Because of its glasslike transparency; acrylic is typically the material of choice for display applications.
Show cases used for displaying products of all types, for example, must have clear, polished edges to provide the maximum clearness and transparency.
In addition to torch flame polishing, another method to achieve a polished edge finish on acrylic, is by utilizing diamond tools.
Over years of extensive testing and development, Multicam has identified the optimum tools, and have developed and perfected the methodologies for using these tools. These tools and the methodologies we have developed, produce the clearest finishes, especially when polishing acrylic.
Tool selection and correct utilization of the tools are critical components in determining whether the desired polished edge finish is achieved.
Multicam has identified the optimum tool for the acrylic polishing application, as a type of diamond tool identified as either a Mono – Crystalline Diamond Tool; also referred to as MCD – Tool; or a Chemical Vapor Deposition Diamond Tool; also referred to as a CVD – Tool.
Utilizing tools with the crystalline face structure of these types of Diamond Tools, yields the highest polished and transparent edge possible; when using rotary tools vs. using a torch to flame polish acrylic edges.
In addition to identifying the optimum tools, our Multicam applications staff has also developed and dialed in, the process for proficiently utilizing these diamond tools; a process that yields a polish finish on acrylic edges. Steps in the process of proficiently utilizing diamond tools for polishing acrylic include:
It is important to point out that diamond polishing tools do not actually produce a chip. These tools are dialed in to pass within .003 to .007” of the acrylic edge, on the finish pass, and “rub” the edge, vs. cut the edge, of the acrylic.
You can find out more about these diamond polishing tools at www.multicamtooling.com
Here, you can search for and find a selection of diamond polishing tools specific to your requirements; with cut lengths to accommodate edge polishing of acrylics; with thicknesses from 1/8” through 1/2”. Additional diamond polishing tools, for cutting material thicknesses exceeding 1-1/4” are also available.
In summary, we look forward to providing you with tool recommendations and tool usage recommendations, based on your specific requirements. And we look forward to assisting you in your pursuit of producing the ultimate possible polished edge, on acrylics; with a rotary tool.
Find out more at www.multicamtooling.com
MultiCam is excited to announce that they have officially sold their 13,000th machine since founded in 1989. In order to commemorate this achievement, MultiCam will be regularly documenting the manufacturing process of their 13,000th machine, Celero Digital Cutting System, on this blog post before the machine makes its way to its new home at Maverick Concepts in Garland, TX. Follow the hashtag #MultiCam13000 on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to keep up to date on the latest 13,000 machine manufacturing process.
The “Daisy Duke” is brain child of Bryan Fuller of Fuller Moto and is built from a 2013 Custom KTM Duke 690 frame and has a Single-Cylinder Motor which produces 70 horsepower (69.8 Nm). It has a single-sided swing arm from a Ducati Monster S2R and the rear wheel from a Ducati 1198. The side panels are used to conceal the wiring and are held up with10-24 ARP 12-point fasteners.
Custom parts created from a MultiCam 3000 Series Waterjet!
Deduction Limit: $1,000,000
Spending Cap on Equipment Purchases: $2,500,000
Bonus Depreciation: 100% for 2019
What is Section 179?
Section 179 is a Tax Code deduction which allows businesses to deduct the full purchase of qualifying equipment and/or software purchased or financed during the current tax year.
How does Section 179 work?
Rather than writing off qualifying equipment purchase(s) a little at a time, the Section 179 tax code allows businesses to write the entire purchase of up to $1,000,000 off the same/current tax year it is purchased. This tax code is aimed to assist businesses to get the equipment they need and now than wait. Since it’s a use-it-or-lose-it basis, there is no better time to invest in a new (or used) MultiCam CNC Router, Laser, Plasma, Waterjet, or Digital Finishing System.
Who Qualifies for Section 179?
The Section 179 is a Tax Code deduction which can be utilized by all businesses that purchase, finance, and/or lease new or used qualifying equipment during the 2019 tax year (assuming they spend less than $3,500,000).
What Type of Equipment Qualifies for Section 179?
Section 179 can be used for equipment investments such as CNC machinery, computers, software, office equipment, and vehicles (with limitations) to name a few but must be used more than 50% for business purposes.
Section 179 Limits
In order for the Section 179 Tax Deduction to apply, the equipment must be put to use the same Tax year in which a business is filing. For the 2019 Tax Year, the deduction limit is set at $1,000,000 while the Spending Cap is set at $2,500,000. All businesses that purchase, finance, and/or lease less than $2,500,000 (2019) for new or used equipment during the tax year should qualify for the Section 179 Tax Deduction. But once the deduction surpasses $2,500,000, it decreases on a dollar for dollar scale.
Using the Section 179 Calculator, we drew up an example to reflect the potential savings of purchasing a MultiCam CNC machine.
A customer just purchased a MultiCam CNC Router for $200,000. By utilizing the Section 179 Tax deduction and assuming there is a 35% Tax Bracket, the customer would have a cash savings of $70,000 resulting in a lowered cost of equipment of $130,000.
All MultiCam equipment and software qualifies but it is highly recommended to verify your tax bracket and potential investment qualifies for the Section 179 Tax Deduction. In most cases customers can purchase a MultiCam CNC machine and write-off the entire purchase the same day and year they are buying it.
Take advantage of these savings by investing in a new MultiCam CNC machine – contact us today at (972) 929-4070 or [email protected] to get started!
MultiCam had the privilege to sponsor three UNT Mechanical Engineering teams for their 2018 Senior Design Day Projects. Each team was tasked with mechanically improving original designs of MultiCam machines for their Senior Capstone Projects. The three teams are shown below:
Team Saturn – Rotary Tool Changer (with the Cover)
Team Level Jet – Waterjet Height Sensor
Team Vader – Downdraft Plasma Table
The teams were led by two MultiCam Engineers and made up of 4 to 5 students. Each team dedicated approximately 5 to 10 hours per week throughout their final two semesters at UNT for their design and fabricating process. Similar to a “real world experience,” the teams were each given a deadline and proposed budget in order to take their designs from drawings to physical pieces. MultiCam’s criteria for the students was to make their designs aesthetically pleasing, design improvement, and remain under budget (profitable).
Other than a general direction and supply of resources, the students were given creative room to interpret how their designs should look and function. Based on different designs in each respective market, each team researched and modeled their designs on what they believe worked best. Each Teams final design was drafted in Solid Works and a majority of it was fabricated by hand (per UNT class requirements).
Collets can be damaged without any visible signs. The most common problem is metal fatigue. An easy way to see if there is metal fatigue is to insert the tool shank into the back of the collet and then try it in the front side. If the tightness is not the same both ways, then the collet is fatigued and should be discarded. One major cause of collet metal fatigue is from overtightening. A tool holder tightening stand and torque wrench should always be used.
The loss of gripping pressure is a natural occurrence over time simply from regular use, but it also happens from heat generated by the cutting tool and also the spindle. The constant heating and cooling of the collet causes the fatigue which in turn causes the collet to lose its gripping power.
When should you replace your Collets?
There is a limited life to any colleting system and all collets should be replaced on a regular basis. Collets should be inspected and cleaned during each tool change and checked for any metal damage such as bellmouthing or inside burrs. If damage is visible, the collet should be discarded and replaced.
Collets should be replaced every 2 to 3 months based on an 8 hour work day. Replacing collets at the recommended time line will result in longer lasting tools, better cuts, and longer spindle service intervals.
Correct installation of the tool in the collet is of absolute importance. The tool must only be gripped on the shank part of the tool. Never should any part of the flute be inside the collet. The collet should be snapped into the nut before tightening or damage to the collet will occur.
How do I clean my Collets?
To clean your collets, use collet brushes and a cleaning solution like NU-TOOL™. Keep in mind that for every .0001 over TIR (total indicator runout meaning how much out of balance) you lose 10% of your tool life. Not to mention suffered cut quality, and shorter spindle life.
Why should I replace my Tool Holders?
It is best practice for shops to clean and inspect tool holders and spindles after every job. Tool holders should be completely disassembled and cleaned. A contamination-free tool holder and machine tool spindle interface ensures tool holders properly seat at full taper contact and are pulled into the spindle taper at maximum force. With holders held and positioned accurately, a machine’s full power and tolerance capabilities can then effectively and safely transfer to the cutting tools, while runout and vibration are reduced for superior part surface finish quality.
Tool Holders such as ISO 30, HSK 63F, HSK32E, and HSK25 have additional mating tolerances higher than those of the older style tapers. Because of this, these style tool holders can be more prone to runout caused by resin buildup. ”Fretting” or ”Bronzing” will cause inconsistent gripping in the taper and/or the flat mating surface and reduce consistency of tool life. If ignored, this will eventually cause premature spindle failure. The mating surfaces should be cleaned with NU-Tool Part 1™ and hand dried immediately afterwards. Apply NU-Tool part 2 to protect tool holders and collets from rusting.
Today, customers need you to take on lower-volume jobs and turn them around in tight time frames, but only with limited resources. What used to be a tall order has now become a standard request.
What can you do to meet stiff customer demands?
Though we’re not to the point of pushing a button and watching a CNC machine do the job for you, you can save serious time with CAD/CAM nesting software.
Reduce the Amount of Material You Use
Modern nesting software improves your yield. You can create layouts that allow parts to use a common edge.
This reduces cut time, scrap, gas, and sometimes consumables. You can also use nesting software to manage data about your parts, which can help you save several thousand dollars in a year, even if you have inexperienced operators.
Improve Your Production Efficiency
CAD/CAM nesting software uses the latest algorithms to optimize cutting paths, boost capacity, minimize cutting time, and improve part quality. Combined, they all do a lot to improve your production efficiency.
Automate Other Manual Labor Processes
CAD/CAM nesting software integrates fully with your ERP system. By doing this, they can save you additional manual labor.
For example, the work order can be automated and your inventory tracked. These jobs all used to require people.
You can increase your production capacity, and even decrease the personnel needed to support it.
Efficiently Manage Your Manufacturing Processes
For example, let’s say you get a design file from a customer for an entire assembly. Your CAD/CAM software can separate all the individual parts, identify the most efficient way to manufacture each, and create the code for all your CNC machines to cut each part.
Then, it schedules the work.
How many hours does it take you, and what are your costs, for doing the same right now?
Automate a Week’s Worth of Manufacturing in Just Minutes
Here’s where the efficiency and savings become amazing. This software is so efficient, it can schedule an entire week of manufacturing processes in only minutes.
What difference would that level of efficiency make to your CNC business?
The smartest shops don’t just use technology because it’s new. They use it strategically to improve their operations.
Does CAM/CAD nesting software make sense for your company? Only you can decide. And now you have the benefits necessary to make an informed decision.
Why would you invest in a CNC plasma cutter machine, and not a CNC laser or waterjet?
Every type has its strengths and weaknesses. And these are some of the pros and cons you’ll find with CNC plasma cutters:
Low Purchase Cost
Plasma cutters, like any other CNC machine type, can have a wide cost range, depending on the features you want. Generally, however, they cost the least to buy. CNC Laser cutting machines are by far the most expensive to purchase, with CNC waterjets being somewhere in the mid-range.
Low Operating Costs
CNC Plasma cutters again win here. Remember, you must factor in the power, gases, consumables, abrasives, and routine maintenance of all machines you’re comparing your CNC plasma cutter to. CNC Plasma cutters tend to cost around $15/hour to maintain. CNC Lasers are just slightly higher at $20/hour. And CNC waterjets usually come in at the most expensive – $30/hour.
No cost comparison is complete without a production rate comparison. And here’s where CNC plasma cutters really shine. Typical cutting speeds range from 60 – 200 ipm. Laser is significantly slower at most thicknesses, as it cuts at round 20 – 70 ipm. However, waterjet is far and away the slowest of all. It cuts at 15 ipm at the fastest, and can fall to just fractions of an inch per minute.
Edge Cut Quality
Here, CNC plasma cutters get humbled a little. Admittedly, CNC waterjets do give the squarest edge cut, with absolutely no dross or pierce spatter. CNC Lasers comes in a close second because it can leave some dross and pierce spatter on thicker and stainless steel. Plasma tends to give the lowest edge quality. It leaves a slightly beveled angle, causes some dross, and creates more spatter than laser.
Here again, CNC plasma cutters come in last. They create some heat distortion (which you can reduce by cutting under water), have a tolerance of +/- .020”, and a typical kerf width of .150”. Laser is the second most precise, with typical part dimensions being +/- .005”, and kerf being around .025”. Waterjet is again the most precise, as cut quality remains around +/- .005” and kerf width around .035”.
Does a CNC Plasma Cutter Make Sense for You?
Those are the facts about CNC plasma cutters. Like any CNC machine, they have their pros and cons. Now you know them and how they compare, and you can make the smartest decision for your business.
Mistakes lead to wasted time and money. A good operator working on a well-maintained CNC plasma cutter saves your company thousands of hours and dollars, and generates you consistent revenue.
Good operators know how to avoid the mistakes discussed below, and they should help your inexperienced team members learn how to avoid them too:
Using Consumables Until They Blow
This leads to using consumables when they’re severely worn. If you do that, you can ruin good metal and cause explosive torch failures.
To avoid this mistake, periodically check the cut edge quality of your work piece. Examine the torch parts if you see deterioration in the cut quality.
Record the average life of your CNC plasma cutter’s parts over time. Establish baselines for the expected life of these parts. Use these in the future to understand the best timing for replacement of these parts.
Using the Wrong Consumables for the Job
Choose your consumable based on the thickness of your material, required amperage, and plasma gas you use. Your operator’s manual gives you the appropriate consumables you should use. Using the wrong consumable for the job leads to a shorter life of your parts and lower cut quality.
Incorrect Torch Assembly
Prior to operation, check your CNC plasma cutter to ensure all torch parts are aligned as they should be, and that they fit together snugly. This ensures good electrical contact, minimal disruption to your work, and gives your torch the proper flow of gas and coolant.
That leads us straight into mistake #4:
Not Checking Coolant or Gas Flow
Check the flow and pressure of your gas and coolant daily. Insufficient flow reduces the life of your parts because your consumables aren’t cooled properly.
Cutting Too Slow
Cutting either too fast or too slow causes issues with the resulting cut quality. When you cut too slow, you get a large bubbly accumulation of dross along the bottom edge of your work piece. This can also cause a wider kerf and excess top spatter. If you cut too fast, you cause lag back in the kerf, which leaves a small hard bead of uncut material or rollover dross along the bottom of you work piece.
Your CNC plasma cutter’s arc needs to be centered directly over the work piece when starting. If it isn’t, it may have to stretch ever-so-slightly to reach your workpiece. This can cause the arc to cut into the side wall of your nozzle.
When you avoid these mistakes, you save yourself disruption to your production processes, which also means many saved hours and dollars. Keep each in mind, and make sure everyone on your team understands what to do to keep them from happening.
Are you looking to buy new manufacturing equipment to increase your throughput? Did you know you can buy a MultiCam system and also get HUGE money back from the government on taxes you already paid, while at the same time improving your costs of operation? Well, you’re in luck, thanks to the Section 179 Tax deduction!
The Section 179 is a Tax Code deduction aimed at helping small and large businesses purchase equipment up to a certain limit. If your business has profit and you have not purchased a capital investment this year, you MUST consider purchasing a Capital Asset. Section 179 is applicable for most general business equipment investments such as CNC machinery, computers, software, office equipment, and vehicles (with limitations) to name a few. By this time of the year, most of this tax money is already out of your pocket, and Section 179 gives you the opportunity to get a huge sum back!
In order for the Section 179 Tax Deduction to apply, the equipment must be put to use the same Tax year in which you are filing. Once the clock strikes midnight on the first day of your new tax year, the following year Tax Deduction will only be able to apply moving forward. Since it’s a use-it-or-lose-it type deal, there is no better time than now to invest in this Tax Incentive with a new (or even used) MultiCam CNC Router, Laser, Plasma, Waterjet, or Digital Finishing System.
All MultiCam equipment and software qualifies but before investing, it is highly recommended to verify your potential investment qualifies for the Tax Deduction. For any purchase other than MultiCam, just be sure the equipment, software, or vehicle(s) is used for business purposes more than 50% of the time.
For the 2017 Tax year, the deduction limit for equipment is set at $510,000 while the Spending Cap is set at $2,030,000. Even though these numbers should stay the same for the future, it is quite possible that it can change without notice. All businesses that purchase, finance, and/or lease less than $2,030,000 (2017) for new or used equipment during the Tax year should qualify for the Section 179 Tax Deduction. But once the deduction surpasses $2,030,000, it decreases on a dollar for dollar scale.
In most cases, MultiCam customers can purchase a Router, Plasma, Laser, Waterjet, or Digital Finishing Knife system and write-off the entire equipment purchase price the same day and year they are buying it. In order to show how much you can potentially save, we drew up an example which is displayed below in Table 1 using the Section 179 Calculator.
Example: Say you’re looking to purchase three new MultiCam machines totaling $750,000 dollars. By utilizing the Section 179 Tax Deduction and currently available depreciation schedules, you’ll save approximately $227,500! In turn, all of these savings results in the systems having a realized cost of only $522,500!
With $227,500 cash back in your pocket, that money can effectively be used to benefit your business today rather than losing it to taxes.
The Section 179 Tax Deduction was created to boost the American economy and assist your business towards heading in the right direction. Call MultiCam today to take advantage of these Tax Incentives to reduce the cost of equipment and directly improve your bottom line to help production become more efficient.
CONTACT MULTICAM TODAY: 855.894.3136 or email us at [email protected].
For more information on the Section 179 Tax Deduction go to the official government page at: http://www.section179.org/index.html
Your biggest cost driver for any CNC machining project is almost always the time it takes to machine the part. Materials, set-up time, and custom finishes can factor in. But the time it takes to actually route the part typically exceeds these.
So with that fact in mind, here’s what you can do to cut your CNC routing costs nearly immediately:
Use a Length to Diameter Ratio of 3:1 Or Less for Inside Corners
The wider the radius of your inside corners, the fewer the passes it takes to make them. That leads to lesser routing costs.
In some cases, with a narrower radius, you even have to change your tool to get your inside corners right. So if you can, and wherever possible, make sure you have a length to diameter ratio of 3:1 or less.
In an ideal world, all your inside corner radii have the same ratio so you don’t have to do any tool changes.
Avoid Parts With Deep Internal Cavities
When it comes to cost, deep internal cavities are not your friend. They require fragile tools that break with some frequency.
To work around that potential pitfall, you have to step an end mill down in smaller increments until you reach what your customer requires.
If you stay with parts with lengths up to 4 times their depth, you’ll generally be okay. Anything more than that significantly boosts your manufacturing time.
Only Assign Numerical Values to Critical Features
The more features with numerical callouts that your part has, the more time it takes to manufacture.
However, if the part works fine with a standard tolerance set by the model, that takes far less time.
If you can, define just a single datum, and then create all your other dimensions based on that.
Every step counts.
Thin Part Walls Should Have a Minimum of 1/32” Thickness
When your part walls go below 1/32”, they tend to create chatter. To compensate, you have to slow your routing speed.
This can also lead to distortion of the part. Both factors increase your costs.
If you have to go thinner than 1/32”, sheet metal fabrication may make more sense for you and your customer.
And there you have it. 4 simple ways you can use to cut your CNC routing costs nearly immediately.
Considering a CNC waterjet? They cut steel, aluminum, marble, plastics, foam, PVC, and many other materials just as well as any other CNC machine. They do it fast with high quality, and without doing damage to the environment.
For those reasons, they grab the interest of many CNC machine shops. If you’re interested in adding one to yours, and you’ve decided to evaluate further, make sure you look at these factors during your consideration:
Attend a Demo
You can get sample parts cut by a waterjet. But, there’s always a chance that didn’t actually happen with the parts you get.
Let’s hope no company would be that dishonest.
Even better, ask the company to give you a demo.
No secondary machining should be needed following completion of the work by a CNC waterjet. Inspect dimensions for accuracy. Take a close look at inside and outside corners.
Understand the Thickness At Which the CNC Waterjet Cuts
Waterjets have an amazing amount of cutting power. They can cut nearly any material that’s up to 10” thick, and up to a 6” thickness with steel.
Compare this to CNC plasma cutters, which cut fast, but typically can’t exceed a 2” thick cut.
That puts the versatility of CNC waterjets in perfect perspective.
What Horsepower Do You Need?
With enough power, your CNC waterjet can have multiple cutting heads, which skyrockets your productivity.
You can use this simple method, chart, and table to precisely calculate the horsepower you need from your CNC waterjet.
Know Your Variable Operating Costs
You can easily find the fixed cost of your desired CNC waterjet. But what’ll it actually cost you to own and operate it?
To get a reasonable estimate, consider all the following:
Make sure you create a reasonable estimate of what these expenses could be.
Warranty and Tech Support
Does the manufacturer you’re considering have a reputation for good support? Will they come to your shop in person? Or, do you have to do it online?
How does training work? Do they offer you spare parts, or do those come from third parties?
As you evaluate CNC waterjets, compare what you find. When you finally purchase, you’ll end up with the right machine that boosts your productivity and secures your position in the marketplace.
The right CNC plasma cutter has no problem cutting through thick plasma plate. However, it can be difficult to do the initial piercing when you first start cutting. Rooster tails look gorgeous in photos because the shower of sparks creates the appearance of something amazing happening.
However, shop managers cringe because they know material is being wasted. You can alternatively start from the edge, but again that wastes material.
So, here’s what you might do instead:
Use the Travel Piercing Technique
With this technique, you put your plasma torch in motion at a fast gouge speed. Then you slow the speed to a creep over a length of several inches, until the torch finally penetrates through the metal.
You can minimize that creep distance by raising the torch to a specific height and then lowering it to the cutting height.
This technique reduces waste. However, it still causes wasted material and leaves room for efficiency.
The “At the Nozzle” Technique
For starters, you can use a more pointed torch tip angle to combat blowback. This usually results in more slag hitting the surface of your torch.
Your torch may also have a water cooled shield cup. Shield cups keep spatter from hitting your CNC plasma cutter’s torch and solidifying to it.
When you’re inefficient with your piercing technique, regardless of the one you use, you end up with a molten pool of metal at the bottom of the hole you just pierced. You can overcome this problem with a “Double Pierce,” but you will need a power source with enough energy to pull it off.
With the “Double Pierce” technique, a plasma arc first partially pierces the metal’s thickness. Then the cutting stops, leaving what you call a blind hole.
Next, you scrape away spatter from the surface of the plate and reposition the plasma torch so it pierces about ¼” from the sidewall of the hole you just pierced.
This technique creates room for gases and molten metal to blow up and down the opposite sidewall of the blind pierce hole, eventually allowing the arc to penetrate to the bottom of your metal plate.
Choose the Best Technique for Your Shop
With these techniques in mind, it’s up to your operator to choose the right technique, or combination thereof. Regardless, they allow you to cut thick metal with minimal waste.
Why would you get a CNC waterjet?
You can get all kinds of different CNC machinery.
So if you’re evaluating the different CNC machine types, here’s why you’d consider a CNC waterjet:
CNC waterjets clearly have large potential to save you time and money. And now you have insight on just how they do that and can decide whether one makes sense for your business.
CNC plasma cutter machines have become economically viable not just for large businesses, but now for companies of all sizes. Their technology has become advanced enough such that they boost your productivity and slash your production costs at the same time.
But to get those results at your shop, you should consider these 10 factors as you evaluate CNC plasma cutter machines:
When you keep these 10 factors in mind while you evaluate CNC plasma machines, you put yourself in a good position for making a wise decision that boosts efficiency and revenue.
When you think of CNC routing, usually plastic and wood materials come to mind. But CNC routers also cut aluminum, a weaker metal, quite well.
At the same time, you have to watch out for a few things. As you might expect, cutting aluminum has its intricacies (versus wood and plastic). The first to be aware of is that aluminum is a “sticky” metal that wants to cling to your cutting tool. That makes removing chips a little trickier (which you’ll learn more about in a second).
With that in mind, here’s a few things to watch out for when you cut aluminum with your CNC router (Also, special thanks to Bob Warfield of CNC Cookbook for much of the info that appears in this post):
Now You’re Ready to Cut Aluminum
With these tips in mind, you’re now ready to cut aluminum, and experience a whole lot less frustration. Review them before you cut aluminum with your CNC router next time, learn from your mistakes, and improve your ability to cut aluminum.
It’s not easy to cut perfect holes with your CNC plasma cutting cutter. The difficulty becomes greater as the hole diameter gets smaller, and especially so when it shrinks below 1 1/4”.
Some companies offer automated solutions to make this process easy and consistent. But you don’t always have access to machinery like that.
So how do you make beautiful holes without any defects on a regular basis? Here’s some tips:
Enjoy Beautiful Holes
When you follow this tips, you end up with holes you’re proud of every time. Make sure you keep these tips in mind the next time you have to cut holes with a CNC plasma cutter.
Your CNC router bit has several flutes. The more work you do on the machine, the faster the bit wears out.
But with proper and consistent maintenance, you can reduce your maintenance costs, and keep your routing quality high. Here’s what to do:
When you care for your router’s bit, you get much longer bit life, better cut quality, and a steady stream of customers. It’s just one more thing every smart CNC shop does not overlook.
Every material has unique properties. And once you get into a specific category, you have a number of sub-types.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. And you’ll want to know those so you can make the right selection for the final product your customer wants. Of course, you’ll have your own ins-and-outs as you work with each material too.
So today, we’re going to take a look at hardwoods and softwoods, and some types of each.
First, The Differences Between Hardwoods And Softwoods
Softwoods mostly come from “coniferous” trees, which have needles and bear their seeds in the form of cones. Most timber comes from softwood trees. Softwood’s typically used to build furniture, doors, windows, and for paper products.
Some softwoods are harder than many hardwoods. However, for the most part, hardwoods are much harder than softwoods. Hardwoods are also used to make furniture (although it’s typically higher quality), decks, flooring, and construction components that last. You wouldn’t find hardwood trees used to make paper products.
Hardwood grows slower and usually costs more. Both woods catch fire easily, although hardwood has greater fire resistance.
Characteristics of a Few Hardwoods and Softwoods
You now have the basics. Let’s drill down into some of the specifics of various types of wood:
So there you have it. You have a basic understanding of some kinds of wood and how they can affect the project you have in mind.
One of the leading benefits CNC machinery offers is increased productivity. However, you also have to use that machinery in the most efficient way possible to get the most productivity from yours.
You might be brand new to CNC machining. Or, you might have someone in your shop who is. Sometimes, it can be easy to ignore the basics and get right to it.
There’s something to be said for making mistakes, failing fast, and learning. If you’re in the adjustment phase, here’s some simple ways you can increase your efficiency with CNC machining:
Know Your Power Requirements Before You Install Your CNC Machine
What type of power supply does your shop need to get maximum performance from all its other machinery, and its CNC machines too? You don’t want to install your machinery and experience regular power outages. So make sure you do the necessary calculations and have the appropriate infrastructure in place to make the installation go as smooth as possible.
One-Time Projects Can Be Profitable
With one-time projects, you have to exercise your own judgment as to whether they make sense to take on or not. Don’t write them off simply because they’re outside of the norm.
If nothing else, try and do a test. The best businesses constantly take risks, fail, learn, and then move forward.
Take on a one-time project to make a customer happy. See if word-of-mouth turns that project type into a consistent revenue stream.
Market-leading CNC shops do an average of around 2,000 different projects per year. Average companies take on 5,000. So, you have some room to experiment and learn.
Double-Up on Your Time Saved
While your CNC machine operates, move on to the next and begin setting up your next project. Or, have your employees take on another task. Make sure you employees always have a list of options so they can skyrocket productivity while their CNC machine operates.
Consider adding performance bonuses to boost their interest in this.
Optimize CNC Production for One Operator
Do you have CNC jobs that sometimes have such heavy materials that more than one operator is needed to do the job? How can you create a system that reduces the number of operators required to just one?
Not only does this improve efficiency, but it reduces mistakes, costs, and the potential for injury.
Keeping your workplace processes efficient isn’t easy. After a while, business grows and changes so fast you suddenly find yourself operating inefficiently again.
It’s an ongoing process. And you need to treat it as such. Continue your focus on your productivity and efficiency, and you’ll find yourself remaining in front of your competition.
Want to get better performance out of your CNC waterjet, and more profitability too?
You can do lots of things. For today, we’re going to focus on choosing the right abrasive type and size.
How to Start
First, you want to examine your material and its cutting specs. You’ll also have to look at how difficult your material will be to cut and the finish you want for your abrasive.
Regardless of the abrasive you choose, it must have hardness, toughness, and a certain shape. When you get right down to it, virtually every abrasive substance has been considered for use as a CNC abrasive.
Almandine garnet, however, has emerged as a great all-around abrasive. Other minerals can be harder, heavier, or lower in cost, but none has all of these qualities in the proportions you want like almandine garnet. So if you’re not sure what else to choose, it’s definitely a good starting point.
What Your Abrasive Needs
Abrasives need certain qualities more than others. Here are those qualities, and why your abrasive needs them:
Waterjet cutters need to balance cutting speed and component wear. A soft abrasive extends nozzle life, but slows cutting. A hard abrasive cuts faster, but also erodes your nozzle faster too. Almandine garnet balances the two well, as it falls to 7-8 on the Mohs scale.
Mass multiplied by velocity gives you the primary cutting force of CNC waterjet machining. Simple logic dictates the ideal abrasive has the heaviest particle the water stream can accelerate to maximum velocity. Since Almandine garnet has a specific gravity of 4.0, it’s the ideal abrasive in this regard.
Weak material breaks down in the focusing tube and end up too fine to make the cuts you want. An abrasive that’s too tough gets rounded in the mixing process and winds up too dull to cut well. The ideal abrasive has a measured rate of breakdown and creates sharp, angular cutting edges.
You know the constant balancing act that must be played among acceleration, wear, and cutting. The ideal particle shape depends on the material you need to cut and the type of edge your customer wants.
Typically, rounded grains get used for general purpose cutting. Angular grains get used when you need a faster cut or superior edge finish.
You can find more detail on this from Randolph Rapple. But for now, you have an idea of what you need to consider to choose the right abrasive for your CNC waterjet.
Business finances running tighter than you’d like? Don’t have enough cash flow to invest all you want in a new project that could really grow your company?
Good companies watch their budget. Great companies analyze every detail and see how it impacts the bottom line.
In his famed book, From Good to Great, which studied why some companies became market leaders and others faded into obscurity, Jim Collins and his research team referred to this as “rinsing your cottage cheese.” When Dave Scott won six Ironman triathlons, he would rinse his cottage cheese to get rid of the excess fat.
It’s not clear whether this specific tactic actually helped him win or not. However, it demonstrates his commitment to watching every little detail so he could gain an edge and be the best.
If you don’t get the life you want out of your plasma consumables you want now, here’s what you can do to make that happen going forward:
Change your consumables when they’re used, and not at a set time
Many companies simply change their consumables during a shift change or after a set number of piercings. Big mistake.
You need to know when your consumables are actually worn. For example, all-copper electrodes should be replaced when the hafnium pit depth reaches .040”. Establish these standards so your employees know exactly what to do.
Keep your pierce height in the correct range
Your pierce height should be 1.5 to 2.0 times the correct torch-to-work distance. It’s critical to consumable life, so make sure it remains in this range.
Keep your torch over the material as the cut ends
This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first. If your plasma arc terminates abruptly because it runs off the plate, however, this costs you hafnium.
How much? Usually about 10 – 15 arc starts’ worth.
Make sure you have adequate coolant flow
When your consumable doesn’t have the cooling it needs, this leads to excess and unnecessary heat buildup. In turn, this erodes your consumables faster.
Check your electrical connection
Poor electrical connections delay arc transfers. The typical arc transfer happens in 100 ms on a good connection. When you don’t have a good connection, this can delay the arc transfer to 500 ms or more. That leads to misfiring and excessive consumable wear.
None of these are overly huge or have a dramatic impact themselves. But when you add them altogether, they do have a big impact on your consumable life.
So make sure you have strict standards in place so you use consumables in the most efficient way possible. It allows you to be more competitive in your pricing, or even to increase your own margins. That makes your CNC business more secure in a competitive market.
With nearly every purchase you make, whether for your business or as a consumer, you have choices to make. Do you pay a little more for the brand name you know? Or, do you go with the cheaper generic version and save some cash now?
You know that typically if you pay less, you don’t get comparable quality. The product wears out faster. Or, it’s more likely to break. If you need customer service, you’re not as likely to get an acceptable resolution to your problem.
How does this work with plasma consumables? Is it the same? Or, can you get away with buying bargain consumables and still get the quality experience and cut you want?
Take a look:
Sales people for bargain consumables will tell you that you get the same performance for half the cost. But, they’re not telling you their product won’t last for the same length of time. They’re hoping you won’t notice. But, you will if you decide to track consumable costs over time.
Even though you may hear cut quality across brands is quite similar, despite the price, it’s not necessarily always true. To prove this, Hypertherm conducted their own study versus two competing companies.
They did their test against the ISO:9013 standard, which defines the quality for thermally cut parts. Each cut gets a 1-5 rating. Range 1 is the best because of its minimal angle. Range 5 is the worst.
In their test, Hypertherm delivered cuts in the 3-4 range. Each cut quality made up about half of their product’s life. As the consumable moved along its life cycle, cut quality declined, as you’d expect.
Competitors, on the other hand, delivered cut quality in range 5 about 90% of the time. One competitor delivered a cut quality of 4 for about 20% of its life. However, the remaining time was spent giving the worst cut quality – 5. The other competitor only offered a cut quality of 5.
Further, Hypertherm’s product had a life more than twice as long as both competing options.
You may be somewhat skeptical of Hypertherm because it did its own test, and it won. But, you know products that cost more deliver higher quality. That’s how those companies stay in business.
So ultimately, you have to choose what you’d rather do. Consider doing your own simple test to see which consumables last the longest and give you the best cut quality. It’s just another way your CNC shop can improve and keep its edge on the competition.
Top CNC shops do have secrets to their success. But, they’re not necessarily anything proprietary that you can’t also do.
CNC shops which stay at the forefront of their market, whether they’re large or small, implement certain strategies to keep their position. You should work hard, but you have to do so in the smartest way to stay at the top.
If you’re in the middle of the pack and want to leap forward, keep these strategies in mind:
Most CNC shops don’t have a formally defined purpose. That leads to taking on jobs which fall way outside of your specialty. When you do those jobs, they take longer and more mistakes happen. Your efficiency takes a dip.
It’s frightening to narrow your company to a single defined purpose and only accept projects that fit within it. Your fear is that you’ll limit yourself too much and won’t get enough work.
But, doing this actually has the opposite effect: you get more efficient at doing specific kinds of projects. In turn, that makes you more valuable to customers. So, they have a reason to keep coming back to you.
Modern Machine Shop’s Top Shops Survey found market leaders make an average of 2,097 different parts each year. Compare this to 5,874 for the typical shop.
At the same time, independents may spend more resources customizing their tools and processes to meet niche needs. Any CNC machine shop can do this. It just gets a little more challenging if you’re larger and have more employees and machinery to manage.
Modern Machine Shop’s survey also found top shops routinely use 5-axis machining. Not every shop does, but the majority do. 5-axis machining is simply the most efficient way to manufacture complex parts, while also taking the least number of steps to do so.
Most top shops also include advanced techniques like high-speed machining and hard turning to sustain their market advantage.
According to the Modern Machine Shop survey, top shops and average shops pay their employees nearly the same, with top shops paying about a dollar more per hour to CNC operators.
However, they separate from the pack by offering other benefits. They’re more likely to provide profit-sharing, in-house training, and paid medical benefits.
Top CNC shops know what to do differently and follow through on it. If you’ve found yourself struggling to retain the best employees and compete, now you have a clearer understanding of what you can do to become a market leader.
Evaluating different types of cutting for your CNC machine shop? Why would you choose various types of cutting over others?
Today, we’ll give you the benefits of waterjet cutting so you can decide whether it makes sense for your company. Here’s the leading reasons to choose it:
With waterjet cutting, there’s absolutely no hazardous waste to dispose of. You don’t have any waste disposal costs to account for in your budget. And typically, waterjets only use ½ to 1 gallon of water per minute they cut.
A CNC waterjet easily cuts through materials 2 – 3 inches thick, regardless of their hardness. It may seem like water may not be able to cut through materials as well as, say, plasma. But hard materials 2 – 3 inches thick aren’t a problem.
With CNC waterjets, the fixturing process is simplified. Cutting with a waterjet does not move the material. It also doesn’t cause any vibration or stress your material in any way. At the same time, it retains most of its cutting power and remains effective even on uneven materials. Waterjet cutting even works well for cutting fiber-reinforced materials, reflective materials, and materials with stacked layers.
A waterjet stream only removes .5 mm of material when cutting. Compared to other types of cutting, this is less material removed. If you’re cutting hazardous or expensive material, the resulting savings can add up quite nicely.
Your customers may want to advertise to their clients that they’re environmentally friendly. Your clients may appreciate that you’re kind to the environment in your business processes too.
Waterjet cutting uses garnet as its abrasive. That’s an inert, non-reactive material. You’re not doing the environment harm when you use waterjet cutting, and you can advertise your environmental friendliness as a result.
Waterjet cutting runs cold. Other types of cutting run hot and can burn, melt, or crack your material. Other cutting types cause surface hardening, warping, and hazardous gas emission. You don’t experience any of these problems with waterjet cutting.
You now understand the benefits of waterjet cutting. With these in mind, you’re ready to make a decision that moves your business forward.
An injured worker does your company, and themselves, no good. It’s simply the right and high-integrity thing to do when you look out for your workers’ safety. When they feel you care about them, you’ll also get better productivity and stronger teamwork. If your workers don’t feel like you care, then you set yourself up for conflict, stress, lowered productivity, missed deadlines, and angry customers.
So what should your workers know and do when they use your CNC Plasma machine? Hopefully most of this sounds like review.
Here’s a few tips to get you started:
1. Protect Yourself from Sparks
First, your employees should protect their eyes with safety goggles that have a side shield, at minimum. Ideally, they wear a helmet or face shield to remove all doubt of having sparks hit their eyes. This also protects their eyes from experiencing damage due to the bright plasma cutting light.
Their clothing and gloves should also be flame-resistant. Leather, wool, or heavy denim work very well to protect your body from sparks. If your employees smoke, they shouldn’t carry matches or butane lighters with them. High-top leather shoes or boots should be worn to keep sparks from hitting their feet.
2. When Your Plasma Cutting Machine is in Use
Plasma gets so hot that ideally you have at least 25 feet between the cutter arc and anything else. The gases released from plasma cutting can also be harmful. So, you must have proper ventilation and wear a respirator while doing the work.
If your employees are working on a coated metal like galvanized steel (or any other coated metal), use a grinder to remove the coating before cutting. Heating up the coating with plasma cutting releases noxious toxic fumes.
If you have to cut the coated material, your employee should wear a respirator to do the work.
3. Keep Yourself Grounded
Your employees should always wear rubber gloves, in addition to their welding gloves, as they cut to avoid electric shock. They should never cut if the environment seems even the slightest bit damp.
Your plasma cutting machine should already be wired and grounded by an electrician. As your employee does their cutting, they should stand on top of a rubber mat.
As long as you follow those plasma cutting basics, you and your employees will be safe and productive.
Are you sending your own stress through the roof because you’re cutting it way too close with customer production deadlines?
Or, are you the type who acts before you can see problems happening so they never actually occur?
Everyone in CNC machining wants more speed…without sacrificing quality. So what are some ways you can get that?
It’s not always as clear cut and simple as you might first expect.
Find out what to do by reading the tips below:
1. Substitute More Shallow Passes for Fewer Deeper Ones
It may seems like the opposite at first.
But it’s precisely true. You can do shallow passes fast enough to more than compensate for the time fewer deeper passes take.
So take a look at your materials and projects. Find the deep cuts and identify how many shallow passes can give you the same cut quality, but much faster.
2. Consider Installing an Auxiliary High-Speed Spindle
For high speed CNC machining, your spindle needs to turn at 8,000 rpm. That’s the bare minimum. But you may not see the full benefit of high-speed machining even at that spindle speed.
What if your CNC machine is just too slow, or basically right at the bare minimum?
For a reasonable cost, you can simply install an auxiliary high-speed spindle. Fixed center line spindles, for example, can turn at up to 50,000 rpm.
3. Fine-Tune Your Flutes
Four flutes allow you to go at twice the feed rates of two flutes at the same rpm. However, this can take away from your available horsepower.
But don’t worry because you can reduce the depth of cut to offset that problem. It takes some time to get this tuned to the point where everything balances out, but it does save you serious cutting time once in place.
4. Relieve Data Bottlenecks
You know your CNC machine has several opportunities for improving its data flow. With 1,000 points of data .010 inches apart (a 10-inch move), you should be able to run a test feed rate of 200 ipm in 3 seconds – total.
If your CNC doesn’t run at that benchmark, you have ample opportunity to improve data flow bottlenecks.
What Are the Scalable Effects?
Now, multiply all these speed increases by the number of machines in your shop.
That’s why great CNC machine shops take the time to do this. Consider doing it at yours as soon as possible.
Properly maintained machinery always gives you the best performance. So what does your waterjet need from you to do its best job every day?
Some CNC shops and operators underestimate what actually needs to be done. And when you do that, you run the risk of inhibiting your productivity.
So here’s what you should plan on:
1. Understand Your Water Quality
The incoming water to your production facility should meet what your manufacturer specifies. Most want you to have less than 100 parts per million of total dissolved solids, but greater than 10 parts per million.
If your water doesn’t fall into this range, you’ll need a water softener, which costs up to $6,000 up front, but just pennies per hour to run. Water softeners are all you need if you have 200 parts per million, or less, of total dissolved solids.
If you have water harder than that, then you may need to invest in a reverse osmosis system, which runs up to $30,000.
The cost is worth it. This prevents sediment from building up inside your parts and cutting their lives far shorter than you’d like.
2. Tips on Consumables
You should frequently inspect your consumables so you know they are in good shape. Extra orifices, nozzles, and other consumables should be readily available in case you run out. This also saves you downtime so you don’t have to wait for replacement parts.
Nozzles last around 40 to 80 hours of cutting time. They only take 5 minutes to replace.
3. Examine the Jewels Used to Create the Waterjet Stream
Sapphires and rubies last about as long as nozzles: 40 to 80 hours. Diamonds last up to 800 hours, but all jewels cost about the same per hour.
To estimate the condition of the jewels accurately, do the following:
If you have poor edge quality after ensuring all of the above, then your CNC waterjet has a worn jewel. It only takes 10 minutes or so to replace the jewel.
There’s lots more to maintaining your CNC waterjet. But, that’s a good start for now.
It’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. You’ve optimized your CNC machine, and entire shop, for maximum production efficiency. Everything’s fine-tuned and couldn’t be going better.
Then your CNC machine suddenly stops operating. It just sits there, doing nothing. Maybe you were in the middle of production. Or maybe you started the warm-up routine, but nothing happened.
Even the best machinery breaks down eventually. It’s inevitable.
So, once you’re done having your panic attack and have come back down to earth, what do you do?
Here’s some ideas:
Every CNC machining environment has all kinds of unhelpful conditions. Most production floors run hot. Your AC cabinet can get clogged with contaminants like lubricant, cutting fluid, scrap metal shavings, dirt, oil, and dust, reducing its ability to keep your production floor from running too hot.
High heat causes severe damage to amplifiers, controllers, power suppliers, HMIs, PLCs, and so on. Fluids can result in high humidity, which causes damage to your circuit boards.
2. The Best Solution: Preventative Maintenance
You can certainly engage in a reactionary approach and fix whatever needs to be fixed to get operating again.
But, you’ll be best served by doing the preventative maintenance necessary that keeps your CNC machinery running longer and with greater efficiency:
If you do those things, you’ll run into trouble with your CNC machinery far less often. You’ll run longer and more efficiently. You’ll produce more and you’ll have happier customers.
Who’s your favorite athlete? Got it? Whoever they are, they have a warm-up routine to prep for their contest. No athlete waits until the opening buzzer, quick runs onto the court or field, and then dominates everyone.
If they did that, they’d risk injury. Or, they wouldn’t perform their best because their muscles aren’t warmed up and ready.
Your CNC machinery needs its own warm-up routine too. If it doesn’t warm up, it breaks down, doesn’t cut as accurately, and it may not last as long.
There’s 4 different times when your CNC machinery needs to be warmed up:
If your CNC manufacturer has supplied you with a warm-up routine, your work’s done. Simply run that.
But not all CNC machine manufacturers include their own warm-up routine. If you have to make your own, make sure your routine does this at minimum:
Nothing earth-shattering, right? Creating and running a warm-up routine isn’t hard at all.
But it offers you great benefits. Your machine lasts longer. You have less need for repairs. You get more accurate cuts. That means you have happy customers who don’t complain, which builds your business.
The collet chuck is the most common alternative to jaw chucks in CNC. It was originally developed to make it easier to machine smaller parts. Collet chucks are designed to work with capacities as large as 6 inches, although they most commonly hold workpiece diameters of 3 inches or less. CNC machinists love them because of the additional clearance they provide.
And the tool holder? Well, you can probably guess what that does. Anyway, let’s take a look at how you’d perform proper maintenance on both the tool holder and collet:
Examine your tool holder for wear on each of the four major parts (taper, pull studs, v-flange, collet pocket/nut). If you find any wear at all, simply replace the tool holder. The wear will only cause more imperfections in the quality of your final product.
We’ll get into some of the specifics below:
You should look for wear and tear where the taper meets the spindle. If the metal spindle and table rub on one another, you’ll notice signs of fretting. The vibration and heat from their rubbing leads to damage which you notice as small, copper-colored pits or marks on the taper.
Your collet has an inside and outside diameter. Check the inside diameter for scoring marks. Cutting tools may have spun in there, resulting in damage. Replace the collet if you notice any.
Even if you don’t observe damage, the collet could actually be worn out through “metal fatigue.” This happens when you use your CNC machine and heat transfers directly from the tool to the collet. Over time, you may notice the collet needs more tightening than before to remain in the correct position. You may want to replace your collet after every 400 – 600 hours of run time.
Check collet nuts for looseness. Any looseness in the collet assembly leads to a loss of accuracy. Tighten the collet nut – but not too tight. Tightening too much wears away the threads. A standard collet nut requires about 20-22 foot-pounds of torque. Your manufacturer may recommend a little less.
The spindle your tool holder attaches to must not be worn. If it is, you’re going to notice problems in your final cut.
Those are just some simple things you want to pay attention to maintain on your CNC machinery.
You can use a CNC router to cut just about anything you want – ranging from cabinetry to signs.
But the hard part with CNC routers is choosing the right one for your needs. How do you know which one will work for you?
Keep these general tips in mind which should form the foundation for making your decision:
CNC machines have 3 types of drive systems. Check ‘em out and when they make most sense:
Stepper motors typically have 50 – 100 magnetic poles. Servo motors usually have just 4-12.
The greater number of magnetic poles allows for improved accuracy and precision, and without any position feedback. Naturally, this makes precision much easier with Stepper motors. Stepper motors cost less and are easier to find. Servo motors often need a position encoder to do the same. While less common, the advantage of servo motors is they supply twice their rated torque for periods, and generally have greater efficiency.
Heavier machines are generally better constructed and give you stronger performance. That usually means lesser vibration and more accurate cutting.
However, you’ll have to consider whether you need to transport your CNC machine frequently. If that’s the case, then you may want to choose a lighter machine.
You’ll never want to skimp on software. Machines only do exactly what you tell them.
What if you have a special operation you need performed? Ask the machine’s manufacturer about a custom software solution.
Buy cheaper router bits and they wear faster and break more often, and you have to spend more time replacing them. You’re best off spending a little more up front to prevent all kinds of nuisances later on down the line.
There’s much more to consider when buying a CNC router. For now, however, those are the most important things to remember.
Have conventional machines in your CNC shop? Have you wondered what it might be like to replace them with CNC machines?
Do you find yourself daydreaming about faster production speeds and higher revenues?
What’s been holding you back from making the change? See if some of these advantages of CNC machining don’t finally convince you to take action:
Make no mistake about it…CNC machining isn’t like flipping burgers. You can’t take any old person and get amazing production quality out of them.
But CNC machining requires much less experience with the machinery than conventional machining. Experience is of great benefit in CNC, but it’s not absolutely required.
If you’re creating custom-made parts for unique applications, CNC may not be the best choice. But, if you need to create a high number of parts for a few applications, CNC will skyrocket your revenues.
Conventional machinery needs so much help from the operator, which is fine when you need to create a unique piece. But when you need to make dozens of the same piece, CNC makes more sense.
If you’re contracted by yourself to do a custom job, where does most of the cost for your customer come from? Labor. They’re fine with that because they want a custom piece made just for them.
However, if you have hundreds or thousands of the same piece to make, your customers won’t want to see high labor costs. They’ll expect you to use machinery to automate the job. And that’s where CNC machines can boost your revenues.
More experienced machinists were taught to be mathematical and analytical. That’s fine and works well for conventional machining where you have to think out exactly how to make the piece.
However, CNC machinery is controlled by software. And modern workers are taught to deal with technology and software.
You may have a difficult time finding modern workers who know how to think their way through production using conventional machinery.
Did you know CNC software allows you to simulate your idea before actually making the cut? That saves you the time and money of creating a prototype – possibly even weeks and months!
Only you know whether conventional or CNC machining makes more sense for your needs. And now you have an idea of the benefits CNC machining offers your business so you can make the best decision for your needs.
CNC is an acronym for “Computer Numerical Control.” Essentially, CNC machinery is a computer operated mechanism which precisely cuts or engraves complex shapes in metal, plastic, stone, wood, and a range of various medium types. In order to accurately cut or engrave a design, a programmer must map a numerical code through CAD (Computer-aided Design) and/or CAM (Computer-aided Manufacturing) software which is interpreted by the computer and used as a blueprint or template.
CNC machines are designed relatively the same but their cutting methods differ. Depending on the manufacturing industry or the finished product requirements, there is a CNC machine for nearly any application. CNC machinery can be found in the following types listed below.
With a wide range of cutting methods, we strongly suggest to keep in mind, what you’re attempting to achieve not only for the present but for the future to suit your business needs.
Our customers utilize their CNC machines for a range of industries which specialize in 3D carving, acrylic and aluminum fabrications, aerospace, cabinetry, and much more! With endless possibilities to create and manufacture unique pieces, the only limit is your own imagination.
Not sure which CNC machine is the best fit for your application? Feel free to leave us your questions or comments in the section below, contact our sales team at (972) 929-4070, or head to our website www.multicam.com
Every profession has its myths and misconceptions. CNC machining is no different in that regard.
What are some of the most common myths? Find out below:
This one has a little truth. CNC machining can certainly be easy. In fact, the whole concept behind CNC is to make machining parts easier, faster, and more consistently accurate.
But at the same time, it’s infinitely complicated. You can always learn more. Programming, setting up your workspace, and making adjustments can almost always be improved – even if you save just a few seconds. The benefits are faster production and improved product quality.
This one again is partially true. While you can’t grab the first random person on the street and turn them into a CNC machinist, CNC machining does require only minimal training to get started in some cases. But there’s many types of production that require much more than just basic skills.
Loading workpieces, activating and monitoring cycles, measuring workpieces, evaluating workpieces, and recognizing and replacing dull tools takes skill. Experienced operators make a huge difference in any CNC machine shop.
CNC machining isn’t totally automated. It’s not like your employees can just push a button and watch the machine do all the work.
CNC does make consistency in product speed and quality much easier. But it’s not perfect, and it does require some thought. Your employees do need to analyze the workpiece setup and process prior to executing the job to make sure the part gets produced in almost exactly the same way.
If everything goes smoothly and you have an experienced CNC machinist, you can predict, with a fair amount of accuracy, when your job will complete.
But, you also need to account for:
Predicting repeating jobs can be done consistently. But with new jobs, this can be next to impossible.
Nearly every CNC machine uses a CAM system. But, every CAM system outputs the G-Code your CNC machinery needs to run. CNC machinists have an easier time modifying G-Code than changing the CAM system.
Code still matters a ton. And the skill and experience of the CNC machinist matters even more.
When you understand those five myths of CNC machining, you’ll realize how valuable it is to have an employee skilled in CNC.
Have you ever found anything easy to learn at first? Have you ever easily learned something that seemed to be overwhelmingly difficult for others to grasp?
If something comes to you naturally without much effort, that’s a sign you’ve likely found a skill you can turn into a career.
CNC programming can seem easy. If it does, that’s awesome for you because you’ve found something that you’ll likely enjoy mastering. While CNC programming seems simple at first, you can also spend a lifetime learning new, different, and more efficient ways to program.
If you want to grow your skills fast, here’s some things to keep in mind:
Borrow from Others’ Knowledge
In any profession, there’s people with years more experience than you. And there’s people with years less experience.
You can actually learn from both. You won’t learn as much from people with lesser experience. But they can still teach you things…and maybe sometimes how not to do CNC programming.
People with more experience have made many mistakes and have learned a lot. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and learn everything on your own, talk with others, ask questions, and observe their behavior to learn what you can from them.
Do Practice Jobs After Your Work Shift
Yeah…so you may not be thrilled to stay later after your work shift ends. But it’s a great opportunity for you to practice new jobs and learn new things. Plus, your bosses may observe your behavior and keep you in mind for promotions or more difficult projects, which increases your status and usefulness at your job.
There’s an abundance of YouTube videos on just about every subject…including CNC programming. You may not get hands-on opportunity to run the machine. But you can still pick up bits and pieces from others.
You may be able to take courses at a nearby local college. Just Google “CNC programming courses” to find options near you.
How you want to learn is up to you. But the point from all this is that you have the opportunity to do so.
The typical employee does what they have to. And by doing more, you’ll be the one who stands out. Who knows what that could lead to in your CNC machining career?
When you’re small, it’s tough to get noticed. Big-name marketing firms want to charge you big-time prices. And there’s no guarantee what they do works.
Smaller firms are unproven. Yeah, they want your business. They need it to survive. But it’s really hard to tell if they can get you results.
Their references and success stories come from friends and close business contacts. Every business has at least a few. But you can’t tell exactly how well this business would market your company.
So, that leaves you with yourself.
How can you get your name out there so you attract more prospects? Here’s a simple strategy:
Yes, You Can Win New Customers
And if you don’t get them immediately, continue refining your differentiation, how you communicate your prospect’s problem, and the solution you have for it.
Eventually, things will click. And they may even click right away. Much of it is a numbers game. The more consistent you are over time, the more likely you are to succeed.
A CNC machine is an “investment,” not an “expense.” If you think of it as a cost, you’re only going to focus on money, and not what the CNC machine can do for your business.
The right quality machinery can be a huge asset to your company. You can get jobs done faster with greater quality. You can take on a wider array of work. You don’t have to service it as frequently, which keeps you running and producing.
An investment grows your business. An expense simply takes money.
With that difference in mind, how do you know you’re making a wise investment in the CNC machine you’re considering? Consider some of the points below:
You’ll quickly learn the true reputation of the company you’re considering.
You’re making a big investment. So, you might as well make sure you’re doing it right. And if you follow these steps, you’ll end up making a wise decision that makes you happy and grows your business.
No one knows exactly how much the Internet of Things will change the future. Cities, like Barcelona, Spain, have used IoT to completely liberate themselves from debt and skyrocket into massive profitability.
And the manufacturing industry is ripe for IoT use. Imagine the data coming at you in real-time so you know your exact production rates at any given second. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in regard to what IoT could do.
According to this Forbes article, Bain predicts the entire IoT industry could exceed $470 billion in value by 2020. General Electric says IoT investment could total $60 trillion, or even more, in 15 years.
It’s an undeniably big trend. So, let’s take a look at some aspects of it that may concern you:
Notice this isn’t, “What are your parameters?” It’s,“Where are your parameters?”
Have you ever tried to restore your CNC machine’s parameters, only to find you never backed them up in the first place?
It happens. And it costs you a lot of machine down-time when it does.
Controls often need to be re-initialized following a repair. During re-initialization, you can lose all data, which includes your programs, offsets, and parameters. Service engineers often repair problems within minutes, but if you don’t have a backup copy of your parameters, you can waste days waiting for the engineer to get your CNC machine running again. Yes…days!
So with that in mind, do you know that you have a backup of your parameters? If you don’t have a DNC system with your current CNC machinery, write each parameter’s value down in a notebook. Then, scan those pages and store them to the cloud.
Yes, that takes a few hours of work. But, your CNC machinery will need repair sometime in the future. And you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have no information regarding your parameters.
Every Smart Business Has a Backup Plan
Former General and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said,”In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
In other words, you must have a backup plan in place. But, situations change, so that can force your plans to quickly change also.
We’ve covered what to do with your parameters. And you need to do this with all your CNC data too. You need to back up:
It should all go on an external, secure hard drive, which you store on-site. And another copy should be stored off-site. You could also go to the cloud, although that does expose you to hacking risks.
You never know when a hurricane, tornado, fire, flood, or earthquake could take down your whole business. The physical stuff will be replaced by insurance. But the data has to be replaced by you, or a third party you hire to manage your backup processes for you.
Will your business get destroyed by an unforeseen disaster? Probably not.
But it’s a smart idea to have a backup plan in place, just in case the worst possible scenario happens.
While cutting material with water may seem far-fetched, it isn’t all that impossible with the help of CNC Waterjet machinery. Utilizing a highly pressurized jet-stream of water, a Waterjet is capable of cutting nearly any material. Combined with computer aided controls, a CNC Waterjet provides superior cuts with exceptional precision.
To give you an idea of how much pressure a Waterjet can generate, we’ll compare it to a kitchen sink. A kitchen sink disperses water around 60 pounds per square inch (PSI) while a Waterjet shoots water around 60,000 to 90,000+ PSI. While it may not be practical to wash dishes with a Waterjet, you can sure count on cutting your dinner plans short, if needed.
There are two types of Waterjets that are typically used in the CNC industry. The first is referred to as “Pure” which solely cuts with a highly pressurized stream of water while the second is referred to as “Abrasive,” which combines a highly pressurized stream of water with abrasive particles, similar to sandpaper. The two are designed to cut different types of material which is listed below.
While cutting with Waterjet is typically slower than with say for example a router, there are still plenty of substantial benefits to it. If you’re looking to cut thick material, you’re in luck! Depending on the type of Waterjets, some have proven to cut from as little as 0.5 inches to 10 inch thick material. Also, since the material is being cut by water, there is very little heat generated which prevents sensitive materials from thermal distortion. Waterjets can cut reflective materials (copper, aluminum, etc) and heat sensitive materials without the same damaging effects as heat generated cutting which gives the edge to Waterjet over Laser alternatives. Last but not least, Waterjets are one of the most environmentally friendly types of cutting since there is no use or emission of oils or hazardous gases.
Have questions about CNC Waterjets? No pressure, feel free to shoot your comments or questions in the section below. Feel free to reach out and connect with us on our social media pages via, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for our latest updates!
Hooray! You’ve just bought a new CNC router. But, before you slap on some scrap material laying around in your shop or garage, there is a few things you need to know to get the most out of your CNC router bits.
To get started, we compiled a list of routing jargon and their respective definitions which is listed below.
It’s safe to say, specific bits are designed to work best with specific materials. Once you’ve figured out what materials you will be cutting the next step would be determining your cut direction.
For most plastic and aluminum applications, a single flute pattern is preferred, while for most wood applications it is ideal to utilize a double flute pattern.
When it comes to selecting routing bits, remember the thicker the routing bit, typically the deeper the pass. Although, be conscious of the bit diameter in order to not unnecessarily waste material. It is also best practice to match the size of your bit to the size of the material you’re cutting. For example a ¼ inch sheet of plastic would ideally be cut with a ¼ inch bit.
Before you start cutting away at lighting fast speeds, there are a few factors you need to consider. First, determine what type of material you will cut, the thickness of it, and the type of application (cutting, engraving, pocketing, etc.) in order to set an outcome. Secondly, establish if you want to the toolpath to be a single pass or have multiple passes. Lastly, prior to running a cut file, follow the manufactures recommendations for a routing bits recommended chipload. These recommended specs can usually be found on their website, documentation, or manual. The formula provided below will assist you to calculate your chipload.
Chipload = Feedrate / (RPM x Number of Flutes)
General rule of thumb: If your chips are too large, slow down the feed rate or you risk breaking the bit.
Larger chips dissipate heat better while smaller chips are easier on your machine but can result in too much heat. Also, consider the speed you are looking to cut and the chip clearance. The model RPM for nearly every material is around 18,000 RPM but for aluminum it’s suggested to aim for around 16,000 RPM.
Have more questions about which CNC routing bits are best for your application or material? Feel free to leave your comments or questions in the section below or contact our Aftermarket Specialist, Nathan Roberts at (972) 929-4070 ext. 2027 – email at [email protected]. Be sure to connect with us on our social media pages via, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for our latest company updates.
Sources: Image courtesy of LMT Onsrud
It may be the most important question to ask in your business when you consider doing anything new. If you can’t answer,”Why are we doing this?” in a compelling way that supports a good business case for making the change, then you’re probably not making a good change.
You may follow that up with,”What are we trying to accomplish with this purchase?”
But first, start with the,”Why?”
Examples of Effective Whys
Some whys make sense, while others don’t. Here’s some good reasons you may consider why you need a new CNC machine:
You could have nearly an infinite number of reasons that make good business sense.
A Great Place to Start Your Research
So, what CNC machine and brand will deliver you the results you want? Sometimes, it can be hard to tell from manufacturer websites whether their machine will accomplish what you want. And you don’t want to have to make dozens of phone calls to attempt to figure that out.
Techspex.com actually allows you to search 500 machine tool brands and nearly 8,600 machine models available. It’s a great place to create your first list of what CNC machines and brands you’ll consider to help you achieve your goals. You can compare all your choices side-by-side to make the short list and final selectio easier.
Look for CNC Manufacturers That Make Purchasing Easy
It should be easy to get what you want, even if you have a tight budget now. Some CNC manufacturers will give you affordable financing for several months so you can get your machine into production and get your capital flowing. Then, you pay a normal monthly amount after a fixed time period.
Once You Understand Why, You Can Find The CNC Machine You Want
The perfect-fit CNC machine your company needs is out there, whether you’re a small job shop or large-scale production environment. Don’t compromise. It’s better to keep looking until you find exactly what fits your operations.
We are pleased to announce three honorees in the 2017 Signs of the Times Sign Contest.
The signs were all fabricated using our MultiCam 3000 Series CNC Router and MultiCam CNC Plasma Cutter. They were designed using EnRoute Pro Software. Each of them were created with 30 lb Precision Board.
The signs we created for the Crown & Pin Pub at NEBs. “Fun World” placed first in the Sign Systems category. The signs were also runner up for Best of Show.
The Merry Dragon sign was also created from Precision Board which will be displayed at the upcoming ISA show was honored with a First Place in the “Unusual Sign Category.”
The signs were also recently showcased in a SignCraft Magazine featured article.The article was about combining CNC Routed and Plasma cut parts in the same creative signs.
Five-axis CNC machining sounds pretty cool. But since you’re practical, you won’t get a CNC machine with that capability unless you need it.
When would that be?
Check out a few situations:
You Have an Unusually-Shaped Workpiece
Sometimes, you get production orders that are out of the norm. A customer needs a part that’s not shaped like the others they’ve ordered in the past. If you do complex manufacturing for aerospace, you may find yourself routinely getting these kinds of orders.
And that’s where 5-axis machining makes sense.
You Want to Reduce Lead Time and Increase Efficiency
The CNC industry is pushing toward single-setup machining. It makes sense because it offers you significant business benefits.
What if you could replace multiple machines with just a single one? That makes obvious sense. In addition, it saves you mental frustration and hassle.
In addition, you may uncover hidden profit streams. For example, a customer asks you to manufacture fishing reels. In the past, this took you three machines. So, you told them you couldn’t help them with that because it wasn’t profitable. Now, with just a single setup, you can make that profitable.
So, you now have access to a profit center you didn’t before.
You Want to Improve the Quality and Accuracy of Your Part
Because you eliminate multiple setups with five-axis machining, you improve accuracy as you use different features of your machine. In the past, you would have had to set up various features and tools multiple times. While you might be pretty accurate, you won’t be as consistently accurate as you would be with maintaining a single setup.
You Want Greater Speed Than 3+2 Axis Machining
With 3+2 axis machining, each reorientation of the tool requires stopping and starting. 5-axis machining does not need this.
You’ll get similar quality results with both kinds of machining. But, you’ll get more speed with 5-axis machining. It’s a little more difficult to execute, and it leads to additional wear-and-tear on your machine, but the pros outweigh the cons.
5-axis machining definitely makes sense. You simply have to make sure you know when to use it. And with these tips, you know exactly that.
There are 8,760 hours in each year. How many of those does your CNC machine spend working?
Of course, you can never get it perfect. But most machinists, and shops, miss out on substantial productivity by making mistakes they don’t realize.
You can easily take an informal survey that gives you a good idea of your true productivity level. Simply walk through your shop in the morning, at a few random times during the day, and before you go home each night.
Take note of the percentage of machines operating. Do this for two weeks. Calculate the average percentage in operation. Then, estimate the number of hours you’ve been operating.
If you’re like many machine shops, your CNC machinery actually only operates 2,000 or less hours per year. That obviously leaves room for big gains.
Do you make any of these productivity mistakes?
Run Your Older Machines More than Your Newer Ones
You can have all the most modern equipment available, but if it isn’t running, it does you no good. No surprise there. But, you may not realize the extent of this issue until you actually calculate your productivity.
To increase yours, run your old machines nearly all the time. Take some of the wear-and-tear off your newer machines by running them less. Optimize your total productivity for a net gain versus what you did before.
Eliminate Your Wait Time for Operators
Your CNC machines should rarely have to wait for an operator to program them and set their job up. You could have one CNC machine operator take care of multiple machines.
You may need to train your employees to improve their awareness of this issue. Night and weekend jobs should be set up to continue running…even during shift changes. Your managers also need to be aware of when staff are sick or going on vacation to eliminate downtime in those situations.
Avoid Unnecessary Breakdowns with Preventative Maintenance
Every CNC machine breaks down. It’s going to happen. However, most maintenance is predictable. So, that means you need to schedule regular preventative maintenance to avoid the downtime it causes.
When a part breaks and you have to order one, make sure you contact your OEM immediately and persistently stay on them. Be prepared to pay extra to have the part rush delivered because the time you save from that may save you serious cash.
If you haven’t analyzed your productivity, now’s a better time than ever to do so. It’ll lead to significant cost savings and additional revenue generation.
MultiCam would like to congratulate Starfish Signs & Graphics on their Sign of the Year award at this years Signworld Convention in Las Vegas!
Starfish Signs & Graphics was honored with three industry awards at the recent Signworld Convention in Las Vegas. Nicolette Betuk received the top award for best sign design, and Dave Werner (along with Jim Carlise and Landon Rose, not pictured) received the best installation award. Nicolette and Dave are shown with owners Mike and Laura Reilly, who received an award for business performance. We are very proud of all members of the Signworld Team!
This unusual halo-illuminated lobby sign was routed from a sheet of clear 3/8” acrylic on their MultiCam 1000 Series Router. They applied digital graphics to the face, using a combination of opaque vinyl, translucent vinyl, and clear areas on the acrylic. Illumination was achieved by applying very low profile, 3/16” LED modules to the perimeter, back-side of the sign. Using a 1/8” router bit on the MultiCam CNC Router, they were able to accurately reproduce the fine detail from the design in the acrylic panel. They also routed the acrylic laminate / foam letters on the reception desk.
The Starfish project team was led by designer Nicolette Betuk, fabricator (and CNC router operator) Jim Carlise, and installers David Werner and Landon Rose.
For more information on unique signs & graphics such as this one, please visit starfishsigns.com
You may have heard DNC called:
Direct numerical control
Distributed numerical control
Downloaded numerical control
Whatever the name you know, it all refers to the same thing. It simply refers to the fact that you can network all your CNC machines to a single computer. If you’re a small job shop short on time and teetering on the edge of massive growth, DNC could be exactly what you need to maximize your efficiency and uptime so you get the most out of your CNC machinery.
Take a minute to learn more about some of the unique benefits of DNC:
Skyrocket Your Efficiency
A single CNC operator can control as many machines as their talent allows with DNC. If you have a highly skilled workforce, or one capable of learning DNC quickly, you can drive your production efficiency through the roof.
Get Up-to-the-Second Information about Your CNC Machinery
One of your CNC machines isn’t running when it shouldn’t be. Does one need a quick repair to get back into production?
Find out about it immediately. Don’t learn after having a conversation with one of your workers during lunch.
Stay Protected from External Security Threats
You hear about all the nightmare stories where Chinese or Russian hackers enter into business’s mission-critical systems. This happens more often at small companies than they’d like to admit. Because, while the breaches to big-name businesses with consumer information make the headlines, hackers know the smaller guys carry much less (if any) protection.
So, smaller companies like yours are an easy target. Hackers today can take control of your network and force you to pay them money to regain access using “ransomware.”
However, DNC doesn’t require you to be on the internet. So, with no physical way to access your DNC network, you have 100% security from external hackers. And you don’t need to hire an expensive IT team to handle your security, either. That’s valuable today.
You Don’t Need an Expensive, State-of-the-Art DNC Network
DNC doesn’t generate a high volume of traffic on your network once installed. So, you don’t have to shell out lots of capital to make the upgrade to DNC happen.
When you monitor your DNC network using event monitoring (when something important happens with one of your CNC machines), this generates much less data and traffic than persistent monitoring. And since the data load’s light, you don’t need additional file servers or cloud storage to keep it. You can simply store it on local disk space.
Yes, DNC really works like that.
DNC Often Makes Sense
We can’t make the final decision for your shop. But you might consider DNC for these reasons, and especially so if you’re a small shop with large growth aspirations.
It shows up when you inspect your CNC router (you do have a regularly scheduled maintenance routine, don’t you?). It’s not welcome; and it’s hard to find the real cause of it.
It gets loud and obnoxious. It ruins your work quality and, it’s just not wise to let it persist once you’re aware of it.
What is it?
Chatter. That unwelcome vibration that reduces the quality of your work.
What causes it? What do you do about it?
Here are our thoughts:
If you’re routing a large part, that can certainly lead to the chatter you’re experiencing. In fact, it’s often the primary cause.
Slow your router down, take less off, and do more passes. It’s the best place to start first. If that doesn’t remove your chatter, then move on to check number two:
Yep, sometimes your bearings will rattle loose. Check them all and tighten as needed. If applicable replace them all together.
Remember, the faster you cut, the higher your surface finish ends up. There’s a tradeoff. You’re going to have to figure out what works best for you and your customer’s interests.
Double-check you’re using the appropriate feed and speed rates for the material you’re cutting. You don’t always have to slow down. Sometimes, speeding up actually reduces chatter.
A common rookie mistake is to hold down your work material incorrectly while you attempt to cut. Justification pins, horizontal cams, vacuum pods, and t-rack systems can be used to help you secure your material.
Finally, how you hold down your work piece depends on the type of CNC router and what you need to work on. You may have to test various methods before you find the one that works for a majority of your cutting.
Check your router’s belts too since they need to have the right tension. They may also have other defects, like missing chunks that can lead to chatter.
If you’ve checked off on this whole list you should be able to find the reason for your chatter. Once you’ve eliminated the chatter, you’ll be able to get back on track to making high-quality cuts.
You get a unique customer order. They want you to manufacture them a few parts. And one of them is way larger than your CNC machine table can handle. Or, so you think.
So what do you tell your customer? Do you say, “Sorry, I can’t help you with that. Here’s the name of someone who can help you.” Or, do you say,”Not a problem. We’ll get that done for you. In fact, we’ll even beat your deadline.” Well, you’ll have to decide. But after reading this post, you’ll at least have a good understanding of how you can help your customer. Here’s what to consider:
Yeah, there’s going to be some inconveniences when you take on a project too large for your CNC machine. But hey, you’ll get to charge more for that and you might win a life-long customer too. With your G-code, you may have to split it into multiple sections. You’ll have to reposition the piece after each section completes. Reference holes or surfaces come in handy for quick alignment. While it’s not ideal you’ll get an opportunity to increase your profit.
You know it’s going to happen. At least some of the part won’t rest on your CNC machine table. Depending on how much does not rest on your machine table, there will be a certain amount of droop. It may be barely visible but it will affect the precision of your cut. Whatever you can get your hands on to support rigidity like rotary tables or 2-4-6 blocks can greatly help.
This may sound obvious, but it’s the cheapest way, bar none, to improve your manufacturing process. So, it’s the most sensible to have in place. Break your job up into smaller jobs. To keep your mind in a happy place where you provide good service to your customer, consider your job as four simpler ones rather than one big difficult job. When you use these tips, you can machine parts of nearly any size for your customers. You’ll be their hero and it’ll lead to more revenue for your business to stay healthier and more predictable.
Good CNC machinery isn’t cheap. You can pay as little as you want. But it’ll cost you in terms of quality and service. You’ll have things breaking down sooner than you’d like. That leads to disruption in production and that costs even more money and time.
So, you’re going to have to make your decision and live with the consequences. But, finding a quality CNC machine usually means you’re going to have to spend a little more up-front (and less over the long-haul).
Here are some ideas for budgeting for that new CNC machinery you want:
Some businesses don’t want to take on additional debt. If that’s the case, you can consider limping along on a less-than-ideal CNC machine that keeps quality high, but maybe doesn’t make production speeds as efficient as you’d like.
Consider starting with a used machine, or an inexpensive version of what you really need. Once your revenues ramp up, then consider when’s the right time to purchase a high-end machine that quickly produces quality parts.
With asset-based lending (ABL), you can borrow around 75-85% of the value of your company’s accounts receivable. Inventory, equipment, real estate, and other assets can be used as collateral. But keep in mind; you’ll have to exercise discretion so you don’t put yourself in a high-risk situation.
Equipment loans are more stable and predictable. You simply make monthly payments and if you’re a financial conservative, you pay off the balance of the loan once you have the money available.
You know the quality of your current employees and the results they can provide. Some might happily work overtime at this point. Take a survey and see who would be willing to do so.
Forcing mandatory overtime of course works. But you’ll have happier and more productive employees if you give them the option to work overtime.
Tell your employees why you’re doing this and how long you’re approximating you’ll need them to work overtime. It could be a great way to raise extra capital without taking on additional debt.
Sometimes, you just have to be creative in business to make things happen and you might try one of these three approaches to get the capital you need to move yours forward.
Starting any kind of business isn’t easy. It’s the great American ideal – a dream to be a successful entrepreneur. But you never hear about the hard parts. Business can be downright maddening sometimes.
So, say you’re considering starting a CNC machining business whether it is sign making or fabrication. You’re either an independent professional, or you’re someone ready to open a small shop.
Although, how do you find those first customers? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
At first, you might think your former employer would never want to hire you. After all, you just left them for another business venture. While of course sometimes that might happens, there is also a chance they might be willing to start a business relationship with you because they know the quality of your work. It’s also often more cost-effective to sub-contract work than it is to pay and hire full-time employees.
If your relationship was amicable, talk to them and get their input.
Think back to your most recent past employers. Consider what your managers said. Did they have a certain type of tool or parts they’d complain about not having to inhibit the process from working efficiently?
Odds are this problem affects more than one company. So send emails or call production managers, tell them the problems you may be able to solve, and how you solve it. It’s a great way to score some new business and maybe some future business.
Your mere physical presence at these doesn’t guarantee you’ll get business but sometimes, all it takes is a positive conversation to generate a lead.
Don’t talk about your company or what you do. Don’t ask the other person what their company does (initially).
Instead, focus on getting to know them. Ask them about their personal lives. Do they have kids? Dogs? Are they wearing an interesting ring?
Once you’ve established a connection, then you can talk about their (and your) professional lives. When you’re new and in need of work, it’s so easy to jump right into the business talk immediately. But ironically, even though that’s why many people go to meetings and conferences, talking business immediately pushes them away more so than anything else.
Give Yourself Credit for Having Courage
Starting a CNC business is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do in your life. Give yourself credit for having the courage for making the attempt and keep trying until you succeed.
Is anything easy to learn at first? If it is, that’s an indicator you might be learning the right skill for you.
Some mistakenly believe learning CNC programming is “easy.” It’s easy to get started and nail the basics. But just like anything else, you can spend a lifetime mastering all the skills and nuances involved.
Here’s some tips for increasing your CNC programming skills:
For beginners, you’ll pick up CNC programming more easily if you’re naturally good at math – especially coordinate geometry. You can find the G-codes you need online, and watch plenty of YouTube videos.
A simple program contains definition statements, machining statements, and closing statements.
To really grow your skills, become a “sponge” as they say. Read machine manuals. Pick the brains of the smartest, most talented employees at your company, and give yourself every opportunity to practice.
Eventually, you’ll hit the limit of what you can learn at your job. Once you feel like you’ve done that, switch to a new shop. Every shop is different, so you’ll definitely learn some new things at each one.
Ideally, you want to learn the specific thought processes that go into teaching the CNC machine the location of all the tools and how to make the necessary modifications to your work piece. Working with someone who’s made all the mistakes themselves in the past saves you a lot of lost time and effort.
You’ll still make mistakes of your own. But, you’ll have someone you can trust to set you on the right path.
Of course there’s apps that help you learn CNC programming in your spare time. And there’s even free courses at sites like Udemy and Instructables. You can certainly learn both beginning and advanced CNC programming skills at both. There’s a number of private and independent operations that teach CNC programming too.
You have a long list of options when it comes to learning CNC programming.
Finally, What’s Your Why?
It’s important also to know why you want to learn CNC programming. Are you a hobbyist? Professional looking to get ahead? Or, supervisor who wants to learn how to better communicate with employees?
The reason why you want to learn CNC programming impacts how far in-depth you go, and what methods you use to learn.
Do you use conventional machines in your personal shop or at your business? They do have some benefits, but so do CNC machines.
If you’re considering adding CNC machines to your production processes, here are some reasons you may or may not want to:
With conventional machines, you do need a long period of experience to get the most out of them. With CNC machines, experience still is a great benefit. You’ll always be learning new things and better ways to improve your production and quality. But, you can start in CNC machining with less experience and still produce at a high quality.
Conventional machining works well when you need to make a single custom piece. If you have high production quotas where you need to cut the same part many times, CNC machining makes more sense. CNC machinery lets you program your machines to make the same cut over and over.
Conventional machinery needs help from an experience operator to make similar pieces. And even then, there’s still small differences among the parts.
Investing in CNC machinery can cut your labor costs. Conventional machinery requires more experience and skill, and more laborers to do the work. With CNC machines, you can get the same quality while hiring less skilled workers, and fewer of them. And, you’ll also continue to have high production levels.
More advanced software can help you manufacture products which are difficult or nearly impossible to make on conventional machinery. You can also update the software as necessary to improve your CNC machine’s functionality.
With conventional machinery, you have to replace parts, which cost time and money. And you may have to buy a whole new machine too.
CNC software lets you simulate the production of your idea. You don’t have to actually produce a prototype, which costs time and money. And neither do you have to create revisions to the prototype – except through the software. You could save weeks or months of production time.
Many of the mathematical and analytical skills necessary to successfully operate conventional machines aren’t as emphasized in schools as they used to be. As a result, in one sense, there’s a less skilled workforce available.
However, the modern workforce knows how to operate software and technology. And CNC machines certainly fit that mold better than conventional machinery.
So hopefully, this post helps you understand when CNC machinery or when conventional machinery makes sense to use in your operations.
Just like most current technological devices, most CNC machine problems are caused by:
So, the majority of issues you run into are within your control. You can do quite a bit to avoid having these problems in the future.
Here’s what to look for:
This is a fairly easy problem to fix. Usually, you either have a blunt tool or too low of a feed speed. See if your feed speed is right for the material you’re cutting. Examine your tool. Simply replace your dull tool with a sharper one or increase your feed speed if you’re experiencing issues.
CNC machining takes a lifetime to learn. At no point should you consider yourself a “master” who has it altogether. New situations happen that require new thinking and adaptation – even by experienced experts.
So, commit yourself to always learning. When you make a mistake, see what you can do to change so it doesn’t happen again.
When your CNC machine “chatters,” it simply means it vibrates when doing its job. Chatter happens either to your entire machine or just its tool. Chatter harms the quality of your work, dramatically reduces the life of your tool, and can even shorten the life of your CNC machine too.
To prevent chatter from ever happening in the first place, simply make sure your cut width or depth keeps deflection below 1/1000th of an inch. Most CNC machinists also react with slowing down. That’s not necessarily bad, but there is a better solution. Speeding up can also work, so simply test different RPMs first.
Your CNC machine can reach more than 150 degrees on the inside. Filters can get clogged with dirt and debris, which can push temperatures even higher. Of course, this can cause serious damage to your CNC machine.
Prevention mostly consists of routine maintenance. Have a regular schedule for clearing dirt and dust from your AC units and filters. Cutting fluids and metal shavings should be cleared away routinely, as they can contaminate your equipment.
Overheating rarely results from problems other than these. If you do this maintenance, you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
And if you routinely maintain your CNC machine, you won’t have to worry about any serious issues. Keep these four tips in mind as you do your work.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether new or used CNC machinery makes sense for your business. However, this list outlines some of the top factors to consider when making your decision.
Here are a few things to think about:
The main difference between old and new CNC machinery is the customization options and controller performance. Old CNC machines would quite possibly need extensive software and a controller updates in order to comparably perform to newer machines. However, if the old machine you’re looking at does exactly what you need and is up-to-spec in every other way, the price difference may justify the purchase.
If you need machinery in a pinch, it may make more sense to buy a new machine. It’s easy to find newer machines, and they typically don’t take as much effort to set up. But to find the right used CNC machinery for the job, at a good price, and in relatively good condition, usually takes extensive research.
Generally speaking, newer CNC machinery has more sophisticated software that is user friendly and is capable of producing a consistent cut quality. Older CNC machinery may require more training since the software may not be as robust. Much of this depends on the specific CNC machine you’re considering or looking to purchase.
Older CNC machinery is more difficult to network into your shop’s workflow since there may be compatibility issues. If the machine you need to purchase will operate stand-alone, then you don’t have to worry. Although, depending on what the machine might do it may be best to consider a machine that can quickly and easily join your shop’s network.
With used machines, you want to look for later models with lower hours of usage. Generally, you’ll look at spending approximately $70,000 – $90,000 for a decent used model. You can, of course, pay much less than that but as the price lowers, so does the quality of the machine.
New machines go for approximately $100,000 – $300,000.
Before you invest in a used machine, consider the support that may come along with it. Is there a learning curve and will you have a difficult time getting support? You’ll have to do much of the setup, upgrading, and training on your used machines unless it is backed by the company you purchased from or the manufacturer.
Do you have the time for that?
Compared to used machinery, new machinery comes with great support and service readily available. More than likely, you’ll get up and running faster and more efficiently.
What Makes Sense for You?
There is no set right or wrong way when purchasing new or used equipment. What may work for one shop may not work for another. Be sure to take a step back and analyze what works best for your business in order to get the most bang for your buck!
How long have you been a CNC machinist? Years? Decades? Are you considering just getting started?
Every profession has its facts – and misunderstandings. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the exaggerations and myths out there.
Here’s some you may have heard:
To get the same results, you have to set your CNC job up in exactly the same way – without any variation at all. If you’ve had a miscue of some kind, you’re likely misremembering how the job was done in the past.
There’s a little bit of truth to this, but it’s still an exaggeration. CNC machining is easier to start from scratch. It allows people with less experience and skills to produce better, more consistent results. You can automate much of the process, which takes away some chance for error.
However, programming, setting up workspaces, monitoring production, and making adjustments to all this take experience. And it pays off with faster production times and higher product quality.
They do…if everything goes exactly as expected. However, while CNC machines automate work and make production easier, they don’t guarantee the same run time for each job.
For example, your cutting tools will wear down. You may have different operators who take varying amounts of time to keep the machine running at a good speed. With repeating jobs, you should be able to have a reasonable close time of completion. For new jobs, however, time to complete may vary greatly.
Just about every CNC machine uses a CAM system – that’s right. However, G-code is the output of every CAM system, which your CNC machine uses to run. Even today, it’s faster for CNC machine operators to modify the G-code than it is to make changes in the CAM system.
Code still matters a lot. And so does the experience and skill of the CNC machine operator.
Yes, running a CNC machine is easier than conventional machinery, but it’s not “easy.” Just like any other profession, the more skill and experience you have, the better results you’ll get.
Where’s your CNC shop in its life cycle? Are you a rookie or a seasoned veteran? Do you have one machine or multiple machines that constantly manufacture? Are you a bustling factory with a long list of customers you need to keep happy?
Regardless of where you’re manufacturing capabilities are at, you can benefit from the tips below:
This holds true especially for new CNC machine shops. As your business grows, you can diversify but first, you must master one method or production. Once you’ve began to produce consistent and quality results, customers come easier and stay with you longer.
Consistency and stability is the key to remaining in business. First, achieve a perfect balance before you start looking into other things to attract a whole new market or production.
Make sure you have a method for reaching out to new and additional contacts so you can grow your network. One great customer experience can lead to another and it can possibly gain even larger traction by a word-of-mouth reference. Be sure to complete time-sensitive jobs on time and provide a quick turn-around to give your customers and contacts a reason to come back to you for work.
By providing customers with custom components, it diversifies your business from the rest. Be capable of creating something no one else can in order to promote customers to regularly come-back and attract new designs.
It could even be something as simple as special bicycle components. If you have a specialty piece you can produce and sell, that’s a big plus for the grow of your business.
Make sure you have the demand in place, before considering expansion. As demand grows for your services and products, then you can acquire more machinery and potentially more staff. Remember, only purchase new machinery when it’s cost-efficient.
Once you’ve got these tips down, create a plan for the future of your production capabilities. Consider diversification along the way. That protects your business, just in case one arm of it suddenly loses demand.
If you keep these points in mind as your grow your CNC manufacturing, it will help set a path to success and grow for the future.
National / Regional Show: Domestic
Location: Chicago, IL
Dates of Show: 11/6/17-11/9/17
Booth #: A2841
You bought your CNC plasma cutting machine to make precise cuts on wide range of cuts and to keep your consumable costs low.
You want to keep both of those benefits. But when your consumables wear down, you lose your precision cutting ability you’re your consumable costs start to go up.
If you’re new to plasma cutting, how do you know if your consumables are worn down or working properly…before they reach the crisis point?
Come along with us to learn the signs of consumable wear and proper functioning:
Many problems happen with plasma cutting machine’s nozzles. It’s the most common source of issues out of all the consumables.
With use, the nozzle’s orifice loses its roundness. Eventually, it gets so wide that you lose the arc you’re used to cutting with. The metal that you cut, which you’re used to falling out in a certain shape, gets wider over time. You also cut slower because that constricted arc has lost some of its heat and is now widened out. If your nozzle is shaped like an oval, it’s worn out and needs replacing.
For the most part, you don’t notice deterioration over time in your swirl ring. However, it can eventually crack from use, or if you drop it. If it’s not channeling gas like it should, you’ll have to replace it.
Like the swirl ring, your retaining cap can also crack from being dropped. For the most part, however, that’s all you’ll have to look for.
Slag can build up on the end of the shield over time. That can reduce airflow and the quality of your cut, so make sure you remove any slag from your shield.
Over time, you may find you develop a pit at the front of your electrode. Here’s a really important point: replace your electrode once the pit depth exceeds 1/32 of an inch. If you run your electrode to failure, which you’ll notice because you see an ominous green glow in your arc, you’ll cause serious (and costly) damage to the rest of your plasma cutting machine. Always change your electrode and nozzle together.
When you watch for these signs of wear, in addition to engaging in preventative maintenance, you keep your consumables in top condition so you consistently make precision cuts – and quality product your customers love.
Think of your favorite athlete. While you rarely see them warming up on TV, every professional athlete has a warm-up routine they use. If they don’t, they risk injury, and they often don’t perform as well during the contest.
Though not human, your CNC machine works the same way and needs a warm-up routine of its own too.
When you have the right warm-up routine in place, your CNC machine’s lubricated better, which reduces friction and wear and the potential for something to break, and improves the life of your CNC machine. That saves you downtime and unnecessary repair costs.
As you know, heat causes thermal expansion in your CNC machinery. When you warm up your machine, that keeps its temperature stable, which minimizes thermal expansion. That means you get consistent cutting. When you don’t warm-up your machine, thermal expansion has a more pronounced effect, which leads to inconsistent machining. That means you could end up with some unhappy customers who don’t like their product.
When Should You Warm-Up Your CNC Machine?
There’s four times when you know you need to run your warm-up routine:
What Should Your Warm-Up Program Do?
In many cases, CNC machine manufacturers supply their own warm-up program. If they give you one, then your job is done. No need to create a different warm-up.
However, that’s not always the case. So, you have to create your own warm-up program. Here’s some things to consider if you find yourself in that situation:
With a simple warm-up routine like this, your CNC machine stays ready to make precise cuts. You prolong the life of your machine and minimize the need for repairs. And your customers stay happy because you give them quality product every time.
Keep this routine in mind whenever you need to run your CNC machine.
Think of your favorite professional athlete. Or, maybe you’re more of a music person. Even though they might be the best in the world at what they do, they both still take the time to warm up. They don’t suddenly run out on the field, the court, or the stage and start playing. They still have to get their mind and body ready so they can do their full performance to the best of their ability that day.
Your CNC machine’s no different. It needs a little bit of a warm up before working at full speed. This distributes lubrication oil evenly, which reduces wear on your CNC machine and increases its life. As you know, heat can also cause your machine and its tools to expand, even if ever-so-slightly. But, you don’t even want a little expansion because that affects the precision of your cutting. Warming your machine up keeps it operating at a stable temperature so you don’t have to worry about that.
It turns out your CNC machine may actually need more than one warm-up during the day. Assuming you have a shop with at least mild temperatures and that you never give your CNC machine more than a 4-hour break during the day, you only need to warm it up once. However, if it stays cold inside your shop throughout the day, you should give your CNC machine a warm-up even if you’ve only let it sit idle for your lunch break.
You should also give your CNC machine a warm-up if your project requires a tight tolerance. That means if you even take a short break to run to the bathroom, you should leave a warm-up routine executing.
For your spindles, make sure you warm those up when you need to run them at high speeds. You should also do this if your CNC machine’s spindle had not been operating for at least the last 4 days.
Your CNC machine’s manufacturer often has a custom made warm-up program for your machine. If it’s available, use it. If not, you’ll have to make your own.
Stay tuned to this blog because we’ll have a guide that helps you create the right warm-up program for your needs.
Do you do your job as fast as you want? Do you struggle to keep up with deadlines and production goals? Or, are you the proactive thinker, always looking for smarter and faster ways to do the job, without sacrificing quality?
Whatever the case, you can boost your speed. See if implementing any of these tips will help you:
Optimize Your Cut Depth and Width
This is tough to do manually. You can spend years trying hundreds of combinations, or sticking to a rule of thumb. But, the problem with that is you might miss out on the optimal cut depth and width for a certain project anyway.
These days, you need to rely on software. It can quickly run hundreds of comparisons for you and find the optimum cut depth and width so you don’t have to spend years trying to find them on your own.
What to Do When Your Feed Rates Aren’t Fast Enough
You can experience this issue when cutting soft materials that have big chip loads. CNC router users see this problem the most frequently of all CNC machinists.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to work around. If you’ve maxed out your feed rate, slow down the RPM on the spindle. This in turn reduces the feed rate necessary. You can also try using a smaller cutter, and that will give the added benefit of a lower chipload too.
Finally, you can also try reducing the number of flutes on your cutter. Going down from a 4-flute cutter to a single flute gives you ¼ of the feed rate. Exceptions to this rule exist for sticky materials, but you can ignore that for now.
A Few Other Techniques You Can Use
There are a number of “high speed machining” techniques you can use to increase your speed. You can combine the rough and finish passes. Use smaller tooling because it generally moves faster. Use a cut width of 5-15% of the tool diameter because it allows the tool more time for cooling down. Also, use toolpath strategies that avoid the loss of productivity cutting corners can cause.
You can do a lot more to increase the speed of your CNC machining. But, that’s all we have time for now. Stay tuned – more fast machining tips to come in the future!
Some CNC machining shops way outperform others. Only common sense tells you that.
But what’s hard to figure out is why. If you knew that, then you could start to modify your CNC machine shop so you become one of the leaders. And it might even inspire your thinking to the point where you find ways to innovate beyond your competitors.
So what do top CNC machining shops do that the rest of the pack doesn’t?
Top Shops Almost Always Use 5-Axis Machining
According to the 2016 Top Shops Executive Summary, top shops are much more likely to use this technology than others. It doesn’t matter whether this is 3+2 positioning or full contouring. It’s simply the easiest, most efficient way to create complex parts with the least number of touches.
And, most top shops use more advanced machining technology and techniques like high-speed machining and hard turning.
Only Doing Projects and Taking on Strategy That Fits Within Your Business’s Purpose
What’s the defined purpose of your CNC machine shop? If you’re like most, you probably don’t have one. So, maybe it’s time to define one.
When you define your purpose, that tells you exactly which projects you take on and why. That means you get more efficient at creating high value for your customers.
And as you might guess, that means higher profits and long streams of customers for you. So, if a certain action or customer doesn’t advance your business’s purpose, strongly consider not doing it.
If you want to be really good at dozens of things, then you’ll have to build additional shops and teams who can specialize in those.
Top Shops are Independent Shops, Not Small Components of Large Companies
While larger companies certainly are capable of success, the best of the best most often are independent shops. It may be because the independents are able to customize their tools and processes to meet niche needs much more effectively than the big guys. In general, they also focus on repeating jobs.
This data, by the way, also comes from MMSOnline’s annual Top Shops survey. Top shops make an average of 2,097 different parts per year, compared to an amazing 5,874 for the average shop.
There’s much more that the top CNC shops do that average companies don’t. Make sure you read the Top Shops survey to learn how you can stand out from the competition.
Do you know anyone who has had a major accident with a saw of any kind? It’s not something you want to find yourself on the wrong end of.
And, with every tool you use, you want to make sure you get the most out of it. You can avoid many mistakes with your slitting saw by reading and applying these tips:
With slitting saws, there’s two different ways of thinking. Some people say you should cut the whole slot in your project in just a single pass so chips don’t get caught up inside.
Others say you should only cut to a depth of 2-4 saw thicknesses in a pass. In fact, most people prefer this approach, so it’s a tough decision you’ll have to make.
Some people do push their slitting saws further than this. That’s okay if you have the perfect setup and know exactly what you’re doing. If you’re uncertain about any of your setup, avoid doing it.
If you’re just starting, make sure you have a 1/16” saw blade and 1/8” saw blade. This makes the saw blade easier to control so you get a more precise, quality cut. And it also means the blade will have more strength and resistance to shattering.
Carbide’s more expensive, but it’s always more rigid than steel. Steel’s much cheaper. If your budget can handle it, and maybe even if it can’t, you should go with carbide blades.
Because slitting saws are so much smaller and don’t have much mass, they get hot quick. It’s a common experience among CNC machine operators to run their slitting saw at seemingly normal feed or speed ratess, only to end up ruining the tool. Make sure you calculate the appropriate feeds and speeds for your situation.
The larger your slitting saw is, the slower it will have to run. You’ll also needs lots of coolant when you have long cut paths. Make sure you use flood coolant because that lets you cut fast.
When you get an arbor, make sure you get one that has a deep cap with a low profile. You’ll want to do this so you have clearance if you have to cut a project that must sit in a vice.
Those are some simple slitting saw basics. Keep them in mind as you work on your project so you get the best quality cut possible.
What blue-collar CNC machinist doesn’t like getting a decade, maybe two, out of their CNC machine? You’re hard-working, efficient, and value-conscious. And there’s no better feeling in the world than when you get your money’s worth out of anything, including your CNC machine.
But, with how rapidly technology advances, you have to sometimes consider if it might not actually be a good value-based decision to replace your machine before it breaks down. So, let’s say you still have your good ol’ reliable legacy CNC machine, or maybe several of them.
And let’s say they’re all working just fine. You don’t have to sink thousands of dollars into them to repair them. They maintain pretty decent productivity levels.
Why might you change a good thing like this? Here’s some points to consider:
Nothing wrong with doing things manually because of the higher degree of control you have. But, you sacrifice productivity because you have to do the work yourself, rather than automating it with help from your CNC machine.
New software lets you integrate directly with personal computers. You can simplify part changeover.
You can set your machine up so when you scan the barcode for a work order, it automatically selects the program and process sheets.
With new technology, automation of processes is really unlimited.
With just a single machine tool, you can complete many operations. That’s an obvious boost in productivity. But, you can also increase precision too because you don’t have to clamp your part into place. When you set yourself up for multitasking, you can also save yourself valuable floor space you can use for other business purposes.
All these seemingly little improvements can give you quite an edge over the competition. So, if your company seems to be falling behind, and you don’t know why, this could very well be one of your main problems.
Plus, you’ll have happier customers too because you can complete orders faster and with greater degrees of accuracy. You’ll have to decide whether the investment makes sense for your company, but the overall benefits for most companies are clear.
It’s your worst nightmare when running your CNC machine. You’re chugging along, happy with your productivity. Maybe even excited because you know you’re going to have something to good to show your boss. And then your machine stops doing anything.
Or, maybe your CNC machine didn’t even start up in the first place. It happens because even the best CNC machinery eventually breaks down. Nothing’s perfect.
So what could be going on? Without being there, we can’t say. But, we can give you some ideas of what to do so you can save time and get back up and running fast:
Set Up a Good Maintenance Schedule in the First Place
Okay, so if your CNC machine has already broke down, this doesn’t do you any good. However, it’s a must if you don’t already have a regular maintenance routine in place because it eliminates most future breakdowns. The best way to do it is to create a baseline of all your alignments and write down all the numbers you have when your CNC machine makes a good part.
You should check your machine frequently afterwards. Base your check on how much you use your machine, whether your shop floor has settled at all, and if your CNC machine’s had a little abuse from an accident or two around your shop.
Don’t Check Your Software First! Do This Instead…
For CNC machinists, checking the software is the natural first urge. Don’t do it! You’ll only drive yourself crazy as you wander around in logistical circles.
In most cases, the real cause of your problem will be your geometric alignments. So check all those first.
Common Causes of CNC Machine Failure
The most common reasons your CNC machine fails are because of two things present in abundant quantities in nearly every CNC machining environment: heat and contaminants. Lubricants, cutting fluids, scrap metal shavings, dirt, oil, and dust can be found everywhere.
Top this off with the fact that most production floors run hot, and you have the perfect recipe for CNC machine failure at some point. Yes, the cabinets are outfitted with AC. But, your AC can get clogged with all those contaminants we talked about before.
Your routine maintenance plan needs to address these issues so you stay up and running efficiently over the long haul.
Even experienced CNC machinists aren’t always familiar with parametric programming. And those that do know of it, often don’t know how to use it. Once you understand what it is and how it can improve your CNC machining life, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t taken the time to learn it in the past.
You can easily compare this type of programming to any computer program language. Parametric programming allows you to create custom macros, which as you might guess, are quite useful to many businesses. But as it stands, they’re not even using the custom macros which could boost their productivity noticeably.
Here’s some other situations where parametric programming comes in handy:
When it comes to parametric programming, the most common uses you’ll find for it include for families of parts and creating your own canned cycles. Once you get these functions programmed in, you’ll be glad you did because it saves you so much time and improves your productivity.
New to CNC machining? You might wonder, like many others, what ballscrews are all about.
First, take a look at ballscrew theory. Think of this as your introductory college course to ballscrews. Very simply, ball screws transfer rotational motion into linear motion with next to no friction. They do this at about 90% efficiency. This is far more efficient than any other method that does the same. This greater efficiency also means ballscrews also have a much longer life than other components that perform the same function.
They’re usually used in situations where you have a lot of lead or need a lot of life. They compare to lead screws, which get used for the same purpose, but they’re used in smaller, lighter duty applications. Lead screws also have more customizability, as you can change the leads, sizes, and their nut configurations quickly and with ease.
They’re pretty simple in nature. The threads on a ballscrew allow a hardened steel ball to transfer rotational motion from a ball nut into linear motion along the shaft. Inside of the ball nut, there’s grooves, and these grooves fit with those on the shaft, allowing the multiple balls to travel along.
Ballscrews also have a high degree of accuracy. They can easily be accurate to 1/10000th of an inch.
When you look to buy ballscrews, you’ll run into these common types:
Ground ballscrews are made when abrasive wheels cut the channels the ball moves through. While they carry a higher price, they do have high tolerances and exceptional accuracy. They also tend to operate much more quietly than rolled ballscrews.
Speaking of rolled ballscrews, their main benefit over ground ballscrews is their cheaper cost. In fact, they can easily cost 15-20x less than their ground counterparts. However, you will sacrifice accuracy. Rolled ballscrews can be found with accuracies similar to that of ground ones. But, they also then carry the same price.
In nearly every case, ground ballscrews work out better than rolled. So when deciding which to use for your CNC machine, the question usually comes down to the accuracy you need and the price you’re willing to pay for it.
Hope that helps!
All right. More CNC machine basics here. Today, we’re discussing the various modes of operation your CNC machine can use.
Let’s get right to it:
Note that this differs from Manual Data Input (MDI) mode. In manual mode, your CNC machine acts like a standard machine. You can operate it just like you would any other machine that doesn’t use programming. You can push buttons, turn wheels, and turn switches on or off.
The difference between manual mode and manual data input mode is that with MDI, you can do certain things that you can’t in manual mode. More on that in a second.
In this mode, you can do some programming and data entry. However, everything you enter will only be done once. If you need all the functions done again, you’ll have to program them again.
The advantage of this mode is that you can do manual operations that simply cannot be done in manual mode. Some CNC machines, for example, don’t have manual controls to change the spindle speed.
Each CNC program is made of blocks. They may be numbered something like N20, N30, and N40. When you enter this mode, just a single block of code executes. Additionally, this means your CNC machine only stops moving on its access. For example, the machine spindle keeps turning, and coolant continues to flow too.
Just as it sounds, you can enter programs in your CNC machine’s memory, or you can modify current programs. Programs are usually organized by number, and you can make the program you want active.
You can also insert new info into the program, alter its current info, or delete info from it. Some, but not all, CNC programs allow you to cut, paste, find, and replace data just like you would in word processing software.
Again, no surprises here. In this mode, you get to find out how well you did with creating your program. So, take a deep breath, and execute yours. Most CNC machines allow you to see the commands executed as they happen. So, if you notice a mistake, you will be able to easily identify where it is in your program.
Those are your basic modes of operation. Feelin’ ready? Awesome. Time to give your CNC machine a try!
“Fail your way forward” is a common saying among entrepreneurs. And it’s the way many of us learn.
Mistakes are okay. But some of the big ones can really cost you. So why not avoid them by reading the tips below, if you’re a beginning CNC machinist:
Let’s start with this obvious one, which is one of the biggest advantages of CNC machines: programming sequences so workpieces can be quickly and efficiently cut. It gets a little tricky though because every CNC machine’s different. So, the real trick may be getting acclimated with the particular machine you’re about to work on.
The basic process for understanding a new CNC machine is to:
These are the two types of programming modes for CNC machines. Neither is overtly right or wrong. Most controls on CNC machines can do both.
The difference between the two? Incremental programs use their source location as the preceding point. With absolute programs, the source location is always the same fixed, original point.
Yes, vises cost some money. But, they’re well worth it. A good one lasts for years. And with CNC machining, there’s nothing more valuable than holding what you’re currently working on in precisely the same place.
Yes, a misting setup costs some money too. But it’s well worth it for the problems it prevents. Not all CNC machines have flood coolant. You can get a decent misting setup relatively inexpensively if you’re willing to search hard enough.
At the very least, chips cause additional wear on your cutters. You’ll have to replace them sooner than you should. At the very worst, you break your cutter. And that can lead to an inaccurate cut, or pieces you need to cut again.
As you cut, watch for any chip buildup. Adjust your mister’s nozzle until you know exactly how to position it correctly without further adjustments.
If you follow those tips, you’ll be well on your way to making quick and accurate cuts without experiencing many of the problems other beginning CNC machinists run into.
You’ve probably heard of “post processors.” But if you’re like most CNC machine operators, it’s kind of a foggy idea. You realize you know the term, but you’re not quite sure about much else.
Don’t sweat it! We have you covered. Here’s some introductory info to make sure you know:
Your CNC cutting machine needs to know what commands you’re giving it. A post processor is software that translates CAD or CAM data to specific commands your CNC cutting machine can understand. Whatever CAD or CAM system you use, it has a certain point where it produces generic output called a “CL-file.”
This “CL-file” only represents the paths your CNC machine will take when cutting your part. However, these paths are not yet specific to your CNC machine. So, that’s where post processor software comes in and translates this CL-file into specific data your CNC machine can use.
See, not so hard to understand how it works now, is it?
The final accuracy of your cut and optimal use of your CNC machine depends on your post processor software. Without it, or with poor software, you can end up with longer cycle times, damaged parts, ruined equipment, and injuries to employees. That all translates to wasted time and money at your business too.
That can also mean lower part quality. And that can lead to angry customers who take their business elsewhere.
With this kind of software, there’s a wide range of quality. If you don’t recognize the company making the software, you have a good chance of getting post processing software that only causes you more headaches. Go with a name that’s well-known to prevent problems. And you should take extra caution to follow this guideline if you have complex machining needs.
If you have more than a single person doing CNC cutting, you’re going to save serious time and increase your productivity with post processing software. You might use it for probing, custom drill patterns, setting familiar patterns, right angle heads, tracking tool life, documenting your G-Code to add clarity for operators, or to set variable setup options.
Finally, make sure you have an open post processor. Some companies “close” them, which means only a particular authorized party can customize them. That could add quite a bit to your costs if you’re not aware of it ahead of time.
Post processing software can make quite a difference at scale. Consider implementing and customizing it if you haven’t already.
First, you had X, Y, and Z. That was hard enough. And now you can cut on the A and B axis too.
But it can be a little intimidating when you’re just learning 5-axis machining for the first time. Don’t worry though – you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
Cutting on all 5 axes isn’t as tough as you think. So relax, take a deep breath, and read these tips to make your first 5-axis machining experiences as successful as possible:
In the overwhelming majority of situations, no, you do not need one. If you only need to program 2D and 2.5D 3-axis work on different sides of the same part, you can use conversational programming to do the job.
However, if you do need to run full 5-axis simultaneous work, you do need a CAM system. But, this only happens in about 20% of all situations, and maybe even fewer than that.
If you do, they’ll be minor at the very worst. That’s because really the only additional check you may need to make would be to re-measure the centerlines for the A and B axes. You might want to do this annually to make sure all the cuts are done right. But, that’s it.
Good news: if you’re happy with your current CAM software, you don’t need to make a change. So, that’s not absolutely essential for doing the job.
However, you may want to consider making a change if you just tolerate your software and have been thinking about a change for some time already. As you know, some CAM software manufacturers make a better product than others.
To help ease your fear about trying this new setup, take a look at an example. Say you’re cutting a part that would benefit from a 5-axis setup. Normally, you’d manually flip the part and do more setups to finish the work. However, with a 5-axis setup, you simply program the parts you would normally setup manually.
You do the entire setup just like you would do a manual one. You first create an origin point. Then you create a work plane your tool axis will be perpendicular to. Finally, you program the 3 axis geometry needed to finish that side of the piece.
That’s it. Nothing to be too worried about at all. And the best part yet? You’ll be so much more efficient in your production.
Whether you own, or are considering buying CNC machinery, you’re probably full of questions about it.
Don’t worry. We have you covered. Here’s some of the more common questions we find many customers like you have:
A: Only if you want to dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce the parts and start making more money more efficiently almost immediately. Seriously, regardless of the process you use, it’s worth your time finding a qualified expert to help you create a more efficient process that delivers the same quality of products, and possibly better.
Just make sure you research their background carefully and that they take the time to ask you questions so they have a 100% clear understanding of your problem. This may even be worth investigating for routine processes you haven’t analyzed for years.
A: There’s a lot of subjectivity in this question. First, you’ll have to analyze your needs and see how well your machinery meets them. At the same time, start talking to vendors out there to see what’s available in the market. Of course, you want to get the most life out of your CNC machinery as you can. But a reliable vendor can show you how long it will take for an investment in new or upgraded CNC machinery to pay off.
A: For the most part, CNC machinery is pretty similar. But, the differences come in the details required to run the router.
For example, preparation, programming, procedures, assembly, sorting, and error handling are the main cost areas you’ll want to investigate closely.
A: Before you look, you should know precisely what you need your CNC machine to do, what you want to make with it, and how you’re going to do that. Some areas of consideration that you might look at, depending on your needs, include:
The price question generally gets answered on its own after you analyze all the other considerations.
We hope these answers help guide you in finding more efficient and profitable ways to use your CNC machinery in 2016 and beyond!
Learn what to do, and what not to do, to keep yourself safe when you operate CNC machinery. Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are generally safe. But worker misuse can easily jeopardize their safety. That’s why it’s important for their operators to know exactly what they should – and should not – do.
When your workplace is safe, you’re able to attract the best employees. Worker satisfaction and productivity stay high. Turnover and costs related to workplace accidents stay low. So here’s what to look for to keep your workers safe:
Sounds obvious and simple, but some companies do allow untrained employees to operate CNC machinery with little or no training. Many accidents do happen this way.
For some, it’s tempting to leave the room while the programmed CNC machine does its work. Most likely, nothing will go wrong. But once in a while, CNC machines break or don’t work right. It happens. They’re machines. And that’s when injuries can happen too. So make sure you have every CNC machine under observation by at least one person.
Here’s a brief list of to-dos:
Pretty simple and straightforward here. Never use blunt, cracked, or chipped tools. If you notice tools with damaged tips, don’t use those either.
Before you operate a CNC router, make sure there aren’t any screws in the path of the bit. At best, the bit will get broken and the screw will get embedded into your project. However, in some cases the screw can shoot off and hit you or another worker. If, during operation, you notice anything unusual with the bit, hit the pause button, or the red emergency button for immediate shutdown. Fix the problem before you begin operating again.
If you’re not feeling well and it’s hard for you to concentrate because of a sickness, don’t use CNC machinery. Supervisors, send your workers home if you notice them behaving unusually. Workers, notify your supervisors if something doesn’t seem right. Better to miss a few hours of work that cause an injury to yourself or someone else. And, better to leave work than it is to break the machine and cause costly repairs and downtime. Do those things – and you and your workers will stay safe.
EnRoute Rapid Texture is a design tool which creates a wide range of interesting surfaces. Rapid Texture can be used for nearly any surface, including simple flat rectangles and relief surfaces.
Even though EnRoute has made the Rapid Texture process as simple as a few mouse clicks, they haven’t removed the designer’s part of the process. The design process allows you to be as creative as you want. Seed Contours are used to create initial offsets. Using Relief Surfaces to shape the Rapid Texture helps contour and make any relief a part of your Rapid Texture design. Rapid Texture parameters allow you to create nearly any effect you want by adjusting how contours are created.
Lastly, select whichever contours you want to use for trimming your Rapid Texture. Do you have a large area that requires several panels? No problem! Any Rapid Texture design can be seamlessly extended over as many panels as you need. Get the most out of your machine and keep your creative juices flowing!
There are a number of ways to create textures in EnRoute. Parametric Textures offers unlimited possibilities. Parametric Textures are created by mathematical equations and infinitely go in all directions. In as little as five mouse-clicks, you can add a vector-based 3D texture that you can resize on-the-fly and toolpath. Whether you’re creating backgrounds for signs or adding textures to cabinets, wall panels, or even furniture, EnRoute’s offers endless possibilities!
Two new parameters were added to let the user define the resolution of the noise pattern and a cleanup tolerance for the Rapid Texture contours. These two parameters used to be built in to the tool itself, which created limitations for small and very large designs.
EnRoute introduced a new Fade parameter to Rapid Texture that lets you define a distance over to fade out the noise texture applied to the RT offsets. This gives you another way to make your designs creative and unique.
EnRoute continues to add new features and make improvements to its Rapid Texture tool. In what’s being called its most powerful software ever, EnRoute has included the following features in EnRoute 5. EnRoute’s Rapid Texture is the latest example of how the EnRoute team is always working to provide you with interesting and capable tools.
We’re always talking about how to maximize the longevity of your CNC machine and consumables. Proper and timely maintenance is of course the easiest way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Just as you would change the oil in your car or use WD40 on a squeaky door, adding grease to your CNC machine ensures it runs smoothly.
We recommend re-greasing your machine every month. There are 3 main areas for greasing: the bearing cars, the racks, and the ball screw (in most CNC models).
Bearing cars can be found on either side of the x-axis gantry, y-axis, and z-axis. Using your grease gun, position the tip directly over the small ball inside the bearing car. Make sure you are compressing the ball. For a properly primed grease gun about 3 squeezes should do it. Wipe off any excess grease and repeat for all bearings.
On some older CNC machines the ball will not be directly accessible for the grease gun. Use the smaller attachable tips to compress the ball, and squeeze the grease inside.
A light coat of grease is recommended for all of the racks. Lightly squeeze your grease gun as you move along the racks. Then use you finger to ensure the grease has gotten inside the teeth of the racks, as well as removing any excess grease. Remember only a light coating of grease is needed; too much will just cause a mess and trap dirt and debris.
On most MultiCam models, a ball screw is used to move the Z-axis up and down. Same as the racks, use just a small amount of grease around the screw. Usually just using your finger is sufficient. Again, if you use too much grease you will be trapping too much dirt, which can be especially problematic around the ball-screw. You don’t want chips or debris flowing down the ball-screw as this can damage the ball nut. For our V-Series models, there isn’t a ball-screw. Instead there is another rack and pinion so you can follow the instructions above.
After 6 months we recommend a complete grease clean-up. Using a de-greasing agent, de-grease all bearing cars and racks, and then re-grease them. Why go through all this trouble? Grease is a lubricant but it also traps dirt and debris, which can eventually lead to build ups. Too often we get calls from customers about poor cut quality or cut chatter and the reason stemmed from a build-up of dirt. Save yourself a potentially expensive service call by instituting a semi-annual clean-up.
For the ball-screws however, do not use a de-greasing agent. Instead use another lubricant, like a torch lubricant in a plasma system. Lubricate the ball screw and then wipe everything clean with water, then re-apply the grease. We say this because it’s extremely important that chips and debris do not travel down into the ball nut. A de-greasing agent can do it’s job too well and debris will slip down into the ball nut. Dirt in the ball nut can cause binding which eventually results in a motor fault. If debris is stuck in the ball nut, the motor needs to work harder to move the Z-axis, drawing too much amperage, thus causing a fault.
We sell grease cartridge packages and grease guns. Just visit multicamtooling.com and order yours today! Save yourself the hassle and expense of machine down time by just sticking to a proper greasing maintenance schedule.
We talk a lot of about MDF spoilboards and sacrificial material, yet we still have customers encountering problems. Lately, we’ve had an increased number of customers call in about a lack of suction on their tables. There are a number of reasons why this could be happening. Perhaps the vacuum pump isn’t working correctly or the fittings aren’t secure. And yet the most common reason why a customer is experiencing a lack of suction? Their spoilboard.
We get that materials can be expensive and that picking up a piece of MDF at the lumber yard (or a piece that’s been lying around in your shop) is an inexpensive means of having a spoilboard. However, if you choose to use an MDF spoilboards you must TABLE MILL BOTH SIDES OF THE BOARD. This cannot be emphasized enough. MDF is created with a sealant, and this sealant prevents air from flowing properly through the board. If you do not route both sides of the board, air cannot pass through, and thus there will be a lack of suction on the piece you’d like to cut.
To create an MDF spoilboard, use a bit MultiCam’s Spoilboard Surfacing Tools. If you’d like to use a material that doesn’t require the milling first, we recommend using LDF. LDF does not have the sealant that MDF has and its lower density means that air can more readily pass through, thus increasing your suction.
So before you’re frantically calling your CNC support technician think, could the suction have anything to do with my spoilboard? By ensuring you’re using the correct spoilboard, you could save time, money on service calls, and headaches.
Here is an excellent article by Lindsay Luminoso from the Canadian MetalWorking Magazine, offering expert advice on how to extend spindle life.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” When it comes to spindle maintenance, this adage is more common than not. However, when manufacturers take this approach, they can often find themselves with spindle failures that can be both costly to repair and cause downtime and lags in production.
Overlooking this critical component can spell disaster and affect the bottom line. When you purchase a car, you don’t simply drive it without understanding the specific features and needs of the vehicle. Why would you do the same with your CNC machine and its spindle? Many operators will turn on the machine and run it without really understanding the capabilities and limitations of the spindle. Adding small checks and scheduling preventive spindle maintenance can ensure long spindle life and increase productivity.
The spindle really is the heart of the machine and is designed with the application and user specifications in mind. Regardless of what type of machine you are running, the spindle allows the machine to function.
“Typically, when someone purchases say for example, a large milling centre, the spindle is so buried, but it’s the heart of the machine. You can build the most rigid machine in the world but you have to have a good spindle motor in there,” says Gary Quirion, corporate president of GMN USA.
Because the spindle is often hidden, it is sometimes forgotten about when the operator does machine checks and worse, can be unknowingly pushed beyond capabilities.
This is why it is so important to understand the features and specification of this critical component. The onus is on the owners and operators to keep their spindles in good working condition in order to maintain longevity. End-users need an education on the [specifications] of the machine. It’s not just plug-and-play for all its life,” explains Alexandre Maurais, president of MEC PRECISION. Maintaining proper machining practices and inspection of parts can mean the difference between a seized spindle and a spindle that lasts.
“The spindle life can be infinite, but only if it doesn’t crash,” says Gus Gustafson, service manager for Thomas Skinner & Son Ltd. Crashes occur when the operator pushes the machine to do something that it isn’t normally supposed to do; this can cause the spindle to stall and halt operations.
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence on the shop floor. The spindle life really depends on how the operator treats it and how they run the machine. “The spindle life really varies. They can last 10-15 years under normal use. But if someone crashes it on a regular basis, it could last only a year or less,” continues Gustafson.
There are some clear indicators that your machine’s spindle is in need of inspection or repair. Obviously, if the machine is no longer rotating, this could mean that the spindle has failed. The spindle itself is a highly sensitive component with many intricate parts. Rotating parts like the chucks, drawbars, quills, rotors, shafts, etc., should be handled with care to ensure that they are never hit and jarred, which can cause serious damage to the overall spindle abilities. Tolerances for the rotating parts are so tight that even the smallest push can cause failure. However, a spindle may not stall entirely, but there are some factors that can point to a future spindle failure. “Old school, if it’s noisy, or if you have part finish issues, or the spindle is running hot, those are good indicators,” says Quirion.
The experts agree that uncharacteristic noise is one of the key signs that there is a problem. Monitoring the spindle from the install and confirming that there are no abnormal or different noises is one way to keep the spindle spinning, say Maurais.
Cracking, humming or banging noises should be a clear indication for the operator to contact the maintenance department or spindle repair service to diagnose the problem.
A part finish can easily determine a problem with the spindle. Oftentimes, you can clearly see if a part has too much or too little material removed, or the workpiece finish is not correct. Slight variances in the tolerances can cause a part to fail inspection, and if several parts are constantly failing to pass quality inspection, then this can point to a spindle problem. Temperature can also point to a significant problem. When the spindle runs hot, abnormally hot, the operator should stop running the machine before further damage is done. The complex interior components of a spindle can vary significantly depending on the manufacturer or application. However, if the spindle is running above the average temperature, this can be an early indicator of a future problem. There are many ways to measure the temperature, including spindle temperature sensors that are often placed at the top and the bottom of the spindle providing live temperature feedback. Gustafson says that another option for measuring spindle temperature is a heat gun. The operator can measure the temperature themselves and compare against baselines set at that facility.
Enhancing spindle life is a fine balance between proper care and proper understanding of this high-precision component. The operator should know the ins and outs of the spindle as well as the machining applications. For example, machining titanium with low speeds and heavy loads can put a lot of stress on a spindle, while light grinding applications and lower speeds can extend spindle life. A typical spindle is designed with the application in mind but the external design is very similar. Internal components, like the angle of the bearings, the number of bearings, the preload, etc., that are developed for each machining application. This is why it is very important to read the manual and specifications for the spindle, especially because the spindle is tucked away in the machine and most operators generally don’t access it.
One of the most important tips Quirion has for extending spindle life is be safe. “I’ve seen many things over the years. I always say read the manual. You’d be surprised how many people call and ask a question, and I ask, ‘Did you see the manual on page such and such?’ and they don’t even have a manual,” he explains.
Speaking to the spindle manufacturer before operation can ensure proper use of the spindle. The manufacturer can provide guidelines that you might not even be aware of. One of the first things the operator can do is run a spindle warm-up program every shift, says Gustafson. As previously mentioned, increased temperature is an indicator of spindle issues. Measuring the temperature the spindle runs at after the warm up cycle is important for establishing a baseline.
Once the baseline is set, the operator can determine normal function of the spindle. If it is running hot, “then you know it is pointing towards a problem,” he explains.
Checking the cooling system to make sure it’s functional is also important. Whether the spindle is cooled through compressed air, liquid, or fan, it is important to make sure that the cooling mechanisms are running smoothly. In most cases, grinding and milling spindles will be liquid cooled. If you are able, it is always a good idea to observe the temperature of the bearings on the front housing. Maurais also points out that there are quite a few spindles that have a positive pressure around the nose. “There is air that is blown all the time so the coolant doesn’t go near the spindle or bearings. The air will stop blowing if the airline is dirty or cracked. [This] will contaminate the bearings quickly and the spindle won’t last long. We are telling customers to watch [out for this]. Make sure there is pressure of air around the bearings at the spindle nose,” he continues.
Experts agree that you must use caution when working with longer tools, as they may alter the rotor dynamics if not careful. For example, Quirion explains, “a spindle might run 60,000 rpm as advertised, but if a long grinding quill is put in it, the speed will be limited. And if the [operator] exceeds that, twofold, you will damage the spindle, and it’s a safety factor and someone can be injured.”
Ensuring that you are using the proper toolholder and appropriate concentricity of the taper to meet the manufacturer’s specifications is key. The toolholder’s tapered shank must fit perfectly in the spindle taper every time it is inserted. “There should be 100 per cent surface contact of the toolholder,” explains Maurais. This will keep the tool on the centre line of the spindle and allow for accurate and proper use.
Examining the contact surface of the taper can also be helpful. You want the contact to be at 100 per cent. Cleaning the toolholders and spindle can help maintain precision and prolong the life of the spindle and ancillary tools. Chips and coolant can often get caught between the tool and the taper interface, damaging both the spindle and the tool holder. Spindle cleaners are quality control products that can be used regularly to remove residual particles that can affect machining capabilities.
Another way to prevent a spindle failure is by making sure the load on the controller is normal. In many cases, the spindle load condition can be defined for particular tools, whereby the machine stops if it reaches this limit. However, verifying the proper settings ensures that an overload won’t occur.
As mentioned, machining something like titanium with heavy loads can put a lot of stress on a spindle. Make sure the spindle is qualified to perform such operations.
Proper care is really dictated by the type of spindle and application. For an oil-air system you have to make sure that all the settings are adjusted. Quirion explains, “You have to adjust the air and the oil flow rate. The drive unit has to be correct, the tool clamping for automatic tool change spindles have to be monitored, the tool retention should be checked and all the operating parameters with tool/without tool, those safeties should be checked.”
Day-to-day care can mean all the difference when it comes to spindle life. The operator should be aware of the spindle specifications and run the machine accordingly.
Aside from operator control, manufacturers can schedule Preventive Maintenance appointments with expert technicians who can come into the facility and run diagnostics on the spindles, providing data to allow for trending and extend general lifespan of the parts and spindle.
Experts agree that setting a Preventive Maintenance schedule at 3-, 6-, or 12-month intervals, can ensure spindle longevity.
There are many diagnostic tests that should be conducted on a regular basis. Having a thorough history or trending the machine and spindle function allows for manufacturers to plan ahead when it comes to a rebuild.
With Preventive Maintenance, “what we can do is tell you that ‘hey, your spindle probably has about six months left in it before it’s going to fail.’ And we can order the part and change it out for a customer before it even fails,” explains Gustafson. This allows for machine owners to anticipate future failures, which can be extremely costly, especially when it comes to unexpected breakdowns. Not all spindle manufacturers have all parts on the shelf and with new models, parts are not always readily available.
Preventive Maintenance tests can give a good indication when the spindle will need to be rebuilt, so parts can be pre-ordered, without expensive next-day delivery charges and production lags due to shipping times.
“The customers have a machine that cannot be down, cannot be in breakdown situations. The more we are able to prevent that, the more money everyone will make and the less emergency situations everyone will go through,” says Maurais.
There are 4-5 general Preventive Maintenance tests, including vibration test, checking the bearings, testing the pull force of the drawbar, and temperature checks.
Understanding how the spindle functions in the machine and the appropriate machining applications for the spindle can make all the difference when it comes to spindle longevity. Scheduling Preventive Maintenance appointments partnered with proper day-to-day operating techniques can ensure the spindle keeps on spinning for as long as you need.
To help with your carving and engraving needs, get more hands-on with EnRoute CNC router software and learn more about utilizing this program from SA International in special two-day workshops that will be conducted throughout this year at various locations:
“The EnRoute workshop was worth every cent. The instructors patiently relayed, in detail, every aspect of EnRoute’s 2.5D, 3D, Rapid Texture techniques and the many other functions of Enroute,” says New York/New Jersey workshop attendee Henry. I am now able to take advantage of the tremendous features provided in the software.”
Bring your own computer and follow along on your PC with a demo version of EnRoute the workshop will provide. No key required. Here is the two-day class schedule:
Day 1, 8:30am – 5pm
Morning – It Never Hurts to Know the Basics
• EnRoute Concepts Review
• Toolpath Basics
• Output & Ordering
Afternoon – Advanced Toolpathing / Cutting
• 2-1/2 D
• Rough, Fine & Clean Tools
• Advanced Entry/Exit
• Day 1 Wrap-up and prepare for Day 2
Day 2, 8:30am – 5pm
Morning – Now for some Fun Surfaces
• 3D Surface Concepts
• Building a Relief
• Parametric Textures
Afternoon – EnRoute Rapid Texture
• Seed Contour, Objects as Seed Contours & 3D Reliefs with Rapid Texture
• Rapid Picture (Photo Cutting)
• Noise and Distortion
• Day 2 Wrap-up and Q & A
Space is limited, so register early to guarantee your seat. It’s $995 to attend a 2-day class or $1,295 to attend the EnRoute Pro 3-day class, but you save $200 when you register 30 days before the event. Attendees from 2014 save $300 when you register 30 days before the class.
To register, contact Terri Wright at 800/229-9066, ext. 114, or [email protected].
For more machine and software training courses visit www.multicam.com/training.
Original Author: Dick Kallage
Originally posted in Digital FABRICATOR, January 2015
In his informative article The Capacity dilemma – Why today’s churning markets require a new viewpoint about capacity Mr. Kallage outlines an effective strategy to overcome capacity issues in the slow growth, churning market we are currently experiencing. We will bring you up to speed on the main points of the article, deliver Mr. Kallage’s solution and conclude with why we believe that MultiCam CNC machines naturally support the practical lean methodologies recommended in this article.
To begin Mr. Kallage discusses the characteristics of a churning market, which he defines as ‘one in which customers are restless, demanding more on service and pricing to offset the lack of revenue growth, and are willing to churn the supply base – change suppliers – to get what they want.’ This is an important concept to keep in mind, especially when considering capacity planning decisions.
When performing capacity planning it is critical to take into consideration the state of the market. Depending on whether we are in a slow growth churning market or one with steady growth, our capacity planning decisions can have very different consequences. Generally there will be some degree of error in any forecast, so we must decide if we want to set up our capacity so that it will be slightly greater than or less than what will be required to meet actual demand.
If we choose to play it safe and plan to have excess capacity then this will detract from our profits. On the other hand if we opt for having slightly less capacity than may be required, then the time it takes to meet customer orders will increase and our customers may become upset with the longer lead times.
Mr. Kallage says that in normal times with standard growth, businesses tend to gravitate towards having too little capacity. They can pocket the up-front savings from the lower amount invested in capacity and as long as the market isn’t in that slow growth churning state then customers will generally accept the longer lead times. However, given that we are in a churning market, it is very risky to assume customers will be content with this level of service.
Mr. Kallage also emphasizes that if customers do leave to seek suppliers with shorter lead times then it will likely be the major, large order customers, as they are the ones with the most power to obtain improved levels of service. He therefore concludes that in a slow growth churning market it is simply too risky not to choose the excess capacity route, also described as having a capacity buffer.
This brings us to the crux of the capacity dilemma. Do we risk losing key customers due to longer wait times because we opted for too little capacity? Or do we choose to go with excess capacity which could impede profits but would ensure customer satisfaction. Mr. Kallage says the solution can be found in the difference between realizable and absolute capacity and the utilization of practical lean methodologies to reduce this difference.
Now there could be a myriad of factors for why a company is operating at a level considerably beneath their absolute capacity potential, but listed below are the key culprits Mr. Kallage identified in the article.
In order to combat these factors and improve efficiency Mr. Kallage recommends employing lean practices such as; ‘machine uptime monitoring, 5S and the visual workplace and any other practices that increase machine uptime, scheduling discipline, cross-training and information standardization’
If a company can adopt strategies to improve the utilization of the capacity they already have (thus decreasing the deficit between realizable and absolute capacity) then they can avoid having to settle for either of the tradeoffs we discussed above. By improving realizable capacity they can achieve the required capacity buffer (critical to reduce risk in the slow growth, churning market) without having to sacrifice profit margins investing in more capacity.
We believe that MultiCam’s products synergise extremely well with the strategy of adopting lean practices. The end goal of these practices is to improve realizable capacity by eliminating activities that result in unnecessary down time. MultiCam CNC Cutting Solutions inherently facilitate these improvements given the flexible and custom nature of their design. Every one of the MultiCam machines is built to order based on each customer’s unique manufacturing requirements.
One of the key culprits listed above is higher than expected machine or people downtime. Unlike some companies that simply assemble machines after outsourcing parts, MultiCam’s In-House Manufacturing ensures quality control through the manufacturing cycle. MultiCam also has more than 70 Local Technology Centers worldwide so our team of experts are set up to be in close proximity if a customer does require parts, maintenance or even programming assistance.
Another listed key culprit that could contribute to unnecessary downtime was employees’ variation in skills performance or attendance. MultiCam’s EZ Control system is the elegant solution to this common, yet serious productivity concern. Incorporating state-of-the-art CNC technology, it features an incredibly easy-to-use human-machine interface that allows companies to utilize their existing workforce. The controls hand-held interface eliminates the need for operators to be G-code literate; meaning any shop employee with a few minutes of training can operate a MultiCam machine. Flexibility is essential and not only is EZ Control a common part on all MultiCam machines; many of our standard parts are interchangeable.
Both Cabinet Maker FDM and Woodworking Network have come out with their predictions and trends to be on the lookout for in 2015. Here we present a few of these trends that are of particular interest:
The president of the Cabinet Makers Association, Matt Krig, is expecting many woodworking shops to finally make the leap into new technologies, or to replace their aging equipment. “Most CMA members are optimistic,” he says. “A lot of guys bought a lot of things at the show (IWF) and are at the point of making significant investments (in new technology).” Not only are they projected to invest in capital equipment, but woodworkers are predicted to expand their product in knowledge in plastics and other non-wood products. The demand for mixed medium projects, especially in the housing market, is on the rise and shops are adapting.
With the increased popularity of cable networks such as HGTV, many customers are becoming more demanding when it comes to projects. They want shorter project times and lead times. Matt Krig also notes that there could also be a skilled labour shortage as those companies investing in technology require employees that are trained.
In an interview with Cabinet Marker FDM, Gene Wengert, a wood technologist and a consultant to the woodworking industry, sees an interesting convergence of trends that will likely lead to higher lumber prices in the coming year. The lumber industry faces a shortage of sawmills and logging crews because many went out of business during the recession. “A third of them are gone,” says Wengert. But then there is another factor that most in the woodworking industry might not think about. “The big one is the tremendous need for railroad ties,” says Wengert.
He explains that the increase in domestic oil production fueled by shale oil development and fracking has increased the need for fuel transport by rail since there are not enough pipelines. That will increase the financial incentive for existing sawmills to saw more lower grades of lumber for railroad ties, which will create a shortage of those grades in the general lumber stream.
“The price will go up in all grades,” says Wengert. “We may have a 50 percent increase. We have to learn to be more efficient then we are now so we create less waste.” Companies will need to put more emphasis on how lumber is cut and graded, as well as confirming they are being supplied with the right grades and footages. “When you check grades and board footage, it’s amazing how often it is off,” he says.
According to the Woodworking Network, the latest developments in advanced CNC machining centres have made 5-axis technology more accessible to the average woodworking shop. With the lines continuing to blur between CNC routers and CNC machining, 5-axis technology on a point-to-point router, for example, can give woodworkers the ability to manufacture high-precision and complex shapes and components.
As with many industries, reshoring activities in the woodworking and furniture making industries is estimated to continue. According to the Woodworking Network Almanac, 15% of new US manufacturing jobs between 2010 and 2013 were previously overseas. A stronger economy, the inflation of foreign currency, and a boom to the North American housing market have all contributed to companies choosing to manufacture on this continent, rather than look abroad.
MultiCam Inc., a leading manufacturing of CNC cutting solutions, is pleased to announce that the end of 2014 will round out its first quarter century of operation. Since opening its doors in December of 1989, MultiCam’s products have become an integral part of the manufacturing industry, advancing technology and value into systems that are highly productive, easy to use and built to last.
MultiCam Inc., originally Machine Automation Technology, was founded by Ken Koelling who began building complete CNC systems customized to the needs of his customers. His main goal was to ensure that every machine was engineered to perfection, built with passion and remained reliable for the life of the machine. He instilled a value equation into the company that ensured that the products built exceeded the industrial standards of the marketplace, yet remained affordable to small businesses around the globe.
Today, MultiCam has manufactured and installed more than 10,000 machines worldwide transforming Koelling’s vision into a globally recognized, industry leader. “We continue to stand behind the goals and principles set forth 25 years ago,” said Kelsey Smith, Marketing Director of MultiCam Inc. “Exemplary customer satisfaction, employee fulfillment and corporate citizenship remain the cornerstones of this company. Sustained success in these areas, we believe, will continue to yield long-term benefits for our brand, employees and our partners.”
Article from FAB Shop Magazine.
In the wake of an economic downturn and recovery, plasma – like the manufacturing industry as a whole – needs to change and adapt. To find out what particular challenges the industry’s facing as it seeks to do so, we talked to Hypertherm’s president, Evan Smith.
Smith: Well, when I think about the plasma market, I tend to think about it as part of the steel fabrication or steel cutting industry more broadly. The wider steel fabrication capital equipment market is generally healthy, but it’s mixed by global region and by industry. And now that we’re past the Great Recession, and also the immediate recovery, it’s kind of a more mixed economic environment for investment and fabrication equipment. The decision makers are still cautious.
We’re seeing equipment usage up. There’s evidence by consumable demand, but I’d say that with the actual demand for equipment itself, we still see a fair amount of postponement in the industry. Light industrial demand is up, but the investment threshold is also lower.
Out of the three technologies – plasma, waterjet and laser – waterjet is probably the strongest right now, but plasma is holding onto its share in the product marketplace.
Smith: Like with most cutting technologies, there’s the skilled workforce shortage. We find a lot of end users operating sub-optimally, so there are the issues of operator training and system optimization. A lot of end users are unaware of technology upgrade opportunities, too.
I think also, for plasma in particular we see automation and material handling being an area of less development. Plasma is by far the most productive and cost-cutting technology available for most high-volume plate cutting applications. But in terms of overall automation, we see that further development needs to be made there.
Smith: Well, naturally, the development focuses on the cutting process itself. So, for example, it would mean making plasma cutting faster, more cost effective, higher quality, more precise and so forth. We also see a lot of development need being in the software, in the control and in the whole upstream and downstream process integration with the actual cutting.
Smith: I think more application focus versus system focus is going to be an important requirement, as well as focusing increasingly on service levels and advisory relationships, which will help customers address the issue that I mentioned earlier, of operating sub-optimally and not being aware of the technology and the upgrade potential. I think we’ll also see more flexible in-sourcing and outsourcing among customers, and more emphasis on total lean operations.
In building those customer relationships, I think we’ll need to go beyond the equipment or system performance itself and increasingly look at life cycle for the customer, in order to gain an understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish in their applications. This way, we’ll be able to deliver those particular applications in better and better ways.
I think other fields in the steel fabrication industry are simply more connected and smarter in terms of software and automation development. They’re able to address the issues of self-monitoring and self-optimization, and thus also the shortage of skilled workers.
Plasma needs to follow suit. In the near future, I would expect that plasma systems will be more connected, perhaps through the cloud, and more application optimized. Broader application capabilities will allow plasma to enter new spaces that have been previously dominated by other cutting technologies. And following the trend of digital factory, the plasma system itself will provide more information and intelligence into total factory management systems and processes.
Right now, as an example, Hypertherm controllers can monitor certain parameters of system performance and often allow remote connectivity through the Internet. This is how we facilitate the information flows to partners and to Hypertherm in order to allow value added services.
Smith: Well, its a little bit like the last 20 years. Certainly, plasma technology will continue to improve. It will increase in speed and precision, have a better cut quality , be more repeatable and have a lower cost per foot or linear cut, but I think you’re also going to see an expanded application space for plasma as we continue to push particular adaptations and optimizations of the technology.
I would expect to see smarter and more connected machinery, as we’ve discussed – machines that are self-monitored and more able to operate without human intervention.
We’re also pushing greener technology, and we think the industry and equipment will become cleaner and greener in terms of its footprint and its impact on the environment.
I think we’ll see systems – as we’ve talked about – with increasingly more sophisticated software and and control technology. The plasma system itself will become more integrated for particular application, and we’ll have more embedded process intelligence. And as process intelligence evolves, we’ll probably see self-teaching or self-learning systems.
For more information on MultiCam’s lineup of versatile CNC Plasma Cutting Machines visit www.multicam.com/products/cnc-fabrication/
Article by Nicholas J. Korfas, found in Shop Metal Tech Magazine
A minute chip floating in coolant swarf left to dry on a toolholder taper can become a serous interference at the machine tool spindle-toolholder interface. It can go undetected, causing slightly increased cutter runout(TIR) and diminished tool performance at low spindle speeds. At higher spindle speeds, the negative effects are magnified and can result in scrapped parts, catastrophic failure and a possible accident.
A contamination-free toolholder and machine tool spindle interface ensures toolholders properly seat at full taper contact and are pulled into the spindle taper at maximum force. With holders held and positioned accurately, a machine’s full power and tolerance capabilities can effectively and safely transfer to cutting tools, while runout and vibration are reduced for superior part surface finish quality.
If your toolholders or spindles have reached the end of their useful life, visit out store at multicamtooling.com or call us 972-929-4070 and order a replacement right away!
In 1968, a man by the name of Alejandro de la Cruz Saucedo started a small family wood shop in the town of Jesus Maria, Mexico. With only a handmade circular saw and the premise of “Making Furniture with Conviction”, Alejandro set out to create incredible works of Rococo style furniture characterized by the superior French craftsmanship of the 18th-century.
For over 45 years now, Mueblera Provenzal has been producing outstanding results in fine furniture and has become a pioneer of the furniture industry in the Municipality of Jesus Maria.
Ever since he first witnessed the amazing abilities of CNC manufacturing, Alejandro made clear his dream of one day adding a CNC Router to his shop, now located in a 60,000 sq. ft. facility in the center of San Antonio de los Horcones in Jesus Maria.
Sadly, Alejandro passed away recently and was unable to see his dream come true by his own eyes. After his death, Alejandro’s wife set out to make his dream become a reality and honor his life long commitment to the company, his town and his family.
Last month, with much anticipation, Mueblera Provenzal welcomed their brand new MultiCam 3000 Router to their work shop and paid homage to the man they revered so much.
Check out these pictures from the installation ceremony!
In CNC WaterJet cutting, when we refer to the feedrate, we’re talking about how fast the waterjet moves along the material per minute. The faster the waterjet moves, the more quickly it will cut the material, but with increased taper. The slower the waterjet moves, the slower it will cut, but the edge quality with greatly improve. Optimizing cut quality with operational efficiency is a balancing act between desired cut quality, material type/thickness, and abrasive feedrate.
When a waterjet moves more slowly over a piece, more water and abrasive is able to erode the material, thus increasing the cut quality. However, the more abrasive you use, the higher your operating costs will be. Many operations will average about 0.7lbs/min of abrasive. When it comes to operating costs, the amount of abrasive used in waterjet cutting is the single largest contributor. It is therefore important to ensure that you’re only using the absolute minimum amount of abrasive that you need for your cut.
To do this, think about the type of cut you’re trying to achieve. Do you require a very smooth cut, with perfect edge quality and negligible taper? Or perhaps you require merely a separation cut, where the edge quality isn’t nearly as important. SigmaNEST has a very simple way of choosing the level of cut quality you require for your job. This is an especially handy tool when your part does not require the same level of quality on all sides.
Merely click on the cut line in the dashboard and click on the quality tab. This will allow you to choose from 1 (fastest cut speed, separation cut quality) to 5 (slowest cutting speed, smoothest edge). Having greater control over the quality you choose for each edge on your part means that you’re not wasting abrasive (and operating time), when a lower quality cut could do the job just as effectively.
Proper feed rate control for waterjet cutting is just another way that SigmaNEST software helps you not only cut better, but smarter.
Looking to add a CNC machine to your workflow? Here’s a few reasons why it will benefit your business workflow and throughput. A CNC machine will lower your labor costs, increase productivity, reduce your scrap rate, and improve consistency, agility and adaptability to complex designs. Take a look at our infographic to get details on how a CNC cutting solution can improve your business.
With today’s long-life oxygen cutting technology, CNC plasma systems are the most productive, cost effective way to cut carbon steel from gauge to 1 1/4” thickness. But to get the highest performance, operators need to ensure the consumables in the torch are inspected and maintained to high standards. To do that, a good understanding of the features and functions of each consumable is paramount to getting the most out of your machine.
The primary function for a plasma electrode is to provide power to the plasma arc, connecting to the negative output from the power supply. The plasma electrode’s secondary function is to conduct high voltage (aka, high frequency) energy during the starting sequence, adding energy to ionize the cutting gas, thus allowing the plasma arc to start. Since the electrode is the main contact point for the plasma arc, it gets very hot. As a result, the end emitter on an oxygen electrode, made of the element hafnium, can reach temperatures exceeding 3000 degrees F. In general, most plasma cutting electrodes used at over 100 Amps of cutting current are liquid cooled, as opposed to gas cooled in smaller mechanized and hand held plasma systems.
So what are the plasma electrode’s critical features? First of all, the hafnium emitter is the single most important part for the electrode. Since hafnium is a poor thermal conductor, it is bonded to the copper body of the electrode using a proprietary process that ensures an excellent thermal and electrical connection. Hypertherm electrodes use a patented process that matches the diameter of the hafnium emitter to the power level it is designed for, ensuring the most efficient heat transfer. Another very important factor to ensure cut quality is repeatable dimensional stability, where the electrode fits up well to the other internal torch components. If you have the incorrect length or diameter it will dramatically affect alignment and impact the cutting quality.
The second critical feature for the plasma electrode are the very accurately machined bore and step, which insure superior cooling as a result of perfect alignment of the coolant tube to the hollow milled post in the electrode bottom. As well, alignment can provide for very concentric coolant flow around the high temperature hafnium emitter.
All Hypertherm electrodes have a laser etched part number and a batch code clearly marked to ensure proper part match-up. And the threads and locating shoulder are designed to ensure perfect concentricity with nozzle and swirl ring when installed in the torch.
Finally, the key feature of both the electrode and torch design is a floating coolant tube. How does the floating coolant tube work? The tube is loosely installed in the torch and when the electrode is installed the coolant tube self aligns and positions itself to the internal features of electrode. The coolant enters at the top of the tube at relatively high pressure and is forced through a tight fit around the hollow mill of the electrode. In the end, the squeeze increases coolant velocity, effectively causing the coolant to strip away steam buildup around the hot hafnium, for very efficient heat removal.
For a one stop shop of all your consumable needs, be sure to drop by the MultiCam Store today!
The vast majority of American’s today have a very skewed outlook of what modern manufacturing really is. We often recollect images of rough, down trodden workers slaving away in hot, miserable conditions for hours on end until they are freed by the sound of the whistle.
Ask any student today, “Would you rather work for a manufacturing company or a tech company?” Most, if not all will answer the latter. Why? Because tech is cool. Tech is smart. Tech creates images of clean facilities with endless possibilities of grander and prosperity.
But what if I was to tell you that the coolest, most technological company in the world is, at its heart and soul, a manufacturing company.
When we talk about Apple the story that gets lost is, at the end of the day they manufacture products. The iPad, iPhone and Macintosh didn’t just come to be with the snap of a finger. These products are the end result of taking intellectual ideas and figuring out a way through processes and technology, how to build somebody’s idea.
With more and more factories complaining about a shortage of skilled workers and baby boomers
retiring at a rate of nearly 10,000 a day, there has never been a more important time in our history to raise awareness among the young and expose them to what modern manufacturing really is, and more importantly, what it isn’t.
Tomorrow is National Manufacturing Day and I challenge everyone from students to educators to legislators and citizens from every community to take part. Go into that manufacturing facility that you have driven passed thousands of times on your way to work or to school and take a look at what is really going on inside.
When you do, you will see an environment that is innovative and technology driven. There is engineering, math and science. You will find a place where all of these things come together to make great products.
In terms of all the geopolitical events taking place around the world right now, it is definitely in our nation’s best interest to be able to have manufacturing capabilities. We need to be able to attract people to pursue these careers and to be interested in starting a manufacturing business and to seek all the options and opportunities that manufacturing provides.
To learn more about MFG Day visit www.mfgday.com
Not able to make it to one of the events? “How It’s Made” will be running an all day marathon on the Science Channel Friday Oct. 3rd. This is a great way for families to introduce their children, maybe for the first time, to what manufacturing is and what it’s about.
Witness the innovation, the technology, the smarts and the bright people responsible for making the products we use.
All too often print service providers buy equipment based on what they are producing today instead of looking down the road as to what they may be producing in the future. With the ever increasing capabilities of today’s flat-bed and roll printers, the vast array of materials on which graphics can now be printed on require a machine that can digitally finish the process.
No longer are business’s in the printing industry buying specific machines for a specific job. Instead, they are seeking a machine that can quickly adapt to their growing productivity needs and provide a solution to their workflow. When companies begin investing in a solution instead of a commodity then the return on investment of both the digital printer and digital finisher begins to grow exponentially. When combined, this partnership of equipment can produce many different products for many different markets resulting in a margin of up to ten times that of producing just one product alone.
The influx of flexibility, as well as increased material savings and control over the production process will allow your business to grow and evolve as new market opportunities arise. Aided with this wider range of capabilities, you will be able to serve a broader market and soon begin reaping the profit potential that comes along with it.
Also be sure to stop by booth #2458 at Graph Expo in Chicago, IL
September 28 – October 1, 2014
So you’re looking at a sheet of shiny new material and you’ve got your part all mapped out. Your CNC router is ready to go but there’s one thing missing: the proper tool bit. LMT Onsrud, the makers of high quality CNC router bits, have outlined a series of questions that need to be answered before the best bit for the job can be selected. These questions are ones that we ask our customers every day so that we know we’re recommending the tool that has the ideal size, flute, and rigidity requirements.
This is the first and most basic question because it defines the type of tool material and geometry needed to perform the job. In terms of wood, some are natural woods; others are man-made composites or combinations of both. Plastic and aluminum have characteristics of hardness and softness, which dictates tool material and geometry. Consequently, the foremost question becomes how is the part material going to affect the tool material and the life of the tool?
The use of a hand router or pin router dictates different tool choices than a CNC machine. The obvious difference is feed and speed capabilities and how various tool materials react in the cutting environment. Hand fed operations tend to be best suited to steel bodied router tools, which can better tolerate inconsistent feeds, while CNC machines enhance the toughness of solid carbide.
Quite simply, this question leads to the selection of tool diameter and cutting edge length. Always choose the tool with the shortest possible cutting edge to cover the thickness of the part with slight overlap. Since diameter of tool increases rigidity, it is best to select the largest diameter possible, but the cutting edge length should be as short as possible and not more than three times the diameter (in a perfect world).
The size, contour and detail in a part play a huge role in tool selection and tool life. For instance, large parts can be machined extremely fast and may react very well with a multi-flute tool. Conversely, a smaller part with tight radii would operate ineffectively with multi-flute tools by decreasing tool life because of slower feed and speed.
Tool selection is almost a moot issue if the part is not held solidly. MultiCam recommends a vacuum hold-down system for your CNC router or knife cutter. This ensures that both the material and the part stay still, increasing the tool life and the accuracy of the cut.
Router tools come in straight, shear, spiral downcut, and a combination of up and down cut. They come in single flute through multi-flute in a wide range of diameters. All these characteristics have an influence on the part. For example, in a thermoformed part which is set up on a formed fixture, it is important to have no or neutral influence on the part to alleviate problems of pulling the part off the fixture. The larger diameter tools exert more lateral pressure on a part; smaller diameters do the opposite but provide less chip removal because of smaller flute area. Spirals move chips up or down and influence the part in the same direction. Influencing the part by tool selection is important and must be considered when selecting the right tool.
The selection on feeds and speeds specifically details the theory behind chiploads and tool life. Once the right tool for a job is chosen, the tool life is really a function of how the end-user fixtures the part and the speed and feed rate applied to the part. If chips are produced a significant thickness to dissipate heat, then tool life will be extended.
In summary, following these basic principles will aid in the tool selection process:
For all your tooling needs and recommendations please contact our sales department at [email protected] or call us 972.929.4070
You can also shop online at multicamtooling.com
If you are looking to prevail in the sign industry where flexibility and versatility are necessary for a business to succeed, then adding a reliable CNC router to your workflow is a no-brainer.
Whether you are working with wood, foam, or acrylic a CNC router can help generate the superior products that customers envision. But one question we are frequently asked by manufacturers is “Can your routers cut aluminum as well?” Our answer is always a resounding, “Yes! As long as you do it correctly.”
There are a few things know about cutting aluminum on a router before you begin. First, like all materials, there is a “Sweet Spot” for the best feeds and speeds. When cutting aluminum, the “Sweet Spot” is much smaller, and the chances for breaking a bit and outputting a poor surface finish are increased. Secondly, aluminum heats up and becomes sticky when cutting, so if you venture outside of the “Sweet Spot” aluminum deposits will begin to weld themselves to your tooling or your cut piece.
To help you visualize the “Sweet Spot” for speeds and feeds of cutting aluminum, take a look at the chart below.
Here is a breakdown of the different zones in the graph.
High Chipload Feed: When your feedrate is too fast for a given spindle RPM, you’re chances of breaking the bit are almost certain.
MRR: Running the spindle as fast as you can without burning the bit and feeding as fast as you can without breaking the bit is the “Sweet Spot” for Maximum Removal Rates.
Too Fast: Too much spindle speed will generate excess heat which softens the tool and dulls it faster.
Best Tool Life: Slowing down the spindle a bit and feeding at slightly less than appropriate for maximum MRR gives the best tool life.
Surface Finish: Reducing your feedrates while keeping the spindle speed up lightens the chipload and leads to a nicer surface finish. There are limits, the biggest of which is that you’ll eventually lighten the feedrate too much, your tools will start to rub, and tool life will go way down due to the excess heat generated by the rubbing.
Older Machines: So your spindle speed has come way down, and in addition, so has your feedrate. You’re probably on an older machine where you can’t run the kind of speeds you need to take advantage of carbide tooling. You may need to switch to HSS.
Feeding Too Slow: Feeding too slow leads to rubbing instead of cutting, which can radically shorten your tool life and is to be avoided.
When cutting 6061 1/8 inch aluminum for sign letter fabrication we used a 63620 Stub Nose 1/4 inch Up-Cut Bit at 22,000 RPM and at speed of 100 in./min.
One of the truly unique applications offered by EnRoute software is its Rapid Picture technology. Rapid Picture is an extension of Rapid Texture that allows you to import your favorite photograph as a bitmap image, and apply contours that translate into the contrasting shades of the photograph.
Below is a step by step process of how we easily created an image on 3/4 inch MDF using our 3000 Series MultiCam Router.
First we applied a coat of white semi-gloss paint to our MDF board.
Next, we coated the painted board with a high-gloss sealer. This will allow you to easily apply a contrasting color once the image has been cut. It will also allow you to apply a smaller gap value and prevent any paint being chipped during the engraving process.
Open EnRoute and import your desired .JPG or Bitmap image. High contrast images usually work best.
Select your line tool and draw a line across the picture. The direction of the line will determine the direction of the contours being cut. We opted to draw our line diagonally.
With your contour line selected click on the rapid texture icon (highlighted below).
Enter the size values of the image you want to cut then click on the displacement tab. Here you will enter your Wavelength, Offset, and Horizontal and Vertical Amplitude Values.
We used a wavelength of 3 and an offset and horizontal/vertical amplitude of .15. You might have to play around with these values depending on the image you would like to cut.
Make sure randomize is unchecked then before you hit apply, click on the picture. Here you will be prompted to select your tool and enter the gap value.
For this image we suggest using a 90 degree conic with a gap value of .01.
Hit apply and EnRoute will automatically begin to create the contours of the image.
Once the contours have been applied you can set your feed, speeds and depths.
The values we used for the piece were:
Feed Rate – 300, Speed – 18000, Depth – .1, Plunge Rate – 100
Export your .DXF file and CUT IT!
Experiment and enjoy! You might want to play with the values a bit to determine what will work best for your image.
If you are really looking to make the image pop, water down some black paint and apply it to the contours that were cut. Once you wipe off the excess paint you will be left with an almost photo realistic image carved into your material.
When cutting acrylic for applications where the edge will be visible and will need to be either polished or at least very smooth, it’s absolutely imperative that you get the cut right the first time. So, today we put our new 6mm Crown Norge Diamond bit to the test and were blown away by the results.
For our initial cut pass we used a 1/4 inch Super Upcut Bit on 1/4 clear acrylic at a feed rate of 150 in./min. and a speed of 28000 RPM’s.
In anticipation for the upcoming IWF Show in Atlanta this week we decided to test our furniture making skills with this Fishbone Chair design. It is a simple design that can easily be found online or created using your favorite CAD/CAM program.
For this project we used our MultiCam 3000 Router to cut 3/4 inch MDF. We used a 3/8 upcut bit at a speed of 24000 RPM and a federate of 600 in./min.
We created a bear sign out of dots with our 3000 Series Router and plastic material.
There are over 15,000 dots used to create this bear. The process is a bit lengthy, taking about a total of six hours, but it results in a very interesting piece of art. Click on each image below to view an enlarged version to show more detail.
The last post showed you how to create a small fixture table for a router. Today’s post will utilize the fixture to cut walnut to make railing. Bryan Texas Utility had vintage railing that is not found in stores and they needed to update some of the existing wood, so we created some pieces for them. Below you can see the process in pictures of how we used our 3000 Series Router to cut the wood and create a seamless transition with the existing railing.
To the left is the old railing and the right shows the new railing. It is amazing to see how you can recreate vintage woodwork today and have a seamless finish.
Below is the process to create your own fixture table on a MultiCam 3000 Series. Follow the images from left to right to learn the sequence of steps in creating your fixture table. Click on each image to view an enlarged version which will show more detail. We’re sure you’ll find this sequence to be enlightening!
MultiCam has just completed a successful two-day open house event. There was CAD/CAM software training, live demos of our various machines, factory tours, and great food. The images below show our customers learning how the machines are operated, along with a special BBQ pit master! Click on each of the images below to view an enlarged version.