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    Pod and Rail Point to Point CNC Router Versus Flat Table CNC Routers

    Pod and Rail Point to Point CNC Router Versus Flat Table CNC Routers

    Pod and Rail Point to Point CNC Router Versus Flat-Table CNC Routers

    What is the most versatile - pod and rail or flat table?

    A pod and rail machine has an advantage over a flat table in that it can process the side of the part with horizontal boring, machining, cutting, etc. A flat table can also perform some of these tasks, but then the parts can't be nested and require to be raised. The parts also require more space to separate them to make room for the tooling to access the side of the part.

    Cabinet bases/frames can quickly be produced on a flat table with all the construction boring completed in a matter of 5-10 minutes per sheet on a newer machine. This would take longer on a pod and rail machine.
    But if you are machining custom parts made out of solid wood that requires machining on the side and bottom of the part. A pod and rail is the way to go. A flat table can't perform those functions as easy. But if all you are doing is machining on the top of the part and cutting the part out of a sheet, then a flat table is all you need.

    To choose an ATC CNC pod and rail style Point to Point CNC Router or flat table CNC router depends on the product you run - you may only need a flat table machine, or if you have enough Z-clearance, then you can run other parts.
    For dado construction, a flat table is perfect. A pod and rail can be a flat table, but also give you the flexibility of running complex custom parts with CNC accuracy. Let's say you are making a sunburst shutter frame and want to drill the holes on the CNC. This could only be completed on a pod and rail. It could be run on a flat table, but then you would need to raise the part and have the C-axis option installed. This comes almost standard on most pod and rail machines.

    I run both a nested (flat) CNC and a pod and rail point to point. Since I do high volume production kitchen cabinetry and high end commercial, it has been useful to have both. I use a panel saw to cut the parts for my production prior to sending them to my point to point. This gives me the ability to do volume with minimal manpower. I run smaller parts that need machining on my nested (flat) router because I can do onion skin cuts to help hold them in place better. I also utilize my nested router for MDF doors and specialty cuts for our desk area (curved, etc.). Software is a good thing to focus on when deciding what type of machine you need.

    Most nested base machines have an automatic tool changer (ATC) and a drill block. ATC machines usually start at 5 tools and can go up to dozens of tools depending on your requirements and how much money you can allocate to the purchase. A drill block is not essential with an ATC because you can pick drills from your tool selection, but if you do a lot of drilling, it can be very beneficial. Again it is a function of how much you have to spend. A three spindle machine versus a single spindle ATC system might be enough or could be a limitation.

    If your budget is small and you want a new machine, you will probably have a better selection of flat table CNC routers. Without a doubt a flat bed router and good software for nested based cutting is the best way for a small shop to go. As your shop grows, you might end up using both processes. Getting started in CNC you need to consider how much time and money you want to invest, and which process will work best in your shop.