Big glass machinery decisions regarding CNC Work Stations, CNC Waterjet and CNC drilling and milling machines......tips to help you decide the best cnc solution for your glass machinery and equipment needs. The three main choices you will have to make.
As your glass fabrication facility expands you will come to this question eventually and your decision could be one that leads to great growth and the need for all three. You may have to choice one first probably. Let's explore each one of these machines, the advantages and disadvantages and why you will eventually want all three types for your state of the art glass fabrication facility.
CNC work station. In general cnc work station have been around for 4 decades. It emerged in the glass industry in the 1980's. Prior, the main glass machinery used for grinding and polishing glass "shape glass" a single arm, single spindle glass machine. This mostly manual machine is still widely used in the glass industry today. It is inexpensive and works very well but is a bit slow and labor intensive. The natural evolution was for the CNC work station and hundreds have been sold each year for several years in the North America glass industry. The advantages are numerous. These work stations have large tool centers allowing for quick change of tooling. Shapes use mainly peripheral wheels and in some cases as many as six changes per profile. The work stations bed can be filled will several different shapes that can be processed simultaneously thus increasing production. The operator maybe able to run two or sometimes three machines at once thus reducing cost of labor and handling per piece. Any reduction in handling means a reduction in waste. "The real benefit is in processing shapes with profiles", be careful as many CNC work station suppliers promote this machine as the magic single need machine and it is not". The best way to think of this machine and it's benefits is imaging the letter "S" for" Shapes". This is the "best" modern type machine for the fabrication of "shape glass with profiles". Beware that for other type work such as shower door cut outs and drilling it is not the best way. Don't be fooled! Be sure you remember that drilling glass must be done from the top and bottom and cnc work stations only work from the top.
This brings us to cnc drills. About 20 years ago CNC drilling and milling machinery arrived to the glass industry making it able to produce more than 100 "out of square" frameless shower doors per shift. While their is primarily only one manufacturer making the best one, this manufacture continue use to innovate and improve cycle times and machine quality. This is the absolute best way for CNC drilling and also CNC milling for shower doors and other similar products. This type machine will drill from the top and bottom, something a cnc work station cannot do as mentioned above. Also it has a milling tool that can cut out the smaller cut outs with ease such as the mouse ear notches. It can even polish the inside cut outs and very fast reducing a huge amount of labor, handling and waste. What you don't want to do with this type of machine is grind out big milling jobs, that is best performed on a Waterjet.
CNC water jets.....for sure the best way to cut laminated glass shapes but also the best way to do big cut outs on regular monolithic glass. This machine is fast and extremely accurate. The features have been developed for loading and off loading as well as developments in the cnc controllers and intensifiers, (pumps). Be careful when you buy this type of machine especially in the area of the intensifier. If your going to have problems it mainly will come from an intensifier. Be sure your intensifier has local support and lots of it. Waterjet cutting is created by a big force along with an abrasive material thus creating a very destructive environment for the machine and its parts. Know that the cost per hour to run this machine maybe ten times of what you first thought. Check this figure closely as it should be considered before buying. Call and check all references and ask each one what they really believe this per hour cost to be. Be sure your intensifier has a good support system as few do. one thing a Waterjet can not do is grind or polish glass. Think of it as a very fast and special cutting machine for shapes and special laminated glass.
In summery, all three are excellent machines for reducing labor, handling and waste. Ideally it is great to have all three but capital expenditures must be though out with great care and few can afford all three at one time. Therefore chose wisely based on the area that bests suits your company at the time and based on the future. Be careful to understand all three are different types with different advantages and disadvantages. Choose wisely and do not believe one machine can do it all.