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CNC router or point-to-point boring machine? You make the call.

As time marches on, recent developments in woodworking technology and computer controls are blurring the line between point-to-point boring machines and CNC routers.

Time was when a router was a router and a boring machine a boring machine. Period. It is not quite as simple these days. The advent of the computer has given birth to high-powered and multi-faceted computer-controlled routers and boring machines. The capabilities of each has grown to the point where, to varying degrees, CNC routers can now do boring and point-to-point boring machines can perform routing.

As Rusty Denson, a product manager at SCMI Corp. put it, "The line between point-to-point and CNC routers (has and) will continue to blur."

While it is true this blurring has gone on -- that routers can bore, and boring machines can rout -- each machine has its own strengths and weaknesses. In a perfect world, woodworking companies would be able to purchase both machines and as more machinery manufacturers introduce lowered-priced machines this may come to pass. But as most of us know, this is not a perfect world.

The trick for most woodworkers is to find the right machine for the right function. To help determine which machine is right for a particular plant, this article will address some of the strengths and weaknesses, and appropriate applications for CNC routers and point-to-point boring machines.

CNC routers

A computer-numerically-controlled router's primary purpose is obviously to rout. Yet, machines are available that can also perform a variety of other functions including shaping, trimming and boring. Some machines can move more than one head at a time and do multiple operations on the same workpiece. Because of this multi-functionality, the term CNC router is giving way to machining center.

CNC routers are designed to work well with solid wood and with thicker and larger panels whether solid or composite. They also provide an efficient means to process panels that need a variety of operations. Generally, they are engineered for machining operations using a variety of material thicknesses and densities and for more complex shapes, according to Dennis Stephen, vice president/technical sales for Stiles Machinery.

Routers are generally more massive and, because of that mass, traverse the length and width of a workpiece more slowly than the typical point-to-point boring machines. The added mass, however, often translates into a higher degree of stability which helps produce a better finish requiring less sanding, according to Todd Herzog, president of Accu-Router Inc. This is important, according to Herzog, because the speed of one machine is not the only determining factor when it comes to deciding which machine to purchase. The bigger issue, he added, is to evaluate total plant through-put -- how fast a part can go through an entire operation.

Routers often feature the use of an automatic tool changer (common to point-to-point machines too) and are designed for radial side load. Router motors typically have much greater power than a boring machine motor. According to John Park, general manager of Stefani Group America, says that a router motor on a point-to-point can be up to 9.5hp while router motors on a CNC router can get as high as 16 hp to 20 hp.

Walter Favrusso, vice president of technical development for Biesse America, said that each machine has its strengths. "Point-to-point machines can only operate one router at the time, but out-perform the router when it comes to moving from one drilling position to another," said Favrusso. "On the other hand, a high-volume routing operation can be more efficiently run on a twin-table multi-spindle router and where no, or very limited, drilling is required."

Point-to-point boring machines

Point-to-point boring machines are extremely fast at drilling -- about twice as fast as a router. They can go from a point on a part to another point (hence the name) at speeds of 1,000 inches per minute to 2,000 inches per minute.

Jim Eckberg, advertising manager for Komo Machinery Inc., said, "They were designed to dramatically reduce the time needed to position the machine for a sequence of drilling operations."

As a pure boring machine, point-to-point machines are "absolutely unbeatable," according to Stephen, adding that it is not just the point-to-point quickness that makes it superior, but its ability to bore multiple holes on a single stroke -- ideal for 32mm operations.

The point-to-point boring machine can easily bore on small, light and thin panels and can handle multiple, flat boards. Most can bore and rout horizontally and vertically. A point-to-point boring machine is a good choice when dealing with a flat panel, especially if the panel is 1-inch or less thick. He said that using a point-to-point machine on a panel an inch thick or less is a general rule, but the other operations that may need to be done to the workpiece may make the router the proper choice.

Also, for quick set-up of vacuum table or multiple tools working the same panel, then a point-to-point should be used, according to Park. The reason for this, Park said, is because a point-to-point boring machine has a movable support and vacuum pads, i.e., it is modular.

In addition to being fast, they can also be purchased with a variety of options including automatic tool changers, multiple spindles and multiple station tool turrets, grooving saws and routers. However, they typically have only one moving head, so operations can only be done one at a time. In general, point-to-point's work only in the X, Y and Z axes, but in some cases a fourth, 360 degree axis can be included, according to John Mauro, vice president of sales for Tekna Machinery.

When it comes to routing, the point-to-point boring machine can do an adequate job if the panel is not to thick. They do especially "beautiful routing" on panels 1-inch to 1 1/4-inch thick, both Mauro and Stephen said.

Point-to-point boring machines feature automatic tool changers and can utilize "simple cutters all the way up to special heads which can be changed automatically during a cycle," Mauro said. "Operators do not have to have change tools for every setup. Setup is done through a computer so there is zero setup time and no intervention by an operator. In the old days you would have to rely on the expertise of an operator, his ability to set it up correctly and how quickly he could set it up. All that is done away with when you go to CNC control."

Other considerations

When talking to manufacturers of CNC routers and point-to-point boring machines, a buzz word frequently heard is flexibility. Both machines are flexible in the sense they can do multiple operations. CNC routers can route, bore, shape, etc.; point-to-point boring machines can bore, rout, groove, etc. Another factor that enters into the purchase equation involves the degree of flexibility the end user requires.

"Flexibility is dependent on what kind of production you are doing," said Stephen. "A router is more flexible in terms of the range of materials it can process. For instance, I wouldn't put chair parts on a point-to-point machine. On the other hand, if I put a stack of cabinet parts in front of a router, I would have to make some more tiresome kind of (setup) changes than I would with a point-to-point."

Determining the range of materials and processes to be used are just two of the factors that a woodworking shop must debate before making a purchasing decision. What it comes down to is that woodworkers must carefully examine their shop needs and their workloads. "Customers should define, very precisely, how much routing and drilling their work will require," Mauro said. "If a customer, with the help of an application engineer, determines that the machine will spend more time drilling than routing, the choice is point-to-point or vice-versa."

Defining the operation may require an outside organization to come into the shop and accurately determine which machine should be purchased. "Do a product line cost justification analysis," said David Steranko, president of Digital Tool Inc. "Have an independent accounting organization do a computer analysis of return on capital employed. They will be brutally honest in their opinion of return on capital."

Processing a part quicker and more efficiently while maintaining quality is every woodworker's goal and the right machine can help him reach it. But, finding the machine that is just right for a shop can only be accomplished by looking objectively at the company and accurately determining the materials most often used and the operations most often performed.

"The choice for a customer as to whether to purchase a router versus a point-to-point still really comes back down to a fundamental question of speed versus power," Eckberg said. "Neither machine is inherently better than the other. The right machine to choose remains the one that will best complement the materials processed and the production environment of the individual customer."

Available machinery

The following is a review of some of the point-to-point boring machines, CNC routers and machining centers available. The products have been categorized under three separate headings and, while many of the machines listed here have the capabilities to perform a variety of functions, they have been placed in categories according to what the machinery manufacturers calls them.

For an expanded look at the CNC machining market, circle the corresponding number on the Reader's Service Card. For further information regarding specifications and capabilities, consult the 1993 Red Book Buyer's Specification Guide.

Machining centers

Available from Stiles Machinery is the Heian NCB542MC CNC router that features an automatic tool changer for the router, a 22-spindle flexible vertical boring unit and four sets of horizontal two-way boring with front depth adjustment. The saw indexes automatically through 90 degrees and operates within the NC program.

Holz-Her U.S. Inc. offers the Mega-Control CNC machining center. The machining center is available in two serial versions, Type 7335 and Type 7435. The emissions of both noise and dust are reduced, the company says. Both model ranges feature up to three cutter spindles, as well as a grooving unit, plus 25 vertical spindles and six horizontal boring spindles.

Servatek Inc. offers the Brema vertical, thru-feed machining center that can fully machine both sides of a panel simultaneously. The eight-station turret accepts boring, mortising, sawing and high-speed router heads with 15 hp motors. All machining functions are controlled utilizing an IBM 486 computer.

Tekna Machinery offers a variety of boring machines and machining centers including the A-504 and U-550 CNC machining centers. The A-504 is a machining center that allows both intricate routing as well as boring. Its flow system enables the machine to integrate into a product line for JIT manufacturing. It can be custom configured with automatic tool changing routers, disc saws, horizontal boring and various other attachments. The U-550 is a CNC machining center that allows JIT processing of panels. It features 29 independently-controlled spindles as well as a full compliment of optional equipment including router with automatic tool changing capability, disc saw attachments and horizontal boring.

Stefani Group America offers the Busellato SuperMaster machining center which it says combines fast, flexible drilling with heavy-duty router capacity. Three different head configurations are offered with 19 to 50 independent vertical spindles, horizontal and up to four 9.5-hp routers. The machining center features the use of Star brand guides for heavy-duty routing, an inverter and IBM MS-DOS PC programming.

Computer Router Services Inc. offers the Shoda CNC router which will operate in pallet change mode or, by combining tables, achieve one very large work surface. Shoda offers a wide variety of specialized heads, including: automatic tool changers, shapers, routers, gang drills, saws, horizontal boring, piggyback routers and drills, planers and 4-and five-axis heads.

The NC-2513TX compound table CNC routers from Anderson America Corp. features a 2,500mm by 1,300mm table, feed speeds of 24 m/min (X and Y axis) and 6 m/min (Z axis) and is controlled by an ANDI-FANUC controller.

Wadkin USA offers the Olympus 504 CNC machining center, a gantry-type machine for high-volume, JIT production. It features twin 5-ft-by-5-ft tables and up to six high-speed router heads. The worktables can be operated independently or synchronized to accommodate workpieces up to 5 ft by 10 ft. Optional heads are available for applications such as point-to-point boring and pattern milling, horizontal drilling and sanding. Other table sizes are available as options and the four-position and 10-position tool changers are also available.

GPM Technologies Ltd. offers the V. Alberti line of CNC machining centers and point-to-point boring machines. A variety of custom and standard machine designs are available. Options include: up to 27 independent vertical boring spindles, four routers, horizontal routing and boring, grooving and automatic tool changers. Each machine can be supplied with a bar code reader and automatic load/unload capabilities.

Biesse America offers the Rover 321 machining center. A Star Linear Guide, double helical rack and pinion and a precision grounded ball screw ensures rigidity and accuracy, the company says. A high-speed, 9-hp router with automatic tool changer is available as well as software capable of linking directly to a CAD station.

Komo Machine Inc. now offers the VR 804TT, a twin table CNC machining center. The twin tables allow one of two 48-in. by 48-in. tables to be used in the machining cycle while the other is forward and locked thereby shortening machine down time. Parallel processing of two separate parts is also possible with the twin tables or the tables can be joined together to create a larger single workspace for parts up to 48 in. by 96 in.

The PF series of machining centers from CMS North America are characterized by a fixed bridge structure. The bridge provides X longitudinal and Z vertical axes movements. The Y transversal movement is carried out by the work table. All building components of the machining centers are designed as modular groups. The PF series is divided into three families: PFI and PFII machines are equipped with a single work table; PF2 and PF3 machines are equipped with a double work table for pendular work; and the PF31 features larger double tables.

Digital Tool offers a CNC machining center. The center has a 5-ft by 10-ft cutting area. It features easy programming and quick change "Z" head variations, the company says.

The IMA QuadroCenter CNC cell, available through Roger Stiles & Assoc., is designed for build-to-order production. Panels are brought to the cell rough cut and oversized. The machining center can size, square, drill, rout, groove and performs both horizontal and vertical drilling.

The Model TBC Trim, Bore or Chuck machine from J.S. Richardson is a two-axis CNC machine with a single saw and boring or chucking unit mounted on precision ball slides and driven by precision ball screws. It has capacities of 24 in. of the X-axis and 6 in. on the Z-axis. The Z-axis capacity is sufficient for either chuck or geared head boring work.

Danckaert Woodworking Machinery Co. offers the Maka HBA series horizontal routing, boring and mortising machine. Some of its features include computerized multi-axis programming, automatic tool changer, single- and double-sided configurations and supplementary working units. DNC, CAD/CAM and CIM possibilities are available.

Koch Machinery & Systems is a CNC-controlled machine designed for the production of stiles and rails for the window and door industry. The machine is capable of trimming, coping, boring, mortising, gluing and dowelling of each part, the company says.

MSI/Marunaka Inc. offers the NC-2010 ATC/4 CNC machine for routing and boring. It features a rapid traverse speed in X and Y axis of 36 meters per minute, four-position automatic tool changer, 10hp motor, 1,000 rpm to 18,000 rpm programmable spindle speed, FANUC controller, 1,000mm by 2,000mm table size and BT-30 took shank.

The Kitako machining center from Tekmatex Inc. has an automatic tool changer built into the router head; no external mechanism and piggyback drills are needed. The machine also features a point-to-point boring and horizontal boring head, both of which have a floating mechanism.

The Riechenbacher RANC 210 AM from Duespohl USA Inc. can be provided with up to three milling, sawing, drilling or sanding aggregates and can also be equipped with the RANC ASW-Sprint, a 5-axis controlled machining center for stair production, the company says.

The Model 2500 J/U machining center from Jenkins/Unique features a 5-hp motor with a spindle speed cutting control and 1 1/4-in.-diameter spindle with 6-in. of usable cutter space.

CNC ROUTERS

C.R. Onsrud Inc. offers the Robot Routing System that is a fully automatic router not requiring a full time attendant to load, off-load, remove scrap, blow chips or push buttons. Replacing the operator is a Yamaha YK-1200 robot, which has been specially modified for the woodworking industry, that can pick a blank out of a stack, rout the part on one-, two- or three-standard inverted routers, stack the processed part and pick up another blank to restart the cycle. It can also be run manually on the company's inverted router.

Macoser Inc. now offers the Esseteam model Speed five-axis CNC router. The Speed model is designed to trim, shape and bore laminated or bent plywood parts or furniture parts. The router is programmed via a Renashaw probe. Feed speeds are of up to 1,700 ipm and the 3.2 KW router motor is capable of zero to 25,000 rpm. An automatic tool changer can accommodate up to 12 tools.

Motionmaster Inc. now offers the Rebel CNC Router featuring Autocon Technologies Inc.'s DynaPath 10m or 20m computer numerical control. The 48-in by 60-in. table is a machined aluminum plate and comes standard with one vacuum zone. Multiple zones can be provided. Workpieces can travel up to 50-in. (X axis), 62-in. (Y axis) and 7-in. (Z axis) with a 9-in. Z-axis clearance. It delivers 800 ipm (X axis), 800 ipm (Y axis) and 400 ipm (Z axis) rapid traverses and features either one or two spindles mounted on the same tool plate.

ANAgraph Inc. offers the S-148 CNC router. The S-148 has a bridge-type design with moving table of 4 ft by 8 ft. It comes equipped with one or two cutting heads, which have a routing spindle and a boring drill. Its computer-controlled Z-axis has full 5 1/2in. travel.

Hendrick RWH offers HendrickShinx CNC routers that are available with a variety of table sizes including dual tables. The CNC routers feature a state-of-the-art PC-controller that is upgradeable in the future. It also features a modular tool carriage and a CAD/CAM system.

Techno Isel offers the Series III Techno Wood Router. The PC-driven, CNC wood router can be purchased with one of six table sizes from which to choose. It has a travel rate of 200 ipm, a Z-axis cutting force of 200 lbs, a resolution and repeatability of 0.0005 in., the company says.

Accu Router Inc. has introduced the new model Series III-C CNC router. The Series III-C is made of a heavy steel stationary bridge. Onto this bridge goes a Meehanite cast iron mounting plate which in turn supports cast iron spindle slides. The Series III-C also features General Electric/Fanuc pendant mounted CNC control, an enlarged THK linear way system throughout, digital AC servo drives, digital frequency inverters and rack mounted NEMA-12 "dust tight" electrical enclosures. The company also offers Setco high speed spindles for this model.

The Model 300 CNC Router-Max, from Ekstrom, Carlson & Co., is designed for cutting wood, composites, plastics and aluminum. The heavy-duty 5-hp, 1,800 to 18,000 rpm programmable router provides speed and accuracy, the company says. There is an optional auxiliary drill/router that is piggyback mounted to the router head.

Northwood Industrial Machinery offers CNC routers which feature German linear motion units, Baldor servomotors, Allen Bradley controls mounted in air-conditioned cabinets. The router heads are 15-hp Continentals made in the U.S. and feature air-oil mist lubricated bearings for long life.

Onsrud Machine Corp. offers a variety of routers including the NC2436-10 CNC router that features a standard table size of 24-in. by 36-in. with an optional 36-in. by 48-in. table. It features a 10-hp drive motor and can feed at 0 to 400 ipm.

Point-to-point boring machines

The EMCO DC 70 from Emco Maier is a PC-controlled woodworking center for boring and milling small series and individual parts. It features a six-station tool turret and can machine either one long workpiece or up to four short workpieces consecutively in one clamping. Maximum workpiece sizes are 2,500mm long, 700mm wide, and 50mm thick. Programming the machine is aided by integrated software that features interactive guidance, entry proposals, graphic illustrations and a user help system. Also featured is a mountings data bank that stores common mountings.

SCMI Corp. offers the Tech 90 Super point-to-point boring machine designed for the custom cabinet shop. It is equipped with a Tria 4000 controller and utilizes user-friendly, menu driven software, the company says. The boring head is comprised of nine vertical spindles, two opposed spindles for horizontal boring, a grooving saw and a 4.5 hp CNC router. The machine is equipped with vacuum holdowns and is capable of running mirror-imaged parts on the right and left sides of the worktable.

Thermwood Corp. now offers the point-to-point CNC machining center model 715 that features AC brushless motors, universal hold down on a 30-in. by 96-in. table configured with six precision-aligned pop up part positioning pins. All axes ride on trackways and are driven by recirculating ball screws. Part programs can be changed rapidly, often with not setup, according to the company. Also standard is the Panel-CAD CAD/CAM system that can store more than 5,000 complete part programs.

Altendorf America offers the Jonsdorf JBU 20/06 universal drilling machine. Features include: a tool carriage with 1.5-KW drive motor and radial drilling head to accommodate six tools, HOMATIC CNC control system, changeable drilling heads, two single drills, nine-spindle drilling head for rows of holes, one two-spindle angular head for horizontal drills, optional four-spindle hardware drilling head and more.

The Ayen Roland M2 CNC boring machine from Force Machinery Co. uses a 3.5-in. floppy disk, has vertical and horizontal boring capabilities and can perform boring, routing and grooving operations.

The Masterwood Model 313 CNC point-to-point machine from Eric Riebling Co. Inc. can perform automatic CNC boring and features a heavy-duty steel structure, 2-hp motor and dust collection system.

Wisconsin Automated Machinery offers a variety of boring machines including the CNC 405 thru-feed vertical boring machine. It features four drilling heads and four spindles and can handle workpieces up to 48 in.

THE FUTURE IS NOW?

Robotics. Further computerization integration. Improved production rates. These are just some of the things experts in the field of CNC routers and CNC boring machines are predicting.

Tom Onsrud of C.R. Onsrud says simply that robotic loading/unloading systems are the future. So does Dennis Stephen of Stiles Machinery Inc. "The machines will be packaged with robotic aids to automatically load and unload parts," Stephen said.

Computerization in general leads the list of predictions for the future.

Skip McFarland of GPM Technologies Ltd. said he "firmly" believes the "new driving force" will be computer integrated woodworking manufacturing. "The software of the future will be able to program all of a company's machines and at the same time provide them with very accurate time studies and cost information."

Bob Meadows of Tekmatex said that, "Future developments already in testing but not yet in the market are very high-production speeds controlled by a new generation of computers. These speeds will double the present production now available."

And as software becomes more powerful and integrated it will be more and more important that these high-tech "gadgets" be compatible with each other. The software and machinery must be able to "seamlessly integrate into the customer's existing infrastructure," said John Park of Stefani Group America. "The CNC customer of today typically has developed product databases, CAD drawing archives and other sophisticated P.C./MS-DOS based applications. The machine supplier should link seamlessly behind the scenes -- which often requires custom software," Park said.

Not only will the new machines be able to integrate a variety of machinery and databases, they will also do more toward keeping themselves up and running. This translates into further research and development of automatic tool changers, longer lasting spindles and cutting tools and machines that can perform self-diagnostics including the constant monitoring of cutting tools sharpness and balance, said Todd Herzog of Accu-Router Inc.

Walter Favrusso of Biesse America, said that the future development of both CNC routers and point-to-point boring machines will focus on further computerization and the search for higher machining speeds through the use of more powerful software and increased emphasis on the tool changer and tool magazines.

Work flow will be improved through the use of more user friendly and PC-based controllers as well as more extensive use of bar coding as part of the programming process, according to Linda Wiggin of Hendrick RWH Industries.

Angelo Gangone of SCMI said that CNC routers and point-to-point boring machines will be sold in standard configurations which will make these machines more affordable.

Affordability is particularly important for small- and medium-size shops. Raymond Ward of Anderson America, said, "There are many first time buyers in the small to medium size shop. These companies need the versatility and flexibility of CNC routers to meet demand of their customers."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles; computer numerical control
Author:Adams, Larry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:4244
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