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When buying a CNC, what should I consider?
July 14, 2011
Dear Control Engineering: If I'm buying a new machine with CNC controls or retrofitting an old one, what are some of the questions I should ask prospective vendors?
When selecting a CNC, consider faster program processing, easier integration and use, customization capabilities, and tooling speed. Also look at CAM integration, volumetric error compensation, CNC/IT integration, motion system connectivity, simpler integration, setup, use, maintenance, and human-machine interface standardization.
Prior to selecting your next CNC machine, see the following checklist based on information from CNC manufacturers.
1) What’s your industry? Are there specific needs for your application? High-production markets, such as aerospace, automotive, and medical, may have different needs from others, such as wood, marble, glass, presses, grinding, cutting, or forming.
2) What types of machines will you use? Dedicated turning and milling machines may have different needs than complex 5-axis, multi-spindle, and extended bed gantry machining centers. Needs may differ for prismatic part production, mold and die work, lathes, and other areas in the machine tool industry.
3) What kind of facility are you in? Contract manufacturer needs may differ from those of a small job shop, for instance.
Read 15 more considerations at...
FEEDBACK! Have you purchased a CNC recently or are you considering such a purchase and have additional questions to raise or advice to offer? Leave your comments below please. Comments are approved to avoid spam - be patient; we'll get to it soon! (Cannot see the comments box? Click here and scroll down to leave your advice about buying or specifying a CNC.)
Friday, 23-09-11 10:04
Phil, thanks for your comments. By wearable components, I think the source was talking technologies such as safety glasses that incorporate an HMI or a small HMI screen to strap onto your wrist, perhaps in combination with a microphone in a headset or motion sensors that detect hand, head, or even eye movements. Streaming video could help verify set up or maintenance.
Beyond wearable, someday there will be a floating HMI touch screen area. Did you see the movie Minority Report, where the Tom Cruz character used an HMI in the air? That was fiction, of course, but holographic push buttons were introduced a few years back.
Below are other cool examples of mobile HMI technologies that machine tool builders could incorporate. Just a few years ago, who would have thought one small, rugged, wireless pendant could help a roving operator work with multiple CNC machines?
Microvision introduces wearable headset
Wearable alignment unit
Continued growth seen for wearable systems market
Video via Ethernet, now
Choosing HMI Data Entry Tools
I do like your idea, though. A CAT50 tool-holding smock might be useful, too... and funny to see on the runway.
- Mark Hoske, Control Engineering content manager
See also the HMI channel at
Friday, 16-09-11 17:44
The list provided of what to consider when buying a CNC was very useful. Is there anything about wiring/installation, special equipment, training, tooling and consumables, set-up and inspection that should be considered?
Thursday, 14-07-11 14:27
Hi Mark, let's not forget the ever expanding free open source alternative: http://www.linuxcnc.org/ Wearable components? Radio controls I guess. 'conjures up thoughts of CNC fashion. I wonder what the CAT50 porter smocks will look like on the runway this year.