Even a great car will begin to wear down over time, and a great CNC router is no different. But just as a good car owner can get more miles out of their car by keeping up with routine maintenance, a good CNC operator can extend their machine’s lifetime if they take good care of it.
In more than 20 years of working with CNC machines, our team at Diversified Machine Systems (DMS) has learned a lot about how to make a router last for the long haul. Manufacturers frequently ask us to send a skilled technician to inspect their machines, so we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly on people’s shop floors. Time and again, we’ve seen that machine operators who pay attention to these five tips are the ones who are able to get the most mileage out of their CNC routers.
Keep It Clean
We can’t tell you how many times we send a technician across the country to inspect a malfunctioning machine, only to find the simplest problem: it’s dirty. A buildup of dust or chips in a machine can quickly lead to a router becoming bound up or ineffective—or worse, create permanent damage.
Before you send for an inspection that might cost you money and time, it’s a good idea to implement a strict cleaning plan. Especially if you’re cutting caustic materials like carbon fiber, it is essential to keep particles out of lead screws, runner blocks, and other sensitive areas. In addition to cleaning surfaces with a lint-free rag or vacuum, everything needs to be consistently lubricated—we recommend applying grease every 40 hours of use.
If you’d like a comprehensive regimen for preventative maintenance, we have a 100-item checklist we’d be happy to send you.
Update the Nuts and Bolts
As part of your long-term maintenance plan, we recommend updating your machine by replacing core components when they begin to show signs of wear and tear. Many of your CNC machine’s parts—ball screws, gear boxes, rails, runner blocks—can be replaced without much cost. This is a small investment that can extend your machine’s lifetime by several years.
Beyond the nuts and bolts, we also recommend occasional software updates. When your machine’s programming is lagging and glitchy, it may be time for an upgrade. This is usually a more expensive process than replacing hardware, but the investment is worthwhile when your machine suddenly functions like a newer model.
Check Your Safety Measures
In the name of convenience, some machinists are tempted to tamper with manufacturer safety settings. This is a huge mistake. Safety measures like relays and guardings exist not only for your team’s protection—no small matter—but for the health of the machine itself. When operators bypass factory settings, the machine is made vulnerable to accidents that are both costly and dangerous.
In a recent update to their codes, OSHA now mandates that a machine that is over 20 years old must have all of its safety components replaced. This may seem like a bit of a hassle, but it will ensure that your machine is safe for future operators. To ensure the safety of your machines and crew, we recommending appointing a safety monitor to implement all safety measures and keep a high standard of accountability.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Your operators are the first line of defense to keep your routers in working condition, as they will be the first to discover that strange ticking sound or that almost imperceptible leak. Catching malfunctions early is a key part of preventative maintenance, so training your team to notice these small details is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your machine’s longevity.
Prioritize Routine Inspections
Even with a trained team, there are some things that are best addressed by an expert. That’s why Diversified Machine Systems offers quality inspection on all its machines. When you call in and describe your concern, we can decide whether an in-person visit is needed, or whether we can perform a remote inspection and make recommendations from afar.
In either case, having your machine inspected by an expert who is familiar with the exact model and who can make specific recommendations is a good way to make sure your CNC router lasts for the long haul. You can contact DMS today to request an inspection!