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  • Home shop CNC lathe / mill ?

    I have had manual lathe and mill now for 15 or so years. Typical 12 x 36 Chinese lathe, 2hp single phase, 9 x 49 knee mill 3hp single phase R8 collets.
    Currently moving to another city, thinking it may be easier to sell what I have now and buy new or used in the new location. I make mostly gun parts (rifle barrels up to 32" long) or smallish car parts).
    I've used AutoCad quite a bit, so know what X,Y,Z are but really nothing in the way of CNC experience. Recently downloaded Fusion 360 and was impressed (or was it overwhelmed?).
    Kind of tired of being showered in chips / coolant. Built my own gun drill / rifling machine, wired in a VFD to run a 3 phase motor in my single phase shop (so not afraid to buy 3 phase and covert).
    Sonny boy works as a supervisor / project manager in a large CNC shop so I may get some help there.
    Playing with the idea of going CNC --- what machines do you guys like for the home shop environment ?

  • #2
    CNC is awesome, but somethings are just easier to do manually. This from a guy who started with CNC. I sometimes use a CNC in a manual mode by typing in code or using the MPG pendant. Even on manual machines splash guards and chip shields are in common use. One of my buddies who uses a Precision Mathews manual bed mill loves the table top guard I gave him when I installed the machine it came with in a full enclosure.

    I'm not trying to talk you out of it. Just provide another perspective.

    Maybe also check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for the area you plan to move to so you can tell what the machinery market is like before you sell what you have.
    *** 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


    • #3
      What do you want to do with the CNC's?

      CNC machines are great for production - doing the same thing, over and over again, by the dozens to thousands of parts.

      For prototyping, a CNC machine is dependent upon the CAD/CAM software you have to drive it. Programming a CNC machine by hand can be done, certainly (and I've done a bunch of it), but most people using CNC machines for one-offs or prototyping are using a conversational mode/feature on the machine that will generate the G/M code for you.

      I'm a gunsmith and for lots of the one-offs I do, a manual machine is better from the perspective of:

      - being able to make the machine do what I want it to do, quickly, on the fly
      - being able to "get at" the workpiece (don't dismiss the issues that the shielding/cabinet around most CNC machines put in your way when you're doing prototyping and one-offs)
      - mounting different/unusual tools - CNC machines have a limited tooling envelope/weight. For example, you cannot mount something like a toolpost grinder on most CNC lathes - you would have to step up to a CNC lathe with "active tooling" to get something like a toolpost grinder.


      CNC machines are great once you have a program developed, and your tooling/fixturing is all nailed down and part of the programming. CNC machines have an advantage over many current manual machines in that they're often more rigid than light manual machines. A CNC lathe is wonderful when you want to do tapers, radius turning, threading (CNC threading is the cat's pajamas). CNC mills are great for drilling/tapping lots of holes and thread milling.

      I hear you on the chips/oil. I use guards I can put in place with the sort of magnetic bases you find on indicator holders to help reduce a lot of that. When I need them, they're there. When I'm setting up or breaking down, I move them out of the way.

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      • #4
        CNC is also extremely useful for complex parts that might be difficult or impossible to manually machine.
        *** 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


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bob La Londe View Post
          CNC is also extremely useful for complex parts that might be difficult or impossible to manually machine.
          About 3 yeas ago I built a Winchester Highwall from scratch - a falling block action - that had no end of curves to it - I laid it all out in AutoCad then programed the arcs into the DRO one at a time then did hundreds of step-over / plunge / step-over etc. -- I couldn't help imagining how much easier / faster that would have been on a CNC mill.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by wyop View Post
            What do you want to do with the CNC's?

            CNC machines are great for production - doing the same thing, over and over again, by the dozens to thousands of parts.

            For prototyping, a CNC machine is dependent upon the CAD/CAM software you have to drive it. Programming a CNC machine by hand can be done, certainly (and I've done a bunch of it), but most people using CNC machines for one-offs or prototyping are using a conversational mode/feature on the machine that will generate the G/M code for you.

            I'm a gunsmith and for lots of the one-offs I do, a manual machine is better from the perspective of:

            - being able to make the machine do what I want it to do, quickly, on the fly
            - being able to "get at" the workpiece (don't dismiss the issues that the shielding/cabinet around most CNC machines put in your way when you're doing prototyping and one-offs)
            - mounting different/unusual tools - CNC machines have a limited tooling envelope/weight. For example, you cannot mount something like a toolpost grinder on most CNC lathes - you would have to step up to a CNC lathe with "active tooling" to get something like a toolpost grinder.


            CNC machines are great once you have a program developed, and your tooling/fixturing is all nailed down and part of the programming. CNC machines have an advantage over many current manual machines in that they're often more rigid than light manual machines. A CNC lathe is wonderful when you want to do tapers, radius turning, threading (CNC threading is the cat's pajamas). CNC mills are great for drilling/tapping lots of holes and thread milling.

            I hear you on the chips/oil. I use guards I can put in place with the sort of magnetic bases you find on indicator holders to help reduce a lot of that. When I need them, they're there. When I'm setting up or breaking down, I move them out of the way.
            Having actual experience in both cnc and manual mills and lathes, I can state that nearly every statement you made is simply not true. Its pretty obvious your beliefs on cnc equipment do not come from hands on.

            A cnc bridgeport knee mill and a cnc engine lathe both use the same tooling as their manual brothers and have the same amount of enclosure/shielding (as in about none). NOT every cnc is a fully enclosed one with a toolchanger.

            Nobody does one off parts like a injection mold maker and they are almost exclusively CNC except for a rare second operation. A toolpost grinder will mount and function the exact same way on a cnc engine lathe as a manual one. My cnc lathe has a aloris CA size toolpost, just like manual machines.

            I am just now finishing up my second gatling gun, done mostly on cnc equipment. The code was generated by fusion 360 with conversational once in a while being used too. Many times, the machines were operated as manual machines using the mpg controls or MDI commands.

            I would agree that for the common gunsmith, CNC does not offer any real advantages. CNC is not for everyone and every case. It IS a lot more versatile though than many think. The old tale it is mostly for production work is simply false.
            Last edited by Sparky_NY; 06-02-2019, 06:51 PM.

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            • #7
              I don't consider a CNC Bridgeport to be a "CNC Mill." It's a Bridgeport with a computer attached. It doesn't have the rigidity nor the tool changer that makes a CNC mill. There's a reason why no machine shop in this area is running a CNC Bridgeport, other than possibly as a machine that's pushed off into the corner for historical purposes.

              I've retrofitted a benchtop mill I have for CNC. IMO, it's a cute toy. I wouldn't put it up against a real CNC mill on any day of the week.
              It has no rigidity, no toolchanger. Does it use R8 tooling? Sure - and it shares tooling with my larger Sharp replica of a Bridgeport. IMO, R8 is a poor collet system compared to any of the ER series of collets. The most useful thing the little CNC benchtop R8 mill can do for me is make complicated radius cuts on some replacement parts I need. But it isn't something I'd ever choose for making the parts as a profit center in my shop. I find I rarely use it, because in many cases of one-off gun parts, I can make the parts faster on my full-sized Bridgeport replica with manual methods or with a hand file.

              When you put a real CNC mill/lathe together with a competent CAD/CAM package (eg, Solidworks, Inventor, etc for CAD, then pick a CAM package, depending on your needs), now you're in the business of making money by making parts. Add in a probing system, and you've got a very powerful manufacturing asset. It's a high overhead entry cost, but that's where most machine shops in this area have gone - even in the mining repair business, where there is a fair bit of one-off, high-$$$ repair work coming in the door from the mining industry. Many of these jobs are loaded into the machines with a jib crane, because the workpieces are too heavy for anyone to lift, and that's where some of the inconvenience of the enclosure comes in.

              For anyone considering a CNC on a Bridgeport, I'd advise them to carefully run the numbers on the idea, then see if they can find a CNC'ed Bridgeport at the right price (like under $6K) that someone else has put their money into.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by wyop View Post
                I don't consider a CNC Bridgeport to be a "CNC Mill." It's a Bridgeport with a computer attached. It doesn't have the rigidity nor the tool changer that makes a CNC mill. There's a reason why no machine shop in this area is running a CNC Bridgeport, other than possibly as a machine that's pushed off into the corner for historical purposes.

                I've retrofitted a benchtop mill I have for CNC. IMO, it's a cute toy. I wouldn't put it up against a real CNC mill on any day of the week.
                It has no rigidity, no toolchanger. Does it use R8 tooling? Sure - and it shares tooling with my larger Sharp replica of a Bridgeport. IMO, R8 is a poor collet system compared to any of the ER series of collets. The most useful thing the little CNC benchtop R8 mill can do for me is make complicated radius cuts on some replacement parts I need. But it isn't something I'd ever choose for making the parts as a profit center in my shop. I find I rarely use it, because in many cases of one-off gun parts, I can make the parts faster on my full-sized Bridgeport replica with manual methods or with a hand file.

                When you put a real CNC mill/lathe together with a competent CAD/CAM package (eg, Solidworks, Inventor, etc for CAD, then pick a CAM package, depending on your needs), now you're in the business of making money by making parts. Add in a probing system, and you've got a very powerful manufacturing asset. It's a high overhead entry cost, but that's where most machine shops in this area have gone - even in the mining repair business, where there is a fair bit of one-off, high-$$$ repair work coming in the door from the mining industry. Many of these jobs are loaded into the machines with a jib crane, because the workpieces are too heavy for anyone to lift, and that's where some of the inconvenience of the enclosure comes in.

                For anyone considering a CNC on a Bridgeport, I'd advise them to carefully run the numbers on the idea, then see if they can find a CNC'ed Bridgeport at the right price (like under $6K) that someone else has put their money into.
                Not all bridgeport cnc's are R8 spindles, mine isn't. Mine is a QC30 Erickson spindle which was very popular on bridgeport cnc's. That spindle being 30 taper is more rigid than the R8 plus it gives repeatable Z lengths for toolchanges. There are multiple collet systems available for that spindle, I have both ER and other collet holders.

                I agree, retrofitted benchtop mills are basically toys, certainly not even close to a servo bridgeport with a decent control. All the factory bridgeport cnc's had ground ballscrews and later machines were servo.

                As for not considering a Bridgeport CNC a "cnc mill", well..... you clearly don't understand the difference between a cnc mill and a vertical machining center (VMC).

                As for no machine shops using Bridgeport CNC's, well there are a ton of later models such as the EZTrac in daily use all over not to mention clones of the bridgeport cnc like that prototrac, and similar cnc knee mills. No, they are no match for a VMC but there are many tasks where they are perfect. You may not have seen them but they are in daily use all over in shops.

                Where older bridgeport cnc's came up short was the controls. Electronics and software have progressed a LOT over the years. A older BP with a bad electronics can be bought very cheaply and with a modern control added it becomes a very capable machine.

                But... there will always be those that prefer a manual machine and a file. Also, this forum is the HOME shop machinist.... $30K and up VMC's don't fall into the home shop category.
                The original poster DID state "for the home shop enviroment"
                Last edited by Sparky_NY; 06-03-2019, 12:09 AM.

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                • #9
                  Thanks guys ---- I'd like to hear more about the machines you have and what you like or don't like about them -- please.
                  I'm pretty new to CNC, looked at Tormach, (not great reviews) and Haas TM-1 and TL-1.
                  I could spend up to $50K - 100K Canadian (35K - 70K US) all tooled up - presumably looking at used industrial equipment, primarily for gun parts including barrel profiling.
                  Last edited by cuslog; 06-03-2019, 11:51 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cuslog View Post
                    Thanks guys ---- I'd like to hear more about the machines you have and what you like or don't like about them -- please.
                    I'm pretty new to CNC, looked at Tormach, (not great reviews) and Haas TM-1 and TL-1.
                    I could spend up to $50K - 100K Canadian (35K - 70K US) all tooled up - presumably looking at used industrial equipment, primarily for gun parts including barrel profiling.
                    The haas machines you listed are generally considered excellent. I have a friend with a new mini mill and he loves it, he is a mold maker. My cnc lathe is very similar to the haas TL1 but is a taiwan import about 14 yrs old. My only complaint with the lathe, which would be similar to the haas in that respect is that the aloris toolposts do not repeat all that well.

                    Haas warranties are not all that great, have you considered the next size up machines but lightly used? That is assuming you have the power requirements available to you. The money you are talking would buy some great machines used and maybe with tooling also.

                    I got faked out with the original post, the class machines you are considering is outside the norm for home shops.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sparky_NY View Post
                      The haas machines you listed are generally considered excellent. I have a friend with a new mini mill and he loves it, he is a mold maker. My cnc lathe is very similar to the haas TL1 but is a taiwan import about 14 yrs old. My only complaint with the lathe, which would be similar to the haas in that respect is that the aloris toolposts do not repeat all that well.

                      Haas warranties are not all that great, have you considered the next size up machines but lightly used? That is assuming you have the power requirements available to you. The money you are talking would buy some great machines used and maybe with tooling also.

                      I got faked out with the original post, the class machines you are considering is outside the norm for home shops.
                      Thanks for that.
                      I "COULD" spend that much, not so sure I should though.
                      Just turned 68, been a Hot Rodder, target shooter and Log Home builder all my life. Retired now - always liked working with my hands, making things. What I like about machining is that it keeps my mind active - got a "project", how am I gonna do that ? or hold that part ? sequence of cuts ? The CAD / CAM part is kind of like a video game to me but then you move on to actually make something that actually works.
                      I think I've found the limits of my lighter duty, entry level manual machines.
                      Just sold an industrial property, moving to a new city - have a friend asking about buying my current machines - would certainly be easier than moving them. Maybe time to move up to better equipment ? - moving up to the next level of manual machines puts you almost into range of CNC (it would seem to me).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The Haas Mini Mill is at the low end of your price range depending on options. I have looked at it many times, but the ten tool carousel stops me. To be truly automated I'd need a 20 tool carousel. Yeah, I know I can swap tools and have tools in the table that aren't in the carousel, but if I truly wanted to push start and let it do the job I'd need 18+ tools loaded and ready to go to complete 90% of my custom jobs. I have not confirmed this, but I had heard Haas doesn't offer a larger carousel for the Mini because they want to encourage people to buy their bigger machines.

                        FYI: I have a Tormach PCNC1100 and its one of the best Chinese RF45 class bed mills I've seen built for CNC, but its still a high end hobby mill even if I don't use it like one. It doesn't need much work when you take it out of the crate and that's a big step up from a lot of other machines out there. I have heard Novakon is good in that class as well, but I've never laid hands on one.
                        *** 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
                          OLD Thread ...but for those in a similar situation as the poster. some thoughts to consider
                          The move to CNC is not based on the machine alone.
                          DO you know G code. Do you have CAD experience or a CAD program to use ?
                          If you draw a part, it needs to be "Post Processed" meaning another program (CAM) to generate code..
                          Are you doing one off , or will you be doing many,many multiples ?

                          If you do prototype work, do not do CAD and have no CAM program, then the answer is to look at a "Conversational Program CNC"
                          Such machines are made by Hurco , Centroid and others
                          They machine without G code and require very little programming time
                          You could program -- face a plate, drill 6 odd size hole locations and make 2 angled slots in less than 5 minutes, and start the work a few minutes later after you
                          register the tool offsets and part Zero. And if you have an error, make a correction in seconds

                          I mention the above because I hear very little about the advantages of Conversational Programing when it is an amazing easy way to run CNC's
                          Guess everyone has learned one way and promotes that . i have done both , but find it superb for home shop use
                          Rich

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rich Carlstedt View Post
                            OLD Thread ...but for those in a similar situation as the poster. some thoughts to consider
                            The move to CNC is not based on the machine alone.
                            DO you know G code. Do you have CAD experience or a CAD program to use ?
                            If you draw a part, it needs to be "Post Processed" meaning another program (CAM) to generate code..
                            Are you doing one off , or will you be doing many,many multiples ?

                            If you do prototype work, do not do CAD and have no CAM program, then the answer is to look at a "Conversational Program CNC"
                            Such machines are made by Hurco , Centroid and others
                            They machine without G code and require very little programming time
                            You could program -- face a plate, drill 6 odd size hole locations and make 2 angled slots in less than 5 minutes, and start the work a few minutes later after you
                            register the tool offsets and part Zero. And if you have an error, make a correction in seconds

                            I mention the above because I hear very little about the advantages of Conversational Programing when it is an amazing easy way to run CNC's
                            Guess everyone has learned one way and promotes that . i have done both , but find it superb for home shop use
                            Rich
                            I went with the Centroid Acorn because it has this feature, although I have yet to use it. Tormach Path Pilot also has it.
                            In my usual workflow designing a part, adding in the CAM isn't a big deal. We'll see down the road when I put real hours into my CNC mill

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                            • #15
                              I have a Trak DPM bed mill 32" x 16" x 22" with an AGE 3 control it is a nice machine for what it is I bought it used about 8 years ago for 16k US from a dealer. This machine is manual and CNC and I use it both ways. It has a very simple conversational control. You can find these machines used all the time these machines are much more rigid than a knee mill. I also have a Sharp VMC 24" x 16" x 20" it is much more capable than the bed mill but I still do things on the bed mill like simple drilling paths. The VMC has a great conversational control as well and depending on what I am doing many times I just program it at the Siemens 828D control. I have a large CNC router that I also make parts on it does some things better than the other 2 but they all have their place the router can hold sheet material or plate and has travels of 75" x 125" x 16". By far the router is the easiest to program using CAD/CAM with no conversational control.

                              With this all being said for a mill doing gunsmith work onesy twosey stuff the bed mill would be my choice.I do not have a CNC lathe but I do have a manual 14" x 40" Jet lathe with a DRO. I make a lot of shaft parts on the bed mill and VMC holding parts vertical that would be better made with a CNC lathe with live tooling.

                              I am a home shop guy self taught I make my own parts for my business. I don't do job shop type work so I just have to figure out how to run the parts I make and learn something new all the time. I will say learning to run CNC machines has made me a much better manual machinist.
                              Last edited by gundog; 12-25-2019, 01:50 PM.

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