So you have done some research, spoken with some friends, and decided it is time to dive into the world of CNC machines. Perhaps you have been using manual machines and are ready for an upgrade, or perhaps you are just getting started with machining for the first time; whatever the case, here are the key considerations when looking for your first CNC machine. Take your time, because jumping in blind could be disastrous.
1. Understand Your Projects
You probably have a rough notion of what you want to manufacture with a CNC machine if you are ready to contemplate investing in one that might cost you thousands of dollars. Still, it is critical that you thoroughly comprehend the components you are attempting to construct. Obviously, you are seeking the best machine for your project’s requirements, but what does it entail? So, how about the metal? Different metal grades can be handled by different machinery. Size is also important: how large a workspace would you require?
How precise will you need to be to produce the pieces you want? What about velocity? Is it critical to you that you can do tasks fast, or are you ready to accept a slower model in exchange for more accuracy or a lower price? All of these questions are easily answered if you know what you want to do with your machine after you receive it.
2. Recognize the Total Cost
The price is the most obvious factor to consider when purchasing your first computer. Whatever you do, it is an unavoidable fact that a CNC machine will not be inexpensive. That does not mean we can just chalk it up as a loss; rather, it is all the more motivation to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. You will most likely be shopping for a used CNC machine for your first rig, which can save you a lot of money, but any large piece of equipment will always be an investment, so choosing an economical model is critical. When it comes to money, one factor that many younger machinists neglect is the cost of replacing parts. Any machine, new or secondhand, will ultimately break down through no fault of your own, and you will most likely have to repair it.
3. Acquaint yourself with your brands.
To succeed in any area with a healthy degree of competition, brands will have to carve out their own niche, and as such, each will have its own reputation in the community. Some businesses distinguish themselves through their machines.
4. Check if your machine can be programmed.
Buying a machine that is too difficult to use is perhaps the most typical mistake, particularly among experienced machinists making the jump to CNC for the first time. This happens all too often: presuming he knows everything he needs to know, a guy goes to a reputable vendor, finds a strong machine for a decent price, and seals the sale, thinking he is making out like a bandit—only to return it to the store and be confronted with an obscure digital soup of an interface.
True, not all CNC machines are created equal, and each has its own set of obstacles and benefits when it comes to coding. If you are new to running CNC machines, you should generally go for one that uses conversational programming, which, while restricted, is an excellent place to start and does not require any coding knowledge. If you have previously dealt with CNC machines and this is your first time owning one, simply figure out the programming style you are already most familiar with and look for a compatible rig.
5. Check if that the damn thing works.
This may appear to be a no-brainer—of course, you must ensure that your computer works—but knowing to do it and understanding how to do it are two wholly different things. Ultimately, you should employ a competent expert to inspect any piece of equipment before purchasing it, but there are some issues that you can probably detect on your own.
6. Do not be afraid to inquire.
You may have noticed a recurring pattern in all of these suggestions: ask for help. This is not a lame excuse; every machine is unique, as is every machinist. Research is great, but it will never be able to answer all of your questions. Even with machines, sometimes the best thing you can do is seek the advice and instincts of someone more experienced than you. So, before you spend your life savings, speak with a local machinist, join a machining forum, and get any queries answered. CNC machinery is a significant investment, but it can be well worth it if done correctly.