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Conversion of Tormach PCNC 770 to Centroid's Acorn

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  • Conversion of Tormach PCNC 770 to Centroid's Acorn

    Over a year ago I decided to upgrade my Tormach PCNC 770 as I learned I could setup CNC jobs a lot faster with conversational programming. So, I removed the original board and converted my mill to Centroid's Acorn. Now the machine is a joy to use and, with the inclusion of a spindle encoder, even does rigid tapping. Here's some pictures of the conversion:
    Attached Files

  • #2
    More pics...
    Attached Files

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    • #3
      I’ve often thought about buying an older CNC and updating the electronics. How long did it take to do the actual wiring, and how long to go get it configured and tested?
      When I get Time... I'll...

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      • #4
        If memory serves, the main part of the project took about a week. That week involved writing the gcode to mill out the two adapter plates, machining them, and installing them. Wiring up the Acorn wasn't bad and only took a few hours as I already had some experience with it with my portable lathe build. (I have another thread about that lathe.) I had to spend a lot of time figuring out the VFD as Tormach's changes to the VFD settings weren't documented. There was also time spent documenting my changes so I can quickly set it back up with software upgrades and have the wiring connections. The spindle pully also had to be lightly turned so as to fit the magnetic ring and a mount was machined for the read head.

        The only thing left to do is to get the front control panel back up and 100% working. It's really not needed, however, as I just set up everything via Centroid's Intercon and let it run. So that part isn't too critical as I've used the Tormach more in the last year without all of the manual panel controls working than the last 5 years. (The only panel controls that don't work are the manual spindle controls and computer power switch.)



        Originally posted by Hawkeye View Post
        I’ve often thought about buying an older CNC and updating the electronics. How long did it take to do the actual wiring, and how long to go get it configured and tested?
        Last edited by briuz; 05-29-2021, 05:05 PM.

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        • #5
          Thanks, for the detailed reply.
          When I get Time... I'll...

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          • #6
            I am a coach for a HS robotics team, and we are thinking of buying a Tormach, over all do you think it is a solid machine? What did you not like about the controller?
            Mike
            Brandon MI
            2003 MINI Cooper S JCW#249
            1971 Opel GT
            1985 Ford 3910LP

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            • #7
              The newer Tormach machines have a different controller and use different software than mine did prior to my upgrade. So, other than what I've read, I really can't say too much about the new controllers and software other than what I've read. Prior to my upgrade, my machine used a PC with Mach 3 and either took a lot of hand coding or 3rd party software to run it. With Mach 3, and hand coding, it would take hours to days to program the machine. My belief is that the newer software and controllers are a huge improvement over Mach 3. I've also noticed that some (all?) of the newer Tormach mills have spindle encoders so they should support rigid tapping out of the crate.

              Physically, my machine was pretty well designed for it's price tag and I now have done a lot of machining on it. (For me, my Tormach a business-critical machine.) At one time I used it in production to machine 10 blanks at a time for a product I was selling and ran the mill for days on end. The newer machines have a better enclosure so using coolant shouldn't be a problem.

              My machine will hold +-0.001 all day long on the job I just mentioned. But since it is an open loop stepper motor machine it would have to be "dialed-in" prior to running such a job. My solution to save 15 minutes each morning was to just let the machine stay turned on 24/7 until the batch of blanks was finished. Depending upon what you are machining, this may not be a factor at all.

              After I bought my machine I had a few quality control issues to work through. But that was in 2011 so I hope they have all of that taken care of by now.

              My thought on using a Tormach for a HS robotics team is that it would be a good match and a good introduction into CNC machining.

              Originally posted by Mike of the North View Post
              I am a coach for a HS robotics team, and we are thinking of buying a Tormach, over all do you think it is a solid machine? What did you not like about the controller?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by briuz View Post
                The newer Tormach machines have a different controller and use different software than mine did prior to my upgrade. So, other than what I've read, I really can't say too much about the new controllers and software other than what I've read. Prior to my upgrade, my machine used a PC with Mach 3 and either took a lot of hand coding or 3rd party software to run it. With Mach 3, and hand coding, it would take hours to days to program the machine. My belief is that the newer software and controllers are a huge improvement over Mach 3. I've also noticed that some (all?) of the newer Tormach mills have spindle encoders so they should support rigid tapping out of the crate.

                Physically, my machine was pretty well designed for it's price tag and I now have done a lot of machining on it. (For me, my Tormach a business-critical machine.) At one time I used it in production to machine 10 blanks at a time for a product I was selling and ran the mill for days on end. The newer machines have a better enclosure so using coolant shouldn't be a problem.

                My machine will hold +-0.001 all day long on the job I just mentioned. But since it is an open loop stepper motor machine it would have to be "dialed-in" prior to running such a job. My solution to save 15 minutes each morning was to just let the machine stay turned on 24/7 until the batch of blanks was finished. Depending upon what you are machining, this may not be a factor at all.

                After I bought my machine I had a few quality control issues to work through. But that was in 2011 so I hope they have all of that taken care of by now.

                My thought on using a Tormach for a HS robotics team is that it would be a good match and a good introduction into CNC machining.


                Why would it take hours to days to "program the machine"? I run several machines in my shop under Mach 3, and while sometimes I do take hours to days to write g-code files to run on the machines, they are complex 3D machining operations that run from several hundred thousand to a couple million lines of code.

                That being said I also have one Tormach running PathPilot (a proprietary blend of LinuxCNC) and its functionally similar. Simple programs are written in a few minutes while code files that run into the millions of lines take a little longer.

                In both cases all jobs that take a while to code do so because there is a LOT to them. Its not a function of being for a particular control software. If I did jobs on a Fanuc, Acorn/Centroid, FlashCut , or Edding control system that were as complex the effort to write the code would all be similar.
                *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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                • #9
                  FYI: Conversational is useful for very simple jobs, but I can also do simple jobs by entering one line of code at a time in the MDI command line field.

                  An alternative is a decent CAM system that will store standard operations for reuse an retrieval as needed. Surface this shape. Tap this/these hole/s, etc. In CamBam they are called styles and I have whole libraries of styles for which I can just select the geometry, create the operation, and select the style. I very often spend more time naming the operation than I do setting it up before telling it to generate code. Yes even for jobs that take hundreds of thousands of lines to actually execute.
                  *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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                  • #10
                    P.S. In your defense, many of the "wizards" in Mach 3 (Mach 3's version of conversational) are pretty terrible. Only the collection under the group New Fangled Solutions all work as designed. Still that's a decent number of operations, and some of the others can be used once you learn how they perform.

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                    Attached Files
                    *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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                    • #11
                      There is a big difference converting a industrial cnc vs a hobby cnc.. Something that started life as a step/direction machine will be exponentially easier to convert..

                      Acorn is a good hobby controller - it has lots of bells and whistles.. (but you have to pay for every bell and whistle....)

                      sam

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by skunkworks View Post
                        There is a big difference converting a industrial cnc vs a hobby cnc..
                        Very true. I haven't used acorn, but I have done conversions on an industrial machine and hobby machines both. The industrial machine was absolutely and by far the most work.


                        Something that started life as a step/direction machine will be exponentially easier to convert..

                        Acorn is a good hobby controller - it has lots of bells and whistles.. (but you have to pay for every bell and whistle....)

                        sam
                        That's the one thing I noticed when I looked at acorn controllers. Every single little thing is an extra charge.

                        *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bob La Londe View Post

                          That's the one thing I noticed when I looked at acorn controllers. Every single little thing is an extra charge.
                          What little thing is extra?.

                          A pro license is $159 extra if you want it. For what you get that is a bargain. CNC12 is one of the most refined packages out there with 30+ years of development. Do other companies give away high grade software for free?

                          What else do you want? Maybe a probe? a MPG? again, is this stuff normally free?

                          You don't need any extras to turn or mill, but for $159 to upgrade to threading, probing, unlimited G-code, multiple coordinate systems, and on and on....it is a bargain.

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                          • #14
                            I agree completely. Show me rigid tapping and coordinate system rotation on Mach3. Add in that Centroid's user interface can be easily re-configured so it's customized for my mill. Also, Mach3 was limited to the number of connections through a parallel port. Centroid's acorn has 8 inputs and 8 output out of the box plus 4 axis plus a connection for a spindle encoder.

                            For me, the coordinate system rotation alone is worth the extra $160. Clamping a vise down to the table and probing it (with an edge finder) is so much easier than carefully tapping it into place so that it's parallel to the table. The rigid tapping makes it so much nicer to tap 1 hole or 100 holes. It even can re-enter the same hole without screwing up the threads so it can "peck tap".

                            With the addition of rigid tapping the PCNC-770 is doing something it was never capable of with Mach3.

                            When I was deciding on what to use to upgrade the Tormach, I considered keeping Mach3 and looked at Mach4. Neither has the capability of the Centroid Acorn.

                            I've never had to pay more than the hardware cost plus the $160 for the Pro upgrade.

                            Also, if I were to buy a probe I wouldn't have to pay Centroid another dime to set it up with the Acorn. I'd just have to configure a couple more inputs to the Acorn. It even has a wizard to make life really easy.

                            On the lathe, I've got a custom built 16 station CNC turret built that works with the Centroid Acorn system. Once again, once I bought the hardware and the $160 software upgrade I've got everything I need. Centroid's Acorn and the $160 software upgrade is now running a CNC'd Grizzly G4002 lathe with servos on the z,x, and c axis with a 16 station custom-built turret.

                            Originally posted by polaraligned View Post

                            What little thing is extra?.

                            A pro license is $159 extra if you want it. For what you get that is a bargain. CNC12 is one of the most refined packages out there with 30+ years of development. Do other companies give away high grade software for free?

                            What else do you want? Maybe a probe? a MPG? again, is this stuff normally free?

                            You don't need any extras to turn or mill, but for $159 to upgrade to threading, probing, unlimited G-code, multiple coordinate systems, and on and on....it is a bargain.

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                            • #15
                              The Centroid Acorn is a very nice alternative for a retrofit to a Tormach or any machine for that matter. Another alternative is Linuxcnc. Tormach themselves decided to go with Linuxcnc (they call it pathpilot). I have used Linuxcnc for many years now after ditching Mach3 and never regretted the decision. Linuxcnc is even more versatile than the Acorn and its capabilities are amazing. Linuxcnc can do everything discussed in this thread and lots more, as well as being free. Have you seen Skunkworks thread on here boring hex shaped holes with a boring bar on a lathe? Only downside is that LInuxcnc has a steeper learning curve, the Acorn is plug and play for those either not capable or unwilling to learn Linuxcnc.

                              Its nice to see the Acorn out there as a alternative. For me at least, Mach3 (or4) would be my absolute last choice and that comes after using it for many years.

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