4 Things to Consider When Buying a New CNC Machine
Yesterday, we attended the Arizona CNC Demo Day to get updated on the most innovative CNC machine and tooling technology. We plan to use what we heard to inform our decision on the next CNC we plan to buy. As we were walking through, we found a pattern in what we found most important as it pertains to the aerospace and defense industry, so we thought we'd share them with you, too!
1. How can the machine in question help the lifespan of your tooling?
From everything I learned at the event, tooling seemed to be one of the most careful considerations once a new machine has been decided. However, there are options in machines that help to maximize tool life.
For example, Hermle machines utilize 'slow' materials often used in CMMs to improve precision by preventing temperature changes from impacting the machine. In addition, this material helps to dampen vibrations and improve tool life.
2. What are the opportunities for automation?
Our Okuma CNC lathes have life tooling and bar feeders, and these options greatly help us to automate our processes. Any options like these that help to speed up production time or reduce the number of machine changes greatly impacts how much time we have available on each machine, and therefore how much work we can take in.
The more options a machine company has to add to a given series of CNCs, the better. Even if you don't plan to use it immediately, having these additions readily available will help to expand the shop well into the future without having to dish out again for another new machine. Or, at least lengthen the time until then!
3. Is the user interface familiar or easy to learn?
Because our shop is made of of exclusively Okumas and our current, most pressing need is to increase capacity, a lacking in another category could be made up for by our machinists existing familiarity with the programming interface. However, if another machine has an easy-to-learn interface, we could potentially expand our scope of work simultaneously. This trade off is vital to the growth of your shop long-term, and should be approached with the needs of your machinists in mind!
4. Would a more advanced technology help supplement your investment?
I had an interesting conversation with a representative from Saratech about the applications of 3D printing in our current technological landscape. While the quantity of blueprints in aerospace and defense are increasing, the most effective at the moment are for NPI parts and for jaws. Not only would this free up much needed machine time for your new machine, but it also requires much less programming and attention. This would require training, but such a technology will be long-lasting enough to fully be worth it.
In the end, it's up to you which machine speaks most to your organizations' goals. This event helped us to put that into perspective, and decide on a few cheeky accessories along the way. It's a great event, so thank you AZ CNC!