CNC Machines Frequently Asked Questions

Short for computer numerical control machining, this manufacturing process automates a series of operations via a coordinate system and procedural programming language. CNC machining provides the necessary automation for a full fabrication process within the machine’s capabilities, and this is true for both used CNC machines and newer models. Each CNC machine has different capabilities depending on the type, model, and level of customization performed by the owner.
There are five common types of used CNC machines in today’s market. A couple of them are relatively new, and more could always be invented in the future.
  • Lathes
  • Mills
  • Routers
  • Plasma cutters
  • Laser cutters
While the most common programming language is G-code, CNC machine languages have diversified into several unique dialects of the original MIT procedural code as well as a few stand-alone proprietary command structures. Classic G-code tells each tool where to go, how to operate, and the dimensions of the changes to be made to the material using standardized commands known as g-codes and m-codes.
Equipment financing can be a tough nut to crack, especially for startups and small shops. Luckily, in addition to common options for late model used equipment like bank financing, most equipment dealers have used CNC financing options.
When an entire shop is available because of a shutdown, move, or upgrade, it’s common for dealers to liquidate them at machine auctions instead of purchasing it into inventory. Auctions are also used to liquidate models that are overstocked when dealers are in need of showroom or warehouse space. Sometimes they are set up because sellers simply prefer to unload equipment via auction instead of seeking buyers for an asking price.
Buying a used CNC machine is easy. First, you need to know where you’re getting financing if you plan on using credit resources. Check out whether prospective dealers offer it, and look into your company’s existing financing tools and contacts. From there, it’s a matter of how you want to shop.
  • Online auctions and retail listings with photos and product information
  • Showroom-style shops where you can purchase CNC machines at asking price
  • Machine auctions where the equipment goes to the highest bidder
Often, large dealers offer all these options, allowing you to sell CNC equipment back, place it on consignment, or auction it for a fee when you have used machines to unload before an upgrade, too.
A lot is up to chance when it comes to the cost of used CNC machine operations, but the most volatile cost factor is the price. Used lathes, for example, could go for anywhere from $6,000 to $425,000 or even more, just depending on manufacturer, model, size, and year.
Buying a used CNC machine is really the best option for home shops, small businesses, and any medium-sized operation that is not investing in long-term manufacturing infrastructure for a site. Large companies can afford to buy new and cycle the machines onto the used market before they have depreciated much, but the high cost of new machines makes that an ineffective strategy for just about any smaller organization.
CNC machines can last for decades. The used market commonly sells machines that are up to 30 years old in many cases, and once in a while even older ones. Every model has an expected useful operating lifespan, but if it is rebuilt to restore it to like new conditions, an individual machine could well exceed its estimated life. Most used CNC dealers only sell machines that are within their original operating lifespan estimates, but you can find a restoration market if you look.