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CNC router life10/17
I've been wondering what the life span of a CNC router typically is. Measured in spindle hours of economic operation. I know there are a lot of variables. Build quality (they all claim to be HD) Electronics obsolescence, Functional obsolescence, software issues.
I'm considering the purchase of another CNC in the mid price range, $100K to 150K. I've looked @ the smaller shop machines in the $50-$100K range. They seem OK for the their target use but lack some of the features that make the next step up more productive & maybe longer lived. This has been a slow process for me.
We did some heavy research on flat table CNC machines and it's come down to the Morbidelli M400 Full Cell 5x12 or the Biesse Rover BG Full Cell 5x12.
Both companies claim 20+ year life span. And I can tell you that I worked at a company before that had a Morbidelli 5x12 open gantry for over 20 years. The company I currently work for has a Holzher pod and rail CNC and they have had it for 15 years and it's on it's last leg. The controller needs to be replaced which is around 10k so we figured we would get a new machine that is more advanced. So I think 20 years is a fair statement.
This is a good post, something I've wondered about too. We have a Weeke Pod and Rail that is 15 years old, and still running great. I can see that in my case, the machine will still have functional value for a while. The issue I suspect will be getting parts for the machine after some time. This can be mitigated if your aware of it
For instance, We had a few air selenoids for the drill bank go bad. They are a specific festo part. I ordered what I needed immediately from stiles, and ordered another full set from festo, as they are no longer being manufactured. These would be critical to have exact replacements, as they "Pop" into a larger "circuit board". I'd hate to have to retrofit a new board. Many other parts will remain off the shelf from vendors. It is key on an old machine to identify ones that will be harder to find as time goes on, and stock pile the common wear parts. I my case, even if this extends the life of the machine by a year or two it'll be more than worth it.
I would think 20 years should not be a problem considering on higher end machines considering you maintain them. If you run more than one shift it change as well.
I work for a small closet company in the midwest. We have a Weeke that is 13 years old. Mechanically still fine. Parts are getting more difficult. Software and controllers are where things are getting bad, they are no longer supporting what we have and pushing to buy new.
My experience is that after 10+ years, the machines outlive the technical experience of the tech support team from the manufacturers or resellers, especially with the European machines. With software changing and controllers slaved to the software, I have found myself in the position of only being able to speak with "the one guy" on support staff that has been around long enough to discuss controller x running an old machine. My current machine is 13 years old running a Fanuc and so far the support has been excellent. Had the same experience with my first Fanuc way back too(so far back it had a tape reader). Had the German and Italian models in between.
Good points Mike!
Mike, that is what makes Fanuc a great platform for a controller, guaranteed parts availability for 25 years, continuity in tech support, software compatibility. This insures the value in your CNC investment way into the future.
I've had two routers with Fanuc controls. No problems and support is available widely because they are the standard on better metal machines. They cost more up front but are worth the extra $. I also have a machine with German controllers, never again.
Long ago I was in some metal working shops that had tape reading machines, have never seen them in a wood shop. But then when I was in Architecture college we had punch cards! It took 5 lbs. of cards to do a very simple drawing. An error on one card was very time consuming to find in the stack. There was a room in the campus library where you could reserve time to make the cards. Then you had to take them to the admin processing center and feed them into the reader. They had a plotter that took forever to do a simple drawing. Amazing that anyone ever continued with computers based on that stuff.
Yes. The good old days! I seriously miss them sometimes.
I'm all for other people giving up on good old iron.
All you need to keep them going is common sense and some good contacts. When the CMOS battery in my 1999 Biesse died I found someone who could make a new one. $12.00 and 3 hours on the phone to Europe and back in business.
Learn how to read and write G code and post processors.
The most important component of making money is keeping it. I'll pick a $25K 15 year old machine over a $200K new one any time. It's $175K less (plus financing) that I have to pay off. I'd rather keep the money in my pocket or work less.
Since we are on the topic of router life, on a 3/8" compression bit that cuts out melamine and laminated panel, how many 4x8 sheets of material of each can i cut before i have to sharpen or replace that bit?? Ball park it, i know there are tons of things that come into play.
Since we went to the Onsurd Marathon bits we are getting much better life. HPL laminated sheets always trash bits fast. These coated bits doubled in life over standard 3/8 carbide compression spirals in HPL. My operator is very carful to change out bits any time there is a sign of poor cut. Used to be we would only get 40-50 sheets of melamine. Now we are getting 90-100. The part of the bit that dulls and leaves a poor finish is the very end points. That can be helped by cutting into the spoil board deeper but that then requires more surfacing and shorter board life. We keep a second tool holder set with a new bit so no run time is lost with tool replacement. Onsrud just brought out a new version of the coating, we haven't tried it yet. Other companies probably have similar coatings. Comparing # of sheets cut from one shop to another isn't a very accurate comparison due to the subjective nature of "quality."
I see it as what kind of investment do you want to make? I have gone through 5 cncs each one costing no more than 5K to 8K at the most over the last 7 years changing machines only because of the technological upgrades and abilities each offered. As my skills and the production capabilities increased making still only lateral moves financially with the machines and skyrocketing with what the shop was able to provide to its customers and in the way of production it has been more than worth the investment. If I haven't mentioned it, none of these machines have been newer than 2002 as of yet. I think everyone would love to have a 200k brand new machine with all the bells and whistles as well as full tech support but for most of us with smaller shops it is just that (a dream). However find a good machine that you can learn on. Then make a pile of money with it and move on to a better newer one. Even a 1990 Shoda or a 1998 Masterwood Speedy in my case can open up possibilities that weren't there before.
ML If your approach works for you, great. There are some costs involved that raise the cost considerably beyond the purchase price. My approach has to be different because our cost of lost time due to a machine failure is very high. 90% of our parts go through the router. While we have a plan B, it would drastically slow through put. Almost everything we make is based on what can come off a nested router. Mechanically good routers can last a long time by replacing parts. Even electronics can be fixed or totally replaced but face other issues of obsolescence.
In my search for a new machine I've concluded that a new current state of the art machine will be at least 25% more productive than our current machine. Not because they claim faster feeds and all that mostly BS. Just the reduced cycle time mostly due to the auto load, clean, unload system. There are other smaller time savings from many things. But they all add up. More tools available, more drills, less cleanup time, less dust in the air, etc...
A cnc router from China good manufacturer also can last for more than 8 years working, except the spindle motor. As spindle is long time high speed rotating, the bearing wear down, need change.