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CNC Equipment for MDF Door Production

Advice on choosing the right CNC setup for milling doors from MDF. October 9, 2006

I抦 looking for a low priced CNC to make MDF cabinet doors (2 and 5 pass) out of 4' x 8' sheets. Can anyone suggest any brand or has anyone had good or bad experiences doing MDF raised panel doors? I appreciate any advice or insight.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
We are very pleased with our Busellato Jet 200RT. It is easy to operate, built like a tank, no short cuts or substandard parts - just the best of the best, and the same goes for DMG. Our first MDF door job was 25 doors and 6 drawer fronts in less than 30 minutes. We're a 2 man shop and when we set out researching CNC routers we did not consider any entry level or second tier machine. We decided to buy a first class machine that would exceed our current needs and meet our future needs as we grow. Beware of salesmen who try to sell you a 4 x 8 router with anything smaller than a 20 hp vacuum pump or you'll see small parts flying off the table.

From contributor B:
You should strongly consider a 5' x 10' table for MDF doors or you will be disappointed with your yield.

From contributor C:
Tom is correct with the advice on a 5 x 10 foot table. You will want around a 40hp vacuum pump for sufficient holding capability on the table. If you don't think vacuum pressure is important, you may want to research blowers. It may save you money, but be sure you know the difference between flow and pressure. If doing inside square corners, be sure the manufacturer shows you a sample with two tools blending for the corners. You will be amazed at how little of a witness mark shows up. This mark can be caused by too quick of an acceleration/deceleration or backlash. You may have trouble with the low cost machines. You will also require adequate software to put toolpaths on your doors plus nesting, etc. You have plenty of research ahead of you. Heed those who made the mistakes in the past.

From contributor D:
When you guys refer to a 40hp vacuum, exactly what do you mean ?40 hp installed electric motor power or is there some other measure (as in air-conditioning ) that I am unaware of?

From contributor E:
I wouldn't cut-out the doors on the CNC for many reasons. It抯 hard on the router, it抯 bad for tool ware, its leaves a huge mess and you spend lots of time cleaning up your machine after each pass just to get it clean enough to suction the next board, plus you need two people to load it. Even with a powerful vacuum for the dust, it still will cause you problems with off-cuts flying up and blocking your vacuum. The amount of dust will set off any infrared safety devices, stopping the machine. If that happens, a restart will leave a burn mark, or worse, a bump. The end results is more rejects. Cut the doors slightly oversized on a sliding table saw and let the CNC trim the rest. You can run about 4 meters a minute faster while doing the trim.

From contributor F:
I've got a 4 x 8 ShopBot with a 7 hp pump and I cut hundreds of MDF doors and drawer fronts with square corners every month. The only parts I've ever lost due to lack of suction are drawer sides. As far as pumps go, bigger is always better

From contributor G:
Using Biesse machinery might be your problem. We bought a 6.2 metre SCM flatbed router last year. We use it for all of our carcase and door routing. You would be absolutely crazy not to put a sheet of MDF on the bed and have a door nest. We have one person running our machine. Cutting doors doesn't make a huge mess (if it does, get better dust extraction) and our vacuum level is not a problem (we have two pumps).

To not do doors on a nesting machine when you have the capability to would be completely illogical. Forgetting the wear on the tools and the machine (which is what the tools and machine are made for) think of the amount of time, labor and money that is wasted by cutting them on the beam saw, stacking them, taking them to the P2P, unstacking them and routing them one by one. Our nesting machine does a nest of doors, with a much better finish, in the same time our old Biesse P2P took to do one door. We're very happy with our SCM Router by the way. We looked at SCM, Morbidelli and Homag. We ended up choosing between the Homag and the SCM, and we're very happy with the SCM.

Looking at our machine shop now, with 1.5 people instead of 4, one nesting machine instead of a beam saw and two point-2-points, we now do more work, and we do it quicker and cleaner than ever. There is no comparison for us, a custom manufacturer, between the old way and the new way.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor P:
As others have said, put the whole sheet on your CNC and cut out all of your parts. The key to keep them from "flying off the machine" is to not have the cutter go all the way through the material. Plan your depth to leave 1/64 of material left. This way the vacuum is not broken and the parts are still connected. It will be easy to break them out when the machining is complete. Think of it like model airplane parts that you have to break off of the runner. You will have to clean up the edge, but that goes quickly. Also, be careful in handling the parts off the CNC as the edges will be sharp.

Comment from contributor G:
A CNC router is great for making doors. We have an Onsrud CNC Panel Pro that is the perfect ticket for nested based manufacturing. A 5 x 12 table is the way to go - you can process up to 12 feet, and 5 feet wide MDF gives a superior yield.