Just like a smart phone does more than make phone calls, a “smart-router” does more than route parts. The “more” in a smart-router saves material and labor and makes it really easy to use. A smart-router does cost more but is substantially more profitable, making it a much better overall investment.
Most people looking at a router for the first time do not realize that the vast majority of their cost will not be in running the router, but actually in EVERYTHING ELSE required to run the router (preparation, programming, hold down, operating procedures and error handling are the main cost areas).
Ordinary routers do not focus on these areas. They simply rely on the user to take care of them and usually it is not that easy. Thermwood smart routers address these areas in a big way. They focus on the areas where you spend the most money because that’s where you can make the most money.
Smart-routers process part programs two ways:
First, they process programs in the traditional way using CNC program output from virtually any design software. Smart-routers can even run existing programs written for other brand machines, even if those programs contain codes specific to that machine. This means, with a smart-router, you can use software configured for about any machine and you can run programs you already have without reprogramming. Smart-routers are pretty much compatible with anything, but if you are running nested based programs, there is a much better approach.
In the second approach, instead of using traditional CNC programs developed with software and a PC, smart-routers use part information directly, and create the actual cutting programs within the machine itself. Several major software vendors already offer database output to smart-routers plus, any software that can output DXF files will work with smart-routers. You send the design to a smart-router and it, rather than you, worries about how to make the parts. There are significant advantages to this approach.
Easily use material left from the last job
Smart-routers easily nest on material left from other jobs. This means thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars savings each year.
Recover from broken tool without scrapping material
Smart-routers recover from a broken tool without scrapping the sheet you are cutting or restarting the job. This saves a lot over time.
Smart nesting keeps smaller parts from moving (and being scrapped)
Smart-routers use smart nesting. They automatically adjust the program for smaller parts using skins or tabs.
Nest around defects to use damaged or flawed material
If you have material with a defect, smart routers can easily nest around the defect, allowing you to use the sheet anyway.
Save the sheet if parts start moving
Should parts start to move, smart-routers can be instructed to complete the sheet without scrapping any more parts by leaving a skin. This skin is removed by hand, saving valuable parts and eliminating rework.
Fly cut spoilboard in the middle of a job
Smart-routers easily fly cut the spoilboard in the middle of a job. Maintaining a good working spoilboard surface with ordinary routers is involved and prone to problems.
Machine back operations on the full sheet
Smart-routers perform back side operations on a full sheet rather than process the back of parts one at a time. This not only saves labor but also avoids errors from handling a lot of individual parts.
Alerts you when running critical parts
Smart-routers alert you when a prominent, highly visible part is about to be processed so you can hand select a sheet with good grain and no flaws. This avoids scrapping important parts due to small flaws.
Smart-routers are easier to program
Programming is a lot simpler. Send a design file from almost any design software, even a DXF file, to the machine and it does everything else. No need to develop inflexible posted CNC programs, the machine does it all automatically.
Recut parts without programming
You do not need to develop a CNC program just to remake parts. At the end of a job, simply scan the label on any part or parts and it nests them on the remaining material and cuts them. You can remake parts from a previous job the same way.
Easily recover from problems without programming
Smart-routers easily recover from problems like broken tools, bad material, parts moving, etc. without having to develop new CNC programs.
Run at the machine without programming each job
Smart-routers let you load your entire product line in the machine and then select, resize and run any product or combination of products without developing a CNC program for each job. It even lets you change material thickness without programming.
During file selection, images avoid errors
When selecting a product to run, smart-routers show not only the alphanumeric name but also an image of the item to help avoid errors.
Machine operator can safely do other jobs
Smart-routers support pause technology. The operator no longer must remain at the machine to stop it in an emergency. A pause button clipped to his belt can stop the machine, so the operator is free to perform other tasks away from the control. A progress bar, visible from a distance, shows the operator how long before he needs to service the machine. It’s like getting an extra worker for free.
Avoid processing parts one at a time
Machining backside operations on the full sheet rather than on individual parts saves a lot of labor. Also, it is more likely to make errors and scrap parts when they are handled one at a time.
Run from virtually any software or any program
Smart-routers run just about anything. They nest and run part data from the major cabinet design software packages. They run DXF files from about anything. In fact files from multiple sources can be easily nested together in a single job. Smart-routers are pretty much compatible with the world. If you are not running nested based, you can run programs from about any software or run existing programs originally written for about any other machine.
The same file works on any smart-router regardless of size or configuration
Since all factors unique to a machine are handled within the machine, you can send the same file to any smart-router, regardless of size or configuration and it will run properly plus you will get the exact same parts.
Smart-routers easily process material whose thickness varies from sheet to sheet
Smart-routers easily process material whose thickness varies from the thickness specified in the original design. Simply input actual material thickness at the beginning of a job and the machine makes all necessary adjustments automatically.
Smart-routers guide you step by step
Smart-routers tell you what they are doing and offer instructions every step of the way. They tell you how many steps in the program, what step they are on and what they are doing. If you can read you can run a smart-router.
Uses smart labels to make parts easy to sort
Smart-routers use smart labels. For jobs with more than one item, color symbols tell you which part goes with which item, saving a lot of sorting time. Diagrams on the label tell you which edges get edge banded.
Assembly marks make parts easy to assemble
Smart-routers run assembly marks. This pattern of dots, machined into mating joints show which parts fit together. This cuts assembly time on most items more than in half.
Smart tooling avoids tooling errors
Smart-routers use smart tooling technology. This makes it really easy when you run different materials that each require different tooling (wood and aluminum for example). Simply specify the material and the machine will select the correct tools and run them at the proper speeds.
Smart-routers manage tooling for you
Smart-routers keep track of tool use and alert you when a tool should be changed, before it starts cutting bad parts. When a tool gets dull you can even have it switch to a backup tool, automatically.
Smart-routers machine a profile edge without a profile tool
Smart-routers can machine a profile edge without a profile tool, by tracing over the edge multiple times with standard tools. It even works on curved moldings. This saves a lot for any shop that makes custom moldings.
Automatically manages routine maintenance
Smart-routers track use and tell you when it is time to clean a filter, lubricate items or perform other routine maintenance.
Helps you recover from errors quickly and easily
When an error is encountered, smart routers show you a diagram of the likely causes and recommends remedies.
Maintenance and operating manuals are right on the screen
You can access a complete searchable maintenance and operating manual right at the smart-router
Watch how-to videos for service
Smart-routers show you videos of how to perform virtually all service functions.
3D CAD drawing identifies every part quickly and easily
Smart-routers display a three-dimensional CAD drawing of the machine which you can rotate explode and zoom to see how parts fit together and accurately identify every part of the machine. This avoids errors when ordering parts and gets you back running quickly.
Smart-routers can be serviced over the internet
Smart-routers can be serviced, reconfigured and tuned over the Internet.
Smart-routers are updated online
Smart-router controls are easily updated online and can generally be upgraded as new technology develops.
Smart-routers are not limited by memory
Thermwood smart-routers have a terabyte of memory while ordinary routers have less memory than your phone. With that much memory, programs for every part of every product made by every company in the wood business can probably be stored on a single Thermwood smart router.
Smart-routers can be monitored and managed with your smartphone or tablet
Smart-routers live on the web. They access updates on the web, are accessed and serviced through the web and apps let you monitor and manage your smart-router using your smart phone or tablet.
Smart-routers use a large touch screen like other modern devices
Smart-routers use a touch screen like an iPad, iPhone or tablet computer. Ordinary routers that may not even have a display, much less a touch display. This is a serious shortcoming and makes the machine a lot harder to learn and use, necessitating a more capable, better trained and more expensive operator.