TOP 5+ THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING
A CNC ROUTER
For most businesses, purchasing new machinery is a major financial decision that should not be made lightly and without full consideration of a number of factors. Money spent on a new piece of kit will run into thousands of pounds, and for any efficient business, costs and commitment will have to be relevant to the size and the performance of the company. Answering the questions below, and taking time over thinking about them will help you make a decision on your new investment.
1. WHY DO I NEED A CNC ROUTER?
Do I need this new equipment because it will lead to performance gains? Will I save time, will I save on my current costs? Other considerations you might include, can I speed up my production, can I manufacture in-house rather than contract out or most importantly, will I make more money, even if looking at the longer term?
Answering yes to some or all of these questions mean you have established and recognised a need or the opportunity to develop your business. Time to knuckle down and start talking to people. Ask friends, colleagues, other businesses about their experiences. Start trawling the internet for case studies, company experiences, working groups. Do smart research though, your preference should always be the independent source of information, rather than the paid advertisements and pop up brochures on the internet.
2. DO I HAVE CAPACITY FOR A NEW CNC MACHINE?
Do I have the understanding of what spacial and operational needs a new router may have? Do I see what "fingerprint" my new machinery needs? These are such simple things, but easy to not consider before making our mind up when purchasing a new system. How big an area the CNC machine needs placing in, how high the room should be? Is there access to necessary power points or vents for air circulation? Is the room a temperature controlled environment?
Once you have an idea about what it is you wish to automate, what kind of working envelope you need, how big the workpiece you wish to achieve, what material you will be using, and what processes you wish to achieve (drill, engrave, carve, model etc) you can start looking at which CNC solutions will enable you to achieve the sizes, speed and accuracy you need.
However, one of the most important very first questions - Am I going to be able to get a CNC machine / router through the door?
3. WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGY DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND OR LEARN?
Do I want to learn about technological developments, new ways of doing things, do I (or my workforce) have the capacity and willingness to train, or re-train or pick up new skills? Am I willing to invest if necessary in specialist training for my staff? Embracing the latest techology impacts and enhances the overall performance of your business. However, most people will need to know or learn basics of CAD (computer aided design) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing), or need some refreshing or updating of knowledge even if they have had experience from before. You will need to be open to experiment, to practice. Only with time and effort, you will find the most optimal way of working, and start recouping on your investment. Modern CNC systems are far less bulky, far less weighty, designs can be more complex, your new machine may be of a modular design - there have been leaps in the technological development on this front. Keep your mind open to developments, as new improvements are made in this field every day.
4. DO I UNDERSTAND OUTRIGHT COSTS AND ADDITIONAL COSTS OF A NEW CNC ROUTER INSTALLATION?
Do I have a budget in mind? Am I restricted in my finances? Am I willing to invest with looking ahead and considering longer term? Do I understand that technology has a price and cheap may mean taking risks? Since some of the top range machinery boasts sophisticated technology, it can make the purchase an expensive affair for your business. Despite the higher costs, it is advisable to invest in them rather than opting for substandard machines as it will benefit you in the long run.
Other than the price of the machinery, you will most likely accrue additional costs of packaging and delivering, siting and installation of your new system. Your new CNC router will most likely be over 500-600 kg, and you probably should not expect it to qualify for Amazon Prime free delivery. Do you have the equipment to offload, to maneuvre your new CNC machine (forklifts are usually essential) to its final placement? Just some of the few considerations you may need to talk through with your supplier.
5. DO I UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY?
Have you ever considered buying a second hand CNC machine from Ebay? Or one from AliBaba? Although on occasions you will find bargains on marketplaces, you will have to take the risk of your investment being a lot more costly than you thought - often with unforeseen additional expenditure, or even ending up as a loss making venture. In a case of powerful machinery, you most certainly need to find out about the background of your equipment. Who used it, what it was used for, was it maintained or serviced properly? What is the quality of the manufacturing, what is the current state of the inner workings, mechanisms of the CNC machine? Is there support available both in technical or consumables term? Who can you turn to if you need help? Will you have warranty with the machine? Will you have CE marking to show it complies with important industry standards? Most importantly, will your insurance cover the risks you are taking?
If your new CNC router system is manufactured to your specification, you have it delivered from a reputable and safety and quality certified manufacturer, you will cut your risks significantly. If you are planning to invest big in a new CNC router, it maybe worthwhile visiting other customers already using systems similar to yours or even the factory floor where your machine is being manufactured, so you can see the processes yourself and be reassured.
6. MY DEALER / RESELLER
No, we don't mean the sinister kind. A dealer is often a representative of manufacturers, whether factories are nationally or internationally based. Some UK based manufacturers will sell products direct or through re-sellers. Larger resellers, representing numerous manufacturers may have conflicting choices to make, and good business for them might dictate to sell for the highest commission. Although there is a drive to buy UK made, do not dismiss suppliers of products from overseas. The world is a big plate, with lots of offerings from which we can cherry pick from. Some (specifically European) countries have reputation for exceptional manufacturing, precision and quality. Some other countries have the opposite, with quite negative reputations - the risk is yours to take.
A dealer or representative with a technical background will help you in your decision making. A non technical salesman might not be able to do the same, but will want to sell you something, anything. Take your time and check out numerous dealers before making a purchase. You can easily identify a reputable and reliable dealer by asking them lots of questions. A knowledgeable supplier of any manufacturer will answer any questions you ask, and if they can not answer, they will find out the relevant information and will get back to you. They will offer you support, recommendation and advice, even coming up with personalised or bespoke system solutions - tailor made for your requirements.
You can find out about the quality of your supplier just by asking a couple of questions such as what type of customers they supply, and the rate of their return customers. If a reseller supplied hospitals, government offices where quality check is rigorous, you can be reassured that the reseller delivered to the highest standard. If they supplied a company with 2-3 or more CNC machines or routers, throughout a period of time, returning time and again, you know that their service is one of reliable and trustworthy. It is common sense really, your preferred supplier should not be a "pal", but more like a working colleague, or an operational partner, a person who understands your business, your manufacturing or automation needs.
Your aim is to get more work done with less time, costs or less manpower.
You can achieve all this, as long as you have the willingness to invest time, and often invest some financing into developing your workshop and workforce.