Payback Period for an Investment in CNC Equipment

CNC owners discuss how quickly new machinery can be expected to pay for itself. May 14, 2006

I'm sure it's different for each shop that buys a CNC router, but I was wondering if anyone would care to share their experiences with a rough estimate for how long it took your shop to earn back the cost of your CNC rig? I'm interested both for job shops and for in-house uses.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
We bought a Busellato Jet200RT router from Delmac Machinery and the ROI is almost comical! Like most companies our machine is financed for 60 mos. With one operator, our machine can earn its monthly payment in 8 hours! In other words, I only need to run the machine for 8 hours a month to pay for itself. Of course we run it more than that-so you do the math! - This machine is a pure profit center. Don't buy some low budget machine - you will be frustrated and outgrow it. And most of all: spend the money on software - it is big time important!

From contributor B:
We spent $110K eight years ago on our first router and software. It reduced the time to produce our casework by enough to save 2 employees. This last year we bought a larger router and much more complex software. They don't have to run 8 hours a day to pay for themselves and have many benefits beyond speed, accuracy, reduced handling, (we now run nested as much as possible) and they reduce assembly time considerably. You can do things with them that would have taken too long to do manually to complete. It takes a good program and a good CAD man to make the system work efficiently. There is a learning curve with assorted frustrations but for us it has been well worth it.

From the original questioner:
Not knowing what two employees would cost you with overhead, am I correct in guessing that you made back the cost of your first router inside of a year?

From contributor B:
We figured it paid for its self in the first year. We were busy in a 15 man shop.

From contributor C:
There is a cautionary side to this. I agree that these machines can pay off well, mine certainly has. However, I have seen a few shops buy a very nice piece of CNC equipment (actually a lot more machine than they needed) and go under trying to pay for it. I know of another who is barely making his payments and wishes he'd kept on outsourcing. This stuff isn't always the answer so do your research!

From contributor D:
I have one of the little CNC machines - a Techno LC4896. Like everyone else, mine paid for itself in under a year. CNC plus software was in the 25K range. I'm a small 2 man shop (with part-timers). I'd not own a wood shop without one. Donít skimp on the software - that can make or break the ROI. Also, don't buy more machine than you need. Anticipate your future needs but don't spend money you don't need to spend. Know your shop and buy what you need. It will be a good investment as long as you use it. In my shop it's worth somewhere near 2 employees for production.

From contributor E:
The ROI has more to do with the value of the parts coming off the machine than how many employees it replaced. If you were paying 2 people to cut and bore sheet stock, and now the machine cuts and bores sheet stock, its still just sheet stock. In a small shop where 3 houses a month is a lot, thatís only 50 to 75 sheets a month, and is only a small part of the value of the finished product. If you buy your doors and drawers, or make them on other machines, that leaves a lot of idle time for the router. If you make dovetail drawers and cabinet doors on the CNC, as we do, it can take a long time to work out the details and systems. I am a firm advocate that a good CNC and operator/programmer is almost all the equipment you need as a small shop, but as a small shop that is dependant on that system to pay the bills, it can take some time to get the efficiency and productivity up to speed.

From contributor F:
To contributor E: I noticed you mentioned that you do dovetail drawers and doors on your CNC. Could you explain a little about how you do this? What type of router set up do you have Ė fixturing, etc.?

From contributor E:
We have a Komo Mach 1S equipped with c axis capability. The c axis is key to dovetail drawers, unless you could somehow clamp the drawer side vertically to the side of the table. We use a fixture out of MDF or scrap and gasket tape to hold the sides. Our typical program will cut the side to size, put the in the dado for the drawer bottom, and cut the pins for the dovetails. I draw the geometry for the dovetails on the front face of the part and the tool (aggregate) follows the path. The drawer front is done separately, again following the geometry of the tails for spacing etc. It is fairly simple in concept, but has lots of details in setup and programming.

Cabinet doors are simple except that there are so many different sizes in a typical kitchen. Our first tries involved either cutting a dedicated fixture for each size rail, or starting with the longest and cutting the fixture down for subsequent rails. We now start with the longest rail with a fixture that is gasketed on both sides so that vacuum hold it to the table (no screws), and trim the fixture with the fly cutter for the next size rail.

We start with a blank rail that is slightly larger than the finished size and machine both end for the cope, and both sides for the profile, then rip it in half to get the top and bottom rail out of the same piece. Stiles are done either as long lengths and cut later, or cut to length first, the profiled, then ripped in half. We also make stile and rail passage doors. The setup is slightly different for these though, because there are not so many variables in size.We typically use Freeborn or similar cutters on a stub spindle that is chucked into a 1"collet tool holder. Don't forget the safety checks!