Cutters for CNC pantographs: how to choose the best on the market

The arrival of CNC technologies has led to a revolution in the furniture and woodworking industries, enabling manufacturers to radically change their production processes. This has also led to a surge in the production of CNC router bits, CNC cutters, and all other CNC tools.

Before analysing the key aspects that must be considered when choosing the most suitable cutters for CNC pantograph, let’s take a closer look at what a CNC machining centre is and how it works.

What is a CNC pantograph?

CNC pantographs are Computer Numerical Control machining centres, the axes of which are managed by a computer integrated into the machine’s control box, or outside it.

The movement of the axes and the functions of the machine are pre-set using a programming software called CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing).

How does a CNC machining centre work?

Using the CAM software, the operator must input the instructions necessary for the machine to create a given product from a CAD design.

The movements of the machine are coordinated electronically so that it follows the predefined trajectories on the axes. The circuits generated enable the mechanical components of the CNC machine to move, which in turn transmit the input to the vertical motor, or electro-spindle, prompting it to perform specific machining operations on different materials.

Advantages of CNC pantograph

As mentioned previously, the advent of CNC machines has brought about a radical change in the machining of wood, but also aluminium, cast iron, plastic, plexiglass, steel, brass, stone and marble.

In particular, automation has made it possible to:

  • improve the quality of machining operations
  • speed up the production chain
  • increase turnover

More specifically, CNC pantograph machines have also introduced the concept of ‘repeatability’, further speeding up processing and optimising not only time, but also every stage of a company’s production process.

If used correctly, taking full advantage of its potential, a CNC pantograph can be used to carry out any type of machining operation, from the simplest (such as cutting shapes and engraving) to the most complex (bas-reliefs, sculptures, etc.) with greater speed, precision and flexibility.

Essentially, with CNC pantographs, a certain number of machining operations can be carried out “in series”, like a production line. The number of operations varies according to the number of moving axes managed via numerical control, which indicate the movements the machine can make between horizontal, vertical and transverse planes.

The axes allow the tool to be tilted in relation to the work table, providing greater flexibility of movement during machining.

As a rule, the CNC pantograph is configured with 3 axes (x, y, z), but it can be equipped with up to 5.

In the latter case, two further functions are added to the machine’s ability to work simultaneously in height, width and depth; these are:

  • the rotation of the tool holder head
  • the rotation of the workpiece

CNC machining centres: what types are there?

5-axis machining centres are the most versatile and popular, on the basis of the movements they can make.

5-axis simultaneous machines

The cutting tool moves along the 3 linear axes (x, y, z) and simultaneously rotates on 2 rotary axes, A and B: this technique is called “5-axis simultaneous machining”.

As the name suggests, this technique allows 5 sides of the same piece of material to be machined simultaneously, even when dealing with complex shapes.

3+2 axis machines

These machines process the material on the 3 linear axes, while the 2 rotary axes enable the cutting tool to be clamped in a specific position and at a precise angle.

The lower cost of this type of machine is due to the fact that the 3+2 configuration is more limited than the other alternative, both in terms of function and versatility.

For example, it is not suitable for machining very complex workpieces. However, it is an excellent tool for automating the machining of different materials.

CNC machining centres for wood: types

The advent of CNC pantograph technology for wood has made it possible to achieve very high quality standards, automating all the woodworking operations that used to be carried out by hand, using considerable resources, time and energy.

Various types of CNC machining centres are used in the woodworking industry.

The most commonly used are:

  • CNC work centres for milling
  • CNC work centres for edgebanding
  • CNC work centres for nesting
  • CNC work centres for windows and doors
  • CNC work centres for boring

Now let’s take a look at how to choose the tooling for CNC, and the various aspects that need to be taken into account.

Cutters for CNC pantographs: how to choose the best option for you

The choice of tools for CNC machining centres represents a crucial stage in the production process. Unfortunately, we often find that customers who possess a high-performance CNC machining centre use unsuitable tools, or alternatively, due to a lack of experienced operators, they are unable to obtain the required machining quality, which then jeopardises their entire production.

The decision to invest in a CNC machine must be accompanied by careful consideration and a detailed cost analysis. With regard to the choice of CNC tools, meanwhile, the price is often one of the main factors that influences the purchase, with quality and safety seen as secondary.

Let’s try to clarify which aspects must be taken into account when purchasing CNC cutters.

Firstly, it is important to ask yourself:

  • What type of material do I want to machine?
  • What machining operations do I need to carry out?
  • How many panels do I need to process?

Secondly, it is important to bear in mind that the choice of tools is influenced by numerous variables that are connected to the specific machining operations and needs of each individual user.

How to choose the most suitable cutters for CNC pantograph

Several factors determine the most suitable tools for your CNC machine, such as the type of operation to be carried out, the knowledge of the machine parameters, the type of material to be processed and the desired feed rate.

The initial cost of the CNC tool should not be given undue weight: focusing solely on this factor could significantly limit the technology and capabilities of the CNC machining centre. A wrong choice of cutter can also affect the precision and optimisation of production, the finish quality, the degree of waste reduction and the wear of the electrospindle and the machine itself.

Using poor quality tool holder chucks or cutters that are not properly balanced will result in considerable increases in the initial budgeted costs.

Making the right choice of chuck from the various types available on the market is just as important for the final machining quality and the associated costs.

We have just touched upon the importance of knowing what type of machining operation you intend to carry out before buying a CNC cutter.

Let’s start by summarising the main machining operations that are possible:

  • contouring
  • sizing
  • boring
  • shaping
  • grooving

For each machining operation, there are specific CNC cutters. It is also important to consider which part of the panel will be machined, the desired finish quality and the depth of the cut (i.e. the volume of chips to be removed).

The first two variables affect the choice of geometry of the cutting edge of the cutter, while the depth of cut determines the choice of shank.

For “heavy” or “deep pass” milling, more support is required than for “light” milling operations, such as chamfering a corner.

The analysis of the type of machining operation must then be examined alongside the various other parameters, such as the material to be machined, the number of revolutions and the feed speed.

CNC tools: the best cutters by wood type

We have previously drawn attention to the fact that every machining operation is different, and that it is essential to look at the various factors that affect machining together when determining the most suitable CNC tools: the analysis of the type of material to be machined is a very important part of this.

Knowing exactly which type of material you will be machining will ensure that there are no nasty surprises during the process, such as breakage of the cutter or damage to the panel.

Wood, for example, is a natural composite material that comes in many varieties and is used in a myriad of applications. Every type of wood has its own particular features: from the hardest to the softest, from pure to composite, from block board to laminate, whereas others, like chipboard, may contain wood/metal/glue waste, etc.

For example, if the panel we’re machining contains ferrous materials, it is best not to use diamond cutters; conversely, these are highly recommended for working materials like Corian, highly abrasive materials, MDF, chipboard, etc.

Perché utilizzare utensili in diamante policristallino

CNC cutters in polycrystalline diamond

Polycrystalline diamond router bits for CNC machines are used for sizing, contouring and boring, and for making channels, finger joints and for rebating.

Polycrystalline diamond is a very hard material, making it suitable for repeated machining, and is highly recommended for processing materials such as chipboard, MDF, melamine, multilayer and coated multilayer materials, HPL and CORIAN.

Compared to other materials – such as solid tungsten carbide, for example – it is initially more expensive, but its greater strength guarantees a longer cutting life than conventional tools with tungsten carbide cutting edges, as it minimises production costs and optimises performance and quality.

Perché utilizzare utensili in metallo duro

CNC tools in tungsten carbide

In contrast to polycrystalline diamond router bits, CNC cutters in tungsten carbide are mainly recommended for machining materials such as hardwoods, and other materials that require higher levels of chip removal.

Whether you choose PCD tools, solid tungsten carbide tools or tools with inserts, it is always advisable to take a close look at the pros and cons of each.

Using tools correctly

Let’s take a look at an example: a manufacturer processing phenolic panels may get through many tungsten carbide router bits every day, but using a diamond bit would give the tool a longer life and reduce overall machining costs.

Whichever tool you choose to buy, the most important thing is to use it correctly. Even the best CNC cutter on the market will only deliver high performance if it is used within the parameters for which it was designed.

We have emphasised from the outset that a careful analysis of the type of machining operation to be carried out is undoubtedly a fundamental step when choosing a CNC cutter, but this must also be assessed in relation to the other machining parameters, such as the type of material being machined, the number of revolutions and the feed speed. Finding the right balance between all these parameters is not easy.

For this reason, it is essential to turn to a tool supplier with plenty of experience in the field, and who is also able to provide the most appropriate advice for achieving the optimum balance between the various machining parameters.

Why choose Wirutex

We have repeatedly highlighted how important it is to carry out an analysis of the various parameters related to machining when choosing the most appropriate CNC cutter – the type of material, the part of the panel to be machined, the depth of the cut, the number of rotations, feed speed and so on – in attempt to find the right balance between these elements.

For this reason, it is essential to seek advice from the leading companies in the sector, such as Wirutex hi-tech tools: thanks to the company’s extensive experience in the field, Wirutex can provide the most appropriate advice for achieving the optimum balance between the parameters involved in the machining process.

Since 1980, Wirutex hi-tech tools has been designing, manufacturing and distributing high-tech CNC tools for woodworking machines, establishing itself over the years as a point of reference in the development of polycrystalline diamond and tungsten carbide products for high-level artisan applications and for the furniture industry.

In-depth knowledge of the market and materials enables Wirutex hi-tech tools to maintain a continuous focus on innovation and the use of the latest technologies.

In addition, every stage of the industrial process, from the initial design to the final product, is subject to rigorous and meticulous testing to ensure functionality, safety and high performance.

This way of working, which is extended to all services – including that which enables the creation of custom tools for specific customer requirements – has enabled the company to constantly raise the level of quality it offers and to implement increasingly effective and cutting-edge trials.

Wirutex hi-tech tools products comply with the European standard EN 847-1, and the braze-welding process used by the company is certified by the Italian Institute of Welding.

Please contact us if you have any queries or questions about the characteristics of our products, and for advice on the most suitable cutting materials for your machining processes.