CNC Tube Bender Comparison Guide - What's the better move?

August 14, 2018

In the world of bending there are a ton of options, features, controls and concepts that can overwhelm a perspective buyer. Many of these options can be removed or narrowed down by discussing what type of bender you need: semi-automatic or CNC? At AM Industrial we work with all shapes, sizes, options and brands of benders. Below is a brief overview of semi-automatic vs. CNC that can help you determine which option makes the most sense for your specific needs.

A semi-automatic tube bender (also known as NC series is equipped with an NC control unit with touch screen interface) is a basic tube bender that performs a sequenced set of steps to bend a part. In basic terms, the steps go like this;

  1. Operator loads the part
  2. The machine clamps the part, bends the part, and releases the part
  3. The machine stops and waits for the operator to remove the part or reposition it for a second bend
  4. The machine returns to the starting position and is ready for the next bend on either the same part or on a new part

The machine can have a limit switch to set the degree of bend or an encoder attached to a programmable control to set the degree of bend; however it will NOT reposition the tube between bends. In order to automatically produce a tube with numerous bends with limited operator involvement between each bend, you may need a semi-automatic tube bender.

A CNC bender (Computer Numerical Control unit) performs the same functions as a semi-automatic tube bender with less operator involvement thanks to the use of Servos which are controlled by a computer on the machine. A CNC bender automatically positions the tube between bends including rotation of the tube (B-Axis) and the distance between bends (Y-Axis). Both of these measurements are critical and can be difficult to control with a NC tube bender. Once the machine positions the tube in place, it goes through the clamping, bending and releasing steps that the semi-automatic machine does. Instead of the operator reposition the tube manually, the machine uses the carriage which holds the part, to move the tube to the next location before making the next bend.

Now that you know what the differences are between a semi-automatic and a CNC machine you still need to determine which one to buy from AM Industrial. To make this decision it is important to look at four main factors;

1. How many bends per part are you doing – If you are doing single bend parts such as 90-degree elbows for electrical, a semi-automatic machine is often sufficient because it will usually make a single bend as fast and as accurately as a CNC machine. If you have multiple bends in a part such as an Exhaust system or a fuel line, a CNC machine delivery improved repeatability with less operator involvement and a high performance rate.

2. How many of each part are you doing – if you are doing custom work for headers on a racecar one day and then a custom set of handlebars for your motorcycle on the weekend and then a roll-cage for a dune buggy the next day, a CNC machine may be more hassle than it is worth. A semi-automatic machine offers flexibility and more control of custom one-off parts. If there’s a likelihood that you will be making multiples of an item that has several bends in it, a CNC machine can store the part program and can be recalled at a later date, typically making CNC the better option.

3. What does the future of your business look like – with the ever changing world there are always new opportunities being presented. While a CNC machine with less operator involvement may seem like the best, keep in mind that an NC machine generally do the same work a CNC machine can do if you have a little extra time. If you foresee an increase in the demand for a product you are producing or developing, a CNC machine may give you an edge on the competitor who is making the same part on a semi-automatic machine because you will be able to run at a faster rate, and will over time have a lower cost per part.

Semi-automatic Tube Benders and CNC Tube Machines both are very useful pieces of equipment and have their place in the tube bending world. Using the wrong machine on a given application can lead to increased start-up costs, complicated set-up’s, inaccurate bends and many sleepless nights worrying about the parts you have to make tomorrow. For best results, best value, and to make an educated decision, contact AM Industrial Group to discuss your specific project needs.

Have more questions? Contact us today! (216) 433-7171

Machine data is best collected from machine manufacturers to ensure safer operation inside of designed parameters.  Information above in no way supersedes that data.

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