Heavy-duty CNC router recommendations
Suggestions choosing for a good-quality CNC router, offering adequate tech support and training. February 28, 2001
I am looking for a reliable heavy duty CNC router, with good tech support, training and software integration.
The degree of tech support will be influenced by the machine vendor, regardless of brand. The manufacturer will be the ultimate backer of the machine, and parts supplier, but the vendor can make it easy or incredibly painful.
When I looked into a KOMO machine, the vendor, Brockway Machinery, worked very closely with the manufacturer. If a customer needed anything, they could count on rapid response, and very good tech support.
I have also worked with a small manufacturer, with very limited staff. This proved to be a challenge in the tech support area.
There are a lot of options out there. Stiles has at least two lines of routers. The Heian, which is in the same class as the Shoda (in my opinion), has a solid reputation for quality, but, like with a Shoda, you will need deep pockets. I have spoken with Stiles people and believe they have a good service department.
Your particular routing needs may have a bigger impact on whose machine you want than just the name or price.
Look for a vendor who offers factory training before the machine hits the floor, as well as training on site, on your machine, for your operators. The same goes for the CAD/CAM package. Alpha Cam offers some "factory" training, and Building Blocks will provide training at or near your site. The software that you choose will, of course, be dictated by the flavor of your machining needs. 3D engraving and mind numbing pocketing with islands can be done well with AlphaCam. Extreme optimization of drilling routines and fast nesting of cabinet components is well done by Building Blocks.
Going to the factory is always a nice option, but it is much more efficient if you can work with a local technology center. So when you are doing your shopping, visit the local technology center. Get a demonstration on the machine cutting your product, meet the technicians, and visit the classroom. The other thing to think about is that the guy you train to run the machine will probably quit for $.05 more down the street. When this happens, you want to be up and going ASAP. A local service center make that possible.
Heian and Shoda are excellent machines. You are only forgetting CMS. They have a heavy duty machine that can do anything you want. They also have excellent support on software issues.
You need to examine your application before you specify the router you need. In addition, you must look very carefully at the software issues involved. How will you create programs, where do your designs get produced? What is your labor situation? My opinion is that Heian and Shoda are the top tier of CNC router. The next tier is composed of Northwood, CMS and KOMO (not necessarily in that order). Plus, there are Point to Point machines that are blurring the distinction between machines of both types.