CNC Table Size: 4x8 Versus 4x10

CNC shop owners consider the costs and advantages of investing in equipment with a larger table. August 8, 2008

We're getting ready to buy a CNC for our commercial casework/architectural millwork company. Looking at a 4 x 8 with a rake. What are the reasons to get a 10? It's more money than the 8, and the sheets are more money.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor T:
4' x 10' would be a waste, for me. Now a 5' or 6' x 10' would be great. I could run two 5' x 5' sheets at a time. I got a job now out of 2" thick HDU. If I could swing a 6 ft circle it would save me a ton of time laminating sections together. Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had bought the bigger table. I guess it just depends on your needs.

From contributor O:
It depends entirely on what material sizes you stock and regularly use. I stock only 9' x 4' sheets, so went for a 10' x 5' CNC. An 8' x 4' CNC would be of limited use to me, but then it is probably the most popular size around, so many cabinetmakers would be fine with this size. Other companies that use a lot of 12' sheets would find my 10' x 5' of little use.

The larger machines do cost more and the vacuum requirements are also greater, so it makes little sense going larger than you really need - but even less sense going too small. Also an argument could be made that cut quality ultimately decreases slightly with larger machines due to additional flex.

From contributor M:
There are good reasons to do either, and as OG says, only you can answer. The downsides to a 4 by 8 are very few, though. If you do nesting out of primarily 5 by 12s on very large jobs, have material handling systems to move the large sheets and the volume to handle it, run big sheets and go for the large machine. Another advantage is the ability to process taller cabinets on an occasional basis.

If, though, like most shops, you do 98 percent 4 by 8 sheets, go for the 4 by 8. I ran pre-finished on a 5 by 10 Andi for a while and found myself covering the open portion of the table for almost every sheet with scrap. It was a real drag. If you go with the larger table, zoning the vacuum would be a big help.

If you process a significant amount of pre-finished or wood grain material, stick with the 4 by 8. You will likely find the availability and price of the larger sheets a barrier. If it is all melamine, then the larger table is okay.

My thought is that there are almost always workarounds for the occasional large piece on a job. Get a machine that works very well for the vast bulk of your work, rather than compromise your standard system for some versatility on the odd part.

If you get the larger table, definitely look at having a 4 by 8 zone on the table, even if it is actuated with a valve worked by hand. It is the best of both worlds.

From contributor M:
If you make countertops, you might want to consider a longer table. Otherwise, rule of thumb is 4' x 8' for cabinets.

From contributor C:
Size of your bed in no way will determine cut quality. We chose a 5x12 Andi because our vendors stock sheets up to that size. As for blocking off or zoning the bed, we don't have valves. We only block the remainder of the table for porous materials or nests with small parts. Pump HP and vacuum pressure are the big factors. My advice is get what you will need and as much as you can at that.

From contributor B:
I have found that you really shouldn't buy "just what you need" to do the work you are doing now. With such an expensive tool, you have to think about the future and the prospect of getting additional work. Thinking should be to get what you can afford within reason. We have a 6X14 foot table with 8 vacuum zones. You can use the extra room on your table to do second operations and/or just larger parts.

From contributor O:
Even if you only nest 4x8 material, a 4x10 table can have plenty of utility. The ability to pendulum process single parts gives flexibility beyond nesting. A 10' table is about the minimum to allow dual zone processing on a fixed table machine, if it allows pendulum processing at all. The extra 2' of table can be set up with jigs or clamps for common operations other than nesting, reducing or eliminating setup time. Flexibility is the key word here!

From contributor W:
I have ordered my second machine and this one will be 5 x 8. The one job a year with a 144" panel did not justify space, vac, etc., but 5x5 Baltic birch and 5x8 panels did. The 4x8 is fine - it just paid for the next machine.