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My first inclination is to say that questions about computer-automated production belong under a different site, but Personal Manufacturing and Digital Fabrication didn't make it past beta. It could perhaps be argued that computer-automated production is just another evolution in woodworking, similar to the progression from hand tools to power tools. Also, I imagine some shops might initially produce an item using the more typical woodworking techniques but switch to using a CNC and/or laser cutter as they scale up production. What does everybody else think?

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  • Are these sorts of things something you might do at home? Or are the machines needed realistically too expensive. – Joe Mar 30 '15 at 17:29
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    You can buy some of the machines new for less than the price of a premium cabinet-style table saw. – rob Mar 30 '15 at 17:35
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    I'm not entirely sure what that price is but if that means some home woodworkers will do this, then it seems on topic to me. Just because a question could have a better site doesn't mean it can't be on topic if this community would potentially find value. – Joe Mar 30 '15 at 17:46
  • I don't have one myself but the first CNC price I found in a search was slightly less than $3000. Like many "woodworking" tools, it may be a luxury for many, but within the limits of others' budgets. Also, I didn't intend to suggest that this site should be limited to home woodworkers; I was just listing one possible scenario which blurs the lines between what we traditionally call woodworking and what some people may consider to be just another tool in a woodworker's arsenal. – rob Mar 30 '15 at 17:56
  • I have a shapeoko CNC that I've spent about $800 on. That being said, the kinds of questions that pop up about CNCs tend to be about software, electrical engineering, material characteristics.. not as much about woodworking itself, even if the material being cut happens to be wood. – TX Turner Apr 2 '15 at 16:44
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    Ottawa Pulblic Library lets you use time on the laser cutter for free as long as you take a course with them. Like most tools as long as its related to woodworking it should be fine. The community will ultimately decide. – Matt Apr 8 '15 at 1:19
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I think they should be included. They're woodworking tools after all. I'd say that questions related to programming these machines don't belong here, because that crosses over into software, engineering etc. but there are many possible questions I could think of (given that I work at a joinery with a 5-axis CNC router) directly related to the woodworking aspect, that would have been great to ask when we first got the machine. Things like tooling selection (i.e. router cutters and tooling blocks), workpiece holding and the like which are both directly related to woodworking and specific to CNC machining. I now also have plenty of knowledge that I can pass along on the matter.

Also you can get small-scale, DIY or second-hand CNC routers for less than $5k, and probably even less than $1k, so it's not out of reach of the average person, if that's to be a factor.

Would you exclude questions about a spindle moulder? To me it's the same principle.

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I think while the questions can be on topic (assuming they are actually working with wood and not some other material). First I suspect we won't get a lot of these questions because I think most would consider this to be a more 'hand-on' question and answer place, not necessarily a more production oriented one.

But just because of that doesn't mean those types of questions shouldn't be asked here. The important part is if the question is focused on the wood working aspect or some type of manufacturing issue that would be better asked elsewhere.

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  • I agree this probably won't be the bulk of questions but I think it's worth considering how to address it before someone asks. Sometimes a woodworking project also involves working with other materials. If I'm making a woodworking tool and want advice on laser-cutting a metal component, would you consider that on-topic or off-topic? Would it make any difference if the entire tool was made from metal vs. making a tool which has metal inlays or blades but is partly wood? – rob Mar 30 '15 at 17:32
  • @rob hmm. All good questions. Do we include making any tool that is used in woodwork as well? I think that is something we'll just have to experiment with. I think it will depend on how closely it fits with woodwork, but it likely to have a grey scale, and the community will have to decide the line. – bowlturner Mar 30 '15 at 17:48

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