Walk around any of the numerous stone trade shows and you will see at least a dozen companies selling CNC machines. It seems everyone nowadays are getting one. I have seen many fabricators have great success with these machines and I have seen others fail miserably. What can a CNC do for you and more importantly what can't it do? Purchasing a CNC is a major step, not to mention a major investment. This article will explore the pros and cons of CNCs and, more importantly, help you to decide if you are ready to move up to a CNC.
What Is CNC
CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control. In other words the movement of the machine is controlled by a computer, which reads a computer program. The written language the computer uses is called a G code. Writing G code requires intensive training and computer knowledge. Fortunately, most of today's CNC machines have the G code prewritten in the software and knowledge of G code is not necessary. In simple terms a CNC is a robot that is controlled by a computer.
Most people in the stone industry relate CNC with a CNC router; however, CNC technology can also control bridge saws, waterjets and laser etching machines to name a few. For the purposes of this article, I will focus only on CNC routers.
What Can A CNC Do For Your Business?
When properly programmed a CNC can produce a finished piece in less time than manual labor. The quality of the finished product is consistent and in many cases better than manual labor.
The finished piece will match the template exactly. A CNC does not need a day off to go to the dentist or to go to court or take the kids to the zoo. It also doesn't complain or need three or four cigarettes or coffee breaks during the day. For that matter it doesn't even need lunch.
Many CNCs will also calculate the total time to fabricate a certain job. This can be difficult to do with a manual operation.
A CNC can also save time on slab layout and templating if you incorporate one of the many electronic templating systems.
With all this said, keep in mind that a CNC is a machine and will at times break down and need repair and maintenance. Human error is not totally eliminated because a programmer must enter the information into the machine. However, there are many checks and simulations that can be performed so that errors are less frequent.
Can I Afford A CNC?
This is a question that many fabricators don't look at closely enough. Before you can answer this question, you must first ask yourself if you have enough work to fully utilize a CNC. If you are only doing one kitchen a day, a CNC may not be for you. As a matter of fact, if you are only doing one or two kitchens a day, a CNC may cost you more.