Cut Center or CNC Router?

Posted by Duane Marrett on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

Tags: CNC Router, Why Purchase a Thermwood, Cut Ready, Cut Center, comparison

Thermwood CNC Router or Cut CenterWith the introduction of Thermwood’s “Cut Ready - Cut Center”, cabinet shops are faced with a fundamental decision about how to approach automating custom cabinet manufacturing. There are now two, distinctly different approaches, each with advantages and limitations:

cnc router

Most shops are aware of CNC routers and how they work. You begin with cabinet design software that is used to design products and create the CNC programs needed to make the parts. Each software provider and machine manufacturer uses a somewhat different approach, but in the end you create what you want to make with software, on a separate computer, and send the resulting programs to the machine where it is cut. With this approach, there are no limitations as to what you can make, other than limits of the software package, your design and programming skills and how much programming time you want to spend.

cut center

Cut centers take a different approach. With cut centers, everything is already in the machine. There is no separate design software or design computer. The machine itself knows how to make cabinets. Tell it how you want your cabinets made, frame or frameless, one or two sided material, assembly method…it offers you options and you select what you want. It then shows you all the cabinet configurations it knows how to make that way. Specify the size and it makes the parts for you. Because everything from product design to tooling and machine set-up is carefully controlled and coordinated, operation is a lot simpler, requiring virtually no technical training or skill. The touch screen control is intuitive so you focus on the product you are making rather than concentrating on making the product. The cut center is intended to make the bulk of products required by most cabinet shops with virtually no effort.

so which is best for your operation?

The answer probably depends on who you are and what you make. The “who you are” is defined by how enthusiastically you embrace computers, software and technology. A major advantage of cut centers is that there is no programming and it requires very little technical skill. If you embrace computers, software and don’t mind the programming time to get the complete flexibility and capability that you want, then a system that doesn’t need programming might not be for you.

-cut center advantage

If you are not very technical or don’t want to hire programmers, the cut center could offer a huge advantage. Even if you are technical, you may want to consider the amount of programming time and effort required to create programs for the products and jobs you plan to run. After all, even computer programmers buy software from others just so they don’t have to program everything themselves. Thermwood, working with professional cabinetmakers, has spent thousands and thousands of programming hours developing products the cut center can make. This is an ongoing effort, something you probably would not have time to do.

In general, if you don’t enthusiastically embrace technology, the cut center approach is probably better, but “what you make” is also important.

-cnc router advantage

If you seldom make the same thing twice and focus on truly custom products, your choice is probably design software and a CNC router, although, in these circumstances it may also be reasonable to continue making products using existing manual techniques. Sometimes programming and proofing something so it can run on a CNC router takes more time than just making it by hand, especially if you are only going to do it once. If most of what you do is a variant of a standard product line, custom cabinet boxes for example, the decision depends on whether the cabinets that the cut center makes will work for you.

cut center has a huge selection

The cabinets that the Thermwood Cut Ready - Cut Center know how to make are built around the most common ways cabinets are made and offer a lot of flexibility. They may not be exactly what you currently make in every detail but they do offer the major features. In fact, they may include features that you can’t do today that make the product easier and better. For example, Cut Ready cabinets include assembly marks on major components. These are a dot pattern machined into mating parts that show you which parts fit together and in what orientation. They are completely hidden after assembly but save a ton of time when assembling more complex pieces. They also include drawer alignment holes machined into the cabinet sides. Put alignment pins in these holes and use them to install drawer slides and drawers for quick installation and virtually perfectly alignment the first time.

While you can program exactly what you want with a CNC router, no cabinet shop could possibly invest the programming time and effort needed to duplicate even a small portion of the products a cut center can make. For example, considering all the variations, the initial Cut Ready – Cut Center can make something approaching 20,000 different cabinet configurations without counting size variations.

Another consideration is that cut centers include things you may not make today, such as drawers, doors or moldings. It may be a lot less expensive to make these things yourself as long as they are already in the machine and you don’t have to spend a lot of time and effort learning and programming them. Most shops with a CNC router will not go through the trouble to figure all this out but, with a cut center, they are just sitting there and all you have to do is say “make it”.

 


financial comparisons

Now let’s look at finances. How does the cost of these two approaches compare?

The initial cost of a ready-to-run cut center is more than the cost of a conventional CNC router. Remember however, cut centers come complete with everything, including tooling. There are no options. CNC routers tend to have a lot of options and their selection depends on what you want to do with the machine. In addition, for a true comparison you must realize they are not exactly the same thing. For a true comparison, you must add to the CNC router and option cost, all the additional costs needed to get to the same point as a cut center, that is, a system ready to run production.

You need to consider the cost of a design software package and a computer system capable of running it plus the time and cost needed to learn and operate both of them. You must also consider the cost of travel and training for both the design software and machine, including the cost of the folks being trained and any resulting disruption this might cause. Cut centers do not require in-depth technical training, so the basics needed to run them can be taught rather quickly during installation. In fact, most folks can walk up to the machine and run it with no previous instruction.

When looking at a CNC router, you also need to consider the time required to develop and test all required product programs, including the time and material needed to proof the new designs. In most cases, although the initial cost seems to be higher, you will find that a cut center may actually be somewhat less expensive than a CNC router when both are programmed and ready for production. After all that, realize that a cut center can be leased for about the same cost per hour as a single employee.

Another way to look at it is that you can lease a cut center for less than the cost of a programmer for a CNC router and after five years, lease payments for the cut center go away while the cost for the programmer probably went up.

One other factor to consider is that with both systems ready to run, the CNC router will likely have been programmed for only the basic products you make while the cut center can make a variety of additional products such as closet cabinets, utility cabinets, bath cabinets, furniture, MDF doors, dovetail drawer boxes, profile and carved moldings. This is so easy that many shops will elect to include these additional products in their product offering so cut centers could generate more business and profit with little extra effort. With the cut center, its ability to make different productws will continue to grow as Thermwood continues to develop additions. You can download these for free. With a CNC router, you cannot program additional products for free.

the bottom line

So, there it is. Two approaches with the same goal. For truly custom products and the maximum flexibility in a technically savvy environment, the CNC router is probably better. For customized standard products in a less technical environment the cut center wins out. Which is better for you? Only you can decide.

more info

For more info on the Thermwood Cut Center, please visit cutready.com.  For more info on our line of 3 and 5 axis CNC routers, please visit us at thermwood.com.

 

 

Nested Based Production the Easy Way

Posted by Duane Marrett on Wed, Jul 09, 2014

Tags: Announcements, Why Purchase a Thermwood, Cut Ready, Cut Center, Video

Quite a few custom cabinet shops haven’t automated because they just don’t like computers. They don’t want to get involved with design software, CNC programs or any other complex technology. They just want an easy method to make cabinets.  

Thermwood Cut Center is the easy way to make custom cabinets and furnitureNow, there is a way for them to automate without any of that. It’s a different kind of machine called a “Cut Center” and it is available from Thermwood. With Thermwood’s “Cut Ready - Cut Center” there is no programming, no design computer, no design software, no machine parameters or complex systems. You simply tell the machine what you want and it makes it for you.  

True, there is a huge amount of highly advanced technology in a cut center, but the user doesn’t need to know, understand or deal with it any more than you need to know and understand the technology that makes your car run. With a car, all you want to do is drive. With a cut center, all you want to do is make cabinets and a cut center knows how to make cabinets.

just tell it what you want to make

The cut center runs through a touch screen, sort of like an iPad, but a lot bigger. Tell it what you want … kitchen cabinets, closet cabinets, bath or utility cabinets, furniture, etc.  Next, (depending on what you select), tell it how you want it made…face frame or frameless, single or double sided material, toe kick or detached toe, etc. Now select a cabinet configuration from the list presented, adjust the size and make it. The machine guides you through the process, step by step.

This is pretty easy and when the cabinets are done, you can make drawers, doors and drawer fronts for those cabinets.

There are several kinds of drawers to choose from, side mount or undermount slides, blind dado or dovetail joints, slide-in bottom or full thickness bottom. It is interesting that, depending on the mounting system selected, the drawer will be a different size and built a little different but, the user does not need to deal with any of that. Just tell the machine to make drawers and it takes care of all the details.

doors and moldings

MDF doors are high-end designs that replicate quality five piece doors. They are made using a reverse 3D printing technique where, instead of adding a little material on each pass, a little is removed. This means that every door in the system can be made with the same standard tools that come with the machine, and there are already over 450 different door and drawer front designs. This same technique is also used to make moldings. Hundreds of profiles are available and each can be adjusted in both width and depth and then used to make either straight or arched moldings.

the cut center takes care of it

The cut center is really easy to use, even for people with no real machine operating experience. The control takes care of the complex areas automatically like tool management and tool life monitoring, vacuum hold down and spoilboard management and routine maintenance. It then guides the operator every step of the way and if he doesn’t understand any step, it will play a video showing him exactly what to do. And if that isn’t enough, the operator can connect to a live Thermwood technician, right on the touch screen, who can answer questions and help with any problems. This virtual service is available whenever needed, as long as you own the machine, and it’s free.

Over time, Thermwood plans to add additional products to the cut center, based on user feedback, and these additions will be available to all cut centers as a free download. System software updates are also released as a free download.

less cost over time

In the past, if you wanted to automate your cabinet production but didn’t want to deal with computers and software, you were pretty much out of luck. Today there is finally an answer, it is called a Cut Center and it can be leased for about the same cost per hour as a single employee.

more info

Here at Thermwood, we are excited about this new product and direction.  We hope it brings the benefits of modern automation to a new segment of the woodworking industry, who (for a variety of reasons), are uncomfortable with or can't work with current methods.  You can learn more about this incredible new technology at cutready.com

 

 

Thermwood Cut Center Featured on 21st Century Television

Posted by Duane Marrett on Fri, Jun 20, 2014

Tags: Announcements, Cut Ready, Cut Center, Video, Ken Susnjara, Trump

Thermwood's amazing new Cut Ready Cut Center is being featured on 21st Century Television with an interview between Thermwood's Chairman and CEO, Ken Susnjara and host Donald Trump Jr.  The cut center is a new type of machine for making cabinets, closets and furniture that requires no programming and can be run by about anyone.

The first broadcast airing of this program will be on Blooomberg Television (US) on July 27th at 6:30PM EST.

There will be multiple broadcasts in the US, Europe and Asia this summer and fall.  Exact network and broadcast times will be available by July 10th, but you can watch the program segment right now by clicking below:

More info

We at Thermwood are excited about this new product and direction.  We hope it brings the benefits of modern automation to a new segment of the woodworking industry, who (for a variety of reasons), are uncomfortable with or can't work with current methods.  You can learn more about this incredible new technology at cutready.com

The Most Significant Technical Advancement Since Nested Based Manufacturing

Posted by Duane Marrett on Fri, Jun 06, 2014

Tags: Thermwood, New, 3 Axis, Announcements, Technology, Cut Ready, Cut Center, cabinets, Video, doors, drawers, moldings

Thermwood Cut CenterDo you realize that nested based cabinet technology was first developed thirty years ago?

For technology, that’s ancient, and it really hasn’t changed much! It’s time for something new… something better… something easier… a lot easier

what is it?

It’s called a “cut center” and it’s really different. It makes virtually everything a cabinet shop needs, but there is no programming. That’s right, no computer, no software and no programming…none….EVER !

no programming?

A cut center doesn’t need programming because it already knows how to make cabinets, closets, furniture, doors, drawers, moldings and more…. thousands and thousands and thousands of designs. Just tell it what you want and it makes it, the size you want and the way you want

Thermwood has just announced the very first cut center, called "Cut Ready".  This amazing new technology has already been discovered by the business media and is being featured on Fox Business News, Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg International Europe and Bloomberg International Asia multiple times this summer and fall

The amazing thing about this machine is that it can be run by just about anyone, no special training, no special technical skills. This is manufacturing for the average person

Now cabinet shops can remain cabinet shops and not be enslaved by technology. It installs and you are in full production in a couple of hours.  It can be run by your current folks and make you a ton of money

more info

See videos and more info at cutready.com