Buying a new CNC machine? There are a few factors that you must consider.
A CNC machine can undoubtedly pump up your production and save your time. But if you have never used one, we suggest starting with CNC conversion.
You can get a CNC conversion kit for your old machine (mill, lathe, router) and transform it into a prototype CNC machine with all the essential computerized functions you need.
It is also affordable, and you can practically do it yourself. We will talk more about this later in the blog.
If you are in the market for a new CNC machine, here are some essential factors you should consider.
What Should You Know Before You Buy a CNC Machine?
So, you have done your research, consulted your friends, and decided that you need a new CNC machine.
What Kind of Projects Would You Work On?
First and foremost, you have to consider the kind of projects you will be handling with your new machine. A CNC machine is a significant investment, and therefore, you need to make sure you are investing in a machine that perfectly fits your requirements.
The best to go about it is to think about the products you want to build. It doesn’t mean you have to have a clear idea about the product. You only need to know what kind of products you will be building.
For instance, if you have to work on hard metals, you will have to find a machine that provides that kind of output. Depending on the grades of metal, you will have to choose the machine with a certain speed and precision level.
What are the SWaP limits of Your Space?
SWaP stands for Size, Weight, and Power. Before buying a CNC machine, you have to consider how much it weighs, how much space it will occupy, and what kind of power input it needs.
Let’s look into these factors:
Space: This one is pretty obvious. You don’t want to invest in a CNC machine that barely fits in your garage, lawn, or wherever you want to work. Make sure you have ample space to move around after installing the new CNC machine in your workshop.
You also need to be able to make adjustments to the machine itself; therefore, an open area is a more suitable installation space.
Weight: Another important factor to consider is the weight of the machine. CNC machines are built of various elements such as aluminum, polymer composite, and iron cast.
If you need to perform a heavy-duty task, the iron cast is the best material to go with. You also need to consider the machine’s weight if you are looking for a DIY installment.
A heavier CNC machine would require professional help for installation and repair. So, invest accordingly.
Power Consumption: Depending on the type of equipment you choose, you will have to consider your power consumption. Depending on the machine you buy, you might also have to make the necessary adjustment to your workplace power output.
Your budget is probably one of the most critical factors in buying a CNC machine. A CNC machine is a significant investment so make sure you get a bang for your bucks. Any large piece of equipment is going to be expensive. A CNC machine, more so.
But that doesn’t mean finding a CNC machine that suits your budget is out of the question. There are thousands of CNC machines available today at practically every price range.
While finalizing a budget, make sure to factor in the cost of replacement parts as well. Any machine, new or old, will break down eventually and require the replacement of some parts to operate properly.
Choose a machine whose parts are readily available and easy on your pocket.
Moreover, you will also have to factor in the ROI on the machine. Will the new machine prove profitable in the long run, or is it too big an investment for you? Make sure the machine you get helps you save time, money, and resources.
Complicated Projects and the Machine’s Adaptability
Machining is a complicated task. Some projects require extra effort from your side to come into shape. And it would help if you had a compatible machine by your side to handle such hurdles.
Have your new machine optimized according to your particular needs. Detail your needs to your sales assistant and tell them about your project requirements.
Make sure the machine you buy offers value to your money and performs just as you expect. Also, ask about the replacement parts, additional tools, and warranty.
Since CNC machines operate on computer programs, you will also have to consider the digital aspects of the machine.
Moreover, if you have to work on complicated projects, you should consider the number of axes you need in your machine. Typically, a CNC machine would operate on 3-axis: X, Y, and Z.
However, with multi-axis tools, you can get your machine to operate in up to 12 axes and streamline your projects.
Multi-axis machines can also flipping parts over automatically, helping you remove the material that was previously being worked on. This can help you save time on cutting, milling, or drilling and avoid the trouble of flipping the workpiece repeatedly.
So, before you buy a CNC machine, make sure you understand the complexity of your projects and whether the machine will be able to serve your needs.
Your Understanding of CNC Machines
One important thing that you should keep in mind is that you would need at least a basic idea of computer programming. Don’t let that demotivate you. The basic idea of computer programming means you need to know basic math and understand how machining works.
There are three main types of CNC programming:
Manual CNC Programming: Manual CNC programming is the oldest and most complicated option. For manual CNC programming, you have to know how to code and execute them using an interconnected computer. This type of programming is best suited for simple tasks.
Or, if you are an adept programmer and you need to produce something as accurately as possible, this is the way you should go.
CAM CNC Programming: If you lack advanced math skills and need to execute complicated projects, this is the option you should go with. The software converts CAD (computer-aided design) into CNC programming language to communicate directly with the machine.
This option provides a reasonable middle ground for those who are looking to work with CNC machines but lack advanced math and programming skills.
Conversational CNC Programming: Conversational CNC programming is the easiest option, well-suited for beginners and hobbyists. With conversational programming, you can write down the instructions in simple language.
You don’t have to know or write a word of code. You can also verify tool movements before executing the program to ensure the machine works accurately.
The only downside of conversational programming is that you can’t integrate complex programming paths, which can be counter-productive for some.
All in all, you can use a CNC machine to your advantage so long as you know the basic how-to. You don’t have to be an expert in programming or machining. But you do have to know what you are getting at.
You don’t want to be stuck setting up the machine to get your project started. You should be able to get started with your new CNC machine as soon as it is installed. Make sure you get all the necessary parts and instruments in one package so you can start with your project as soon as possible.
Features such as an automated loading system, clamping fixtures, and essential tools can seamlessly get you back on your project.
After Sales Service
Making sure the after-sales service for the machine you are buying is up to the mark is vital, especially if you are buying the machine for the first time.
Regardless of how easy it is to install and start working on the machine yourself, you still need a good after-sales service as a backup in case something goes wrong. Makes sure you choose a company with excellent after-sales service.
Have the hotline number quickly accessible in your workshop so you can communicate with the manufacturers every time you face any issue with the machine.
CNC Conversion (An Affordable Alternative to a New CNC Machine)
CNC conversion is the process of transforming your old machine into CNC using conversion kits. If you own a mill, drill, lathe, or router, you can get it CNC ready.
Using external components (CNC conversion kit), you can automate your machines and improve their performance and accuracy.
What is a CNC conversion kit? A set of tools that can be retrofitted on top of your machine to automate its functionalities.
Typically, a CNC conversion kit comes with new hardware components, motors, and software to keep it all synced in. You also get access to the control unit, home and limit switch, and motor control system.
There are thousands of CNC conversion kits designed specifically for certain mills, lathes, and routers.
Then there are some that can be integrated with any machine.
The best part about CNC conversion is that you can do it yourself. Most conversion kits come with a comprehensive guide to help you assemble your machine and get it up and running all by yourself.
If you are looking to get your hands on CNC machining, you should start with converting your old machines. Since you are already familiar with your old machine, converting them into CNC will make it easier for you to get accustomed to the new technology.
So, before you spend your hard-earned dollars on a new CNC machine, we suggest converting your old machine and getting familiar with CNC machining.
Wrapping it Up
We hope this article helps you find your first CNC machine. We recommend starting with a converted machine to get accustomed to CNC machining.
If you are looking for more information or suggestion in choosing the suitable CNC machine or converting your old machine into CNC, reach out to us.
We are CNC Conversion Plus, your one-stop shop for all things CNC. Whether you need to buy or repair a CNC machine or have your old machine converted, we can help you.
Or better yet, we can build turn-key machines for you so you can get working on your projects right away. We will buy the machine according to your preference, have it converted into CNC, and deliver it to your doorstep.
All you have to do is put on the power and get working.
Thanks for reading.