Buying Used CNC Equipment
Is a good deal on used iron worth the potential headaches? Pros share opinions and experiences. August 30, 2005
Is it worth the risk to buy a late model used CNC router? Do you get the same level of support from the manufacturer? I've bought used equipment in the past and have had problems. I would like to hear from those who bought used.
What you need is a good support group to help you find and purchase a machine. It is hard to go after a machine cold turkey, and hope you get the correct one. The support team should be able to help you find the machine, install, software, and train on the machine. The biggest problem is depending on what machine you get, you will have to deal with the dealer, and if they do not sell the machine, they might not get to it as soon as you would like, because they are busy with new machines. Check out The Service Group - they are an independent company that can install, train and deal with many different brands of CNC.
There are great values out there in used CNC routers. I agree that it is helpful to have some expert help along the way. I have done business with The Service Group, and have never been disappointed.
There are great deals on used CNCs, but there are also headaches waiting for a new home. Bottom line is you can save 50% or more, but you need the time and expertise to go find them. I looked for a year and ended up buying new because I had a job that needed doing.
Used heavy CNC routers over ten years old routinely go at auction for 5-15% of their original purchase price. I have maintained new machines and old ones. If anything, spare parts for older heavy routers (Shoda and Heian particularly) are more reasonable and easier to get than parts for many newer machines. This is because there are so many of the machines out there, and domestic machine shops have found a good market in manufacturing replacement parts at a fraction of the OEM price.
The Fanuc controls on Heian and Shoda machines (and many others) are well supported all the way back to the early 1980s. These controls are the most numerous and well supported in the world, with excellent manufacturer support as well as a huge third party support infrastructure.
Yes, there are sometimes performance issues. The older machines are not usually as fast, and complex 3D machining can be a problem. For most customers, this is very nearly meaningless. There are also turkeys out there: bad designs that tend to have chronic problems. After a few years in the field, everyone in the industry knows about them and why they should be avoided.
I have installed new equipment and used equipment. I cannot really say that there is any difference in the success rate. If you do your homework, you will probably come out okay. Whether buying new or used, find a pro that you can trust to guide you through.
I am only now getting a handle on our used 1996 Motionmaster Router. It's been almost 3 months of scrabbling along with no manuals or help except a few phone calls to Ray at CNCPartsDepartment, the Motionmaster expert.
Was it worth it? I saved a pile of dough and got a great machine, it was late model and had a 2003 controller upgrade, so it performs wonderfully. Fagor has been next to no help - Ray has been indispensable. You need to find a person who can walk you through the issues with knowledge. Staring at that new giant heap of metal deposited in your shop can give you a funny feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. And I had CNC experience and am fine with writing code and light troubleshooting. If you have no CNC experience, be prepared - you need a third party to help and teach or else go new. Count on 3-6 months to become productive on an old machine. I have had to re-write all of my files because of changes of the placement and orientation. But I do feel it was worth it.
I bought a used Thermwood and have had great success, but I can see where buying a new one would have been an equally good decision. Thermwood sells reconditioned machines from time to time and their support has been awesome. New or old, the company should stand behind the machine and Thermwood really does. I am the kind of person who really likes to figure things out, so buying used was natural for me, but could be really frustrating for some. Depends on your personality and finances. I had the money to buy used and take my time to get going. New or old, you will have to invest a good amount of time getting things right for your application.
One thing to think about is the control. If you purchase a machine with a Fanuc control, just about anyone can help you out. The machine itself is just iron. I would recommend purchasing any machine with a Fanuc control.
Your experience with a used CNC router depends a lot on the level of service you get from the dealer. Some used dealers provide tech support, setup, etc, and actually know how to help you if you call them up. Others just want to sell you the machine, and never see you again. If the machine works perfectly, that's okay, but most of the time there are issues with setup, programming, and software that first time CNC users need to be guided through. Look for a used CNC dealer who is willing to provide support and step you through these issues.