Thursday, August 17, 2017

To Get the Proper CNC Router for Woodworking Business

Whether you are starting a new woodworking business or taking an existing business to the next level, the type of woodworking equipment you use will affect the quality of your work and how much of it you produce. Every woodworker wants to get top quality CNC Router woodworking machines, but not everyone gets them. To make sure you end up with commercial woodworking machinery that meets your needs, remember the tips below as you shop for equipment.

Read Customer Reviews

Every equipment manufacturer sings the praises of its machinery, regardless of its reputation. If you want to know how a machine really performs, reading customer reviews is a great way to find out. In some cases, equipment does not have any formal flaws, but it is not ergonomically designed, and does not synchronize well with the rest of the line. In other cases, equipment has recalcitrant parts that cause problems almost immediately. Again, you will not find out about these drawbacks from the manufacturer, but you may hear about them in woodworking forums, where woodworkers give unsolicited reviews of equipment they use.
Search the Secondary Market

If woodworking equipment has poorly designed components, operates poorly, is difficult to configure with the rest of the line using automation software, or presents other problems that compromise production, most woodworkers will not own it for long. They will sell to an equipment reseller who may or may not be able to correct the hardware’s problems. If you notice the secondary market seems to have a large supply of a relatively new piece of equipment, it may not be a coincidence. The equipment could be a lemon no one wants to own.
Do not Depend on a Warranty

New equipment and some used equipment that is almost new come with a warranty. In most cases, the warranty for new hardware is one year, after which time the owner is responsible for repair costs. Although a warranty is a form of investment protection, do not view the warranty period as a time when you can find out whether hardware will be reliable. Because commercial CNC Router woodworking machinery has a long lifespan, some manufacturing flaws might fail to show up until after the warranty period is past. Investigating the reputation of equipment before you buy it is the key to predicting its reliability.

Choose the Right Construction Grade

Top quality woodworking machines come in three construction grades: hobby grade, mid-grade, and industrial grade. The quality one receives from any grade depends on whether it supports the production needs. If you need industrial grade equipment, you will not get good results from using hobby grade or mid-grade equipment. The equipment will prematurely wear and break down. While you do not want to overinvest in equipment that has too much capacity, trying to use a lower, less expensive grade of equipment than you need causes more financial problems than it solves.

Cutting Bed Features for Purchase of CNC Routers

The cutting beds of CNC routers vary by machine. A CNC router can have a bed that ranges from a few feet across to several yards wide. The bed may also contain unique features such as a vacuum, a perforated top, or a disposable top. When shopping for a router among used CNCwoodworking machines, woodworkers should understand the benefits of the following cutting bed features before they invest in a certain piece of equipment.

Table Size

Table size is important as it pertains to the size of the raw material and/or the number of pieces that must be cut in a certain time. A large top will obviously facilitate the production of large pieces, but it can also expedite the production of smaller pieces; the large cutting area means less reloading is needed to finish the production run. Regarding size, it is better to choose a table that has more space than necessary than one that is cramped.
Vacuum Table Top

A vacuum table keeps material securely in place by applying a vacuum from underneath. Typically available in high-end new or used CNC woodworking machines, a vacuum table replaces clamps. The advantages of this technology are the vacuum can be released faster than clamps, and every inch of the material is held in place with the same amount of force. The biggest disadvantage is, unlike clamps, the vacuum pump requires special maintenance, uses electricity, and may be subject to repairs.
Disposable Table Top
Disposable tabletops, which are typically composed of layers of high-density MDF boards, are ideal for first-time CNC router operators who may accidentally bypass limit switches and sensors, and cut into the table. Disposable tops can also be added to tables that already have non-disposable tops. They are typically used for hobbyist woodwork.
Perforated Table Top

Perforated tops tend to be the least expensive because they require the smallest amount of material to produce. Available with various types of perforation, perforated tops allow dust to fall through the slots into a collection bin. While letting gravity do the work of a dust collector is an inexpensive option, it may complicate the dust collection process. If you perform a low volume of work, and do not perform dust removal until the end of the day, using a router equipped with a perforated top would be optimal.
T-Slot Table Top

T-Slot tops are typically found on hobby grade routers and commercial models reduced in price. A T-slot top has some attractive advantages: it is inexpensive, easy to use, and does not consume much electricity. The biggest downside to T-slot tops is traditional clamping methods must often be modified to prevent the spindle head from hitting the clamps. The software that comes with T-slot routers might lack the programming capacity to create paths around the clamping system.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

To Buy CNC Routers in Reasonable Price

As a manufacturer and supplier of CNC Routers, Roctech is frank to sat that, depending on the equipment’s specifications, the price range for a new CNC router can run from the four-figure mark to the seven-figure mark. For many woodworkers — especially those who are just getting started — purchasing costly computer-controlled hardware is financially impossible. But that doesn’t mean they can’t meet their CNC machining needs. Below are some helpful tips for how to purchase CNC routers without breaking the equipment budget or going deep into debt for the hardware.

Don’t Over Invest in Capacity

Buy equipment that has enough capacity to meet foreseeable production needs, but don’t invest in hardware whose full capacity may not be needed for a few years. Buying such hardware ahead of time isn’t a good investment. Instead, it wastes money that could be invested in other equipment or resources. Not over investing in equipment capacity is the number one rule for how to purchase CNC routers affordably.
Buy Pre-Owned Equipment

A quality used CNC router machine is typically discounted at least 30 percent off its original price, even when the hardware is reconditioned. Although most pre-owned equipment doesn’t come with a warranty, that shouldn’t be a problem if you invest in industrial grade hardware, which is designed to offer excellent reliability and topnotch performance under strenuous conditions.

Buy Equipment on Sale

Add to your savings by buying pre-owned equipment on sale. Professional buyers that know how to purchase CNC routers do this routinely. They wait until secondhand hardware goes on sale and swoop in for the purchase. For those who need to purchase a quality used CNC router machine as affordably as possible, the double discount of purchasing pre-owned equipment on sale can result in saving well over 50 percent off the original price tag.
Buy From a Company That Has an Equipment Locator Service

If you have a set amount that you can invest in a quality used CNCrouter machine, a seller that has an equipment locator service can search for equipment in inventories besides its own to help you find the hardware you need at the right price.

CNC Routers Are Never Terminating Wood Craftsmanship

According to Roctech, for hundreds of years, fine woodwork was associated with doing the job by hand. Intricate picture frames, exquisite furniture details, and ornamental wall medallions required hours of painstaking labor. But how intricate woodwork was performed started to change in the 1970s, when modern Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) routers became widely available.

In the roughly 40 years since their inception, computer-controlled routers have largely taken detailed woodwork out of the hands of craftsmen and placed it on the automated production line. The reason why is obvious: Not only is the quality of the work often as good as what hands can create, but it can be produced in a matter of minutes.
At first glance, it may seem as if purchasing used CNC routers encourages the death of wood craftsmanship, but that isn’t the case. Just because using a quality used CNC router machine makes the production of intricate woodwork faster and more affordable doesn’t mean it compromises the artistry of the one who creates it.

Craftsmanship in Perspective

Big woodworking startups that plan to mass produce simple designs are known for purchasing used CNC routers, but so are craftsmen of unique woodwork who wish to increase production capacity without compromising work quality. Using a computer-controlled router doesn’t downgrade the work; it merely helps the craftsman produce more of it, and earn more money.
Consider the case of G. Watson Designs in Durham, North Carolina, which offers turnkey designs and fabrication services to distinguished clients. In terms of artistry, much of the company’s millwork is comparable to the hand carved work one would find in a fine, baroque residence. However, a machine produces much of the work – a Laguna 5’ X ’10 CNC router, to be exact.
G. Watson Designs has observed in computer-controlled equipment what other woodworking companies have seen: the price of the hardware has consistently dropped, while the quality of its work has continually improved. Investing in a quality used CNC router machine can be more than a good move financially. It can also ensure that great designs are flawlessly executed.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Job demands for a CNC Router Operator

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) router operators specialize in the operation of CNC routers. Unlike standard routers, a computer that contains design programs controls CNC routers. This allows them to offer more efficiency, accuracy, and cutting intricacy than standard routers. Depending on their training, CNC router operators may also operate other types of CNC router machinery. In either case, their important job tasks include:

Measuring finished pieces to ensure they meet design specifications.
Removing and replacing dull cutter heads as necessary.
Adjusting or installing new attachments and fixtures as necessary.
Moving work pieces onto the cutting plane manually or with the use of hoists.
Programming a router’s computer with new design profiles as required.
Calculating and adjusting a router’s cutting speed according to design needs.
A CNC router operator’s task set ultimately depends on the router he or she operates. But the tasks above are ubiquitous to CNC machinist work.

Required knowledge
CNC router operators work with complex machinery to produce complex designs. Consequently, they require the following forms of knowledge:
Mechanical knowledge of a how a CNC router operates and its maintenance needs.
Mathematical knowledge, including knowledge of statistics, algebra, geometry, calculus, and arithmetic.
Production/processing knowledge, including knowledge of raw materials, cost control, quality control, and production processes.
Computer knowledge regarding CNC router computers.
CNC router operators may also require knowledge of used woodworking machines if they make router purchases. Due to their high price and excellent longevity, industrial CNC routers are often purchased used.
Required skills and abilities
CNC router operators require skills and abilities needed for general woodworking and operating a CNC router, including:
Acute hearing for detecting sounds that indicate a router isn’t performing properly.
Near vision for reading computer screens and determining the surface quality of wood stock.
Critical thinking for programming instructions into a router’s computer and performing cuts in the right order.
Concentration for focusing on router operation once it begins the routing process.
Job statistics
As of 2008, 141,000 CNC operators are employed in the U.S., with a projected growth of 7% to 13% between 2008 and 2018. As of 2009, the median annual wage for a CNC operator is $34,460 ($16.57/hr.). According to a national work survey, 48% of CNC operators have a high school diploma or the equivalent; 32% have some college; and 16% do not have a high school diploma. To learn more about becoming a CNC router operator, contacting a trade school that offers courses in CNC routing or shadowing CNC router operators at a woodworking company are good options.
Other considerations
Most CNC operators are employed by the manufacturing industry. However, many CNC operators also choose self-employment, purchasing their own router for their woodshop. For independent woodworkers that plan on including CNC routing in their range of services, purchasing a CNC router used can (a) significantly reduce startup cost and still deliver the dependability expected from industrial machinery.

How to Install a CNC Router

Furniture maker, Curtis Erpelding testing and tuning the Maslow CNCROUTER

The Maslow CNC ROUTER is a CNC ROUTER kit that costs just $350. For that price, you should expect a few compromises. For one thing, you have to put it together. Of course you’ll get the key mechanical, electrical and electronic parts, however, you will need to provide plywood and a couple of 2” x 4”s to complete it. The good news, after using one for a while, I can confirm that it really does work but there is one more ingredient you need: “Geekiness.”

After reviewing the beta kit, I think it’s important for potential buyers to approach it with realistic expectations. First, the Maslow is not a plug-and-play CNC ROUTER —not that any current CNC ROUTER is, but the Maslow throws in some extra challenges along the way. It’s a very basic kit mechanically but there are also a few software issues to overcome. What this means is that if you decide to build a Maslow you need to be prepared to step in and solve a few problems as they come up.
Because of my schedule, I was unable to build the kit, so fellow furniture maker Curtis Erpelding got my beta unit up and running. We’ve found that within reasonable limits, the Maslow CNC ROUTER does indeed do what it promises. It takes G-code generated from digital drawings and cuts parts out of plywood or other sheet materials.

Getting the Maslow CNC ROUTER running

Besides building the base — a straightforward construction task for the average woodworker, getting the machine tested and ready presents several challenges. Remember, the Maslow is not “plug and play”. A key task is you need to install the software and test and tune the Maslow. You need to download the current software, install the firmware onto the Maslow’s Arduino-based controller and set up your PC to run the machine. Then you go through several steps to calibrate the machine.
Along the way, you should be prepared to debug problems as they come up. And, being a new device and lightly documented, you should expect a few. This is why I say that potential buyers need to have some geeky skills. If you thrive on these kinds of modern challenges, you’ll be better equipped to solve these kinds of problems than a woodworker who’s experience might be limited to only dealing with mechanical issues.
Thanks to the support from Maslow and its helpful online community, you won’t be alone in dealing with most issues as they come up. Though many of the members of the forum seem to have little CNC ROUTER or woodworking experience, they do appear to have a lot of software experience and they are ready to help if needed.
Maslow Ground Control Software works on PCs, Macs, Linux Machines, some tablets and inexpensive Raspberry Pi computers. The software is simple and easy to use.

Ground Control Software

The Maslow CNC ROUTER controller software is called Ground Control. Keeping with the goal of Maslow to make the CNC ROUTER as accessible and inexpensive as possible, it runs on Windows, Windows Tablets, Macs or even Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers. From a user perspective, Ground Control is simple to use and straight forward. You load the G-code file that you want to run, set a few parameters and away you go.
In its current form, the software is not quite done but getting closer to completion. As I write this, each week a new version of Ground Control is released that solves problems that have been discovered by the many Maslow beta testers. For example, Curtis and I ran into some issues with how the Maslow was rendering and machining circles and curves. It was cutting short arcs instead of the smooth curves that we were expecting. Maslow’s team and the community got on it and fixed the problem. Another issue was the controller was having difficulties reading other flavors of G-code files when I provided RhinoCAM generated G-code files for a test. That quickly got fixed, too. So, you get the idea. If problems come up, between the Maslow crew and the community, you won’t be alone.

Using the Maslow CNC ROUTER

Once you have set up the Maslow, run a few tests and are all ready to go, what’s it like to run the Maslow? The first word that comes to mind — particularly if you have any experience with other CNC ROUTERs is: slow. You can expect a feed rate of 20-35 inches per minute. Dragging a router, held down with bricks, using tiny motors, chains and gears come with some limitations. People have pushed it beyond 35 IPM, but besides obvious mechanical limitations, a key issue is the Arduino’s processor ability to keep up with higher speeds. It can only go so fast.
On top of the slow speed, only shallow cuts should be taken. No, you won’t just plow through a 3/4” piece of plywood in one pass. Think three or four passes. Between the tiny motors and dependence on gravity, there simply isn’t enough torque in the equation to do otherwise. Pushing too hard just adds more resistance. The cost of going too fast or cutting too deep is less accuracy. So, go with the flow and take shallow cuts – about 1/8 to 1/4 deep.
With shallow cuts, the Maslow is fairly accurate. The best approach is to keep your cuts as close to the center of the large Maslow base as possible. In early tests, it was producing samples that were less than 1/32” off square on smaller cuts. With further tuning of the controller software, it seems likely the team will get close to the 1/64” or .4mm design goal. Particularly challenging are long, straight lines. Trying to run lines as long as six or seven feet sometimes produces a bow up to 1/16”. But, being measurable, consistent and repeatable, results could be further improved with more tuning of the controller software on future releases.
A special thank you goes to Curtis Erpelding for all his work building and testing the beta Maslow CNC ROUTER. His base is a top notch design. Simple, flat, rigid and cheap. If you’re building a Maslow, study it!
In the final installment of the Maslow series, I’ll have some suggestions for those considering building a Maslow CNCROUTER.