CNC Machines

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for a CNC Machine

December 10, 2012

question markLooking for a new CNC machine tool? Answering these 7 important questions will help you focus your search, save time and frustration, and ultimately guide you toward a sound financial investment.

  1. Why do you need a new CNC machine? You may be replacing an existing piece of equipment, wishing to add capacity, or upgrading to newer technology that will make you more productive. Or perhaps you want to move into new markets with more demanding requirements. Whatever the reasons, it’s important to keep your goals clearly in mind so you don’t end up with less machine than you need, or overpay for features you won’t use.
  2. What materials will you be machining? If the CNC machine you’re looking for will work exclusively on easier-to-machine materials such as aluminum, a lighter-duty piece of equipment may be just fine. On the other hand, if the machine tool will be machining more difficult materials, such as titanium or stainless steel, you’ll need heavier-duty construction for greater stability, and a more powerful spindle drive to maintain higher spindle speeds and feed rates. You’ll also want to consider if there are possible material changes that may affect you in the future. For example, if you expect to make brass parts that carry potable water, recent regulations require the use of no-lead brass, which is a harder material to machine than traditional brass.
  3. What tolerances do you need to hold? If you plan to run close-tolerance parts you’ll need a more rigid, stable machine tool that has the power and structural design necessary to quickly remove material while maintaining accuracy. You will also benefit from a machine that monitors inevitable temperature variations and provides thermal compensation to provide more precise machining throughout the cycle.
  4. How much material do you need to remove? Again, lighter duty machines may be adequate for removing certain materials or near-net-shape parts. On the other hand, if you plan to work from solid stock, forgings or cast iron you’ll need a CNC machine that has adequate horsepower, torque and heavy-duty construction.
  5. High-volume or one-offs? Manufacturers who produce high-volumes of parts need faster, sturdier and more reliable equipment to reduce cycle times and downtime than those who deal with prototypes or low-volume parts runs.
  6. How complex are the parts that you produce? More sophisticated, multi-faceted parts, such as turbine blades, impellers and airframes, require a greater number of operations than simpler parts. Although you may be able to produce these parts by using multiple CNC machine tools, it’s often far more efficient to perform as many operations as possible on a single machine, such as a multi-purpose lathe or vertical machining center (VMC) capable of 5-axis machining. These machines require fewer costly fixtures and specialized tools, reduce operator time per part, provide greater flexibility and increased spindle usage.
  7. Are you running families of parts? CNC machines with more sophisticated and interactive controls provide the flexibility to reduce setup times, manage production schedules and even monitor materials usage. For example, some machine tool controls enable users to simply enter the parameters for a family of parts and the control then writes the program. All of which leads to greater productivity and profitability.

There are more questions to ask, of course, and more answers to consider, including the true cost of CNC machine ownership beyond the initial price. That’s why it makes sense to talk to people who have the information you need. Gosiger CNC machine specialists have the experience and expertise to help you find the best solution for your unique requirements. Call them today.

Thanks to Gosiger CNC machine Sales Engineer and Project Manager, Jim Czekaj for his contributions to this article.

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