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Introduction and Goals

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Getting a new machine is always exciting.  But, it’s also a sizable investment.  The sooner you can see a return on that investment, the better.  That means doing a little planning and organizing to make sure your New Machine Day goes smoothly.

Your goal is to have everything in readiness the day your machine arrives, and to make sure that once it is on site, it is operational as quickly as possible.  Time spent waiting is time when your expensive investment is not making a return on your investment.  CNC Machines can be complex beasts, so putting together a plan to make sure it all comes together smoothly can really help.

This article will cover every area your plan should address.

Create a Delivery Calendar and To Do List

Start by putting together a Delivery Calendar that has all the important dates, times, and phone numbers on it.  Couple it with a ToDo list and perhaps an inventory of everything you need to bring together.  A multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet is a handy way to organize all this information.

Space Planning and Clear Passage to the Machine Position

You can bet serious space planning went into this ProtoLabs facility!

You should pre-plan your space layout for the new machine, hopefully even before you purchase.  Your machine distributor should be able to provide you with CAD Models that will help with space planning.  Add a floor plan layout in your CAD Software for your shop that shows the locations of existing machines and you’re ready to do some space planning.  Some even go so far as to 3D print a scale model of their shop with each machine.

You need to make sure your machine has a good spot on the shop floor and that there is room for everything that needs to go with the machine such as chip conveyors and bar feeders.  As you look at situating the machine, make sure that doors and panels on the machine have room to open fully without hitting walls.

Make sure there is clear passage to move the machine into position as well. When you’re looking at clear passage, be sure to check for things like door clearance.  Remember you need clearance for the machine as well as whatever rigging gear is being used to move the machine.  Check for excessively tight turns and things like stairs.

As long as you have riggers on site to move the machine, you might also want to take care of adjusting the position of anything else heavy that you’ve been thinking about.  You may achieve noticeable productivity gains in your shop’s work flow if you rearrange it.

Consider the 6 Principles of Shop Layout:

  1. Work Flow:  Arrange your work area so the pieces running through it can do so in a linear sequence without having to double back.
  2. Minimum Distance:  Always try to move materials the minimum distance possible.
  3. Satisfaction and Safety:  Consider your employees needs and concerns.
  4. Space Availability:  Properly use all available space so none is wasted.
  5. Flexibility:  Take into account future needs.
  6. Overall Integration:  Does everything work together and flow well?

Spend some time getting your layout right, and planning for the future.


machinery rigging

Who is doing the rigging?  Moving expensive heavy machinery calls for the expertise of a rigger.  Often, the machine tool dealer will take care of this.  If you’re hiring the riggers, you need to make sure everything is coordinated so the riggers are there as long as needed when the machine is due to arrive.  Make sure they know exactly what’s expected of them, and answer all their questions so they’re well prepared.

Do you need to block off space in your parking lot for their truck?  Make sure that’s taken care of ahead of time.

Foundation and Floor Prep

Anchors involve drilling a hole in your concrete floor that the anchor goes into.  Epoxy (blue green color) holds the anchor in place.

CNC Machines can be quite heavy.  Is your concrete floor thick enough to support your machine?  Is it thick enough over the entire area the machine will occupy?

Make sure you have the proper anchors for your machine.  You will need to drill and set the anchors in accordance with your machine’s requirements before it arrives unless your installers will be doing that for you.

According to Haas, CNC Machines are anchored for the following reasons:

  • It increases the “apparent” mass of the machine.
  • Improves dissipation of machine vibrations into the foundation.
  • Improves overall stability and can reduce re-leveling requirements.
  • Prevents axis acceleration from moving the machine.
  • Keeps the machine aligned with accessory components (Bar Feeder, Pallet Pool / Changer).

Anchoring adds time and cost, but it’s worth the trouble and may even be required by your machine’s manufacturer.

Electrical Power

Important questions about electrical power:

  • How much current and what phase?
  • Do you have the correct breakers for these requirements in your panel?
  • Placement of machine versus electrical–has the wiring of appropriate gauge been made ready for the machine and do you have the right receptacle that the machine can reach?

If not, get an electrician lined up to take care of it before the machine arrives.  If you must use a phase converter or transformer, you’ll to have them all set up and tested before the machine arrives.  You may even need to have the electrical company run new lines to your building depending on your machine’s requirements.

That’s raw power, but there may be other electrical connections you want to make such as DNC (RS-232), Ethernet, or others.  Try to make sure all those connections are installed and tested before the machine arrives.  That makes it that much easier to test the DNC while the installers are there, for example.

Compressed Air

Do you have sufficient compressed air for the new machine’s needs plus the needs of any existing machines?  Increase your air capacity if not.  Are you using a large enough diameter line for the volume of air?  Sometimes you can have the correct pressure, but it drops too much during a tool change, for example.  This is a sign you needed to run larger diameter lines.

And make sure you can provide dry air.  Most CNC Machines don’t like too much moisture in their compressed air supply.

Coolant and Fluids

What kind of lubricating oil, way oil, hydraulic oil, and coolant will your machine need?

Find out the specific grades needed by your machine, purchase the fluids, and make sure they’ll all be on hand just before the machine arrives at your shop.

Coolant is typically mixed with water.  Do you have the tools to measure proper coolant concentration?  Do you have the correct water for your coolant?  It may require distilled, deionized, or have other special water requirements.

Lastly, if your shop has a tramp oil solution, such as a skimmer, that you install on every machine, now is the time to order one for your latest machine.

Mist, Dust, and Fume Extraction

Some CNC Machines, such as CNC Routers, require dust extraction.  CNC Lasers often require fume extraction.  Many machines may need mist extraction.  Are you planning on a vacuum table, perhaps for a CNC Router?  You’ll want to get the vacuum pump situated as well as the plumbing to take the vacuum to the machine before it shows up, not after.

These things all require ancillary ducting and machinery.  Is that all ordered and set to be installed so the machine can be hooked right up to it when it arrives?

Basic Tooling

Get some basic tooling for your machine in advance.  A few Tool Holders and some basic workholding such as a milling vise, for example.  If you plan to install a fixture plate, may as well get it on there right up front.  What about vises for milling machines and chucks for lathes?

Get your basic tooling ordered so it is there when the machine arrives.


Track down a CAM post so you can generate code for your new machine with your chosen CAM software.  Run a few parts through and have a look at the toolpaths in a Simulator to make sure the post is working properly.

Round up CAD models of the machine early in the process.  They’ll be handy for all sorts of things starting with the space planning of where the machine will sit and how you’ll get it there.


Did you budget sufficient time for your machine’s arrival and subsequent distractions and disruptions?  What about training once it’s up and running?  If everyone in the shop is scheduled down to their last minute, who is going to work on getting the new machine going?

Everything takes time, and if you are having professionals come out to help get your machine installed and running, make sure you can give them the help and attention they’ll need to be productive.  After all, you’re paying for their time too.


Be sure to schedule training for your staff on the new machine.  You won’t get much done with it until your people are comfortable operating it.

Interacting With the Installers

First, let’s start off on a human and very practical note.  Your installer(s) are a very important part of the process.  You want them to want to do a good job for you.  Therefore, you should make their experience as pleasant as possible.  In exchange, they will do a better job and hopefully also give you the opportunity to learn from them.

It’s not hokey at all to think about touches like fresh baked goods, premium freshly brewed coffee, and whatever else you can think of to make their visit a happy one.

Don’t jump the gun firing up the machine or messing around with the machine or whatever came with it.  Wait until the service tech doing the install gives you the clear green light, otherwise you may be responsible for any problems created.

Here’s a checklist of some things you want to make sure you get from your installers:

  • Ask the installers to show you the key leveling and squaring results just so you can verify setup.  Ask the installers to check the machine alignment to make sure it is right from the factory.
  • Ask the installers to show you how to backup all the machine parameters and have them verify the backup succeeded.
  • Make copies of any data sheets with machine, inspection certificates, parameters, or important information. Maybe even scan it into your computer.
  • Ask your dealer what is the most important documentation. Make copies and put it in an electrical cabinet.
  • Write the Machine’s model and serial number on all manuals that come with the machine. If you have multiple machines this can get confusing. Different serial numbers can have upgraded parts lists and different versions of ladders.  That’s why you want to keep up with the serial number.
  • Write down your machine and serial number in a quick reference list, along with any control serial numbers (Ex. Fanuc). You will need these when calling for phone support, service, or parts.
  • Set the communications settings for downloading programs (DNC) and test them while the installers are there.
  • Set date and time on the machines controller. This is helpful when looking at alarms to see what times and how often they come up.
  • Ask service tech were the lubrication or oil chart is for the machine and make sure you have the correct lubricants.
  • Make name tags for what kind of oil goes were. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE, ASK YOUR SERVICE TECH!! Many times wrong oils are put in and can cause severe damage or premature wear.
  • Optionally, add Filters over fans or machine tool filters. Just add some Velcro around an area and buy filter material to stick to it for quick and easy changing. Use your own discretion on this. Some filters are difficult to change.
  • Get a basic demo from the installers to show the machine is working.  Load some tools in the changer and verify tool changes.  Load and even run a simple part program if possible.


This article has provided a pretty exhaustive list of the things you should think about when receiving and commissioning a new CNC machine.  Now it’s your turn.  Get started putting together your calendars, todo lists, and space plans.  Get everything you’ll need ordered.  And get your team working smoothly on a plan that’ll have that new machine up and running in no time.

If this will be your first machine, it’s probably been something of an eye opener.  There’s more to getting one set up and going than you probably thought.  But now that you have a better idea, the process is much more likely to go smoothly.



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