Point-to-Point and Beam Saw Versus Nested-Base

A short dialogue on a much-discussed topic about alternatives in cabinet-shop automation. April 17, 2009

I have been working with Microvellum for over a year in several shops that use nested-base routers exclusively. Very shortly I will be starting a fantastic opportunity that will most likely land me with a P2P/beam saw operation, my first experience with these machines.

I am a nested-base MV guru, but my lack of experience with these other machines is making me a little nervous. Should I be? I always thought that a P2P machine was used mostly for drilling and that the beam saw cut the actual cabinet parts, but...

If that's the case, how does a beam saw cut the toe kick in the side of a cabinet? If two machines are needed to build a cabinet this way, then I have to ask... why? That's two machines, meaning that for starters, the material has to be handled more than once. I've been told a beam saw cuts faster than a router. Fair enough, but doesn't a beam saw move in just one direction while cutting? Plus, even I know that a beam saw can't cut a 90 degree corner (i.e. toe kick) like a router can. Or can it?

I'd especially like to hear from anyone who's using Cutrite with MV combined with a beam saw and P2P. I'd like to hear from as many people as possible, so please speak your mind. Thanks!

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor R:
Your questions are valid. Before software made nesting easy and fast (only about 10 years ago), most shops used a beam saw and boring machines. The P2P came along and automated the vertical boring. Then routers were added and toe kicks were cut out on the P2P as well. With CNCs and software being so cheap and flexible now, this combo does not make sense for most shops anymore. But for large volume shops that are making multiples of the same cabinets, the beamsaw P2P still works. The beam saw can cut several sheets of material in each cut, and most software packages can output cutlist programs to it as well as the CNC.

From contributor M:
To be direct, if you can handle Microvellum and nesting, point to point will be a snap. You will want to be familiar with or learn about barcoding parts and calling programs into the controller using this method, but other than that, wrapping your head around this system of handling one part many times to get it finished, PTP is in many ways an older and simpler production method whose programs fit into, say, 600 lines of code like the older machines used. I don't think you should be nervous at all.

As many times as this subject has been discussed, I still don't see how for likely 95% of the shops out there, nested base doesn't excel over point to point. People point to nebulous time studies, but rarely cite real results of these studies with any real support. Add total floor space and cost of a beam saw, the CNC you need anyway of whichever format, multiple times handling parts, sorting issues, reduced material yields, etc. Well, I could get very far off your question here, but you see where I stand.

It's a little like the argument for using stop dados, a method that was invented in the days before CNC and well suited to table saw operations on your nested base router over dowel/confirmat, which is very well suited to CNC. Blast away all you PTP guys, I can feel it coming! I suppose all you stop dado guys may be chiming in too!

From contributor Y:
We do both. We use a beam saw and P2P for our custom face frame cabinetry and nested base for our frameless cabinetry. We put a tongue on our ends to attach the front so the P2P can do that where a nested can't. We also use our P2P for many other things too numerous to get into. Our nested machine is dedicated to frameless and we don't do any special work that involves removing the spoil board.

From contributor F:
We use Cutrite and a Holzma saw and a Weeke machine center. I've never been sold on the nesting methods. Granted, you can perhaps machine cabinet ends quicker, but what about tops/bottoms/shelves? By using a beam saw you can optimize all these parts together and improve yield. We can cut about 10 kitchens worth of parts which is about 80-90 sheets of material in 8 hours, then machine the end panels in about 4 hours on the machine center. All parts are barcoded/labeled.

I also think that pod/rail machines are more versatile than nested machines, and our saw is used for more than just cabinet parts, i.e. tops/backs/hangers/toekicks/doors/etc.

From contributor L:
We've run a panel saw and older router that was used like a ptp and we've run nested on a newer Komo. The only time the saw/PTP type operation is faster is when you can stack cut and pendulum process (we had a split table and two sets of pins for pendulum processing). It should be a lot faster since you are running two machines and two operators. This is based on our saw, which is a Schelling FM, single line, front load. We still use the panel saw for plain rectangular parts with no face detailing. Even without face detailing, the router can out-cut the panel saw if you are doing single sheet cutting on the saw. Time is also saved in the office for nested, since the nest code is created automatically from the original drawing and no separate optimization needs to be done. The optimization has to be downloaded to the saw control, but the router has access to the server in the office and can pull up whatever program is needed just like it's on the control. If the program is for 3D routing, graphics (huge files) and the like, the router operator can dribble feed the control directly off the sever.