Nested-Based Routers Versus Beam Saw and Point-to-Point

Two different technologies, same product why pick one or the other? January 14, 2008

Nested is the hot topic for small cabinet shops. We have a point to point and it made a big difference in speed and accuracy from the old way of building with a line bore machine, and cabinet assembly without construction holes. But I wonder if there is such a big difference between point to point and nested. I see pros and cons with nested, like blind dado construction compared to confirmat screws. I like confirmat, but it doesn't make sense to perform a second operation to get it like I would need to do with nested. I just wonder if there is a big difference in time savings between point to point and nested for a small custom shop, especially given the investment necessary for a nested machine.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor R:
Nested is by far the most efficient for small, custom jobs. However, most of the places I have been take the blind dado cabinet and then staple and screw through the sides, so the time gained with nested base processing begins to erode. We currently are looking at adding a construction borer and nesting... You can do small jobs and get the efficiency of confirmats or dowels.

From contributor J:
Nesting will eliminate the need for multiple machines to get your part. We do nested parts production for other shops and do both blind dado and dowel with confirmat. I suggest the blind dado for those who do a residential product with a 1/4" back. For commercial, the dowel must be used in most cases, so no discussion needed. For those who like 5/8 or 3/4 material all around on one sided material, the blind dado is more work than dowel. We have many different methods we must follow to give the customer the parts they want. When a new customer comes in now, we try to council them on what will machine and assemble well based on all the above criteria and some others.

All that the point to point did for you was speed up the machining. The handling and product flow are the same as before. If the volume did not justify it, you ended up with a really expensive but fast boring machine. Nesting allows you to eliminate all the extra steps (best with blind dado). The software is a big component of doing nested well, so be careful there before making this move.

From contributor L:
Face frame or frameless?

Notched toe or levelers?
AWI specs or market dictated methods?
Integral or plant-on finished ends?
Dadoed or flush-mount back?
Nails/staples or screws?
What is your present production constraint?

These questions and others will dictate the method. In my opinion, small shop = nested.

From the original questioner:
Face frame or frameless? Both, including flush inset and beaded flush inset.
Notched toe or levelers? Loose (separate) kicks.
AWI specs or market dictated methods? Cabinets are built per our standards.
Integral or plant-on finished ends? Integral finished ends - we don't care if the inside of the cabinet is different material at finished ends.
Dadoed or flush-mount back? 1/2" backs flush mounted, but the finished ends are rabbeted.
Nails/staples or screws? We use confirmat/dowel currently.
What is your present production constraint? Getting the jobs to the shop floor.

Contributor J, the CNC machines faster, cabinets assemble faster with confirmat/dowel construction, and drawer glides and hinge plates install faster with the pre-drilled holes. The nested still takes time to saw the parts, but probably faster that using a slider, and of course with less material handling. But how much faster?

From contributor L:
The question may not be how much faster, but how many man hours does it take? Nesting does it (when done properly) without man hours being spent. The operator is doing other things during this time. Not so with any other method.

If your shop is out-producing your office, work on that. If you are already using software that goes to your machines, then your software needs to buck up and get the jobs out more efficiently. You touch on a point that a lot of shops overlook - what happens before the job gets to the shop floor? If this is not addressed, we are wee-weeing in the wind with any new (expensive) technology. I once saw a figure by an "expert" that showed that the cabinet business is only about 16% actual production of the physical product. I tend to agree. I have the same constraint you do, agreeing with the statement that Bob Buckley likes to use, "the greatest constraint is the owner" of most small shops. If you have already invested in the point to point, and it out-produces your office, work on the office until the paperwork starts backing up at the shop door, then find out where the shop's constraints are.

From contributor M:
Here is my thought on nesting versus point to point. Nesting is more efficient - period. Big shop or small shop. Less investment, less labor, less space.

1. Less investment in machinery (router vs. panel saw and point to point).
2. Less labor. One operator instead of two - nesting completely machines the sheet in about 6 to 7 minutes - plus when he is done unloading and loading, he can do additional machining such as dowel insertion or part labeling.
3. If the ouput of 1 sheet every 6 or 7 minutes is not enough, buy another router with the money you originally saved from not needing to buy the second machine or add a second shift. It really is that easy.

From contributor K:
Nesting is not the perfect solution for every application. Keep these things in mind. A saw can cut 3, 4, 5 panels at a time; nested, 1. Tooling costs are less with the point to point saw method. On a nested you can't touch any parts until the whole sheet is done. With a saw, the parts can be in the edgebander as each comes off the saw. You will never produce as much with nested as a saw point to point combo. With nested, you can cut max 60-80 sheets per day; you can cut that on a saw in an hour. The only advantages are if you cannot batch any parts and if you have limited space and limited budget.

From contributor S:
NBM is basically a gimmick for selling CNC routers. It would be interesting to see how many businesses are gone within 5 years after buying an NBM CNC router.

From contributor E:
I agree with contributor S. Nested based is a machining strategy, not a machine configuration. People have been nesting parts on CNC routers for many years before it became a buzzword. By the way, you never hear the nested based router discussed with plastic fabricators. Talk to some of them and find out how many point to point or Pod and rail machines they use. I think you will find that nested, like contributor S said, is a sales gimmick to sell to cabinetmakers. If you don't want to saw parts, buy a router.

From contributor J:
You need to stay current on the developments within this process. The limitation in nesting was always the tooling speeds running much slower than the overall potential speeds of the machine. The tooling has recently caught up, allowing you upwards of 2000 IPM cutting speeds. I did not believe it myself until I saw it with my own eyes. No deflection, no chipping, good chip collection. Now the point to point machine speeds will make a lot of sense to put on a nested machine. I have not finished with the numbers, but I firmly believe with this advance, nesting is much more than a fad or small shop solution. We are currently a nested shop looking to add capacity and I went in with the opinion that an 80 sheet per day output and greater would require us to make this change. I don't think so anymore.

From contributor P:
Cell is basically a gimmick for selling CNC beam saws and ptp (they can sell twice as much equipment). It would be interesting to see how many businesses are gone within 5 years after buying a ptp and beam saw.

From contributor L:
A small custom shop is what we're talking about. Nested allows us to compete with the big boys on the type of projects we generally do (each cabinet may be a different size and configuration), even if the router is slower. Our average job will only be about 25-30 sheets, which I (1 man) can completely cut, mill, label, edgeband, and end drill (confirmats) in 10-12 hours with speeds at or below 600ipm. And with the right nesting sequence, my assembly man can start almost immediately so that by the time I'm finished with the router, most of the cabinets are on the truck. Not bad for a 2-man operation. I have only been able to do this a couple of times because of px with my particular router and I agree that a beam saw/ptp is the best for large volume work, but may be overkill for a shop that doesn't want to get into that game, although as was brought up, the gap is closing. It is good to keep in mind that for any shop, a router can do much more than cut cabinets, so its potential to enter or expand other markets is much greater as well.

From contributor E:
I was only pointing out the fact that nested based part machining is not a new concept, as it has been presented in the past couple of years.

From contributor M:
Contributor K, your comparison is not valid because you are using 2 men and 2 machines, and I am only using 1 man and 1 machine.

To compare apples to apples... 2 men on 2 routers will out-produce 2 men - one on saw and one on a point to point - every time, plus have the dowels already inserted or parts labeled, or feed an edgebander, etc.

The cell concept (saw and point to point) is really not even a true cell - a cell is when you are able to do two things at once - nesting you can, saw and point to point you can't. Ever watch a saw in action? Out of the total time it takes to cut, only about 25% to 50% of the time is of value (actual cutting); most of the time is non-value - sliding sheets, moving cuttoffs, rearranging offal to cut again, etc. Nesting is close to 90% value - machine is constantly running and you are able to do a secondary operation. Nesting is more efficient.

From the original questioner:
The original question is, is there that big of a difference between the two to justify the high cost of a nested machine? It seems to me that bringing a point to point into a shop that was doing it the old way is a 100% increase in machine time, assembly time, and finish assembly (hinge plates and drawer glides). Now, how much increase in the above operations do you get if you switch from point to point to nested?

From contributor H:
The bottom line on this topic is simple (and has been covered many times here in the forum). If you do high volume production where you are producing 10's, 100's, or even 1000's of the same item, you are far better off going with PTP/saw combo. This will give you much greater material yield and allow faster overall processing of the finished product. It will also allow you to utilize a wider range of materials used in the finished product.

If most of your work is onesie, twosie, then you definitely want to go with NBM. With this option you will (obviously) not need to have a saw. Your material yields will go down, but you will gain time by performing fewer secondary operations. You will also buy fewer (different) materials, as you will make more parts from the same material.

From contributor C:
We looked at it both ways when we bought our router. We chose to go with a Biesse 5x12 flat/grid table. I can see both sides to the argument. I think it all depends on what amount of the same size cabinets you're doing. We do 90% boxes on our machine and use Cabinetvision screen to machine which really simplifies the whole thing - especially with different size cabinets. We nest one complete room of a project at a time and send that room straight to the bander and then build up. This way works great for us.

I don't see us going out of business in 5 years just because we went with a nested base system. I think only the market or workload would dictate that - not the particular type of machining process we chose.

From contributor S:
"Cell" is just a buzzword that came about long after panels were cut on table saws, sliders, beam saws, and angular systems; and then processed with a variety of machines including staple guns, hand drills, biscuit joiners, vertical and horizontal boring machines, and P2P machines. The cell concept is the way it was always done before it was called "cell."

It would be interesting to compare the business failures to the processing methods. For a proxy of this, go to Ex-factory and other used equipment sites and compare the number of late model beam saws to the number of late model flat table routers.

"Nested allows us to compete with the big boys on the type of projects we generally do."

No, it doesn't. You aren't competing with them because the type of projects that you generally do aren't the types of projects that they generally do.

Also, I never suggested that someone will go out of business because of going NBM. I suggest that it's more likely that they will because of all the hype and the "gee-whiz" factor associated with NBM and CNC routers, and therefore more buyers are unprepared and inexperienced to deal with the issues of NBM that are usually more complicated than the traditional cell method.

From contributor J:
Neither is a gimmick. They both have their place and are going nowhere, I assure all of you on both sides.

I do agree that the smart nested and PTP shops should not be competing. They are different in approach, which means they should be looking at different products and volumes to make them effective. I think the gap may close in the next few years and there may be a different tune being sung by the big boys. It is dependant on some other factors all converging to make nested better even for the big shop... isn't there yet.

The other thing I agree on is the cheap nested machine suppliers inducing people to buy who have no business going this direction. Nesting can be more complex than PTP machining and requires a lot more control from a software perspective to do it well. You have to be able to address issues with programming that were not there in PTP format.

Bottom line is I will be here nesting and so will most PTP style shops. If I continue to grow, I may or may not be nesting anymore. I will go with what makes sense and I don't much care where that is.

From contributor C:
That was why I said I see both sides. If I had to sit here and build catalogs for all the parts to different sizes of cabinets, I would not be very happy with nested base. With our software, though, it is very easy and productive.

From contributor L:
When I say "big boys," I mean QuakerMaid, Smallbones, etc. The router puts me in a production class in custom work on a par with these guys, and in fact, because of the lack of middlemen between me and my customer that these guys have, I can give my customer a product of similar or better quality (and actually more custom) for a little less money, and make more money myself. The router is not the only thing that contributes to this model, but it is a huge factor.

"I like confirmat, but it doesn't make sense to perform a second operation to get it like I would need to with nested."

You are already performing that second operation when you have to transfer your blanks to the ptp. At least with nesting, you only have to end drill horizontal members; your end panels only need edgebanding, or with face frame, they are complete off the router. I would gag if I had to cut my stuff on the slider (or beam saw) and then have to machine each part at my router (they can be set up to do this). As others have said, there is a place for both, and the success of either is in the hands of the management of the business, the economy, the market, etc. Neither is a gimmick. Ask those of us who started out in the '60's and '70's with little more than a tablesaw and nail gun.

It would be interesting to see which setup would win a race against the other in a couple of different real-life scenarios. Any of you sponsors out there like to ante-up since you all are the ones promoting the machines? Which one would get the truck loaded first and how many guys or gals would it take? That might be fun to watch.

From contributor I:
A lot of "gimmick" statements come from people who don't know the software used for nested based cutting, like C-ware or C-vision. If people saw this software in action, I think the ptp versus nested would be over. The only way beam/ptp can beat nested based cutting is if you have hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of parts that are of the identical shape/size, so the saw can cut multiple sheets at once. Without this advantage, there's no way, which basically means with the right software, for custom or even semi-custom, nested is the future.

From contributor O:
What do you consider a small and a big shop? We have 14 guys working in our shop. We have been using the EB 70, which is a PtP beam saw, for about 5 years, but just recently purchased a CNC nested based Rover by Biesse. The Rover has a 20' bed so it allows you to load a 4X8 sheet while the other side is running. Most of the time by the time you label, unload all the parts, and load a new panel, the other side is ready for the same process. And like many of you have said, the thing that cost the most money is time, not material.

In my opinion, the nested based is better for bigger jobs, while the ptp is good for small jobs. And of course the CNC is great because it allows you do radius, which we are doing a lot of.

From contributor L:
I would consider you a mid-sized custom shop. However, the nice thing is your equipment is probably allowing you to produce more than a much larger shop could produce using conventional woodworking tools. But then again, there probably aren't that many of those left out there, and their days are numbered. That leads to the question (for another thread, no doubt) of what the advantage of having all this stuff will be if everybody else has it too. It will still be the best businessperson, not the best craftsperson, who will win the day. I can see that a computer geek with a good eye for design would be my worst nightmare as a competitor, and he would never have to drive a nail! Just some off-the-wall thoughts on Friday evening.

From the original questioner:
What I am trying to determine is the difference between the two - point to point and nested. I have a job on the floor that we are tracking the cutting and machining time for. I have allowed 7 hours of cutting and 7 hours of machine time for 20 sheets of 3/4 melamine and VG fir for a kitchen, which I know we will beat. A nested machine will process 20 sheets in 5 hours including load and unloading, correct? Quick math says 9 hours at a shop rate of $100.00 is $900.00. At that rate I would need to produce 100 kitchens to even begin to break even on the cost of a nested machine. We still benefit from fast assembly and fast glide and hinge plate installation from either system. And as a side note, we did all rips and banded them. Because we can't get pre-finished VG fir banding, we are stacking up all of our banded rips and finishing them all at once. After finishing the banding, we will cross cut to length and then machine the parts - something that nested would not really allow.

From contributor B:
1: Where did the 9 hours come from, and how was a shop rate of $100.00 derived?
2: By ripping, banding, and finishing, then machining, how much time did you spend sorting and handling?

From contributor L:
Each method requires specific processes and products to maximize throughput. There is no way to make a comparison in the case above because of the unfinished edgebanding and the process you chose to finish it. I only use unfinished eb on parts that will need to be finished anyway. Everything else gets a matching PVC every time, no exceptions, because those edges will be behind a door, etc. Until both systems are maximized in all respects, from beginning of work through the shop and onto the truck, there can be no real comparison of which is better. Until policies and techniques are reconciled with the machinery we have, we will not be getting the most from any system.

From the original questioner:
The $900 is the difference between the number of hours (at $100 per hour) between sawing and machining on point to point and processing on a nested machine. I think the time handling and sorting is more than made up on the finishing end since we won't need to mask off and finish the banding on assembled boxes.

Contributor L, I hear you, and this banding situation does not come up often. I wanted to point out the option available to me with point to point that is not available with nested. This particular job is pretty high end and part of $200,000 worth of cabinets. I am unwilling to apply PVC to this project

From contributor L:
Aside from the ptp/nbm thing, you might try finishing a piece of veneer sheet goods and slicing it for eb. I've done it a couple of times and it works out okay, but it is just another work-around. Another method would be to finish raw edgebanding and maintain it as a roll. A shop-made setup works pretty good there too. I understand you wanting to use wood for your project, but that is only to accommodate perception, not fact. Fact is, PVC is a better product than wood when used as it should be (on secondary surfaces). There will always be some catch to any system. We have to decide how much of that we're willing to live with when we commit to any production technique to produce the kind of work for the kind of market we wish to serve, so your original question may be unanswerable in general, but each shop has to work it out as to which way they want to go. I want to stay as small as possible from a man-power standpoint. I have a 9000' shop, but my entire box production process takes only 1500', from first cut to the truck, with room to spare for forklift, carts, etc., so for me, even though I've had lots of problems with my particular machine, I believe nested is the way to go.