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torker
01-17-2009, 09:27 AM
Guys..we've been thru this before...I've got a lot of good advice.
But..now I'm actively looking for a machine...I have the money to buy "something"...
I even have some ideas for products the girl can manufacture.
I'm about to make yet another phone call in a few hours for a big machine I found out at the coast.
It's a big Tree 330 Journeyman CNC....it weighs over 6000# and requires 440V power. Has a dead Dynapath S-10 control.
I know a few of you have seen me mention it. It is DIRT cheap...but getting it trucked in here over the mountains won't be cheap...about $1200...then i have to hire a crane to load it on my trailer and to unload it up here....more $$$$.
I'd need to sell some of my other stuff just to make room for it.
And...what else would be wrong with it?

Now...my question...an RF45 or clone...type mill with cnc conversion.
Nowhere near as heavy....way easier to sell...doesn't need a bunch of power like the other one.
Still would have a decent work envelope...
Should be a fairly stiff machine...wouldn't need a ton of power to move the heavy knee (the Tree only has 7" of Z...rest is manual on the knee)
It will fit right on the stand for my mill drill.
Best part...I'd be getting rid of my round column mill drill and wouldn't be able to start anymore "round column mill drill" threads... :D
I have to keep in mind that this is only an experiment...I'm pretty sure we can make something happen...but "what if".
If I end up with something big and ugly like that Tree..and it has other issues... I am screwed. Not many people will be knocking the door down to buy it.
The RF45...it would be replacing my M/D anyway...I can buy one for a little over $1200 difference after I sell my M/D. I'd have no problem keeping it or selling it.
Any thoughts?
I had to throw this out there.
I'm maybe a phone call away from making a big mistake..
Russ

MickeyD
01-17-2009, 10:15 AM
If you are getting your feet wet with cnc building your first machine has some advantages. The first is you learn a hell of a lot about how they work, it is not just some big mysterious piece of technology, you have a much better understanding because you built it. The second is that when (not if) something breaks you can fix it. Third is that if you do a simple stepper machine they are not horribly fast so when you crash it during the learning curve, damage is not too bad. If you build it on the cheap in your spare time instead of doing something else like sleeping, they are not very expensive to make. Getting a square column mill is not a bad way to start, but another good way is to find an old cnc knee mill like a Bridgeport BOSS, an old Hurco, or a Tree with a dead control and go from there. It will already be fitted with ball screws (they are not cheap), limit switches, and a power supply, and most had good automatic oilers so the iron is not too worn. Three steppers, amps, and a breakout board that will drive this will run about $1200 US for decent quality components. If you have more money than time (who has that now) Tormach makes a good machine and they are much nicer than most square column retrofits and seem to hold their value fairly well.

spkrman15
01-17-2009, 10:26 AM
Russ,

I am NOT a CNC expert at all. Here Locally they sell conversions for about 20,000.00 new. It has a 10x49 table with X,Y and Quill feeds and motor speed ajustment. I know, 20 000 is alot but it is a new machine. No problems come with it...in theory :) .

There are also the Tormach and Novakon (sp) machines. For about 7000-10,000.00 they do look sweet and i think the resell value would be higher then the machine you are looking at.

Just some ideas. I don'T know your budget so it is hard to guage. I am curious as to what you do.

Rob :)

aboard_epsilon
01-17-2009, 10:46 AM
I would have a cnc machine tomorrow, think they are great ..but...

The only thing that stops me is CAD
To do anything good on a cnc machine you need to know cad

now I've played with CAD..many progs

I hate them all

They are boring ..hard to learn ........probably years to get to grips with them.

I cant get to like the cad progs ...........there isn't any spark of interest in these cad progs..............same goes for computer games ...they bore me as well

do you have to like comp games to like cad .?

I don't know why, i don't like CAD......seems to me ...........if i cant get over that ..
then there is no CNC for me .

all the best.markj

John Stevenson
01-17-2009, 10:53 AM
So don't bother with CAD, draw on a sheet of graph paper and write the code by hand.

And no it's got noting to do with games.
i can't stand the infuriating things but find CAD interesting.

Hardest thing with CAD is finding a program that suits you and only you can download demo's and try it out.

Circlip
01-17-2009, 11:08 AM
Cad ain't going to solve Russ's headache, can't help feeling this is going to turn into an "Old Iron New Iron" debate. It's always difficult trying to spend someone elses money to advise best value. Just one or two to throw into the pot, How much to convert to ballscrews and servo's/steppers, long term future or suck it and see??

Good luck Russ

Regards Ian.

John Stevenson
01-17-2009, 11:16 AM
Ian, from what I'm reading the machine Russ is looking at has ballscrews and motors, just a dead control.

.

Ries
01-17-2009, 11:19 AM
For the stuff you do, Russ, I would skip the Rong Fu mill drill route.

IF what you did was tiny brass steam engine parts, for a hobby, a CNC mill drill would work.

But for paying work, on the level of fab shop stuff you want, you are gonna last about two days before you exceed the capabilities, overload the table, burn out the motor, and start cursing.

Even the Tree, which seems big to you, is considered, by most CNC machinists, to be a very compromised, limited solution.

Its basically a manual bridgeport style mill, albeit a bit stouter, with cnc added. So there is no box around it. With CNC, you pretty much NEED coolant, to take advantage of the speeds and flexibility it allows. With the tree, if you use coolant, you have a mini-rain forest in one corner of your shop. Also, the whole point of CNC is that you dont have to stand there and do it- the machine does the work.

Well, those turret mill conversions like the tree dont have tool changers, so you have to change tools manually, monitor for broken tools, and basically baby sit em a fair amount.

Yes, for a starter machine, for one offs, it will work- but there are lots of em out there, cheap, with WORKING controls- why would you buy a busted one?
I see mills like this used all the time for under 5 grand. They are 20 to 30 year old tech, and they just arent worth that much in today's economy, so it doesnt make sense to me to save a couple grand buying a broken one, which could easily cost you that much more in labor and that much more again in parts, at which point you have a running 20 year old obsolete machine that has a resale value of about half what you got in it.

Makes much more sense to me to buy a used Fadal VMC, which, in the smaller sizes, like 16x30, are often on Ebay for under ten grand. (or any of a half dozen other brands- there are lots of late 80's to early 90's VMC's out there)
These usually have enclosures, coolant pumps, automated tool changers, and a much more modern, and widely used, cnc control system. Plus they will work unattended, without making a huge mess.


Like this one-
http://cgi.ebay.com/Fadal-3016-cnc-mill-VMC-Box-Way_W0QQitemZ250357331859QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI_Mil ls?hash=item250357331859&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1419%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C 240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

Now it wont actually sell for the $2500 its at right now- but it may only end up costing twice what a used, WORKING Tree type vertical mill would cost, and, it would give you WAY more than twice the results.

John Stevenson
01-17-2009, 11:25 AM
Ries,
But do these machines at these prices appear in BC ?

Torker quoted $1200 just to get a Tree shipped.

Whilst I'm not disagreeing with anything you have written location wil play a big part in Torkers choice.

I also think he only has single phase as well, not too sure on this.

torker
01-17-2009, 11:30 AM
Mickey's got the same idea as me...a conversion for $1200...I do like the idea of putting this together myself...I'll learn a lot...we both will.
Yes...I know a "real" machine would be great in the end.
The one I found is REAL...but it's REAL big too.
I've been watching U-tube vids of a lot of different machines. I'm thinking a RF45 size machine is as small as I'd like to go.
I could live with a BPII size machine...I'll have to phone Modern and see if they still have that clapped out one they had awhile back.
I'm going to phone the Tree guy...later...I need to ponder..
Russ

RancherBill
01-17-2009, 11:36 AM
I'm not a CNC expert. I think the question is what do you want it for?

Do you want to get the Tree repairs done, do some learning and start producing parts?

The alternative is to make your own and design, Buy, source, fiddle assemble, re-assemble, test and then produce parts.

You say in your post that you have product ideas. The Tree will get you there much quicker and it has a tool changer also. If your products work out this will be invaluable. The other thing is if you really get in trouble on programming or whatever you can dig out your credit card and talk to an expert.

Go with the Tree. :)

Virgil Johnson
01-17-2009, 11:47 AM
Having worked in a job shop where we used 2 Bridgeports with BOSS 10 I would stay away. The Bridgeport BOSS system is quite capable and works very well for small/ medium size parts. The biggest drawback is the Z height with only around 5.5 in of spindle travel. If you get a job where you need to ream a large hole and have an operation on the same part that has a feature where you need to use a small end mill you are going to be using the smaller cutter with the quill dangling out 5". Replacement boards for the servos are pretty costly and ours popped them on an annual basis. For a job shop and someone new to CNC a Proto Trak bed type mill (3D controller) deserves a look. The biggest drawback to this type mill is the lack of a tool changer and enclosure (coolant can get pretty messy). The advantage is you still have a manual mill when you need it with pretty powerful and easily programmed 3D controller. Not every job is suite for a VMC.

BobWarfield
01-17-2009, 11:47 AM
The Tree is a good mill. I hear they're a lot stouter than the Bridgeport Boss mills, which are also not bad.

There is a fellow on Practical Machinist who has made a business out of making Bicycle tooling who uses Tree mills and loves them. You should track him down and get in touch.

Another guy (maybe on this board), Michael Moore has a Tree (and a Mori Seiki lathe) in the SF Bay Area and would be another source of input.

If you buy one with a dead control, you should be getting a bargain, as people don't like to fuss with old controls. That's why you'd buy one with a dead control. Same thing with Bridgeport BOSS mills.

How will it compare to an RF45 or Tormach? Well, it is a radically stouter mill. It will have CAT40 tooling that you do swap by hand, but you do so fast. It will be rigid as heck. It will have a lot of HP on the spindle.

Speaking of that, the spindle would be the thing I worry about. Need to make sure the bearings are good and the spindle drive is good. That's some serious expense to fix those things.

Would I get the RF45 or the Tree? That's a tough one, since I have a really big RF45 (Industrial Hobbies) and like it a lot. In fact I have 2 of them. It would really depend on the deal you are getting and how serious you are about wanting to jump into CNC with both feet. The Tree can do more, but its a big hulking thing. I'd almost be tempted to view them both as interim steps. If you really like CNC, you will want a more modern mill. So consider something less expensive? At the same time, I see these guys making a good business with the Trees and have to respect that.

What about a more modern mill with toolchanger and flood enclosure? No question they're more productive. A LOT more productive. But, lots of peeps have great small businesses with less mill than the Tree. I'm skeptical you can get a decent modern mill for anything like the cost of the Tree. A Fadal like that usually goes for well over $10K, but we'll have to watch that one. The times are tough and there should be some deals out there.

And what about CAD? That was a good one to bring up. Whether it is CAD, CAM, or writing G-code yourself, those are all quite different than manual machine work. You have to want to do that stuff and be decent at it.

Last thought: I get the impression it is easier to start out making money with CNC lathes than mills. They're easier to program, the parts they make are often simpler, yada, yada. That's just a subjective impression on my part. Many will differ.

Cheers,

BW

MickeyD
01-17-2009, 11:51 AM
The thing that I would worry about with an old machine is that the control is very fragile and does not like to be bounced around. The guy that I bought my old Bridgeport BOSS from said that he bought it as a working machine from a Lockheed auction (actually saw it booted and running) and by the time he got it rigged to his shop he could not get it to boot. I had the same thing with my Hurco. Ran when I bought it but when I got it home the Y axis was out and I spent two days chasing a chafed wire to get it going again. Then the monitor died and knocked it down again. When you work on them the circuit board plugs are brittle old dried up plastic that break when you unplug them, monitors go out, etc... They may look simple, but if you don't know what you are doing, these are complicated old beasts. Mach/EMC machines are not the coolest thing out there, but they are easy to maintain without having to get some cnc control guy out at a $1000 a day to try to fix it. With as many shops going under as there are now, you can probably get a machine pretty cheap if you take your time. Rigging them is easy, I have moved a lot of equipment on my little 5x8 trailer and gantry (in fact I am going to help a member here move a nice little 2900 pound mill on Wednesday) and it should be a piece of cake.

Dawai
01-17-2009, 11:52 AM
Well..

Having a cnc with a joystick can do manual work. Tell a real cnc operator that and he smirks.. he gets paid by the hour.. right? A GAMER joystick tied into a usb or keyboard gamer input board simulates keypress from a keyboard to a cnc program.. the program don't have a clue.. it thinks it is seeing a right or left arrow, or page up page down.. You do not get blisters cranking handles.

Having a larger cnc allows you to do larger jobs..

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v85/ibewgypsie/67flh_framebolt2.jpg

Emme see, this 69 flh frame was about 14" thick.. about four feet long.. How da ya reckon ya could have gotten it on a mini-mill to bore out the busted bolt there on a brake mount? Ow much did it pay? well not so much that, as ow much it would have cost. I did have to still cut a drill bit down to a few inches long and resharpen it.. twice. Danged hardened bolts anyways.

Yeah.. wizards.. they do bolt circles patterns, face off.. circle bore holes you don't have end mills or a boring bar to fit.. keyways? face off? They take as much programming knowledge as typing in where to start and where to end.

We got a old Wells INdex 3hp sitting rusting quietly.. it has a RUNNING Centroid controller and servo motors.. Runs off 3 1/2 floppy and has a antique monochrome monitor.. A better machine than I have here.. I'm a long way off thou Russ.. I may eventually make room for it here, it has the same spindle as the one in the bridgeport, a KW200.. I've wanted to convert the bridgeport to a open wire edm anyways..

John Stevenson
01-17-2009, 12:00 PM
Last thought: I get the impression it is easier to start out making money with CNC lathes than mills. They're easier to program, the parts they make are often simpler, yada, yada. That's just a subjective impression on my part. Many will differ.

Cheers,

BW

Just my take.
Lathes are harder to setup you often have to waste a part or a dummy to get it dialed in, then they are ready to go but it has to be a run off some quantity to make it worth while.
Mills do lend themselves to one off's and can score because of the complex shapes.

Other peoples idea's may vary but without knowing what Russ wants and he may not want to disclose everything it's hard to offer advise.

Given he's a small operator and more of a jobbing shop I'd say go for a mill that's easy to program one off.
Big productions runs farm out to the guys with the all singing all dancing latest models because they are that hungry for repayments they will kill for a $0.01 profit.

Circlip
01-17-2009, 12:13 PM
Control system on Tree would be junked anyway MickeyD.

Michael Moore
01-17-2009, 12:36 PM
Russ, look through the Tree model line brochure on my site

http://www.eurospares.com/graphics/metalwork/treebrochure/

and consider the things you get with a machine built for CNC. Some, like beefy ball screws and auto lube have been mentioned, but my 325 Tree also has Turcite, box ways, pneumatic tool clamp, a lot more mass than a standard turret knee mill, etc.

It doesn't have a moveable ram/turret or a tilt/nod head. But those are things that can shift out of position under heavy loads.

I've got the 6K spindle and I'd suggest that if you are going to do anything with small EMs in aluminum go for all the spindle speed you can get. If you run the numbers a lot of that tiny stuff wants to turn 40K, not 6K.

You have to know your tool lengths, and while you can get some systems that let you set tool lengths in R8 collets I think you'll be a lot happier with taper tool holders.

More Z on the Tree would be very nice. If I have my big Tapmatic with a big tap loaded up I've got to drop the knee all the way down and even then tapping something in the vise doesn't leave a lot of free air available. But even with the 6" in the Tree careful planning should be able to let you get a group of tools that will work in your controlled Z space for one set of ops and then let you move the knee for the next batch of longer/shorter tools.

I haven't tried thread milling yet, but I can tell you that if you are doing a lot of tapping a reversing-tapping head in the mill will knock out a lot of 1/2-13 threaded holes in steel very quickly. How does 3:30 minutes to tap 15 holes (about 1" deep in steel) with 1/2-13 tap in Tapmatic SPD-7 self-reversing tapping head sound? Your hands won't even be sore afterwards. :)

Since you are looking at business use and possible manufacturing I'd jump on Ries bandwagon and say to find a small VMC. A tool changer (something else to get out of whack) and enclosure are going to be a big benefit if you are wanting to get other things done while the mill is running. I've rigged up a frame that attaches to the table and has easily removable sheet metal panels that clip on, but that doesn't control every last bit of chip. And I had to figure it out and make it.

As a hobbyist, I like to stand there and marvel at the machine cutting what I thought I was telling it to cut. :) But you need to be able to load up a couple of vises and go off and do something else for 15-60 minutes while it runs.

You might find that a lot of things end up being basically 2D operations. Think of motorcycle parts like caliper hangers, rearset plate or triple clamps. Most of that is profiling/pocketing where you go around at one Z setting, increment Z, and then go around again. Or you go to a spot in XY, drill a hole, go to another spot, drill a hole, etc.

If the Tree you are looking at maxes out your budget (don't forget you'll want a bunch of collet chucks, drill chucks, EM holders, boring heads, etc) I think it could very well still be a good move for you if you can get a couple of years learning/use/money making out of it while you stash money away for a VMC. A lot of it will depend on the kind of parts you are planning on making.

Look at the lower part of

http://www.eurospares.com/lathes.htm

I've got some times and photos for the ops in making the boring table for the lathe. Keep in mind that I'm very conservative on feeds and speeds and a real machinist could probably shave significant amounts of time off.

ETA: my Tree had been run on 480 but it came with a 240/480 transformer. The machine is actually a 3 phase 240 machine, so you might want to check about the one you are looking at being 480V.

cheers,
Michael

torker
01-17-2009, 01:23 PM
Ahhh...Michael...you reminded me...that Tree mill comes with almost a wheelbarrow full of tooling...T40 holders...rows of them he shows on the pics...
My ultimate business goal for a cnc mill...at present would never be to compete with the big guys...
I've been studying one market in particular...I know what these guys are paying for some of this Billet Bling...it's crazy...it's way overpriced.
This would be a regional market...supplying aftermarket add ons that are highly sought after. Not a huge market..but it's a start.
Several of the products I'm working on are aimed at the same market...these are unique to me...I'm not improving someone elses stuff...
But...I'd need a cnc mill to make them....all aluminum plate work...1/2" to 3/4"...all 2D.
I gotta make a phone call!

ERBenoit
01-17-2009, 01:49 PM
For a job shop and someone new to CNC a Proto Trak bed type mill (3D controller) deserves a look. The biggest drawback to this type mill is the lack of a tool changer and enclosure (coolant can get pretty messy). The advantage is you still have a manual mill when you need it with pretty powerful and easily programmed 3D controller. Not every job is suite for a VMC.

This is the path I would follow. Don't know what you have "availible" for resources. My shop at work is all SWI. and I love it. Tool changer, I could care less about. IMO, it's something not worth the cost it adds to the machine in a small shop environment. Granted, if your production is 500,000 part runs at a time, then a toolchanger may be worthwhile, but IMO, not to a small shop of only a couple of employees, making runs of a "few" (self determination of what a few is) parts at a time.

The enclosures mentioned are available for thier bed mills. They are basically an open top box fitted to the bed with sliding polycarbonate doors on the front. Time, materials, and know how, (you've probably got that ;) ) you could probably build one, as opposed to buying the enclosure. The enclosure is for "mess" containment. Since there is no automatic tool changers, the enclosure need not be completly enclosing the work envelope.

Also, thier bed mills have are absent of the true "feel" of a hand fed quill, they don't have one. The complete head moves in Z with a servo motor so you feel nothing. Thier knee mills will have a "traditional" quill.

Editing after post: If 2D is what you're looking for IMO, SWI would be ideal, They don't have the associated costs of third, fourth and fifth axis mills and the cost of toolchangers.

http://www.southwesternindustries.com/swi/

Michael Moore
01-17-2009, 01:52 PM
Russ, a lot of things you might make can probably be done with just 1/2" EMs. That size of carbide seems to be a good spot for price/longevity/stiffness.

If you are designing the parts then you can make sure that all the internal corners have at least .260" radius (so you aren't doing a "slam into the corner and change direction" instead of a smooth arc bigger than the EM radius).

If you can do that you can probably get away with just one tool change, when you go from your 1/2" rougher to a 1/2" finishing EM.

A bunch of CAT40 tooling is a plus. Be sure to look at all the tapers (and in the spindle) as you don't want to put a roached tool holder into the spindle.

I'm not keen on EM holders as they often seem to add a lot to the tool length. If you can get a number of ER collet chucks you'll probably have better luck keeping the tools similar lengths. A full set of collets is needed for odd-size drills, but otherwise you'll probably want multiple collets of just a few standard sizes - 1/4, 3/8, 1/2.

Some people claim to be able to easily do a control conversion in a weekend. It took me a lot longer than that but then I was really clueless about what I was doing. I also spent a lot of time agonizing over the cabinet layout, and found that certain assumptions like "I'll just reuse all these relays/contacters" ran aground when those were all 120v and the new control wanted 24v stuff.

I also switched the encoders on the servo motors for ones with a higher line count so I had wiring to do there as well as adapter plates.

But if you can do a "leave everything else alone that isn't the control" it may go a lot quicker.

Also, if you've got a working spindle drive leave it alone. I sold off the Yaskawa drive from mine and put on a Hitachi VFD, figuring it would all be the same. But the 8000 RPM spindle motor was very unhappy with that and I ended up buying a new CT spindle drive to solve the issue. That was money I could have avoided spending (at least until/if the OEM drive died). The run of the mill VFDs seem fine on a standard 3 phase motor but my Tree was a lot (very "a lot"!) happier with a drive that used the encoder built into the motor.

cheers,
Michael

Michael Moore
01-17-2009, 02:01 PM
In re the "feel" of a hand-fed quill, I've found that the CNC can feed a small drill or EM with a lot more control and smoothness than I can manually. If you need to have a 1/16" EM in the cut for 3-4 hours you'll find that the CNC doesn't get tired/sloppy.

I presume most controls will have different drilling cycles, and setting things up to peck drill with a tiny drill and then walking away while it does it is pretty nice.

If you've got a manual turret/knee mill by all means keep it. I wish I'd had space to keep mine. Being able to swivel the ram around and tilt the head when you need to is nice. But it turns out I very rarely need to do that. If I do, I'll go to my friend's house and use my old mill. :)

I'd have been pleased to have one of those open bed mills for the extra Z instead of the 325. But I'm pretty pleased to have the 325. Plus, it fits under the slightly under 8' ceiling in my garage. Some of the other mills that have a motor on top won't do that.

cheers,
Michael

sansbury
01-17-2009, 04:51 PM
I want to present an alternative line of thinking, just for giggles.

What about buying a brand-new turnkey Taig-type benchtop mill for $1500-$2000? This can't make large parts, but it provides a perfect platform for learning CNC and can be converted back into cash more easily than either of the other two options.

For making parts out of 6061 billet up to say 6"x6"x1" it won't be fast but it can probably do a nice job. The 10k spindle is real good for little details too, engraving custom names and logos can really up the bling factor and make your parts worth more money to the buyer.

You'll have a machine running within a couple days of unpacking and within a couple months have made a few dozen parts. Maybe less if you have more time to spend. That'll be enough to see what CNC can do for you and if people care to buy your parts.

As I see it, neither the Tree nor the RF-45 are necessarily ideal machines for you, so I'd look at where I am if either one doesn't do what I need. The Tree will be a disaster if it doesn't work out for you. The RF-45 will be less so but it's more likely you'll outgrow it. Both will take a lot of work before you get to the matter at hand of making parts. The Taig would be very easy to unload--say you buy it for $2000, and I'll bet you could sell it in a week or two for $1200-$1500. If you can sell a few parts it makes then maybe it's even money. Either way you come out of it knowing a lot better what makes sense for you, with very little cash at risk.

For me, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to convert a brand-new red-greased mill-drill with electronics and software I know, than my ability to fix the potential mechanical problems in an old hulk of a knee mill. If the mechanicals in the Tree are known to be good, then rebuilding the rest of it wouldn't scare me as much.

Mark Hockett
01-18-2009, 01:18 AM
Russ,
What is your budget for the purchase of a CNC mill? Are you going to use this for hobby or make a living with it? Here is what my experience has been and I totally agree with what Ries said. I purchased a Milltronics CNC knee mill at an auction that was in perfect working condition. I spent about $2000 in tooling to get it up and running in a way that I could earn some money with it. It only took me about four months to figure out that it was not going to work for the jobs I was getting. I then bought a Fadal VMC and that gets the job done. The money I spent on the CNC knee mill and tooling would have been better spent on the VMC. One part that I do on a routine basis took over 4 hours on the CNC knee mill and takes 47 minutes on the Fadal. Almost every job I do can be done faster and with a better surface finish on the Fadal due to the flood coolant and high spindle speeds. The Fadal gets the jobs done faster which means I can do more jobs. It also can run unattended which means I can be doing other stuff like run the lathe, another mill or program the next job. With the full enclosure the Fadal does not make the mess that the CNC knee mill makes. The Fadal earned enough money to pay for itself in 6 months.

My friend who builds snowmobile parts ( http://smittysspeedworks.com/ ) went through the same thing. He wanted to get a CNC mill and I told him to get a VMC but he found a Haas TM-1 for $15k that he thought would work. It took him six months before he was tired of the slow feed rates, slow spindle speeds and changing tools. He bought a Fadal 15 for $12,000 off of ebay and tripled his yearly gross. The VMC cost less than the Haas and makes him way more money.

If you are just doing one offs the CNC knee mill, bed mill or one of the hobby machines would be fine but if you are planning any kind of production work get a VMC with a tool changer. Don't step over a dollar to pick up a dime.

In the last few months I have been watching ebay as I would like to purchase another Fadal and there have been quite a few sell for around $10k-$15K and with the economy going the way it is there will probably be more for less.

http://cgi.ebay.com/1996-Fadal-CNC-Machining-Center-VMC-2216-NO-RESERVE_W0QQitemZ140293750559QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI _Mills?hash=item140293750559&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A570%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C2 40%3A1318%7C301%3A1%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

http://cgi.ebay.com/2001-FADAL-VMC-15-MODEL-914_W0QQitemZ180321224318QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI_Mil ls?hash=item180321224318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A570%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C2 40%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

http://cgi.ebay.com/1995-Fadal-VMC-15-CNC-88HS_W0QQitemZ190280109071QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI_Mi lls?hash=item190280109071&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A570%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C2 40%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

http://cgi.ebay.com/Fadal-VMC3016_W0QQitemZ150321090606QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI _Mills?hash=item150321090606&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A570%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C2 40%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

http://cgi.ebay.com/Fadal-VMC15_W0QQitemZ220343637586QQcmdZViewItemQQptZBI_M ills?hash=item220343637586&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A570%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C2 40%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

You should post this question on Practical machinists CNC forum, where most of the guys are using their machines to make a living, and see what their consensus is.
If you need someone to talk to about this feel free to call me at one of the numbers listed on my web site.

JoeFin
01-18-2009, 09:19 AM
Guys – if he is buying a machine with a dead controller his budget is minimal

Like mine I guess when I went to a CNC. Only good thing now is the economy is down and used equipment is going cheap.

Russ

A Dynapath S-10 is more then likely an 8080 based system which means you can more then likely forget about bringing it back to life. I say this out of experience. Sure you can find the 8080 chips still, but some of the Serial Bit Buffers in the 8080 family are impossible to come by. The Dynapath service guys are great and I’m sure if its an EPROM with holes in it, they have a copy and would be willing to help – but you just can’t get some of the 8080 family chips.

A New Controller –

If its configuared for Dynapath I would stay with them for ease of conversion, but figure $10K for controller in place – that is if the Servos are still usable.

Then you’ll want a good CAD program to help with design and code. I know all these things can come in due time. But as soon as that machine is up and running your going to want to make parts to justify the cost. Be fore warned – to produce "Perfect Finish Parts" is a STEEP Learning Curve and be prepared to toss a dozen weekends towards this venture. Again your going to want a reputable software company with tons of literature and support. I have 6 months with MasterCam and have only scratched the surface of what it can do – truly incredible!

Mark is giving you good advice

Personally I wouldn’t touch a machine that did not have a controller with an excellent service department. In fact do what I did – call and talk to the factory service techs of any machine your looking to buy BEFORE you buy the machine.

I had a Chinese made machine with an American made control system installed by some company no longer in business. I took it back to the dealer I bought it from.

Now I have a Hurco with a Dynapath 50 that works very well. But what I paid for this Hurco would probably get you 1 of those Fadals in today’s economy

davidh
01-18-2009, 09:44 AM
I want to present an alternative line of thinking, just for giggles.

What about buying a brand-new turnkey Taig-type benchtop mill for $1500-$2000? This can't make large parts, but it provides a perfect platform for learning CNC and can be converted back into cash more easily than either of the other two options.

geeze i got all excited about this and went to the taig website. what a neat little machine. i want one to learn cnc on and read more about it until it got to the price. holy cow ! that 2000 range jumped to more like 3600 in the wisp if a paragraph. or did i miss something ?

im not smart enuf to make my own, maybe not even able to avoid the ADHD to learn to make programs but again, it really is of interest to this old, ex-mechanical designer. i still have my my old paralell drafting machine with the plactic scales hanging in the basement. and all the other crap that went with the job back in the sixtys.

it was comical to see the puzzled look on my 20year olds face when i showed him my 6" $100 slide rule.............................:D

oops, im sorry , didn't mean to steal the thread.

russ, buy the tiag, learn the system and re-sell it to me for 1/2 price when your finished. . . :D

JoeFin
01-18-2009, 09:57 AM
geeze i want one to learn cnc on
. . . :D

Maybe I’m getting stupid in my old age – but it seems to me learning CNC is only valuable if you have a CNC that can generate some cash $

This is coming from a person who has programmed PLC controls since 1990, extensive AutoCad experience, has a degree in Electronics, and a Certified Network Engineer. - CNC, G-code, Mastercam, and Perfect Finish Parts – (Ready to Sell) is no small undertaking.

If I’m going to place this much effort into any endeavor it certainly is going to be on a machine that is fully capable of making money

torker
01-18-2009, 10:18 AM
Holy Smoke! what a lot of great info!
I'm going to have to go back and read it all again.
AGAIN...I'm not looking to compete with giants of any kind here.
The only reason I'm considering cnc is because some of the things I'd like to mfg are just far too complicated to make with manual machines.
This stuff will be "add ons" to the contraptions I want to build and sell.
I believe I've found a unique market but I want to make them better (more bling) than the average backyard fab guy will do.
I'm not in the leat bit interested in making and selling a million parts a year. Joe..thanks so much for filling me in on that machine.
I'm sure if the previous owner could have repaired it cheaply...he would have.
I'm just a little astounded at the cost of the replacement parts for the dynapath.
ummm...I wasn't headed there at all.
I was more thinking of retro fitting the machine with homeshop level cnc controlls etc.
I don't even know if that would work...
Good thing maybe...the guy never answered his phone yesterday.
$1900 for that Tree 330...it's worth that in scrap value..
More thinking...
Russ

Ries
01-18-2009, 10:59 AM
You may not be making 10,000 a month- but you are going to want to use it for business, not for a subsidised hobby on weekends.

And thats where I draw the line between fun projects, where fixing the tool IS the job, and tools you expect to work for you and make money.

I usually find I save time, and money, by spending a bit more, and buying a real tool.

As I said- for a weekend hobby, a Taig or Sherline, or rebuilding an ancient cnc knee mill is fun, educational, and cheap.

But for actually making parts you can sell, there is nothing more frustrating than a tool that wont do the job, either because its too small, or because it is constantly breaking.

I sold all my early, cheap machines, long ago, the ones that you had to kick just right while holding your tongue just so, to get em to work.


I still say- if you really want the cheapest, buy a working cnc knee mill- a proto trak, or dynapath, or similar, although I hear nothing but trouble about the old Bridgeport Boss machines. And by all means, if somebody offers you a Moog- run the other way as fast as you can.

But no matter what you buy, within six months you will be wishing you had bought a full on VMC, like the Fadals Mark linked to.

So to me, its a no brainer just to buy one to begin with, and skip the extra time and money.

Any cnc machine is gonna cost more to run than you are used to with old manual tools. Stuff breaks, electronics just dont last forever, and tooling is not dirt cheap. So you need to find paying work for one so it can earn its keep.
Real tools always cost real money.
Monthly, I spend a couple hundred bucks just keeping the shop going, before buying any materials or actually making anything. Some months, much more. My compressor just puked- $200 for a new mag starter setup.

Cnc tools, even the tree, are gonna have similar, bigger appetites for money and time- its just the way the world works.

But it sure makes sense to buy one that is new enough, and the company is still in business, to actually be able to buy the parts, even if you have to grumble when you pay for em.

8080's? those were old in the late 70's.

Electronics has a half life of about 5 years. 10 years is OLD, and 15 years is obsolete. Ok, if you are a hobby type, but no fun if you have a job you need to get out.

I know a few guys who use full bore CNC VMC's soley for one off hobby work- and they love em. Faster,more accurate, and often they can do stuff thats impossible manually. I am saving for one myself, right now.

Michael Moore
01-18-2009, 11:50 AM
While there's little doubt that Russ would be better off with a VMC, could this be one of those situations where he needs to spend a small amount of money that he has now to get started making the money he needs to buy the VMC?

It maybe that better is the enemy of the possible.

If he's got $5K to spend now and can get up and running in a knee mill with some tooling then that might let him get going and start getting some product out much sooner than saving up the rest of the money to get into a VMC that may also require extra spent for tooling.

CAD/CAM software will be the same need either way. That can easily be another $5K for low-end stuff.

Also, time spent learning to run a CNC machine and the software is going to be time away from his fab business (or sleeping, take your pick). Borrowing $10-15K to jump into a used VMC from the start, and then having it sit whilst he learns to make it do tricks and also having less time available to work on welding jobs could cause a bit of a financial situation.

There is the alternative of 20 hour days where he puts in his full regular shift welding and then another on CNC, but that can drag a person down pretty quickly.

Perhaps $5K that he has now puts him in a better spot financially to trade in the knee mill (or keep it and convert it to second op work) in 8-12 months and pay cash for a used VMC? In these perilous financial times reducing his exposure may be a high priority. He'll have to spend money in order to make money. But he's also talking about an unproven market/demand

I'd be thrilled to be like some of the high-end hobbyists who have a new Sharp or 5 axis Deckel in the garage. But you start looking at $40K and multiples thereof for that.

Russ, don't forget that on commercial CNCs you'll have to pay to unlock features. If you get a bare bones control and want to add more memory, 4th axis, probing, or even a floppy or USB drive you'll get to pay for it, and probably pretty handsomely too. If you can find a used machine that comes with all the extras already turned on that would be worth some extra money in the purchase price.

Might it make some sense to first spend money on good CAD/CAM, learn how to use that, and then let the first few runs of product be farmed out to an existing CNC shop? After you are sure you've got the demand for the product to justify it it (and some money in your pocket) then you can take a bigger jump into a newer, nicer VMC.

cheers,
Michael

Circlip
01-18-2009, 12:11 PM
Was it only me reading the original post but didn't "The Gurl" figure in Russ's equasion?? I know Russ is a grafter but there ain't no 24 and 1/4 hr days and don't forget the posts that have said sweet machinery was finding a route "South of the border, down Mexico way"

Regards Ian

torker
01-18-2009, 12:12 PM
Ries...and everyone...I respect what you are saying.
This is all boiling down to the same decision I had to make about the ironworker I bought awhile back.
Yup...I should have...bought a big new 65 or more tonner with all the bells. But I didn't.
My gut told me to buy the one I have...a 40 ton turret job with 14" shear.
I bought $1200 worth of extras I needed for it.
Including shipping etc...about $8200.
The thing is like new...beautiful shape.
In 3 months I made over $6000 with it in coped joint steel gates and sheared/punched post base plates alone...that doesn't count the other jobs i did with it..
The $35 punch set is still good for a pile more holes.
The notcher die set is still like new. Every time I turn that machine on...it's getting closer to being paid for. It also saved me from having to hire someone...so I saved their wages. I have it on wheels and can move it easily all over my little shop.
I have a whole shop full of machines like that...not the latest and greatest...but I can make them produce.
I MAY not be as stupid as I appear :D
I am only 1 1/2 years into this venture.
I pay cash as I go...$35,000 at least last year for machines,weldors, and an old backhoe.
All the above...I understand... the cnc thing is new to me in a way..I know what they can do. A micro machine is just that...great to learn on but then what? I've watched them on U-tube...no thanks. They are just TOOO slow.
I've also watched the lightning fast machines.
That is not walking before you run...that is total overkill.
I'm being careful here...this economy right now sukks.
But..I'm not afraid of some kind of cnc venture.
I know me...I know I am an absolute pitbull when I sink my teeth into something. I will work 20 hour days to learn something new...7 days a week.
Nothing new...I've had two days off in 1 1/2 years.
I gotta go make chips now...but I am still studying this... I will make it work somehow..
Russ

Circlip
01-18-2009, 12:51 PM
Wait 'till you start soul searchin' about a Waterjet Cutter Russ :D

When you do, you're gonna be halfway down the road cos you'll know how CNC programming works.

Regards Ian.

BobWarfield
01-18-2009, 01:07 PM
The advice to keep some powder dry for CAD/CAM was the best point in the thread I've seen. It's not cheap, and it requires an investment of time to learn as well.

Cheers,

BW

torker
01-18-2009, 01:16 PM
LOL! The saga continues...
The guy just called...who owns the Tree mill.
The only thing wrong with it is that the controller won't send a proper signal to the monitor.
He said he found a guy in California who fixes these and said the repair was $1000 to $1500 USD.
He's selling the machine cheap because he never paid much for it either.
He bought 3 cnc machines from some place in Washington that was going out of business....got the works for peanuts. The guy is even more electrically challenged than i am... :D
IF that's true...that's a very cheap machine.
I think I'll ask the Tree guys on PM what their take is on it.

Michael Moore
01-18-2009, 01:39 PM
Russ, if you are doing 2D work then all you'll need for CAD is something that will do a 2D AutoCAD DXF file. On the other hand, OneCNC and Visual Mill (and probably others) CAM software do have some CAD functionality in them.

You may be surprised (I was) to learn that you have to make the CAM software do things. I thought it was all "load the drawing, tell it what tools, and push the "figger it out" button". But nooooo, you'll pick some features on the drawing (a pocket or profile or hole), pick your machining operation, tell it what tool, speeds, feeds, depth increment, stepover, total depth and then it will do just that. Then you move on to the next feature you want to machine, do that again, and repeat until you think you are done.

Don't be surprised if you look at the post-processed G-code and say "hmmm, that looks kind of odd and not what I was expecting" and then go back and do tweaking in the CAM program. You may find that you just can't do what you want in the CAM program and you've got to tweak the final code by hand.

I can't say I found/find the process to be what I'd call intuitive. :)

But you will get the hang of things and if your first projects aren't very complicated you'll probably progress pretty quickly. But those first projects will probably take you an easy 5-10X the amount of time that it would have taken you to put something on a manual mill and just crank it out.

CNC pays off on repetition. It also saves you time by repositioning quicker (that's what rapids are for) and going right to where it needs to be instead of futzing around with the handles to get things just right. And of course, if you want curves it really knocks a manual machine dead there.

Speeds/feeds/DOC/stepover are the things that cause me the most difficulty. When you are doing a manual machine you adjust those on the fly based on your physical feedback from the machine. If you tell the CNC to ram an EM into the work 3X as fast as it will survive, your feedback is the sound of a crash. A copy of Michael Rainey's ME Consultant is what I use for my initial settings. You'll want to keep a notebook on what does or doesn't work and pretty soon you should have some good standard numbers that will work on your machine and projects.

You could get started on G-code now by going to the Sherline site and reading the tutorial there.

Some cost info for you: I've probably got close to $20K in my Tree. That's US$5K to buy, $600 for rigging, recovered maybe $700 on the Dynapath control and Yaskawa drive, spent $2200 on a new CT drive from Ken Brown (motionguru - and he gets a 110% recommendation from me as he had to do a lot of handholding with me as I didn't have a clue what I was doing with the params); around $12Kish for the Centroid control with all the software unlocks that will work on my mill (no rigid tapping as no spindle encoder); probably $500 in miscellaneous stuff - new drive and timing belts, new encoders with a higher line count, contactors, relays, DC caps and rectifiers, wiring, cables; purchase of the automatic tool length measuring device that plugs into the control; the probe (with digitizing) and 4th axis and rotab and $3K in tooling. I see that adds up closer to $20-25K but I've learned to try and avoid actually adding things up for fear of how big the number is. But that gets me a pretty fully featured mill compared to a new $28-32K converted manual mill or the Ganesh bed mill from the MSC catalog. I presume those are all the base control and they'd be happy to sell you another $10 in options.

But I paid cash for everything over a two year period and so it is all MINE. :) For my hobby needs it is overkill but that's fine too. I could justify (to myself) what I spent. I couldn't justify starting off with something at $20K and adding another $10-15K on top of that. And the Tree fits comfortably in my garage and I think it is a better machine for CNC than those new ones based on manual mills. I would be pretty pleased to have one of the bed mills, but oh well.

A friend bought a clean used Fadal and had the misfortune of it needing significant service shortly after he got it. Paying for a tech and parts looks like it can get expensive pretty quickly. But if you get a more sophisticated/complicated machine you may need to have someone wrestle with it instead of repairing it yourself.

I hope that info is of some use to you.

cheers,
Michael

Michael Moore
01-18-2009, 01:45 PM
If that's the one near Vancouver it would have been nice if he'd given more photos of the machine. From what I can see it looks a lot like my 325, and the 6K spindle (also like mine) is a plus. I don't know about that Erickson quick change stuff. I don't see any pull studs in the toolholders, which look more like NT/BT instead of CAT.

cheers,
Michael

sansbury
01-18-2009, 01:49 PM
<snip>
I believe I've found a unique market but I want to make them better (more bling) than the average backyard fab guy will do.
<snip>
$1900 for that Tree 330...it's worth that in scrap value..


I know a lot more about moving product than I do about machining. If the reason for the CNC is to make and sell "bling" then my advice is to get a small (even a dozen) run made (any way, any how) and try to sell them. Machine them manually if you can, call in a favor or send them out if you can't. Forget what they cost to make, just figure what you'd sell the CNC-made ones for and see how hard they are to sell.

If the negative predictions for the economy continue, the market for bling might not do so well. OTOH the market for a local guy with low-overhead CNC capabilities may go up. You know your neighborhood better than I--my advice is just to have one foot in the land of optimism and one foot in the land of pessimism, and make sure you pay attention to both.

As for scrap value, I wouldn't be too sure, at least if you need the money quick. Prices on scrap have gone to $#@! everywhere I know, and the cost of getting the machine to the scrapyard will come out of the price.

My suggestion of the Taig is not that I think you'll find the machine livable long-term. It's a training toy that will in the end cost you very little, and save a lot of time. If you're doing a variety of small-run parts that really need/use the CNC capability, then the most important thing is to have a good CAD/CAM system that you know how to use really well. In my opinion a lot of guys try to save too much money in this part of the game because they don't understand the difference in productivity between really good software and so-so software. It's a lot easier to see spending 10k on a big piece of machinery than on a CD with a license number, but in some cases the software will do more for your throughput than the machine will. It comes down to knowing what type of production you need to be able to do.

On the other hand, I also see a lot of people who don't take the trouble to learn to use what they do have. Take BobCad for example--cheap and often get what you pay for--but some guys turn out great parts with it because they didn't give up. They could probably do even better if they got something better, but just like the mill, the operator is the #1 determinant of the end result.

torker
01-18-2009, 01:53 PM
Thanks Michael...I was over on PM the past few days and knew you had a Tree mill. I was going to contact you anyway...good that you showed up.
"The Gurl"...that's what this is all really about...i'm trying to fit her back in here with something she can do.
Bonus is...she works for me at the motel and has nothing but time to learn. I'm installing my old Visual Cad program for her down there tomorrow so she can learn that. I've had her hand drawing blueprints for me for awhile now so she understands the gist of it all.
So...there are two brains at work here...not just my slightly damaged one :D
This week my driver will be here to get the cnc rotab back up and running then we're off to some kind of race...
Russ

Mark Hockett
01-18-2009, 02:57 PM
A friend bought a clean used Fadal and had the misfortune of it needing significant service shortly after he got it. Paying for a tech and parts looks like it can get expensive pretty quickly. But if you get a more sophisticated/complicated machine you may need to have someone wrestle with it instead of repairing it yourself.



Michael,
One of the big advantages of the Fadal is they have great troubleshooting manuals, usually come with the machine but can be downloaded for free from a couple of sites, and most problems can be diagnosed by the owner of the machine without the need to call a tech. The other nice thing is there are many sources of aftermarket parts for Fadals so parts are fairly reasonable unlike Haas where you have to purchase parts from your Haas Factory Outlet.
Here are a couple of aftermarket Fadal parts sites,

http://www.fadalcnc.com/

http://www.kmac-parts.com/?gclid=CKaKvePqmJgCFRk_awodHUCOnQ

Both of these companies can be very helpful when a problem occurs. In the 3 years I have owned my Fadal I have had the spindle encoder fail, the X axis ballscrew get loose and recently the spindle bearings failed from using a rotary broach. The spindle encoder cost $90 from KMAC and took about 30 minutes to install. The ballscrew cost $1700 and took about 2 hours to change. I am still waiting for the spindle rebuilder to finish rebuilding the exchange spindle so I can swap it out, so I don't know how long that will take or what the exact cost will be. I gave been using the machine with a slightly noisy spindle for a couple of weeks.

Fadals are like the Chevrolet of CNC machines. Parts are easy to get, there are a ton of them still in service, parts are reasonably priced, there is a lot of information and support available, and they are easy to fix. I have never needed to call a tech to fix mine.

Fadal also has a very easy to learn control with many features that other machines don't have. Some of the features I really like are the work offset set-up menus. I tell the control the diameter of my edge finder it will automatically adjust for it. I can use an edge finder to located the center of a hole by touching off on three points and the control will calculate the center point and log it in to the correct offset number, I can't remember the last time I used a DTI to find the center of a hole on that machine. It will do the same for a 90 degree corner or a mid point by touching two points. There are also tool set-up menus that are easy to use. I tell the control the starting and ending tool numbers, and how thick my height block is. The machine will get the tool so all I have to do is enter the radius of the tool, touch it to the height block and hit the start button where it will get the next tool and I repeat the process until all the tools are set. The height block can be anything such as a piece of shim stock, feeler gage or electronic sensor.

Russ,
If you are going to buy an old CNC machine I would avoid one that is no longer supported. If you get a machine and then become dependent on that machine getting a job done or generating a certain amount of income, when it goes down and you can't get it fixed in a reasonable amount of time you won't be happy.

Dawai
01-18-2009, 03:23 PM
YOUR main work is fabrication?

Ow about a cnc plasma or torch cutter.. I kinda got the urge to redo a old joystick program to read a white soapstone tracing into Gcode pattern.. I got two "line following" modules.. made for a robotic mouse.. A camera with the modified scanner software would work too. Hand sketch, to gcode in one op..
I have had built for a week now the backpanel to drive the three Sanyo Denki Servo motors/gearboxes.. It's colder than heck here. I have done three xy tables and came backt to a 55gallon drum barrel head design each time.. I think that will be it..

4x8 table? Have enough room for a dedicated cutting table?
Brackets, adding in artwork to gates.. charge artsy-fartsy prices.. A large fab table is also needed for gates.. the floor is too far off nowadays. I built a 4x8 but it has been too piled up since making it to use.. it has a junk harley in the middle of fab right now. I've sketched a cutter to fit on arms on the back and swivel up out of the way.

There is one nice one on a gov auction site right now, about $8500.. I know nothing about it.. OLD cnc's are money hungry.. go too old and you can figure on building a replacement controller yourself. Nothing homebuilt is as good as throwing a wheelbarrow load of money at a new one. Payback time? remember how many companies are going out of business cause they bought new expensive machinery "Hoping" to get work to pay for it.

Ow about rentals? is there a company up there? six month lease on something you can see if it works out?

I had the ironworker here tied up with a clamp to the cnc mill.. it could position and punch holes, had it tied to a cutting torch on a arm, near burned down the shop with the piercing blow-back hitting sparks onto all the books on shelves (not good thinking there).. Hell I was looking at edms and it came up some people use kerosene as a coolant.. OK? Imagine the fire I can have then?

DR
01-18-2009, 04:56 PM
LOL! The saga continues...
The guy just called...who owns the Tree mill.
The only thing wrong with it is that the controller won't send a proper signal to the monitor.
He said he found a guy in California who fixes these and said the repair was $1000 to $1500 USD.
He's selling the machine cheap because he never paid much for it either.
He bought 3 cnc machines from some place in Washington that was going out of business....got the works for peanuts. The guy is even more electrically challenged than i am... :D
IF that's true...that's a very cheap machine.
I think I'll ask the Tree guys on PM what their take is on it.


Unfortunately, that's the oldest line in the CNC selling business......."it's broken, but it only takes a little bit to get it running".

The System 10 is old. I don't believe it takes G-code, conversational only. Conversational isn't bad, but Gcode is the industry standard.

There are guys who'll keep the System-10's going. The story there, though, is they have the knowledge and the parts and you don't. So you pay (through the nose).

JoeFin
01-18-2009, 05:35 PM
Unfortunately, that's the oldest line in the CNC selling business......."it's broken, but it only takes a little bit to get it running".

The System 10 is old. I don't believe it takes G-code, conversational only. Conversational isn't bad, but Gcode is the industry standard.

There are guys who'll keep the System-10's going. The story there, though, is they have the knowledge and the parts and you don't. So you pay (through the nose).

I’m in agreement with Dr on this one

Way Too Easy to sink way too much time, effort and money into breathing life into an old controller that even working in it’s peak condition isn’t going to do the job you want.

My advice is to set reasonable limits on what your needs are.

1) 3 axis
2) Controller – no more then 10 years old
3) Table size
4) Budget

Maybe even take in an auction or 2. Never know who your going to meet at auction. Could be some one who needs to move out a machine or 2. Or even Flea-Bone, a lot of CNC machines move out of there for less then $5K. Just be sure before you bid you reach reasonable understandings with the seller like - "I got to see this thing run program before money changes hands"

kf2qd
01-18-2009, 08:04 PM
I wouldn't recommend the Tree mill with that old Dynapath control - unless you really like to play with troubleshooting OLD computer hardware. It might make a nice base if you were to swap out the old BRUSH type drives with some Yaskawa BRUSHLESS drives and for a start you could run them off something like MACH using the step/direction control - this is closed loop though and may/may not give the results you need. You could at a later date go for a more advanced control and use the analog control with encoder feedback from the same drives. All this assumes you know what you are doing with the electronic side of things. Motors & drives for 3 axis would run in the $1500 - $3000 PER AXIS. The old brush type drives are outdated and expensive to get repaired (not something you can do with a soldering iron at the kitchen table). The tree is a solid machine and can do nice work - within its limitations. Could you find a smaller knee type CNC mill that would do your work - but is less than 10 years old and is still working? You might be better off to get a machine that can be maintained and get your feet wet, and when you make some money off it you would be able to afford a machine that would allow you to do more.

If you got that Tree - in its present state - you would have a large chunk of your shop occupied by something that IS going to cost you a whole lot of money with a very high level of uncertainty that it will ever be able to return your investment. A smaller machine that works could be sold - maybe with some loss - but with a higher probability that is could at least break even because you would know your costs going in. $20K for a working machine sure beats $20K in parts for a machine that might work - someday.

Michael Moore
01-18-2009, 09:54 PM
Mark, my comment about the Fadal was strictly a "you can buy a more recent name brand machine and still end up getting stuck with expensive service" example rather than anything Fadal-specific. I'd probably just as happy with a Fadal as any number of other machines.

cheers,
Michael

Mark Hockett
01-18-2009, 10:21 PM
Michael,
I wasn't trying to argue about that, and I totally agree you can buy any machine and have problems, I bought a brand new Haas lathe and had many problems with it, but luckily it was under warranty. I was just mentioning that the Fadal is one of the easiest to diagnose and repair when a problem occurs, and you and I know that problems will occur if a machine is being used daily. Buying a used machine is like buying a used car, there are good and bad ones. What would you expect from a 10 year old used car.

One other thing that should be mentioned, if purchasing a used machine that is at the level of a Fadal or any other VMC you should pay the money to have a tech inspect it before buying. My friend who has the snowmobile parts manufacturing business and just bought the Fadal 15, had the machine inspected. I loaned him the money for the machine so I required him to show me an inspection report before I would pay for it. The inspection report was very accurate and we knew all of the problems with the machine before it arrived. It had backlash in the Z axis which was fixed with an $800 ballscrew. The machine is now making parts daily with no problems.

oldtiffie
01-18-2009, 10:43 PM
Russ,
I guess you don't need me or to be reminded that there's going to be an awful lot of "non-productive" (read: non-chargeable) time as well as money/capital tied up in this.

Cost-recovery is going to be an issue let alone showing a profit - and when.

Can you afford to get it wrong?

What if someone else sees that niche or opportunity and gets in before you do? What if you get it to market and make a profit only to see the market saturated and/or the competition under-cut you?

When I was doing first my "Hobby" welding and then my "Pressure Plate" courses, I was intrigued by a "Falcon" oxy-acet profile cutter (1 or more cutting nozzles) that had simple "X" and "Y" motors and used photo-electric (PE) cells and light source focused on a good (ink) black and white "plan" (paper). It actually "hunted" the black line and senses when the beam was on or off the line and adjusted accordingly. It would even follow a good pencil-drawn free-hand sketch!! It was quite simple but very effective and reliable. They used to cut the welding plates/coupons - beat the snot out of hand-cutting and beveling!!! If I recall correctly, it was called a "Falcon" and perhaps made by what was then a local Commonwealth Industrial Gasses Ltd (CIG) which was later taken over by British Oxygen Corporation (BOC).

My point here is that "mechanising" does not always mean (nor does it exclude) CNC/NC.

bobw53
01-18-2009, 11:11 PM
I'm with Mark on this one, I've always thought of Fadal's as the 350 small block or the VMC world. They made a buttload of them. The basic machine was the same from about 1985 until pretty close to now, and the 88HS control was from '93 until 2000 and something? Aftermarket parts suppliers, very very reasonable prices. A lot of the mechanicals in the machine can be bought from McMaster Carr, its that generic and easy.

Diagnosing them is drop dead easy, there are a ton of people online that have them and know them inside and out, and the manuals are actually written in English, and the troubleshooting section is actually really good. Anybody that can square in a head on a bridgeport and install a DRO can trouble shoot and fix a Fadal. They really are that simple.

The control too, its a key board with about 10 extra buttons, it can be used with commands or, the best part, its menu driven. Look in the menu to see what you need to do, and then in plain English, it tells you what to do. It is hands down the simplest controller I've ever worked with.

I like them so much I bought 2 of them last year, a '93 and a '94, 4020, 28"Z one with a 4th, 10,000rpm 15hp. Total repair costs for the 2 so far $900. The first one paid for itself in 3 months, that included the machine $12,900 on E-Bay, Shipping from MI to NM $1575, parts that needed replacing immediately $600(I was going to replace the bellevilles and the drawbar floater anyways, but the drawbar was cracked, hence the high cost), 3 Kurt D688's $1400, a pile of tool holders and collets from Maritool, $2100, a 15k lb Clark to get it off the truck(bought not rented), $2500, delivery of the forklift $300, plus all the interest on the loan for the machine. How can you go wrong.

On the G-code side of it, its not that hard, its basic Cartesian coordinates, the same stuff that you use on a manual machine. G0 go fast, G1 go slow, G2 turn right, G3 turn left, its really simple. If you can plot something out on a piece of graph paper and then take it to a mill with a DRO, thats 90% of writing a program.

The CAM side of it, I guess that depends on the individual, but still no worse than Excel.

MPHJUNKIE
01-19-2009, 02:51 AM
I can't offer any advise on the machine you're looking at and won't on any cad/cam system but it seems many other can. I will say that 11 months ago I had no cnc experience. Turning one on would have had me scratching my head. Now I have a cnc lathe and a mill in my shop. In the beginning I looked through the manual that came with the mill and tought myself g-code. Today there are 84 programs saved on that controller and several more that have been erased. All were written by hand at the controller. 3 months ago I was given a cad program and I am teaching myself how to use it a little everyday. I do use it to get the machine coordinates for parts drawn with it and most parts are 2d but not all. Some are pretty complex that took hours to write but again all by hand. I do see me using cad/cam more in the future but I also think knowing g-code is important. At least to me it is. My point is there is a learning curve with any way you choose in how to give the machine the information. For me is wasn't a problem. I had the X,Y and Z moving around in a day or two and going where I wanted. I had a simple part by the weeks end.
You're truly past the most difficult part already in my opinion where you have someone who wants to learn and has that capability.

torker
01-19-2009, 07:47 AM
Thanks guys! Again...a ton of info here.
OK...I'll not buy the Tree. I've heard enough to know it's way beyond me.
I have way more reading to do...
Thanks!

MickeyD
01-19-2009, 08:18 AM
Torker - I do a little fab work too and love having the cnc mill to help out. Yesterday afternoon I ran a little job that required drilling about 160 holes in 3/8th 6x6 angle and rounding and beveling some of the edges. It took about three hours to run the job and part of that was playing with the kids on a pretty afternoon. I drew the patterns out in viacad (about $99) and then used sprutcam to make the g-code, but for simple 2.5d jobs like this $150 sheetcam would have been fine, so the software does not have to cost a ton if you don't need full 3d. I don't have an ironworker so drilling holes in thicker steel is a pain, at least this way the machine feels it and not me. But if you are doing mostly fab work, you might make more money with a cnc plasma table, another diy project that does not have to be super expensive.

torker
01-19-2009, 08:27 AM
Mickey..I seriously thought about building a cnc plasma/fuel table...til I found out there are three in this small area already.
For my own shop...the mill would be far busier than the plasma table for now anyway.
I still have a 30X50 building to finish off one day...then I'll have room for more of these big things.
$50,000 to finish off the building...my wallet isn't that thick yet...

hardtail
01-21-2009, 12:15 AM
Russ have a read on this thread a lot of it parallels you, particularly after the first half, 3 months into it and look at what he's producing, heck of a nice fella also.

http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/showthread.php?t=160751

Mark Hockett
01-21-2009, 12:53 AM
Russ,
Here is one of the machines on ebay that I mentioned, it just ended.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=190280109071
A machine like that would probably cost about $2K to get shipped from just about anywhere in the U.S. to you, if you shop around. Whoever got that one I'm sure is very happy right now.
The Tree mill with shipping and repairs would more than likely cost more. And a decent CNC knee mill would cost more. I have a CNC knee mill just like this one,
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=310116966055
I wouldn't sell mine for any less than $10K as they cost about $28K new. The knee mills bring a premium because they fit into small shops and home shops better that the larger mills which makes them very popular.

Don't think I am bashing the Tree as it is a good machine it would just be a better choice for someone that wants a project and has the time to work on it.

MickeyD
01-21-2009, 07:49 AM
I had heard that the bottom was falling out from under cnc machine prices. Last year that Fadal would have gone for 10K to 15K on Ebay because it is barely small enough to get into a home garage. I have a Sharp that is just a little smaller than that one (I wish mine was a 24x16 vs 24x12 like it is) and if I had to do real work on an open machine I just would not do it. Between the enclosure to catch all of the coolant and chips and the tool changer so you don't have to babysit the machine every second make things easier by an oder of magnitude. You still need an open mill for odd sized things, but for most work an enclosed machining center is the way to go. If there is any way you could fit one in your budget, that is the way to go.

lazlo
01-21-2009, 08:13 AM
Russ,
Here is one of the machines on ebay that I mentioned, it just ended.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=190280109071
A machine like that would probably cost about $2K to get shipped from just about anywhere in the U.S. to you, if you shop around. Whoever got that one I'm sure is very happy right now.

The VMC itself looks like it's in decent condition, but the electronics are really old. If you buy a 13 year-old CNC system, I think there's a good chance that you'll have to gut the electronics and replace them with Mach/Geckos.

lazlo
01-21-2009, 08:29 AM
Torker - I do a little fab work too and love having the cnc mill to help out. Yesterday afternoon I ran a little job that required drilling about 160 holes in 3/8th 6x6 angle and rounding and beveling some of the edges. It took about three hours to run the job.

Russ, as a third-party observer of Mike's VMC, let me add that there's a lot of setup time on the first part. I came over to "help" :) while Mike was making a set a of rounded caster mounts out of 1/2" plate. Once he had the 3D model loaded and the G-codes generated in MasterCAM, It took a long time (around 3 hours) to get the plate indicated in the VMC, the correct offsets chosen for each tool, sppeds and feeds tweaked according to how sharp the endmill was, etc etc.

I kept saying "Mike, I could do this on a rotab in 20 minutes," and he would tell me to piss off :)

But the real beauty of the setup is that once you have the toolpath setup correctly, you can pop them out like hotcakes, and play with the kids while the machine is running.

Tough choice, but I would lean towards manual machines for a jobber shop (fixing axles and splines, re-shafting motors, ...) But if you're going to be making small quantities of prototypes like Mike often does, a VMC really shines...

Dawai
01-21-2009, 08:44 AM
Geckos are fine for a small tool.
Not enough heat dissipation the way they are designed. A pentium 4 heat sink and fan are about the right size.. but..

I am adapting a 10lb heat sink and fan for the G320s I got on the table I am building. WITH no load on the motors running on the workbench they got hot.

THE ones that all died on the bridgeport, well the heat sink grease had not been spread out a large bubble on the "BLOWED" mosfet. Meaning it was not clamped properly. I think Marriss has fixed that run of problems since.

THE Larken drives on the bridgeport, one died in the years since 2002, I think it lost one of the voltage regulators on board.. I got 1.2 volts coming out of a 7805.. but then it may be shorted on the backside and sucking it dry. One thing I noticed, the Solder flux was not properly washed off the drives, all joints are corroding.. I like to see them washed and sealed in a clear poly to be industrialized.
Real industrial servo drives we can't afford in a home shop.

The inertia of a heavy table, well the voltage clip Marriss drew up.. I am using a SSR cube w.transisitor output and large inline diode.. when the front side exceeds voltage on the backside of diode by gate voltage it shunts the excess generated power through a resistor.. It'll never turn on unless it is generating voltage in braking.. A big thing with servos for sure.

A gantry table, it can.. Flame-plasma cut sheet stock into brackets, measure sheet to a sheet metal brake for a backguage.. measure and position parts to a ironworker, measure and position tube to the bender (the big trolley can come out of the ceiling.. Mount a drill head and produce drilled electrical panels.. Mount a router and produce carved wooden parts.. Mount a sand-spoon and carve sand molds for casting w. no models other than a virtual one needed.
I have a Z axis of 18" I am working on at the present for it.. It's a very old unit off a Cyberlab cnc kit I bought in the 80s.. which they never sent all the parts for. It's basically a metal trough with two small guide rods and a BLOCK of UHMW with a acme nut pressed into it. THE ancient electronics have been robbed and scavenged over the years.. it was a unipolar resistor unit anyways..

A fitall.. cheap and userful.. Not as GOOD as a Real commercial cnc unit, but cheap and good enough. That ancient cnc plasma table on the gov site went for 11k??? it programmed with a 3 1/2 floppy.. Some bidders on that site are really confused.. I mean a 88 ford police car is not worth 4,000...

lazlo
01-21-2009, 08:58 AM
Geckos are fine for a small tool.
Not enough heat dissipation the way they are designed.

Agreed -- I was using Gecko colloquially, like Kleenex.

My point being: if you buy a 13 - 15 year old CNC machine, there's a good chance you'll have to replace the CAM controller and the servo or stepper amps and possibly even the motors. And you're absolutely right David: you'd need a lot bigger amp than a Gecko to drive most VMC's.

Dawai
01-21-2009, 11:30 AM
Lazlo, I thought once to modify a gecko, Remote the mosfets onto a real heat sink. Perhaps liquid coolant heat sink?? The way the circuit board clamps them to the backplate that would be pretty easy.. but remote from the electronics is harder. OF course the warranty is void if you dissasemble it that far..

Remote? replaceable mosfets?
Problems are reactance-capacitance they tell me.. the six inches of wire would change the tuning. THE problems with the heat? it changes the turn on-off time for the mosfets. With the Dual H-bridge type drive with 8 mosfets.. well any of them are slower or faster than the others (lemme see to remember Marriss's words) Major Destructive breakdown occurs. (hillbilly translation is "it blows a smoke ring")

Another thing I didn't like was the case anodic layer being used as insulation.. Seems the tabs were all electrically Hot.. THE dual heat connections.. meaning..Mosfet kernel, the back panel on the drive, the heat sink, milling it all flat, applying heat sink grease to heat conduct.. it still needs a temp monitor of some type.. (People race tiny 50cc motorbikes too don't they?)

BUT they work everyday in a light enviroment not used to full capacity.. the fact they are smaller than a pack of cigarettes and can run a Nema 42 motor is pretty darned impressive to me. VERY worth the money spent. They should run a smaller cnc daily.. and do.. Sometimes in a productive enviroment. SO I am not saying NOTHING bad about them.. ONCE, I became angry, removed the working ones from working indexers, and tools here because of a argument. (angry pride) I had a pretty good sale and the cnc died in the middle of making parts and I got CUSSED quite good by the customer.

What can a TOY mill-drill machine do? well carving wax patterns for casting is one.. a man could make a living casting one off jewelry.

I wish Marriss would join us more here.. his expertise is needed more than not.
Feedback is a important part of development and R&D..

Mark Hockett
01-21-2009, 11:45 AM
The VMC itself looks like it's in decent condition, but the electronics are really old. If you buy a 13 year-old CNC system, I think there's a good chance that you'll have to gut the electronics and replace them with Mach/Geckos.
Lazlo,
Fadal's electronics are very reliable and all of the boards are readily available so there would never be a reason to gut the electronics. These are machines built for industrial service. The only thing that seems to have a limited service life on a Fadal is the monitor which is not that expensive to replace. The only retrofit that I have ever seen for a Fadal is mostly done just to give the machine higher feed machining capabilities.

torker
01-21-2009, 01:11 PM
Guys...I'm sneaking the odd read here and there. My shop is just swamped with work right now.
I need my helper back...lol!

DR
01-21-2009, 01:13 PM
Whatever Russ buys, at some point there's going to be a problem. The older the machine the greater likelihood of an elusive problem.

AFAIK, there are no service techs within arm's reach of him.

That would be my biggest concern if I was in his position.

MickeyD
01-21-2009, 02:44 PM
Not to hijack the thread, but David, if you Gecko 320's are running that hot you have them adjusted wrong. I had three of them on a Bridgeport BOSS conversion (Porter Peerless 1.5HP servos, 3 48V 20Amp power supplies) on a 16" piece of original Bridgeport heatsink with no fans and they would barely warm up when I got the dialed in. Before I dialed them in (the manual has the instructions) one did bake itself but Maurice rebuilt it for me under his oops policy. Set right, they get warm but not that hot.

bobw53
01-21-2009, 03:36 PM
Lazlo,
Fadal's electronics are very reliable and all of the boards are readily available so there would never be a reason to gut the electronics. These are machines built for industrial service. The only thing that seems to have a limited service life on a Fadal is the monitor which is not that expensive to replace. The only retrofit that I have ever seen for a Fadal is mostly done just to give the machine higher feed machining capabilities.


I saw Lazlo's comment and I was like :eek: . I have a 15 and a 16 year old machine sitting out here. Today is the first ones 1yr anniversary of being in this shop, total electronic failures, 1 power supply, which is a PC supply, which required going upstairs and grabbing an old one out of a box. They last a long long time.

Dawai
01-21-2009, 04:31 PM
AFAIK, there are no service techs within arm's reach of him.
Sure there are.. JUST like me, I am awaiting a local plants call now on some equipment I built for them in the 80s.. I'll make a years wages in a week or less..
Rape and pillage.. (I could be a politician huh?) Technicians that can repair anything from a copy machine to a PID steam loop? well special huh? Do you think the machine shops were nice and "cheap" to me whilst I was experimenting with robotics in the early 80s? Nahh.. Rape and pillage on a personal level. I bought my first machine shop tool because I was pissed at the prices I was charged to turn some pins.. I don't blame them, hell I like a years wages in a week too. I enjoy riding my Purple Harley with a pocket full of Hundred dollar bills and no timeclock to punch. There are lean times between the industrial screwings thou. Not to mention I feel like crap and ain't doing 3am service work anymore. What is funny is when the owner- maint lead man sends his techie to follow me around.. Just something as simple as turning off the "notes" in a plc program makes them crazy.. or when they set all the AB plcs with the same node address. They teach classes down at the college... yeah.. how to turn a computer on. I was charging from the time they woke me up, till I thought I'd go back to sleep, or on the airplane ride.. or..

What was really amazing to me, some of the Union nuclear electricians, worked off specs for so long... they didn't even know how to terminate a 3ph transformer.. together they had 50 years experience between them.. They were excellent at politics thou,, in less than a week, they were MY foreman.. They ordered a guy to go around and Check all my "transformers" that were powered up and running offices.. HA.. more humor.. I have about been trained about buddies on the job.

Words from a rat looking over his buddy caught in a rat trap.. (ZIPP) Hate your luck old pal, thanks for the cheese. This might pinch a bit.. (two union electricians, caught by the steward swapping oral sex... knowed they were out of town travelers cause if they were local brothers they'd been screwing each other's eyes out)

I try to be nice to my friends thou. I just got fewer friends this week than last. Another buddy ten years younger, dying of cancer.. A huge mountain of a man Ironworker.. used to pick me up and swing me like a child in his arms.. Seen him hit a guy, blood came out both ears..

DR
01-21-2009, 06:20 PM
Sure there are.. JUST like me, I am awaiting a local plants call now on some equipment I built for them in the 80s.. I'll make a years wages in a week or less..
Rape and pillage..

.................................................. .



You made my point....I don't think he want to be in the position of having to pay a year's wages for a service call.

lazlo
01-21-2009, 08:06 PM
You made my point....I don't think he want to be in the position of having to pay a year's wages for a service call.

Mike (MickeyD) told me that the Fanuc minimum charge for a site visit is ~ $700.


That was my point entirely.. IF Russ, or anyone purchases a very old cnc, they had better be able to repair it on their own.. or get ready??

My point too.

Dawai
01-21-2009, 08:07 PM
DR:

That was my point entirely.. IF Russ, or anyone purchases as very old cnc, they had better be able to repair it on their own.. or get ready??

I go out of my way to help all my buddies.. I spent probably forty hours helping a person I have never met in Illinois with a Lathe.. Just a forum chum with a busted chinese lathe. Perhaps he will buy me a cup of coffee when he finally meets me.

lane
01-21-2009, 08:41 PM
Tonker I do not know any thing about CNC ether but i work now in a CNC production shop And all the machines are programed with the G codes right at the machine . they have a cad program but do not use it for writing programs.Now this is a 2 million dollar a year profit business. With about 20 cnc lathes and 5 support CNC mills. Plus the manual shop I run. One guy does all program in lathe shop and one in mill shop . All machine are run by people off the street with no machining experience. So just get you a working machine and get after it.

Mark Hockett
01-21-2009, 10:48 PM
Mike (MickeyD) told me that the Fanuc minimum charge for a site visit is ~ $700.



My point too.

Lazlo, David,
This is exactly why I recommend getting a Fadal. They have good self diagnostics in the control with G code programs that help diagnose problems. Most of the boards have LED's that are green when the board is good and red when there is a problem. They have great troubleshooting manuals with step by step instructions and wiring diagrams that can be downloaded for free if your machine doesn't come with one. I own a Fadal and my friend who builds the snowmobile parts owns a Fadal. Neither of us has ever had to call a service guy to come fix our machines, and I will be the first to admit that I'm not that smart when it comes to electrical repairs.

Here is one source for manuals,
http://fadalcnc.com/fadal_Tech_Docs1.htm

Here is the trouble shooting manual. open it and scroll to the flow charts for trouble shooting starting on page 40,
http://fadalcnc.com/Tech_files/Maintenance%20Manual/Troubleshooting.pdf

Lane,
CNC lathes are much easier to program, as they are two axis, so most shops do program lathes at the machine. Most of the guys I know that specialize in CNC lathe work are lightning fast at programing on the machine.

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 12:45 AM
Deleted - duplicate post

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 12:46 AM
Tonker I do not know any thing about CNC ether but i work now in a CNC production shop And all the machines are programed with the G codes right at the machine . they have a cad program but do not use it for writing programs.Now this is a 2 million dollar a year profit business. With about 20 cnc lathes and 5 support CNC mills. Plus the manual shop I run. One guy does all program in lathe shop and one in mill shop . All machine are run by people off the street with no machining experience. So just get you a working machine and get after it.

Very interesting post Lane - and right on topic too.

This bit was particularly interesting:


Now this is a 2 million dollar a year profit business. With about 20 cnc lathes and 5 support CNC mills. Plus the manual shop I run. One guy does all program in lathe shop and one in mill shop . All machine are run by people off the street with no machining experience. So just get you a working machine and get after it.

Everyone of them could claim to be skilled machinists!! - from the programmers, to the "manual shop" peole - all of whom ARE skilled Machinists all the way to those "off the street" guys who are instant Machinists - including "experienced in CNC"!! They will have it on their CV in very short order!!

In my day, all the really skilled Machinists were 1st. Class Machinists (it was not easy getting there!!), then down to 2nd. and 3rd. Class Machinists down through "Machine Operators/Attendants" to "Process (Repetition) Machinists/Workers".

Its a bit like everyone no matter where outside the shop areas is a "Manager" or an "Officer" of some description. That will be on both their job description as well as their CV's too.

Sorry for the partial side-track, now back to the topic.

lazlo
01-22-2009, 08:56 AM
Everyone of them could claim to be skilled machinists!! - from the programmers, to the "manual shop" peole - all of whom ARE skilled Machinists all the way to those "off the street" guys who are instant Machinists - including "experienced in CNC"!! They will have it on their CV in very short order!!.

There've been a bunch of threads on PracticalMachinist about this -- the "button pushers." According to the posts on PM, apparently part of the reason there are so few manual machinists anymore is that a lot of shops are looking for unskilled workers for CNC operators.

Lane: I'm assuming the "push button" guys get paid a whole lot less than a skilled manual machinist?

wierdscience
01-22-2009, 09:23 AM
There've been a bunch of threads on PracticalMachinist about this -- the "button pushers." According to the posts on PM, apparently part of the reason there are so few manual machinists anymore is that a lot of shops are looking for unskilled workers for CNC operators.

Lane: I'm assuming the "push button" guys get paid a whole lot less than a skilled manual machinist?

Haha...I found the best way to sort the machinists from the button monkeys is by giving them a sample part to make on a manual machine.

The last guy with "CNC experience" that "could run manual" took 15 minutes to find the start button.This was on a 1940's Hendey,there are only two green buttons on the machine.

"Sorry we're not hiring right now,but Wal-mart is":)

It's a shame Russ can't find a good used Hurco or Haas mill localy.

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 09:33 AM
Lazlo.

It is not all cut and dried in that regard. It is quite possible that one person can tend several CNC/repetition machines, such as load, clean etc.

But in the "support" somewhere there has to be tool-setting and sharpening as replacement as well as "Inspection" for conformity at specified intervals or numbers of parts etc. Some one has to deliver the raw material from the loading dock or ware-house to the machine shop. Orders have to be packed and consigned etc. etc. There is the inevitable "accounts" and "management" sides of things as well. "Sales" too.

If one of the "off the street" guys leaves or is sacked suddenly there may be little disruption, but if one of those "programmers" (only on each for lathes and mills) "goes" then there is a real problem, particularly if he "doesn't come back" as the load has to be carried until a replacement person can be found, interviewed, hired, trained and set to work. These can be huge problems where-as a single CNC machine and/or its operator can be covered fairly easily.

My guess is that the "off the street" guys will be paid what-ever the market for them dictates - whether it be by hourly rate, wages, bonuses/incentives and whether a probationary period is involved or whether they are "Contract" or "Agency" people. I'd also guess that the difference in net pay a week between the "skilled" and "unskilled" may not be in proportion to the differences in skill-levels. It is "product out the door" that payment is claimed for and made to pay the bills so perhaps those "unskilled" people are paid and perhaps worth more to the employer than some might like or think.

Having the CNC machines producing is only part of the requirement and not always the biggest problem.

lazlo
01-22-2009, 11:26 AM
It's a shame Russ can't find a good used Hurco or Haas mill localy.

MickeyD has been rebuilding a Hurco CNC mill as long as I've known him :D

mochinist
01-22-2009, 11:39 AM
Lane: I'm assuming the "push button" guys get paid a whole lot less than a skilled manual machinist?Around here the button pusher can make anywhere from 10 to 15. Manual machinist 15 to 25 and cnc machinist the same maybe slightly more if they work at Boeing or somewhere like that.

lazlo
01-22-2009, 11:47 AM
Wow, that's interesting. So a "CNC Machinist" (which I presume is a machinist who can do both manual machine and generate CAD/CAM designs) is paid more than a Tool and Die Maker?

mochinist
01-22-2009, 12:09 PM
Wow, that's interesting. So a "CNC Machinist" (which I presume is a machinist who can do both manual machine and generate CAD/CAM designs) is paid more than a Tool and Die Maker?A cnc machinist cannot necessarily run any manual machines.

and who said anything about tool and die makers? The few I know probably make 30+ but I have never asked them. I know they charge a lot when I need them:eek: Moldmakers too

BobWarfield
01-22-2009, 12:46 PM
1 or 2 programmers/real machinists + as many button pushers and CNC machines as you can keep busy = recipe for a CNC machine shop business.

The button pushers are essentially the other shop's "gurls", except she is more skilled and is being trained more because Torker doesn't have a raft of CNC machines yet.

At the risk of setting off a massive rumble in the thread, whether you believe it was Asia or CNC, both mean fewer manual machinists are needed here to grind out the work. Both are just different approaches. CNC is more costly, but it is more precise too. There is still very much a business in manufacturing using CNC.

Lane's ratios are interesting. I make that as about $80K annual profit per CNC machine. I've seen a lot of surveys of how many CNC machines one person can run, and it seems to vary from 2-4. So, if you can keep all those machines busy, a small shop can do very nicely.

Here's a great PM thread about a guy building a very nice house + shop for his CNC lathe business:

http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/showthread.php?t=154292&page=10

Cheers,

BW

Michael Moore
01-22-2009, 02:48 PM
There's just no longer a need for giant rooms full of hundreds of people slaving over a hot lathe for 10 hours a day.

http://atdetroit.net/forum/messages/6790/65899.jpg

They can't do it as quickly as CNC and they can't do it 24/7.

It doesn't seem much different than the situation when suddenly there was no need to have 80% of the population employed in agriculture. Times change.

cheers,
Michael

lazlo
01-22-2009, 03:24 PM
It doesn't seem much different than the situation when suddenly there was no need to have 80% of the population employed in agriculture. Times change.

Agreed, although I think this thread fork was lamenting the loss of manual machinists, which, as you point out, is going to continue.

Mark Hockett
01-22-2009, 03:41 PM
Lane's ratios are interesting. I make that as about $80K annual profit per CNC machine. I've seen a lot of surveys of how many CNC machines one person can run, and it seems to vary from 2-4. So, if you can keep all those machines busy, a small shop can do very nicely.


Cheers,

BW

Bob,
The way it works in my shop is I have 2 CNC mills and 1 CNC lathe. My shop rate is $60 per hour. If a machine is running it is making money so the more machines I can keep running the more money I make. If all three machines are working that works out to be $180 per hour. This is where it get interesting, my Fadal has a 16" X 30" table and will hold up to 4 vises or multiple vises and fixture plates. It also holds 21 tools. I can set the machine up to run more than one job at a time causing longer cycle times which allow me time to run other machines. I set up and start the first job. While that is running I can get the tools for the second job loaded in arbors and when a cycle is done I install the vise or fixture plate, load tools, set the offsets, add the program to the existing program as a sub and now two jobs are running. The cycle time gets longer which allows me time to run the lathe or the other mill. The CNC knee mill gets used for mostly prototype work or production jobs that only need one tool. On the Fadal many times I use a vise jaw set up with dovetails machined into it. The stock that goes in the vise also has dovetails cut on on it. This allows me to have as little .030" to .090" of material in the vise jaws and still rip at 150 IPM and .5" DOC. When the parts are done they get flipped over and the dovetailed flange is faced off. When doing this the CNC knee mill is cutting the dovetails and the Fadal is machining the parts.

It is fairly easy to keep two machines running but gets a little harder to run three.

In my shop I bill for CAD/CAM time, programing /set up time and machining time. Where I loose is bidding jobs, answering the phone (cause I like to talk too much), making tooling not specific for a job, repairing machines and when I have to got to town to pick up materials or tooling. I now have a blue tooth headset so I can work and talk at the same time.

At one point I had an employee which really helped but until I move into the new shop I will not hire anyone again.

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 04:02 PM
Lazlo.

If there is no need for something it is hardly lost -Machinists included.

If those that are left are only getting about (according to previous posts here) say USD25/hour for working under the conditions that some do or have to, it suggests that there is limited demand for them and those that are left have to take what they are offered or can get. It seems to suggest that there is a saturated market for those machinists that are available for work for wages (ie for others - ie those that do not have their own business/es).

I'd guess too that the working conditions (all year) coupled with what may well be pretty poor wages in some or many shops are hardly something that you would write home about in glowing terms.

I can say that in retrospect, working in a shop was OK when I was in my late teens through to say 40-50 but after that - no thanks.

Machinists are "cost centres" as are their machines and are assessed accordingly.

A machinist cannot work in the closed environment of a machining centre. Same applied to Spray-painters - and others. There is not a lot of difference between them as both are "roboticised" (a CNC-ed work-centre is just a variation of robotics).

Its all about production, productivity and automation, unit cost etc. - and profit, a concept with which I have no problem although I may be concerned about the application and implementations required to achieve it in some cases.

Having or discussing machining, Machinists and CNC-ing etc as a hobby is quite different to have to step into the grind of it day in and day out.

I am quite aware and willing to concede that there are exceptions, but those exceptions may not necessarily be the rule or the general case.

Would I recommend it to anyone as a career now? No way. As a hobby - sure.

lane
01-22-2009, 07:51 PM
Lane: I'm assuming the "push button" guys get paid a whole lot less than a skilled manual machinist?
__________________
Yes about $8.00 an hour here . I am the only machinist their except the retiring boss. his son runs the business and takes in jobs and does programing for the mill`s when need be.
The rest have know idea how to even turn on a manual machine . Thats why I get the big bucks . I fix any and every thing that brakes and build all part holding fixtures. Along with all manual jobs . And I even have to tell the CNC people how to do stuff when they have problems even though I know nothing about how to run one.
Machinist like me are a dieing breed .In 20 years their want be any. I had an old shop foreman tell me 30+ years ago I would see the end .I did not believe it then but I do now. Same here Oldtiffie.
Another thing I learned a CNC machine will do fancy stuff real fast. but you do not need Fancy jobs for . just lots of parts. We have some machines that do and will run only one part till the machine is wore out . Haul it to the scrap yard and put another in its place.10,000parts in one run is nothing.and simple stuff things I could easy make on manual machines just not in 2 days time. the shop I spent most of my working life in 20+ years got in to CNC but ran one are two of very complicated parts. Never a lot of production.
This is getting more and more . The operators each run one machine at a time but move to different machines as they finish a run . their is always a few machines waiting on an operator. And we have support people to pick up and move stock and parts around To deburr . Tumble .black oxide and what ever. One guy is the pusher and makes sure every thing comes to gether at the right time. One Hell of a job to have I would not want it. Me I`. just old grumpy.

mochinist
01-22-2009, 08:13 PM
Machinist like me are a dieing breed .In 20 years their want be any.I eat right and exercise, so hopefully I'll still be here :)


training the 10 and 8 year old also:D

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 08:28 PM
Now we are getting to some of the "nitty gritty".

Read Mark Hockett's and Lane's posts again.

Both are absolutely vital to the success of the CNC-dependent enterprise. If either "falls over", doesn't or can't come in then the risk of disruption to the CNC processing is in Marks case 100% and Lane's perhaps just as bad or more so if a whole line of CNC machines is "outed" for what-ever reasons.

I won't even consider what an Accountant or an Efficiency Consultant might recommend let alone what may happen if his recommendations are either supported or not.

Sometimes having or being responsible for some of these innovations is like having a Tiger by the tail. You sure as hell would like to let go but you sure as hell can't and won't - or else!!

lane
01-22-2009, 09:14 PM
I eat right and exercise, so hopefully I'll still be here :)


training the 10 and 8 year old also:D

What I mean is manual shops are dieing out. When I went to work in1968 their were about 100 machine shops in this town . Now only about 3 are 4 manual only shops.And only about 4are 5 that do CNC . In the 60`s and 70`s out in the industrial area there was a machine shop on every corner some 50 plus men some 10 are 12 and who knows how many 1 and 2 men shops . Not any more All the big shops are gone 50-75 employees now 25 people is a big shop we have between 22-25 depending . Used to be if you did not like your job Jo acrossthe street for 10 cents more per hour . Now you better like it no place to go and if you do their will be a cut in pay..

DR
01-22-2009, 10:51 PM
What I mean is manual shops are dieing out. When I went to work in1968 their were about 100 machine shops in this town . Now only about 3 are 4 manual only shops.And only about 4are 5 that do CNC . In the 60`s and 70`s out in the industrial area there was a machine shop on every corner some 50 plus men some 10 are 12 and who knows how many 1 and 2 men shops . Not any more .
.........................................

..

One reason for no manual shops is it's too expensive to do work on manual machines anymore. With a modern CNC control and a knowledgeable operator there's hardly a part that can't be done faster on CNC than a manual. Even one offs.

Another reason is manual shops were generally oriented to repair work. Most consumer products aren't worth repairing given the labor rates we have.

Young people generally have little interest in manual maching as a career. That's no loss IMO. I've trained a few employees on CNC. Give me a young guy with no machining experience whatsoever and I'll take him any day over an experienced manual machinist when it comes to learning CNC.

Young guys take to CNC like ducks to water. They grew up in a digital world. Older guys just don't get it for some reason.

And it's a myth that you have to understand manual machining to program and run a CNC.

oldtiffie
01-22-2009, 11:34 PM
All of this seems to pre-suppose that the right kind of work with the right margins that suits your machines (CNC - even "manual") will keep coming just as it suits you.

I hope so, but I sure would not count on it.

If I had a big job run, I sure would not put all my eggs in one basket and be at the mercy of a single shop as regards quality, cost and reliability. I'd spread it around to two or three shops and let it be known that I'd done it and would continue to do it - including other shops. Just to keep everyone on their toes and to keep me from being painted into a corner.

There is going to be a lot of desperation out there with shops and Machinists - and they might just be ready to "talk turkey" and/or be taken advantage of. There will be other shops all to willing to get a go and a lot of Machinists at the gate wanting what-ever is on offer.

I think there is a perception that all Machinists have adequate skills and experience in all machines. Perhaps not. many have only used mills, or lathes or grinders - manual or CNC and are both specialised in and effectively restricted to operating the machines in their competency base and level. Some have only worked in one class of work or in one shop.

I really do admire Mark Hockett as he has taken a huge financial commitment as well as a huge leap of faith (hope/hoping?) that it will "work out" and keep working out for him.

I think that "Finance" and "credit" will be the big issues in the fore-see-able future as it may well bring some otherwise very viable enterprises to their knees - or oblivion.

CNC may be a poisoned chalice as there is potentially too many chances of a "stumble" or some-one having a knife at your throat or their foot on your neck - as well as their hands in your pockets.

Owners of these shops or enterprises can't just put all their "tools" in to a brief case as they empty their desks and - are made to - "walk away".

Centralisation/amalgamation/rationalisation - or bankruptcy - may be the eventual outcome.

The ongoing prospects for some or many machinists - CNC/NC/manual - looks a bit bleak.

There will always be winners and survivors in adversity - but there will be a lot of losers and tragedy.

I sure would not recommend "machining" to any kid.

A reality check here and there may be no bad thing either. I have never yearned for the "good old days in the old shops with the super-dooper machinists" (they were often hell-holes and sweat-shops) and I sure don't "romance" those days - or myself either in that regard.

DR
01-23-2009, 03:29 AM
As a machine shop, you have no choice about CNC. Either buy it or go out of business.

When I first went to CNC there was a misconception that parts made on them would be more expensive. I'd say it took at least 10 years for customers to realize otherwise.

Now most customers don't want parts made any other way.

John Stevenson
01-23-2009, 04:41 AM
One reason for no manual shops is it's too expensive to do work on manual machines anymore. With a modern CNC control and a knowledgeable operator there's hardly a part that can't be done faster on CNC than a manual. Even one offs.

Another reason is manual shops were generally oriented to repair work. Most consumer products aren't worth repairing given the labor rates we have.

Young people generally have little interest in manual maching as a career. That's no loss IMO. I've trained a few employees on CNC. Give me a young guy with no machining experience whatsoever and I'll take him any day over an experienced manual machinist when it comes to learning CNC.

Young guys take to CNC like ducks to water. They grew up in a digital world. Older guys just don't get it for some reason.

And it's a myth that you have to understand manual machining to program and run a CNC.


I think DR's post has summed up the whole various reasons, the how, the why and the end result.

.