When buying or selling a used CNC router or any CNC machine there are a few basics elements required in order to minimize the potential for damage in shipment. CNC routers are robotic cutting systems. They have a number of moving parts as well as electrical components that must be stabilized and protected before a shipment. Most CNC routers are too large to ship via enclosed trailer. They most often must be shipped via flatbed truck. When sourcing a truck for a shipment it is critical that the trailer is Air Ride and fully tarped. This language should be included in writing in the trucking contract.
The basic concept is to immobilize the moving parts (gantry/router assembly and table), Support the weight of the spindle itself, securing the controller to the table, and weather protecting the rails and electrical systems.
Here are the basics:
Immobilizing the Gantry and Table
For your standard 3 axis CNC router there are 3 areas to stabilize mechanically. The X,Y, and Z axes. This can be accomplished in two ways. In an ideal scenario the original shipping brackets could be re-installed. Most machines are shipped new with factory shipping brackets designed to lock down the moving axes. Assuming they are not with the machine we recommend using ratchet straps to stabilize the moving parts. Depending on the configuration of the machine at least two straps should be used pulling in opposite directions creating a situation where the gantry or router head assembly is immobilized. If straps are not available this immobilization can be accomplished using 2×4 lumber.
Supporting the Router Head Assembly:
The weight of the spindle and router head assembly should be supported during shipment to avoid bumps in the road damaging the ball-screw that carries the weight of during shipment. This is accomplished by lowering the router head onto a block of foam or wood and immobilizing it. Essentially the wood or foam carries the weight of the assembly.
Whenever possible a controller should remain connected to the machine. NEVER CUT WIRES!!! I can’t emphasize that enough. The controller should be wrapped in bubble wrap and banded to the table in a manner prescribed by the manufacturer. Some manufacturers prefer the control tower to remain upright. Most of the time laying it on its back on the CNC router table is sufficient. Make sure the control is secured with straps or banding. This is the most valuable component of the machine and also the most fragile!
Once the axes and control are secured the final step is weatherizing the machine. All exposed and unpainted steel should be greased or oiled. This includes the ball screws and rails. The oil or grease should protect those areas from surface rust that may form if the machine is exposed to rain. In addition as an added precaution we recommend wrapping as much of the machine as possible in plastic wrap. One roll purchased at the local hardware store should suffice. If the machine is too large to wrap completely the plastic wrap should still be used to cover all of the electrical components of the machine. I also like to use the plastic wrap to work as a second layer of security in all the areas that were mechanically stabilized to give further immobilization of any moving parts.