We run a small 3-4 man custom wood shop. We build mainly high end custom interior/exterior doors, entryways and millwork as well as jobbing out our CNC router from time to time. We route mostly 8/4"+ hardwoods to create curved door components, and carvings as well as mdf/ply for jigs/fixtures, and then HDU foam, plastic and aluminum on occasion for sign and custom CNC work. It's not like we are processing panels 8-10 hours a day. We currently can have a lot of down time on the router (which I'm hoping we can change with the new one), but when it is running, we are working it pretty good. Please see our website for examples of our work. www.pacificmillworks.com
Our current router, a Shopbot 4'x8' running a Porter Cable router, is over 10 years old now. It was a great machine to learn the ropes, and to open up our design possibilities, but we are now ready to step up to a better router.
We have been researching mid-range, 5'x10' machines with ATC and vacuum table in the $30,000-$60,000 range.
It had seemed we had narrowed the search down to Shop Sabre's IS 510, Camaster's Cobra, Freedom's Patriot, and MultiCAM's machines (which seems like the best machine, but is probably way too far out of our budget). We like that the above machines (I believe?) are all made in the US. We've also come across a lot of less expensive machines, possibly assembled in the US, with some Chinese components. A couple that seemed interesting were, CNC Factory, and New CNC. We also originally looked at Laguna Tool, but weren't sure how much was sourced over seas for the price.
It seems like a lot of options and companies to weigh up. Obviously we would love to get the best router out there, but we also don't want to pay for more machine than we will ever really need (though I'm hoping the router will open up new avenues for our business).
So I guess a few of our questions are: do any of you have experience with some of the above machinery, good or bad, or would you recommend something else? Pros and cons of varying spindles and components? Size of spindle and frame necessary to produce deep, clean cuts in hardwood (currently looking at 5-12hp)? Best table and vacuum configuration for medium to large parts. And any other input on all the other areas I'm sure I have missed would be much appreciated.
Thank you in advance for your time and effort in just reading (jeez just looked at the preview!) and hopefully responding to us!
Bite the bullet and buy something like an Anderson CabMaxx you will not regret it in the least in years to come. Great heavy duty machine, great support and will make more quality parts than you know what to do with. Experience has taught me that heavy cuts require a heavy machine if you want a lot of quality parts. Buy cheap, buy often.
Seems like you don't turn cnc jobs very fast, so you are able to get by with a light spindle, but for 8/4 + solids, I think you want to stay in the 12-18hp range. Since you have already showed good skills with the one you have now I would push the limits on your budget. You know how to program, so don't let a low end machine hold you back. Heavier iron will turn jobs faster and the increased power and Z axis working range will let you take on jobs lower end machines cannot do. Another thing to consider with doors is a C axis coupled with an aggregate will allow for machining lock sets and hinge machining. For door beveling, I use Vortex 3.5° bevel tooling. 3/4" shank and handles up to 2.5" thick stock. Good luck with your final decision.
I have two CAMaster Cobras, a 508 and a 510. I have had no limitations of any kind from panel production to custom carving. I agree if you are gona do a lot of thicker hardwood work then the 7.5 or 10 HP spindle may be a blessing. My 5hp HSD ATC on the 508 is now 4 years old and has seen some heavy use and shows no sign of being any where near a rebuild. I have owned six CAMasters as I stepped up to the machines I have Now...
I am also totally sold on the wincnc controller, WINcnc has just announced a wireless hand held with dial control for close up work. this is an asset in carved detail work. All of the machines you mentioned have strong merit yet I have had no trouble or limitations of any kind with Mine.
as always I encourage visiting shops with machines. feel free to call My Number is on the Website...
Having had a Shopbot you know the value of Strong Peer to Peer support so the Forum camheads.org is another total plus. there are dozens of Owners of CAMasters there who moved from the Blue machines to the CAMaster so there are those ahead of you if help is needed. The SB machines are a great platform you will have No trouble stepping Up.
Thanks everyone for the responses. It is all very helpful information and really opens our eyes to some other possibilities and avenues we can take. James, that is an amazing carving you did there! We'd love to talk to you more about your CAMaster machines. I'll look up your contact info on your site, thanks! We definitely have our work cut out for us researching this big decision.
I own a 5 X 10 FMT Patriot. Its been a great machine for the two years that I've had it. Very heavy duty with ball screws on all three axis, It has its own Fagor controller which is easy to use. Just as important its a great company to deal with. My advice would be to go look at a couple machine manufacturers on your list and talk to the owners. Good Luck with your search!
Those life size carvings are amazing, James! What sort of material are they made from?
Brian, thank you for the info on the Patriot machine. It is definitely one near the top of our list so far and we are hoping to meet with them for a demo soon!
I would suggest looking at the BIESSE Skill. Has 12 position tool changer, phenolic table, almost 8" z part passage (don't get that confused with z stroke), LIFETIME tech support, full bumper to bumper warranty not limited like some others and priced not much more than what you've mentioned depending on other options you might want.
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