Step One: Buying a CNC Router

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A simple guide illustrating how to go about buying a CNC router

Everyone has their basic steps when they are considering a major purchase. Whether it be a new car, computer software, or even a CNC router; we all go through the steps. We do our research and read reviews, we comprise all the results and then we make an informed decision. No part is more important than another, just like a CNC router, each part has a role to play. The spindle needs to be able to cut the material, whether it be wood, foam, aluminum, and so on. The gantry needs to be fully functional and move around the table with ease, and the vacuum pump must hold down your material at all times. If any of these parts fail to do their job, the outcome is negatively affected. The buying process is no different, there may be less parts than a CNC router, but none the less, each part is important.

You must gather research. The most important part of this step, is knowing what you’ll need. There is nothing worse than buying a 4’x4’ table and realizing you are going to need a 4’x8’, or deciding against the water cooled spindle, only to realize how loud it is in your garage. It is not the end of the world to have to make changes to your router, but if you can avoid this when you are buying it is always better.

Firstly, you always need to know exactly what you need and then you can base your research around that. Be sure of the table size, the materials you will be cutting, if you are mainly working with wood, foams and soft metals, or if you will need to do some steel work. It all effects the choice of router and machine. Know whether you need a vacuum table or whether you are okay using a t-slot. There are great differences between CNC routers beyond low prices and high prices, beyond 3hp spindles and 9hp spindles. These are important things to know and understand, but some of the finer aspects of a machine can be just as important moving forward. For example, understanding the difference between a machine using a belt for gantry movement along the linear guard rails and gear reducers controlling the gantry’s same movement. A belt is exactly how it sounds, it moves the gantry around much like a conveyer belt and wears down much quicker. Whereas a gear reducer is a much more effective part, as well as a more accurate, and secure part, even though it may cost a little more. It will last much longer. Another thing to research, is software. You will want to ensure you are able to run that software for what you are doing as there are specific software designed for certain use, and there are also “all in one” style software that can be used for most industries. They may be a safer bet; examples of versatile software would be ArtCam and Vetric aspire. Another way to get assistance in this is simply to ask. There is no shame in asking, especially if you are new to the cnc world. Whether it be here at CanCam, another company, or even a well-informed friend or co-worker, make sure you ask any and all questions you have; because just like your grade school teachers said, there are no dumb questions.

Another extremely important thing to know is all the details on your end regarding logistics. These means the space you have available, ensure you have the appropriate amount of space. For a 4’x4’ machine, you will need more than simply a 4’x4’ space. More like a 6’x6’ space depending on how much room you require for moving around the machine. Keep in mind the power supplies you have available. Whether it be single phase of 3 phase, this can be a huge difference in the machines available to you or you will have look at getting an adapter. Also consider the noise factor. If you are concerned about noise, this is where a water cooled spindle comes in to play, as it is whisper quiet.

Another good way to get information is to read CNC router reviews as well as reviews about the company itself. Now sometimes people post reviews when they really don’t know enough to be commenting about a machine, but you can find quality reviews that get down to the finer details and qualities of the router. These reviews can be about a specific company or machine, or just about using a CNC for a certain industry in general. Anything that can assist you in making a good decision for yourself. Finally, this is more of a personal recommendation then anything; ensure you are happy with who you are going into business with. When you buy a CNC router, you are entering into business with a company. You will buy the machine, and some people that’s about it. They are done. For many others, and most of the first time buyers, there are questions and concerns along the way. They may need assistance with trouble shooting, or software issues, or replacement parts and or tools. It is good to be happy with the company and the service you receive from the company. They will be someone you deal with again over the days and you want to be able to trust them and know that they care about you and your happiness with your machine. In the end, if you are able to find out what exactly you need, research which routers fit your needs, and trust the person on the other side of the counter, you will have a happy relationship with your CNC router for many, many years.

Once you have determined what you need, what machines can meet those needs, and which company to go with, it is time to purchase your machine. If you are reading this and you are looking to get a machine that best suits your needs please feel free to ask us at CanCam CNC machines and we can help you get started.

By: Nigel Broersma
CanCam CNC Machines