Considering a CNC Router Purchase

A four-man shop wants to bring its CNC work in-house, and gets advice on evaluating equipment options. November 12, 2005

We are trying to decide what CNC router to purchase. We have a small 4 man custom woodworking shop, predominantly doing residential work. We currently outsource our CNC cutting, but it is becoming difficult to schedule jobs around someone else’s production schedule, not to mention a 30 mile drive to pick up our parts.

We currently cut about 15-20 sheets per week using nested base programs. We hope to increase that number a little in the next year. We also cut solid wood for our furniture on the machine. My employees and I have CNC programming knowledge and have worked on Komo, Biesse and Northwood machines, so we’ve got the learning curve issue half beat already.

We’re on our way to the Las Vegas show to try to decide which machine is the right one for our operation. I know we’re going to get confused very fast with all the different machines there. So far I have seen a Selexx (by Andi) and a Techno Router. Our price range is $75,000-100,000. I would like feedback or recommendations from anyone.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
We have a CR Onsrud unit. It is the best on the market in my opinion.

From contributor B:
There are many fine machines on the market today. Service and tech assistance are important factors. I have operated a Routech 130 for nearly 5 years with very good success. Routech guaranteed seamless integration between machine and software at the beginning. I was making parts with 72 hours of the machines delivery. I have never looked back. I am very happy with my choice.

From contributor C:
You can do lot of your type of work for much less than your budget. We also have a small 5 man shop doing custom commercial work in both sheet and solid goods, everything from 3" solid mahogany to laminate cutting. For your given volume you don't need a 100K machine at all. We have processed 40 sheets a day without a problem on our Multicam without a problem. As stated, go for the service and software support - that's the key. For 100K I could have two machines running but we can't keep up with output from the one. The 2 hour jobs now take 10 minutes. We too outsourced all of our work prior to getting our Multicam and we too found that the logistics were killing us.

From contributor D:
Make sure you compare the warranties. Some are only 6 months and the price of individual parts can be equivalent to a conventional machine.

From contributor E:
For your stated volume why would you spend that kind of money? Try looking low end and you will be able to process those numbers in a day. I run one of the new style Shopbots and can do 30 plus sheets of nested parts per day. Accuracy is .015. Wood moves more than that with moisture change! Closed loop drives and 600 ipm cut. We cut over 40,000 parts a year. Support is excellent and learning curve is easy compared to some.

From contributor F:
I run a $100,000 machine at work (Anderson) and just got my $10,000 Shopbot at home. I can cut almost all the same parts on either machine. The 10hp spindle, tool changer and 25hp vacuum make the Anderson much more efficient and it is probably much more durable. So in each case we bought as much machine as we could comfortably afford and went from there. The Anderson has to run all the time to make the payments, but my Shopbot runs when I need it. To contributor E: Do you use a router or a spindle and what kind of vacuum system do you have?

From contributor E:
We run a 5 hp spindle on ours. As for durability, it often runs 40 hours a week and has spent 4 months last year running 16 hours a day. After three years running, we’ve had no problems yet.

From contributor F:
I did not mean to say the Shopbot would not be reliable. I bought one and expect it to do whatever I need for many years. I think the Anderson is more heavy duty and possibly more forgiving but possibly more machine than we needed.

From contributor E:
The Anderson is a lot more machine! My point is that I've seen several shops spend big on far more machine than they need and then go under trying to pay for it. You need to look at the profitability of a piece of equipment and make sure you can really afford it.

From contributor G:
We went through the same process last year at IWF. It's mind boggling, with so many choices. Our final choice was an OmniTech Selexx. Our final decision was based on the fact it gave us the most bang for the buck. Looking back, we spent too much time on machine choice. We spent a great deal of time on software choice, and that is what paid off for us. In my opinion, software decisions are much more important. The machines are becoming like table saws, where most have virtually the same basic functional elements. Software is what will really determine how quickly you are up and running, and what your top end efficiency becomes.

If you've selected software already, you can eliminate some choices because they want to sell software with the machine. I already had my software, and was just looking for hardware. We purchased Microvellum, which provides us with a single source to produce G-Code directly to the machine. I would avoid software/machines that force you to use secondary software to develop G-Code.

From contributor E:
We run a Komo Mach I machine and couldn't be happier. We get great service, as well as tech support. It also requires no 3rd party software, which is the best part. We run 200-500 mdf doors weekly, as well as 50-150 sheets of plywood. I’ve been running the machine two years with only scheduled downtime.

From contributor H:
You should consider the Biesse Rover K series. It will give you everything you are looking for, as well as a warranty and technical support that are unparalleled.