CNC-Based Workflow Concepts

A shop owner who's investing in a new CNC router gets advice on re-organizing the rest of his shop to take best advantage of the new equipment. March 28, 2010

I purchased a nearly new CNC machine and will be redoing the shop in anticipation of the new machine. I've been outsourcing frameless parts until now. I will be building mostly frameless cabinets. I have the following equipment: CNC router, edgebander, horizontal boring. I'm planning on using dowel construction. We do our own finishing. We use the same species wood edgebanding as finished ends and stack parts and finish at one time.

What is the best work flow from the CNC to the building bench? Can the CNC operator edgeband or bore between loading and unloading the CNC? Should I create a work cell adjacent to the CNC or nearer the spray booth? Do you edgeband before or after horizontal boring? What about conveyors?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor J:
Can't you nest, cut, bore with the CNC, then (sand) edgeband, assemble and on to finish?

From the original questioner:
I can't do my horizontal boring on the CNC. We finish everything prior to assembly.

From contributor W:
I've worked in a shop where the CNC, edgebander, and point-to-point were set up so I could set a sheet on the router, walk over and throw two shelves into the edgebander (had a roller return table set up with it), then run one or two shelves in the P2P. Then I'd go back and unload the router, clean it, set another sheet up, and repeat. Great setup and I always felt very productive.

As far as the process, we ran CabinetVision and there were some designs that had me edgeband first and somewhere I did the boring first. It all depends on how the cabinets are laid out in your design.

From contributor P:
At Benz, we offer a special low clearance horizontal drill aggregate that will allow you to drill the center of a piece of 5/8" material while it is positioned on your spoilboard.

From contributor G:
You may be able to perform horizontal boring on your CNC by using an aggregate head. It would be most productive to complete as many operations as possible on the CNC, as contributor J recommended. Techniks provides aggregates for just this type of application.

From contributor E:
In my shop, it works as follows:
- Cut parts from nested router programs in 4x8 or 5x8
- Edgeband
- Bore
- If the job is stained, at this moment parts get stained, as it speeds up the process, there's no masking required, and it's much easier to handle flat parts.
- Then clamped and hardwared

The equipment: CNC, edgebander, boring machine and clamp are all in a rectangular shape layout to help with flow, the finishing room is further away, and assembly benches are in the back of the house.

Depending on workflow, consider your forklift in the equation. What type of sheets are you planning to use? Racks? Material handling should play a big role in your layout. How does the finished product leave your facility - one door, two? Consider that as well - it would help you create a start and end point of your assembly process. Do you build ahead of time, and how long before the finished product leaves the facility?

From contributor M:
If you are going to be doing dowel construction, you definitely want to do your horizontal boring on the horizontal machine you mentioned that you have. Set that machine by your CNC and let the operator do all the horizontal boring. Even if you bore after banding and cycle parts back to that area, this will be your best choice.

While a CNC can do horizontal boring, I have never worked with one accurate enough for dowel construction, especially if you like to hold tight tolerances.

Also, since you did not mention having a case clamp, you might consider looking into RTA fittings to use as clamps in addition to dowels while the glue dries.

From contributor S:
Just curious, but I can't understand why anyone would want to use dowel construction when the CNC can cut blind dados. Extra machinery sitting in the shop, extra handling, ordering and storing the dowels, etc. It just doesn't make sense to me. What's your reasoning for using dowels?

From the original questioner:
I have been buying pre-machined parts for several years and that is how the parts were supplied to me. It's a system my guys are familiar with and we haven't had any issues with it to speak of. Works well with vertical dividers, mail cubby cabinets, base cabinets with two drawers at the top without a center partition, and similar situations. We use confirmats with the dowels and they go together very quickly. Mainly just a comfort level with a system that has worked well for us. We've worked out all the oddball stuff and run into very few surprises anymore.

Kinda like the salesmen that come in here trying to get me to change from Blum hinges. Sure, they are less expensive, but I know exactly what I need to order for lazy Susans, diagonal corners, blind corners, thick doors, etc. I don't want to have to figure all that out again with a new supplier. One mistake and I've lost anything I saved by purchasing something a little cheaper. I also like to purchase all my finishing supplies from a single source. I have salesmen that want me to change to their less expensive finish that is just as good, but they usually don't carry everything I need, like compatible glazes or specialty finishes.

And again, we've worked out most of the bugs (by making mistakes) and don't care to revisit that learning curve - it's costly! I'm always open to changing the way we do things but have to be convinced that there is a major benefit to doing so and that the new system can do everything the previous system did without blending the two.

From contributor J:
I am with you on the hardware and finishes, but I am glad I changed construction methods to encompass the CNC to full capacity - no more dowels and clamping here.

From contributor B:
I used to run blind dados off my CNC until I bought a point-to-point dowel boring and insertion machine a couple of years ago. It really speeds up the assembly process in addition to requiring a bit less skill. Furthermore, if you get such a machine you will find other time saving ways of using it (e.g. doweling the ends of desk ribs so the entire desk framework can be assembled in a very short period of time). It was probably the best 40K I ever spent.

From contributor S:
To the original questioner: I can dig that. A hundred years ago, when we switched over from overlay face frame hinges to concealed hinges, I couldn't fathom buying a machine to bore and press in those hinges. A drill press worked just fine! Well, we ended up getting a mini press from our hinge supplier in exchange for buying X number of hinges... Guess where that drill press is now? Stored on a truck. Wouldn't dream of not having that mini press now.