I am looking to buy a CNC Router for my startup company and I think I have narrowed it down to three brands - the CR Onsud PanelMate, the Thermwood CabinetShop 41, and the Multicam 3000 series. There are a lot of good and bad points to all three from what I see. The Themwood looks heavy, has been making router a long time, and they give me E-Cabinets which looks as good as the Routercad that everyone else is offering for a cost.
Their controller looks old and cumbersome and I have not heard great things about Thermwood. The Multicam looks really good, it is the fastest that I am looking at and there are factory trained techs very close to me. But their cost is more for what they are quoting. Last is the CR Onsrud and I know the least about it. It is hard getting info from the dealer but they have a really good name and have been making routers for a long time. The Panelmate is new and all the other salesmen I talked to say it is very light weight. The price looks really good but I am not sure of the build of the machine. Please tell me what you think, I really do not have a good idea of direction.
From contributor R:
I have worked with Onsrud routers for quite a while, and am only familiar with the PanelPro model, but I am sure that the quality of the PanelMate is comparable to the PanelPro, which is super-heavy duty. What another salesman calls "light-weight" might be pretty heavy duty to someone else, depending on what you use it for. As far as speed is concerned, this is a big deal for salesmen, but in the real world, unless you are doing high-speed production, any good quality router will produce parts as fast as you can assemble them. Most routers sit idle a fair percentage of the time, even in bigger shops- they spit out a lot of parts and pieces in a short period of time, and then people are busy assembling and finishing them for a while. The cycle speeds that the salesmen think are so important are not really necessary for most of us.
Software is important, and expensive. ECabinets seems to be a good program, from what I have seen of it, but you are limited to Thermwood machines, and I have a philosophical aversion to proprietary software and machines- at some point in the future, you will need to transfer files and/or programs to other shops, machines or people, and you will be limited to the type that you have chosen. What would happen if Thermwood stopped producing that particular program or machine, or went out of business (this does happen)? Using easily-transferable and standard G-code driven machines gives you some flexibility if you change machines (or jobs). There are many happy and productive Thermwood owners, and this is just my personal opinion on this system.
I have no experience with MultiCam, but from what I have seen of them, they look like good machines. Having readily available support, when you are learning about CNC is a good thing- Maybe you should look for a used MultiCam that could be inspected by a factory rep, and pay for some support from them- they might even know where one is available.
Contributor R is right on, cycle speed is way overrated. I work at a busy 12 man commercial shop and the router is idle most of the time. Most small to medium sized shops never achieve an average of 25 hours a week actual run time. I think that the primary consideration is support. No matter which machine you get you will have questions that need answers. It is probably more important than the quality of the hardware for the first few years.
Contributor R's position is incorrect in my opinion. Thermwood has been around longer than most others and is STILL MADE IN AMERICA and they just added a huge amount of office and plant sq footage to their facility. Even if they did go under, if the machine does what you need now, it will still do it regardless of what happens in five years. Thermwwood has upgraded their controller, Gen II, and it has many new features but both of my controllers are using version 5.05 and if anything happens to the OS, I can rebuild it with a restore CD or make a call and have a new hard drive formatted with the original factory set up overnighted to me.
I looked at the same CNC's and many more as you probably have. I was not impressed with Multi Cam as much as I was with Onsrud CNC but not their sales people. I was impressed with Thermwood and their team after I went to their plant in Dale, Indiana. I brought my own files to see real world examples, time study, quality of cut, ease of use and much more. I had an old 1995 circa Digital Tool 905 CNC and had maxed it out production wise and needed a faster CNC with ATC (Auto Tool Changer) rather than a single 7.5hp spindle and a 1/2 HP Dayton drill motor. Its top speed was about 350 IPM transit and 300IPM for Feed. Our first Thermwood is 1500 IPM so that alone was over four times faster and we typically cut at around 750 IPM for our main product and have done some at 1100 IPM for larger straight line parts. Our other Thermwood is a Twin spindle, Twin table with an ATC and dual piggyback drill heads that blaze by at up to a 4200IPM on an X,Y transit move. We are not a cabinet shop per se but do make some once in a while, so we did not need line boring but quick positioning and being able to run the machine without stopping, pendulum processing with twin tables, was a huge benefit.
Just an FYI - I was up and cutting parts after six hours of training with the Digital tool. With the Thermwood we were making parts an hour after it was set up. I did not get to go to the actual training at Thermwood's facility for at least six months because we were so busy with our increased production but after the training it opened up even more functionality for us. So I would suggest that no matter whose you get, take the training first; on both the CNC and the software so you can hit the ground running when you do get one.
I suggest you go to each plant and bring the same file(s) with you and do some actual cutting and see how they compare. You (or your operator) are the one that will have to use it so see which one will grow with you instead of just being sold a product. Service after the sale is paramount and Thermwood does it for me. So no matter what some sales man says, they will always knock the better machine because that is the only way they can try to compete. The choice is yours but I hope this helps you out a bit.
I am sure there are those that will consider this slow but whose racing? I am a small cabinetmaker and these routers have not missed a beat for me, with the older one and the new one I have less money in two routers including software than most any of the heavy mid weight's. All have a reason but times have changed and most large router companies are now building smaller routers as the technology is getting competitive at this level!