View Full Version : New shop, need advice

06-28-2010, 08:18 PM
On a volunteer basis, I have agreed to assist a local college in setting up a machine shop. I need help. Stated primary goal is to support Design for Manufacturability course work as part of Engineering curriculum. I can imagine a secondary goal to support student projects such as SAE mini-Baja competition.

First question I have is what capabilities are required or examples of projects so I can make sure we get the necessary equipment. Unfortunately I don't yet have an answer to that basic question. Nor do I have a firm budget to work with but I understand $40,000 is available to start.

I have received guidance that the shop shall contain CNC lathe and CNC mill along with some supporting equipment. Also, the machinery must fit through a 36" doorway. I'm visiting the site this week and I'll confirm how hard of a constraint this is. 3ph power will be available.

I would like suggestions of appropriate CNC machines for an application such as this. I think Sherline is too small on the low end and I don't think we want to spend all the budget on two machines so let's say $10,000 max each for lathe and mill for discussion purpose. I think new machinery is preferred but will consider used.

I have run CNC but it's been many years ago. Manually written g-codes on VMC and several retrofitted machines are all the CNC experience I have. I'm sure the software side has changed a lot so any advice along those lines will be helpful too.

Suggestion of other websites (vendors or discussion forums) that might be helpful to me would be wonderful. The only machinist sites I currently frequent are here and PM. I'm trying here first :)

Liger Zero
06-28-2010, 08:20 PM
No matter how many power outlets, drop-cords, and air-hookups you install, YOU WILL NEED MORE.

That's my advice for new shops. I call it the law of Diminishing Hookups. :D

06-28-2010, 09:09 PM
Louisiana Tech has a very nice machine shop that they use in the Mechanical Engineering college. The have several logan lathes, a small manual mill, a large bridgeport CNC, and CNC Lathe. They also have all of the ancillary equipment such as grinders, saws and such. In addition to the machinery, they have area set up for metal casting (aluminum), with a furnace and all. For the manufacturing course, we would cast an aluminum housing for a grinder and then finish it to form. We machined all the parts and were graded on how close we held tolerances. Fun class! BTW I think they have been using the same molds for 40+ years.
Good luck with the project!

Dr Stan
06-28-2010, 09:30 PM
I'd recommend Hass, but I don't think it will fit though the 36" door. If you can scare up more $ (a lot more) I'd take a look at Emco. Excellent Austrian machines that would fit though the door and are industrial grade equipment.

The other possibility is Denford out of England, but the US distributor is in Medina, OH. They have a wide range of small machines from not so good up to almost industrial quality.

One brand I suggest avoiding is Light Machines. To say the least I was not impressed with their equipment.

06-28-2010, 09:40 PM
Check out the Tormach website. They have a good usable CNC mill new for about $8000.They also have a lathe that fits on the mill bed that can be used as a 4th axis (rotary) for the mill or as a cnc lathe on it's own.I think the whole deal is about $11,000. You could get 2 of those setups and tool them up and still have about $10,000 left. They may fit through the door too. Haas makes an Office Lathe and an Office Mill that will go thru the door for about $45,000 each.

Herm Williams
06-29-2010, 12:00 AM
I would suggest getting in contact with machine manuf. some companys lease equipement to schools for almost nothing. I talked with a dodge engineer and his feelings were that students being taught on their products would stay with that product. that was fourty years ago he said that was one the company's best investment, car didn't cost much and at a $1 a year lease everyone was happy. ford and gm had similar programs. gov surplus is an excellent sourse for manual machines, they are free to schools, use them then turn them back in, they loan the equipement.

For your shop try to get a crane, small hole popper edm for those broken bolts and easy outs.

06-29-2010, 11:22 AM
Maybe the first step should be clarification of the requirements. If the shop is making "one off" research parts, does it need a true CNC machining center, lathe or mill? Or do they really mean a vertical mill with a conversational CNC controller? The cost of one VMC equal several manual machines, but I'm sure you knew that. Does the school have any older machines wasting away in a dusty storeroom that coul be requisitioned? An old DoAll bandsaw that needs a little TLC is better than no saw at all.

06-29-2010, 11:29 AM
CNC is not the way to go for LEARNING machine skills.

CNC allows you you spit out repetitive parts while you do something else... so your first job is to beat into the 'educators' heads that turning handles is how you learn.

But 'professional educators' who most have never had a real job will know better :rolleyes:

Whats you tooling budget? Machines are cheap... holders, mills, measuring tools, vices etc will quickly kill your budge. If you go CNC then you need PCs, CAD/CAM software etc.

There should be more than enough shops going under... buy used. CNC is all proprietary so pick a popular one and run with it. Name brands here will help.

Dr Stan
06-29-2010, 11:41 AM
CNC is not the way to go for LEARNING machine skills.

CNC allows you you spit out repetitive parts while you do something else... so your first job is to beat into the 'educators' heads that turning handles is how you learn.

But 'professional educators' who most have never had a real job will know better :rolleyes:

As a professional educator who worked in industry starting out as a machinist then tool maker and finally industrial engineer all I can say is:

You're absolutely correct. :D

06-29-2010, 11:44 AM
Agreed, requirement clairification is required. I'm working on that.

Also agree that for the same $$ a manual shop will be way more capable. And frankly, there is a lot more to learn in a manual shop.

That's my role as advisor here. To help make wise choices. However, the desire as expressed to me is that the shop shall contain CNC mill and CNC lathe.

So, I'd like to meet the CNC requirement without breaking the budget so there is enough left over for a decent selection of manual machinery, fab, and welding equipment.

I appreciate the comments so far, thanks. I have a meeting Thursday to discuss this project.

Weston Bye
06-29-2010, 12:01 PM
I would second Tormach as they sell and support a system and are economical, occupying the ground between the mini mills and the commercial machines.

06-29-2010, 12:43 PM
There should be more than enough shops going under... buy used.

Scariest quote in the whole thread.

"Attention students, today we'll be training on the equipment from the company that would have hired you after graduation, were they not moving to China..."

Also, you can't learn to machine on a CNC tool, all you can do is break it. And big CNC gear breaks in expensive ways. Sounds like you might be getting set up to fail. May want to scratch your back, check to see if there's a knife stuck in there. Maybe your best best is to buy some decent manual tools for 75% of the class time, and then some "sherline on a cart" solutions to teach the concepts of CNC. CNC manufactured chess pieces, or hand held steam engines, teach just as much as CNC manufactured locomotive pistons or flashy car rims, they're just cheaper to make. One nice thing about the Sherline stuff is unlike the Chinese machinery it'll actually work perfectly out of the box, which should build some confidence.

Finally I set up shop mostly a decade ago, probably pretty recent compared to the average old timer here. For every $1 I spent on "big iron" I spent about $2 on workholding/tooling/fixtures/gadgets, about $1 on measurement gear, about $1 on related "small iron" machines (grinder, bandsaw, etc) and about $1 on closely related misc shop things. So "$1000 worth of lathe and mill" really cost me about $6000 out of pocket.

07-01-2010, 08:46 PM
I saw the site today and learned the 34.5" doorway isn't a hard constraint because there is a large window that can be removed to place machinery if necessary.

Also learned that a HAAS machine and manual lathe and mill are in storage. Don't know anything about them yet so we'll see.

Further, this location is temporary. A much larger facility is about 2 years away. Sounds like this may become a long term project!

Thanks to all for the comments.