncfactory.com) in Santa Anna, Calif. has recently introduced the Python XPR, which hits all the buttons for casework shops. It has a 12-hp HSD air-cooled spindle, 12-tool rotary tool-changer, direct helical rack and pinion gearing, a dual-layer, high-flow vacuum system, the option to run in either manual or robotic mode, and robotic loading/unloading and material alignment. It travels at over 1,800 IPM and will handle up to 50 sheets at the touch of a button. The company invites prospective buyers to spend a day at the factory to see the CNC router line up, investigate software solutions, draw, create, and even manufacture parts.
Also available in a 4’ x 8’ configuration, the 5’ x 10’ Pro-510 moving gantry model from Castaly Machine (castaly-cncmachine.com) in La Puenta, Calif. comes with automatic loading and unloading and an eight-tool changer. There is also a rotary axis/lathe option for shops that need to turn columns or posts. Accurate to 1/1000”, the system uses a scissors lift for infeed and a conveyor for outfeed. The vacuum table has six zones, and the spindle is an HSD 12.8-hp, air-cooled unit. The actual work area is 63” x 126’’ and 7-3/4’’ in Z. Castaly offers eight CNC routers in all.
Dale, Ind. is home to Thermwood Corp. (thermwood.com), which offers a vast range of CNCs including four 3-axis nested based machines, a couple of 3-axis frame builders, six 3-axis multi-purpose routers, a 3-axis auto-processor, and a family of four 5-axis machines. There are numerous configurations on almost every model, from table size to spindle power and many other variables. Thermwood is the oldest manufacturer of 3- and 5 axis high-speed machining centers, and among its offerings are five nested based machines. One of those is the Multipurpose 45, available with either single or dual spindles with an optional rotary axis. Its standard 12-hp HSD spindle can be upgraded to an 18-hp unit.
The 7000 Series from MultiCam Inc. in Dallas (multicam.com) can handle a 20-hp spindle and tables up to 10’ x 50’. It has great speed (up to 2,200 IPM), and a rapid traverse rate of 3,000 IPM (the rate at which the gantry and spindle move between cuts). Thanks to a heavy steel frame, it also delivers repeatability at 1/1000” for superior consistency. Very customizable, it has lots of memory on board.
CNC Warehouse LLC in Houston (cnc-warehouse.com) offers both 4- and 5-axis routers, and builds to spec. The 4-axis 5198-4AS has a standard working area of 51” x 98”, but that is customizable. The standard spindle is a 9KW HSD variable speed, air-cooled unit. It is compatible with Vectric V-carve/Aspire, Type3, Artcut, ArtCAM and masterCAM software. The company’s 5-axis machines provide a fully articulated spindle that can carve or cut the most detailed products.
The new Nextec from Weinig’s Holz-Her division (weinig.com) is available in a flexible 5-axis Classic version. According to the company, “the intelligent Nextec software automatically generates all CNC processing programs, parts and material lists as well as the optimum nesting pattern for the workpieces. All you have to do is place the unfinished panel on the machine, and the Nextec CNC does everything else.” The 7735 model in this line is available with an automatic pusher and conveyor belt, a lifting table and infeed roller conveyors, and integration with an automatic panel storage system.
The Canadian supplier Akhurst Machinery Ltd. (akhurst.com) has U.S. offices in Blaine, Wash. and among its catalog offerings is Anderson’s Omnitech Selexx/Pal. This is a full line nesting solution that adds fully automated labeling, loading and offloading capabilities. Available as both a complete line or in customized sections, it can be custom configured. There’s an automatic scissor lift table with 3-ton loadbearing capacity, a dust gate to remove debris from the bottom of the processed sheet, automatic conveyor table for off-loading finished parts, and optional automatic part labeling.
New CNC (newcnc.com) in Holland, Mich. and offers a 5-axic router that has a user-friendly OSAI operator interface, a 20-spindle drill block and 12 horizontal, eight vertical boring unit. The company also builds custom machines from 12.6- to 22-hp (HSK 63), and with changers up to 26 tools. Other options include C-axis, rotary axis and aggregates. New CNC also offers ALUL (auto load, unload) for its 4’ x 8’ and 6’ x 12’ tables. And its Accel III CNC Router features automatic clean sweep technology, where the router pushes finished material to the unload table, before cleaning and preparing for the next sheet. This company also makes the Talent T3, which is designed for cabinetmaking and has optional auto load and unload attachments.
Hendrick Mfg. in Salem, Mass. (hendrickmanufacturing.com) offers three 3-axis and two 5-axis machines, the HSR-V and the HHD-V. The former is available in single (gantry) or twin (moving) table configurations and has real time tool center point rotation and all five axes are fully synchronized. That means it can work on 3D curved surfaces. The HHD-V Series 5-axis CNC router is Hendrick’s top of the line model for high volume processing.
Laguna Tools (lagunatools.com) offers a range of CNC routers including its top-of-the-line SmartShop III +2 Axis machine. It delivers multiple cutting angles and compound machining within a solid, compact platform. A heavy one-piece steel frame is matched with a Fanuc industrial control. Depending on the application, a customer can choose from several 5-axis head options from HSD to fit specific needs. It has a standard eight-position automatic rotary tool changer and can be ordered with 12″, 24″ or 36″ of gantry clearance.
The Pegasus series from Limtech Industries (limtechindustries.com) in Gastonia, N.C. is the company’s heaviest duty machine. This is a 3-axis machine with a large frame construction and unlimited custom options. It comes with a Fanuc controller including monitor/keypad, servos, drivers and amplifiers, that are all backed by a two-year warranty. Standard tables are 4’ x 8’, 5’ x 10’ and 5’ x 12’ with custom sizing available. The 10-hp, two-stage vacuum table is phenolic and has zones in the larger tables. The standard spindle is a 12-hp HSD.
All of the 5-axis CNC machines made by Diversified Machine Systems in Colorado Springs, Colo. (dmscncrouters.com) feature a stress-relieved steel frame that is completely fabricated and assembled in-house. And each comes standard with a Fagor controller and corresponding drive system. DMS makes 3- and 5-axis CNCs in many industrial configurations, including models with moving tables, overhead gantries, large format, open and enclosed, dual cell, plus medium and heavy-duty versions. For example, the D5E is an ideal choice for companies looking to have a high-precision 5-axis CNC without a large footprint. Its enclosed design keeps debris inside the machine, and not on the shop floor.
While all of the CNC routers from AXYZ Automation (axyz.com) come with a host of optional features, the company’s Infinite series is the most customizable. It offers virtually any width or length (from 28” to 128” wide and 48” to over 50’ long), and an endless list of options that make it the company’s most popular option for sign-making and woodworking. The Infinite can handle one-off, small batch production as well as high volume and high productivity. Woodshops can choose from manual, quick-release, high-power and high-speed spindles for optimum processing of rigid sheet materials. Vacuum zones can be switched with manual valves or automatically by the machine controller, and there’s an automatic tool length sensor for accurate and consistent cut depths.
The Cobra Elite CR-612 from CAMaster (camaster.com) has a work area of 73” x 145” and is available in configurations up to 16 hp. It has an all-steel frame, steel gantry, and brushless digital AC servo drive system. It also comes with a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support. Some of the customizable aspects of this machine are the automatic tool changer, extended gantry heights, drills banks, vacuum tables, vacuum pod systems and aggregate heads.
The new Venture Plus from Techno CNC Systems (technocnc.com) is “an affordably priced, high powered, versatile and rugged CNC router designed for demanding applications that require high throughput,” according to the company. There’s a standard 5′ x 10′ platform, but custom sizes are available. The stock equipment is a 12-hp HSD automatic tool changer spindle with an eight-position tool rack. It has brushless stepper drive motors, automatic tool calibration and zero recording in Z. There’s a four-zone vacuum table and an easy to use hand-held controller. The Venture Plus has open architecture so it works with all industry standard CAD/CAM software.
The Xtreme 5 Axis Series of CNC machining centers from Komo Machine (komo.com) has been developed specifically for the customer who requires maximum Z travel (24”). It features a moving table configuration and a four-pole, 11.7-hp HSK 63F liquid-cooled spindle. Komo offers a complete selection of machining centers (15 in all), and usually has some pre-owned stock on hand, too.
The Renegade from Legacy Woodworking Machinery (lwmcnc.com) is built in Springville, Utah and is of special interest to woodshops that need to turn large objects. It comes with a 4’ x 8’ flat table with vacuum, and a rotary capacity of 92” x 10” diameter. The controller is quite advanced, and an available dust manifold keeps the workspace clean.
The VR10 is a 5’ x 10’ 4-axis machine from Velox (veloxcncrouters.com) that is assembled and tested in the Liboon Group’s facility in Orange, Calif. The standard equipment is a 4.5-hp Tekno spindle, and the travel is 64” x 122” x 8”. A 7-hp vacuum table is available.
And Woodshops looking for CNC machines that are dedicated to specific tasks such as sanding, mitering, and tenoning might want to visit Voorwood’s website (voorwood.com).
This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue.