I've got an 8-head CMS router with two tables. Does anyone know of a good alternative to spoil boards? We cut boxes for applications such as holding tools. Our material runs from 5/16" to 1 1/2". We do from 100 to 1000 pieces per job.
There are many alternatives to spoil boards, but each one has its own strong points and limitations. You need to devise one that works for your parts.
Most CMS machines are built with a manifold of air and vacuum fittings on the front of the tables. If you don't have this already, you can probably add it. There are several shapes of steel vacuum pods, which attach to these fittings allowing you to put vacuum wherever you need it. Call CMS about these pods.
Have you tried using bleed-through vacuum? You will need a high volume vacuum pump, but it is a very flexible way to hold parts that are over a minimum size of about 100 sq. in.
It is not impossible to retrofit a machine with such a system, but it is a tall order.
The advantages of such a system are that fixtures are completely eliminated for panel parts, there are no consumables (bleed board), the vacuum pump can be relatively low volume, and setups are accurate and quick.
The Heian system that I put in in the 80's will go from chip to chip from one setup to another in less than a minute, and a good bit of that time is taken up with automatic tool changes.
Also, what would such a system add to the cost of a new CNC machine? How far apart are the pods spaced?
To keep the pod mechanism as simple as possible, I would have only two states: up and open to vacuum and down and closed. This would still allow you to do your horizontal boring, but by dropping the un-bored/already bored parts rather than raising the bored ones. I realize this forces a lot of compromise into the nest, but with so many pods, you just cannot afford to let the pod and control mechanism get too fancy. Also, it would be quite a trick to synchronize all of the pods so that they could raise a panel without breaking vacuum.
I am sure that any of the suppliers will give you whatever spacing, pod number, and pod size you need. In general, more pods = more money.