Should you buy that brand new CNC, bridge saw or water jet? This is a question many stone fabrication owners and mangers are contemplating. One of the most important decisions you will make in starting a shop is choosing the right equipment. You want equipment that will not tie you down to steep monthly payments and that will perform properly and pay for itself in a timely manner. How do you decide which equipment is right for you?
Probably the most important piece of equipment in most shops is the bridge saw. You want a saw that will perform without failure. If your saw is down too long, you may be out of business. I recommend going with a manufacturer that is well known for unsurpassed quality and service.
Get a customer list from the dealer and ask who is included and excluded from the list. It is preferable to get a complete owner’s list of everyone who has ever purchased that machine. Call as many people on the list as possible. Do not exclude anyone that no longer owns the equipment . . . ask why they no longer own the equipment. If someone has something negative to say try to get to the source of his or her grievance. Did the machine fail because of something they did or didn’t do? Do they have a problem because they did not pay their bills and the dealer had to get tough? Find out as much about what motivates their opinions, whether positive or negative.
Most fabricators would agree that the ideal saw would be a gantry saw with a good turntable. Do you need a 10 horsepower motor or greater? Do you need a tilting turntable? What about preset stops on the turntable? Is a laser sight worth the extra money?
Personally, I would like to have automated gantry movement for mass production or grinding the table surface. There are so many features available on today’s saws it would be hard to mention them all. What you need to keep in mind is whether the features will pay for themselves and how quickly. To get the answer I would recommend talking to the dealer to get and idea of what they recommend for analysis figures, then go to current owners of the saw with those figures and hone them down to more realistic numbers.
Most people agree a 10 horsepower motor is the minimum requirement for cutting 3-cm slabs and 4-cm laminations. Would a 15 horsepower or greater be better? Probably for longevity, anything that is not overworked should last longer. Is it worth the extra money? Is it possible to upgrade later? Do you want to go through the hassle of upgrading later? Do a payback analysis.
A tilting turntable is a nice feature, but with the use of other lifting equipment, you can do without it. Look at the cost difference and payback on a tilting vacuum lift versus a tilting turntable. Talk to owners of each. Do your homework before spending your money.
For speed of cutting, preset stops that are accurately maintained can save you a lot of time. Try to go with the best, most versatile turntable . . . ask around. Most of the other features can be handled by using common sense, doing a payback analysis, and talking with other people.
Will It Pay For Itself?
A payback analysis is done to determine how quickly a machine or other object can pay for itself. It can also be used to help you decide if a certain feature is worth adding. For example, the laser alignment light for a help reduce waste of a slab by allowing you to cut as close to the edge with minimum time for sighting or aligning. It can reduce double cuts, thereby controlling waste. Plus, it can save time when aligning your cut to a template. As you do a payback analysis, you will see that most of your savings will come from labor and equipment usage time saved. Very little will be realized from material savings.