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Understanding a CNC Machine: Frequently Asked Questions

CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machines have been in use since the 1970s. Since that time, these machines have lightened the burden of professional woodwork by making it easier to work on numerous products. Unlike operating conventional woodworking machinery, operating CNC machinery involves minimal labor. Instead of requiring the constant participation of the operator in the machining process, CNC machines can operate unattended for long periods. These apparatuses can also produce work faster, more accurately, and more intricately than conventional woodworking machines.

Questions about CNC Machines

If you are considering investing in computer-controlled machinery, plenty of reasons exist. Before you purchase your first machine, it is important to be clear on what implementation and operation the contraption entails. The answers below can help provide that knowledge:

What are the axes in CNC machinery?

An axis is a direction of motion of a cutting mechanism, either linear or circular. The more axes a machine contains, the more types of cuts it can make. For example, a five-axis router, which contains three linear axes and two circular axes, would have more machining capability than a three-axis router, which contains three linear axes.

The number of axes a CNC machine contains determines the number of planes it can cut on, which determines the type of work it can produce

Do CNC machines have programmable accessories?

Most CNC machines have programmable accessories. In some cases, these accessories are machine specific. Wood boring machines, for example, may have different accessories than routers. There are also programmable accessories that apply to all machines, such as lubrication mechanisms and tool changers.

Some manufacturers offer programmable accessories as add-ons.

What is a CAM system?

A CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) program is a software program that helps simplify complex programming instructions for CNC machines. Instead of calculating the programming instructions on his or her own, the operator enters the machining operation to be performed into the CAM system, which produces the programming instructions for the operation.

What is a DNC system?

A DNC (Distributive Numerical Control) system transfers text files from the CAM system to the CNC machinery. Essentially, a DNC system is a computer that is networked with one or more machines.

What type of training is necessary to operate CNC machinery?

Before operating CNC machinery, the operator must understand how to use its programming system, as well as a CAM system, if one is required. The programming process is similar from machine to machine, but programming wood boring machines, for example, could require different knowledge than programming routers. Most operators can be trained to use any machine in less than six months.

What cost factors are associated with implementing CNC machinery?

In addition to purchase price, the buyer of a CNC machine should factor in the following costs of owning the machine, as applicable: equipment insurance, regular maintenance, software to aid in the programming process (CAM system), repair budget, electricity use, and cost per square foot to house the machine.

Trust RT Machine for Your Machinery Needs

RT Machine specializes in new and used woodworking machinery. In addition to selling new CNC machines, we sell used CNC machines refurbished to “like new” condition. Because they offer high performance and cost significantly less than new machines, refurbished machines frequently offer the best value.

To learn more about CNC machinery, and what machine would best meet your needs, call RT Machine today.

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