Capabilities of a Point-to-Point Router

If you're buying older used equipment, be aware of its limitations and its condition. August 17, 2006

I am looking at purchasing a Point to Point CNC machine, and I was wondering if I would be able to use the machine to rout panels. I know if I want to rout I am better off with a CNC router, but mainly I will be using it for boring and routing panels after they are cut on the beam saw. I have no CNC experience and that is why I am wondering if it is possible to rout a complete panel if the need arises. Also, if you can rout the panel I am guessing you would have to use a spoilboard, otherwise the parts would fall off the pods?
Am I right in my assumptions?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
For the most part, current P2P machines are primarily designed to produce panel work. The only thing that I would caution is to not buy into an older machine, as the older machines were primarily designed for drilling. They are also more difficult to program with offline CAM software. So, if you're looking at new machines you should have no issue here.

From the original questioner:
To contributor A: I am looking at a 95 Morbidelli point to point - would that router work? If not, what year machines do you consider "new"?

From contributor B:
I own two P2P machines, a Masterwood 315 and a Morbidelli 504. Both bought used, both working as they should for boring and routing. I spent a lot of time researching the used market before purchasing either machine, especially making sure that real tech service was available locally. There are many so-called CNC techs out there, but if you buy used make sure that someone's around that knows your machine. P2P's will do most common routing with no problems, the main concerns being max and min part sizes on your pod hold-downs, and ease of programming. We typically process cabinet parts of all kinds and levels of complexity (complicated borings, etc.) easily every day, and use Cadcode, KCDw, and Aspan to operate our machines. The Morbidelli can route a 4 x 10 panel and has three 9hp routers, so it's pretty versatile. For our custom medical and dental cabinetry the beam saw and P2P combo works well. If possible, call the US distributor's service dept. with the serial # of the machine that youíre interested in; usually they will give you the major service history of the machine.

From contributor C:
I have had a '92 and a '99 Morbidelli P2P. For the most part the hardware is decent as far as being excellent drilling and light routing machines. They are not suitable for routing panels for nesting. Unless you are looking at a machine that has a flat bed and a large vacuum plenum, I would not plan on that type of nesting. Nearly all of the P2P's of that vintage were rail and pod configuration. From my experience the ESA (TRIA) control config was much inferior to the NUM (Xilog) combo. Aspan was inferior to the Alpha Cam option, unless you are only drilling panels with light routing. Any complex routing or panel with more than a couple of hundred machining entities gave Aspan challenges. My advice is this: A heavy router with 10 years production is not such a bad thing. A P2P with 10 years production is near the end of its lifespan. Try to find something newer if your checkbook can handle it. The main problem with P2P's of that age is the software and controls change so often, itís difficult to find techs at the home office with much - if any - experience with the older stuff.

From contributor D:
Most people don't understand what point-to-point means. Boring and drilling is point-to-point. There is no interpolation involved. Routing is not point-to-point except for straight lines parallel to the X or Y axis. Don't confuse a dedicated, flat bed router with a machining center that has point-to-point drilling, usually multi-spindle in both X, Y, and Z axis. The only machine that is a true point-to-point machine would not have a router that is capable of interpolation. If you are sizing your panels on saw, then what you are calling a P2P (equipped with a router) will perform routing for most of your needs.

From contributor C:
To contributor D: You are correct if you are living in the '80's. Point 2 points have been capable of interpolating for a long time. Some can even interpolate with a rotary axis. Even P2P machines I ran in the late '80's could cut arcs. The newer machines are hybrids and though lighter and have software limitations, are quite capable of any project given enough skill and imagination.

From contributor E:
This is a matter of semantics. I think his point was missed - he wrote, "The only machine that is a true point-to-point machine would not have a router that is capable of interpolation." Note the keyword "true." For example, assume a hole drilled at 10,10. The machine would move "point-to-point" to reach the desired coordinates without regard to which axis arrives first. But, if the router was programmed to route G1 from 0,0 to 10,10 (a 45į angle) then that would require linear interpolation and thus both axis have to move at the same rate and arrive at the end point at the same time. Basic G-codes other than G0 are interpolation codes. G0 moves the router in ďpoint-to-pointĒ or positioning mode. Use of the term point-to-point or any of the mangled versions of it seen here and on other forums to describe a CNC machining center is inaccurate and archaic, albeit still common. Anyone so brash to post ďif you are living in the '80'sĒ should know that. "Point-to-point" is a remnant term leftover from the days when point-to-point boring machines had routers added to them that could perform simple linear and circular interpolation. It seems to me that what most people (and obviously the original poster) really refer to by point-to-point machine is pod machine. A pod machine equipped with a 2, 2.5, or 3 axis router can route cabinet parts just as well as a dedicated flat bed or flat table router. But it can't perform NBR as well. A CNC router can drill a hole in point-to-point mode. But by definition, a "true" point-to-point machine cannot interpolate.

From contributor F:
I work for a furniture manufacturer that has four P2Ps and one CNC router. The plywood panels are precut on a panel saw and solid wood panels on a double end tenoner. The P2Ps do about 90 percent of the CNC work and we use spoilboards for hard-to-hold parts. The CNC router is used mostly for chair parts and thick material (over 1-1/4"). Our older P2Ps are 1988 Alberti B21s and they do curves, along with Z axis ramping. I have run routered drawer pulls and complex contours on these machines. The software was not really designed for complex contours and I will get a slight hesitation, but it works.
I have heard a lot about the CAD/CAM issue and feel itís been overblown. I write my programs by hand because the boss will not buy any CAD/CAM software. I did write a SQL database program to program the Alberti from a DXF file. The program only does drilling and straight routes, but itís a start. If I can create that much, then these software gurus should be able to easily create a post processor for various P2Ps.

From contributor G:
We have one Morbidelli 503 and two 600's. One of the machines will spend most of the day routing nested sheets of studs and curved wall plates for reception desks. The machine is a rail and pod table so we cut part way through and then trim the part out with a trimmer router by hand. The router is good and we never have trouble with it. We cut our casework parts on a beam saw and then drill\route them on the Morbidelli. Thanks for the above clarification on point to point. I get tired of people telling me all Morbidelli makes are point to point drilling machines. I have cut a lot of weird shaped pieces, including 3D surfaces (x y and z simultaneous moves) on our so called "point to point".

From contributor H:
I own a author 600 that I converted to a NBM in 2000. I will never look back. It works very well. The only drawback is that Iím on my second spindle at a rate of 10000 per spindle so when I decided to purchase a new machine 6 months ago I went with Anderson. It has had a few bugs but seems to want to run circles around my "point to point".

From contributor D:
The original questioner wrote: "mainly I will be using it for boring and routing panels after they are cut on the beam saw." Then a (flat table) router is not a good choice for him, especially if he is going to require horizontal boring. In this case a 95 Morbidelli in good condition is probably a better choice than a 5-year-old flat table router. We have a pod machine that has a 10 HP router and a tool changer. We donít do NBM, but we often rout unusual shaped parts from full-size sheets. In certain routing situations, a pod machine is preferable to a flat table machine.

I would never buy a used machine "as is" unless it was such a bargain that I could afford repairs or unless I saw it work under power. And I would never, ever rely on a used equipment salesman to communicate the condition or applicability of a used machine.

If he can inspect the 95 Morbidelli point to point and see it run, then he would have a much better understanding of its capabilities and condition. Even then, someone with no cnc experience is treading dangerously in deep water when buying a used CNC machine unless it is from a new equipment dealer who will still support that machine and who will train him to operate it.

From contributor I:
We have a Weeke BP140. My suggestion - look at new machines, have some dealers show you some demos. Make sure they show you processes that are relevant to YOUR needs. Then work backwards and see how old of a machine will meet your needs. This process might help point out the software limitations or issues with an old machine. I'm guessing you'll find something in your price range and capability range in the 1995 to 2002 era.

From contributor J:
I bought a used machine six years ago. I had never used one before and there wasn't anyone to show me how to use it. Since we were doing things without one up until then, it was not a problem for me to play with it until I was ready to put it into play. Truthfully it took almost a year before we were using it properly. It has now done several million dollars worth of work and is still going strong. I upgraded everything to windows applications, and was able to speed things up along the way. At the moment I don't see the need to go to a bigger better machine, but I am sure that time will come. Until then I have my $12,000.00 machine which paid for itself very quickly, and I am happy I made the choice. New is a good way to go, but sometimes that good deal is just around the corner. I should have mentioned that several phone calls to others who had machines helped me to get to the point where I could use it.

From contributor A:
The 95 is probably OK, but check to see if it has a TRIA or NUM PC controller. The TRIA is not very programming friendly and the NUM is. In almost all other aspects most of our customers over the years have found the Morbidelli to be a pretty strong workhorse.

From the original questioner:
I took your advice and called SCM service department. I couldn't believe it, but the girl who answered the phone, told me that the service history of the machine is private information that they do not share. I could not believe her response! I had bought a used Altendorf and a Brandt in the past, and Stiles gave me the information. Anyway, what is the major difference between the NUM and TRIA controllers? Also, the people that have the Morbidelli, what should I watch for when checking the machine. What are this machine's usual problems?

From contributor G:
I guess one big difference between the TRIA and NUM is that NUM runs under Windows, or at least the user interface is all windows. We still use our 503 30 to 40 hours a week Ė it is definitely an old workhorse. Check the vacuum pump, they were sold with a smaller or larger one, the big one is definitely better. The tool changer, if it is the garage style on the side, is slower than the new carousel style. We use Aspan (cad cam) It will write programs for the new machines as well as the older ones with no problems.

I guess buying a used machine is kind of like buying a used car - you don't really know what you're getting until you've run it for a while, but I have nothing really bad to say about our old Morbidelli. Itís still running and the new versions of Aspan will still support the old machine.

From contributor C:
To the casual user, the biggest difference between the older TRIA and NUM is the binary program format that the control reads to execute the program. I have been mostly unsuccessful trying to find a program to convert an ascii format to the TRIA program type. I have one for the NUM program, but not TRIA. That means that unless you like to write all the programs by hand, your only reliable option is to have a seat of Aspan, an Italian CAM package that has conversion rights to the TRIA program. I have asked SCM if they would sell me an Alpha Cam post to make the conversion to the old TRIA program file format and was told they don't have one.

From contributor K:
Yes, you can route a panel on a P2P. We leave a skin on it, so the parts donít fall into the pods. We have a Holzer with the TwinCam software. Itís easy and great to run. Four hours of training and youíre running it. No more writing G code.

From contributor L:
I'm running three Biesse CNC routers, two F24's and a 322. The older one has very basic programming on the machine. The F24's are better. You don't say much as to what you want to machine. Here at Jayco Australia we machine all components for caravan and RV furniture, mainly plywood and laminated plywood, 8 x 4 sheets. The F24 uses a sacrificial sheet of MDF and vacuum holds the job in place. The bit goes through the job by 0.5 of a mil. The 322 needs jigs to be made and is only good for repetitive work. I don't know how it is in the states but the most important thing to me here is parts and service availability. Some of the Euro machines are hard to get parts for and I can't afford the down time. Biesse holds a good stock of spares. There may be better machines but they are no good if I can't have them repaired quickly.