Buying things sight unseen has become the norm in the modern era of Amazon and all things e-commerce. However, there are still some things that you really owe yourself to see in person before pulling the trigger. When it comes to CNC machines, we’re firm believers in always trying to get a customer in front of a machine before signing on the dotted line. If you are thinking about this CNC milling machine, read on to learn 5 things about the M8Cube, you probably didn’t know.
When buying a car you know there are unlimited options that can get you from point A to point B, but the devil is in the details. Which one has the comfiest seats? The best GPS system? The most back seat legroom? A lot of these details can be described, but they’re usually highly subjective, and ultimately best experienced by the person that has to live with them.
The same goes for buying a CNC machine. On paper, they are all just industrial milling equipment, with a laundry list of specifications that will answer nearly all of the technical questions you might have. But, like a car, it’s a different ball game when you’re in front of a machine. Let’s talk about some cool details we cover when you see an M8Cube in-person.
One of the first details you notice when checking out an M8Cube is its wide-open front. A large gull-wing door makes accessing the machine table especially easy, and a roll-out chip tray makes cleaning out the cabin extra convenient.
While this door configuration is standard, it’s not the only option. For high-volume production work, there’s an auto door option that will open and close in a matter of seconds, saving time and strain for the machine operator. For automation, the front door, or a side auto door, can also be used for loading and unloading with a robot.
Integrated Workholding Utilities
We don’t hide the fact that we love vacuum workholding, and so do our customers. In fact, more than half of our customers get a vacuum chuck from the start of their machine ownership. One reason why they’re so commonly adopted is their seamless integration into the machine. The vacuum supply is routed into the back of the machine, then split into two electronically controlled valves. This allows for a vacuum chuck to be installed or removed without ever having to worry about plumbing or sealing – usually the worst part of the job.
Another popular workholding option on an M8Cube is pneumatic clamping. It’s why you’ll find quick-disconnect air fittings inside the cabin, with easy access to pressure regulation controls on the front of the machine.
However, in my opinion, the integrated conical grid is the best integrated feature in the table. The mating conicals are a bit like a T-Slot table on your standard VMC where you mount all of your workholding to them. Their advantage is that they’re also reference surfaces, milled by the machine after calibration in the factory. That allows you to pair with a mating conical for extremely quick and repeatable fixture change-out, with no alignment required.
Dude, Cut it Out.
The M8Cube is available with two different tables options – the “B table” is a full 1,000mm x 700mm, while the “A table” features a cut-out in the front for some very clever functionality.
The “A table” cutout is extremely useful for tall parts, a common example being plate work with threaded holes on the side, or tall extrusions with features on their ends. On a typical VMC, the only way to accomplish this task is to stand the part up on the table, clamp it in any which way you can, and use every last inch of your Z travel to get the job done. It’s an arduous task – but it doesn’t need to be.
Since the only thing underneath the cut-out is the chip tray, so you can set tall parts into the cut-out – like, really tall. A 33” tall part will sit fully in the cut-out while still leaving 8” of gantry clearance to spare. That provides a lot of benefits: parts are safer and easier to load since they are mounted low in the machine, and clamping forces are applied much closer to where the part is being milled, lowering vibration and increasing overall quality.
While you can mount any sort of custom workholding inside the cut-out, DATRONs have several options for conveniently clamping plate material with pneumatics. Then, when you need the full table back, simply bridge the cut-out with a vacuum table or fixture plate and support it from beneath with support bracing.
And what if you don’t cut crazy-tall parts? Well, the cut-out has another trick up its sleeve – it’s the perfect size for the optional 5-axis trunnion.
This flexibility is what makes the M8Cube a darling machine for companies like Microsoft, where being able to switch from tall and long parts to small and complex parts is absolutely critical for their rapid prototyping needs.
The M8Cube is a highly customizable machine in a lot of ways, and the automatic tool changer is no exception. With direct shank and HSK-E25 interfaces available on 6 different spindles, you can have as few as 5 tools inside the machine, or as many as 30.
While having 30 tools is a lot, for high-volume production shops or fast-paced prototype labs, it may not be enough. Having a substantial inventory of sister tools is key for lights-out production, and high capacity is important for the wide variety of tools needed when prototyping in a variety of materials.
This is where ToolAssist comes into play. Whereas the aforementioned tool changers sit inside the machine cabin, ToolAssist contains 143 HSK tool holders outside of the machine cabin. That presents a myriad of benefits – be it protection from chips and dust in the cabin for maximum process stability, to the ability to load tools while the machine is running for extra flexibility. ToolAssist is the ultimate tool change solution.
A Touchy Subject
Like all DATRON machines, the probe is integrated onto the Z-axis. This is uncommon compared to the typical VMC market, where touch probes are loaded into the tool changer, and require frequent battery replacement for wireless operation. Since the probe is axis mounted on an M8Cube, there are no batteries to replace, and it takes up no space in your tool magazine.
The biggest benefit for an operator is the probe body itself, which is a Renishaw TP-20, a common choice for CMM (coordinate measuring machine) duty. The TP-20 has two very cool features – first, a huge variety of probe tips are available directly from Renishaw, allowing for hot-swapping probe heads for extra-small features.
The other killer feature is the probe’s magnetic coupling – on a CMM, this is used for automatic probe head changing, but on the M8Cube, it’s an extra layer of safety for those unexpected probing incidents. With this detachable probe head, a probe crash can typically be resolved by simply recalibrating and getting back to work, avoiding costly downtime.
Designed for Every Machinist
The first eye-catching feature on the M8Cube is its gorgeous control terminal. Compared to the rest of the industry, which is fraught with buttons, knobs, and switches, the M8Cube’s next© terminal is clean and purposeful.
While the next interface itself is clean and easy to navigate, the M8Cube’s design takes that a step further. Installed around the terminal and beneath the gantry cover, LED lighting changes colors to clearly inform the user of the machine status from a distance. Red for error messages, blue for ready status, and most importantly, green for making chips. It’s easy to tell from across the shop what the M8Cube is up to… and it looks really cool too.
Even the terminal itself is optimized for ease of use. While most controls sit at a fixed height, with an impractical layout for the user, the next terminal has 3 adjustment options for the best user ergonomics. Height, tilt, and keyboard angle are all adjustable to make for the most comfortable user experience.
Knowing these 5 things about the M8Cube is just scratching the surface and doesn’t come close to experiencing a DATRON in person! If you find yourself looking closer at the M8Cube one day and want to learn more, contact us for a demo – in-person or virtual!