Machine profile #2
Question: you’ve got a metal sign that needs engraving, a piece of timber that needs carving, a foam model that needs milling, and a plastic component that needs cutting. What one machine can you use to effortlessly perform all of these tasks, and a whole lot more?
Answer: A CNC router.
Even More Specific Answer: FAB9’s new large format flatbed CNC router, the Multicam Trident Series 3000.
It’s the most powerful piece of equipment at FAB9 — one that’s to going to significantly enhance the making practices of many startups, small businesses, designers and individual makers.
What is a CNC router?
If you are familiar with woodworking, there’s a good chance you know what a router is. But for those not in the know, a router is a hand or power tool that can be used to rout (hollow out) an area in a piece of material. Mainly used in woodworking — especially cabinetry — routers are typically handheld or fastened to a router table.
CNC stands for ‘Computer Numerical Control’, so any CNC tool is one that’s controlled by a computer, using CAD (computer aided design) or Vector software (a kind of software that generates scalable drawings or data through the use of points, lines and curves that relate to one another). In this case, we’re talking about a router. Like most machines, not all CNC routers are created equal, ranging from the very simple to the extremely complex.
Compared with their non-CNC counterparts, a CNC router can help to increase the quality and speed of user output by automating processes, maximising precision and minimising waste with the reduction of error frequency.
At FAB9, we want to open our doors to makers from a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds, so it is critical that we choose machines that are flexible in their capabilities.
The Multicam Trident 3000 Series flatbed CNC router
Where most routers are limited to cutting and milling materials like plastics, composites and wood, the Multicam Trident 3000 Series flatbed CNC router is capable of processing more materials, in many different ways.
Its 5kw spindle means it is powerful enough to rout light metals, such as aluminium, and its tangential and oscillating knives allow it to work with softer materials like fabric, cardboard and paper.
On top of that, the Multicam Trident can also perform the tasks of a panel saw, a spindle moulder, and a boring machine (not tedious ‘boring’, but digging / tunnelling ‘boring’, like Elon Musk’s ‘The Boring Company’, boring).
Because powerful CNC routers like the Multicam Trident have been traditionally reserved for use in industrial applications, it’s difficult or almost impossible for independent makers and small/emerging businesses to gain hands-on access to them. Being able to use such a powerful and capable machine is going to be an invaluable part of coming to FAB9 for many of our members.
One of the major drawbacks with many flatbed CNC routers is that even when they’re powerful, they aren’t big enough for projects of larger dimensions.
FAB9’s Multicam Trident is a large-format flatbed with a 2500mm length by 1250mm width bed, which means it will accept a standard material sheet size (2440mm x 1220mm). It also has a solid machine base, which allows for processing heavier, more demanding jobs with maximum stability.
The fab 4
In the world of flatbed CNC routers, a machine’s number of ‘axes’ (singular: ‘axis’) pertains to the number of directions in which the cutting tool and/or the material itself can move.
Our Multicam Trident is a 3-axis CNC router with an optional 4th axis. The first 3 axes — X, Y and Z — refer to the length (X), width (Y) and height (Z) of the router tool’s movement capability.
Put another way, the X-axis processes material lengthways, the Y-axis processes material widthways, and the Z-axis processes materials heighthways. (Incidentally, the Multicam Trident’s gantry — the bridge-like structure that spans the table with the tool-bit attached to it — is 150mm high, which means the Z-axis can process materials up to 120mm in thickness.)
What about the 4th axis?
The optional 4th axis allows the material you are working with to rotate on either the X-axis, Y-axis or Z-axis, giving you greater processing possibilities and achieve more complex detail. 4-axis processing is especially useful for cylindrical jobs, like milling a rounded table leg, where it’s easiest to work fluidly along a spinning piece instead of stopping and starting to alternate between the X, Y or Z-axes.
Fuss-free processing with the hybrid triple head and automatic tool changer
How fine or smooth you can make your project on a CNC router all comes down to tool change capacity — something the Multicam Trident does superbly by featuring a ‘hybrid triple head’, aka., a selection of three different cutting technologies, comprising of either a routing spindle action, a tangential knife or oscillating knife.
The tangential knife, can slice through heavier-flexible and semi-rigid materials like different kinds of metal and wood and the oscillating knife, uses a ‘sawing action’ to cut through flexible materials like foam, corrugated plastic, cardboard and paper.
The hybrid triple head makes it possible to move effortlessly between technologies without having to interrupt your routing session to change them manually — a particularly useful, time-saving feature if you’re working on a complex piece that requires lots of different tool actions.
The Auto-Tool Change carousel, which is fully enclosed for user safety, works seamlessly in tandem with the hybrid triple head by moving alongside the Multicam Trident’s gantry, so you can switch rapidly between a range of tools of different shapes and sizes with zero fuss.
Live deck vacuum system
On a traditional router bed, you have to secure the materials you are processing solely with clamps — a method without any guarantees that the clamps will even keep your piece firmly fixed in one place. Flatbed routers with vacuum beds hold the material with additional security, and with its Live Deck vacuum switching system, the Multicam Trident goes a step further. Working in tandem with the vacuum bed to activate and deactivate its suction in different zones according to the position of the machine cutting head, the Live Deck vacuum switching system provides the area in use with the optimal amount of suction and hold. A particularly important feature if you are working on a job that requires a high level of accuracy or detail and you need the material to be held firmly, and evenly, in place.
And so many more features
The Multicam Trident’s size, axes, automatic tool changer, spindle features and vacuum bed are just the beginning of this powerful machine’s capabilities. You can read up on all of its specs on the Multicam website, here.
Multicam and FAB9
Australian owned, made and based, Multicam isn’t just a great company — it’s also one of FAB9’s biggest fans (though the feeling is mutual).
Respected around the world for its CNC technologies, Multicam have traditionally supplied their products to manufacturing businesses that operate behind closed doors. As a result, the team at Multicam don’t often get to observe their machines being used by their customers. Having the Trident CNC router at FAB9 will mean that the Multicam team will not only get to see what people make with their router, they get to see how they are making it.
Seeing smaller, independent makers in action means Multicam can engage with a new kind of user, gaining insights into the different ways their machine is being used via direct observation and feedback. This means that the Multicam team can iteratively improve their product, adding or adjusting features and capabilities according to user response.
And having a locally-made Multicam CNC router doesn’t just mean better, realtime support — it also means we get the exclusive opportunity of having an official Multicam technician train both our staff and members.
“There is no way I could purchase that kind of equipment on my own!”
Local industrial designer Danielle Storm summed it up perfectly when she told us just how important having access to a large format flatbed CNC router will be for a small, emerging practice like hers.
With its power, versatility, accuracy and speed, this machine isn’t just going to give our members’ making practices a whole new edge, it will help them become more informed, skilled, holistic designers and makers. Instead of having to send a job to somewhere that will process it for you because you don’t know how to operate or access a CNC router yourself, you can come to FAB9 and perform every part of the designing and manufacturing process yourself.
Tours are the best way to experience FAB9. FAB9 will be running tours. Book a tour today
Article authored by Genevieve Callaghan from research conducted by Ying Zhang, for FAB9.
What did you think of it? Got anything to add? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your thoughts, questions, facts, frustrations, feelings and / or anything else — firstname.lastname@example.org