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Adding CNC capabilities to a Manual Mill

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  • Adding CNC capabilities to a Manual Mill

    I am checking out a medium size mill for my garage.. I Build custom motorcycles and already have a nice little logan lathe. I need cnc capabilities on a mill. I am currently thinking about getting a mill somewhere in the 1800 to 2500 dollar range. I have not been able to find (with the exception of the "micromill") a mill with cnc built in. I thought I would pick up a manual mill and add cnc to it... any one have any suggestions?

    thx much


  • #2
    I was considering that same idea. One outfit makes a turnkey Mill/Drill using a Rong-Fu FR-31 bench top for about $8,000 or a conversion package for $5,000. Others have systems starting at 2X that price and go up. There are a lot of older used machines on the market, but general opinion I have heard is that you should steer away from those.

    The problem with CNC is the cost of the ball screws. The ball screws allow a great deal of flexibility to the CNC machine, but you can cheap out with the standard ACME screws and give up some abilities and accuracy.

    A lot will depend on your application. Also, I would guess that a CNC machine, in general, is less tolerant of machine precision issues. In other words, I would expect that a CNC demands more from a machine than a manual operated machine. That alone may narrow your search to a limited number of machines to start your conversion. I think that Yahoo Groups has some CNC groups that may be of use, too.



    • #3
      You may want to see if you can find an "obsolete" CNC Bridgeport. A couple people I know have gone that route, with pretty good success. I think they had to do some modifications to get the machines running again, but the price was pretty low.

      Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
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      • #4
        Ont thing I was trying to avoid was a machine that weighs more than 1500#'s. There is a company that sells a couple of machines .. Grizzley is the name. For my use (not a rpoduction shop) one of those would probably work just fine. You can get into one of those from 2k to 3k.. I spoke with a gentleman yesterday, Gary Corey from Camsoft, and tried to get an approximate cost on converting this manual over to CNC. The most expensive part of this whole deal seems to be the motors... It seems they have some real nice software though. I wasn't expecting to get 4k into this little project... sheesh...

        thx for all the feedback.. fr.g


        • #5
          I'm looking into cncing a 1.5hp MSC mill. I have had no luck so far except the 4000 to 5000 range. I'll let you know if I find anything reasonable. Please let me know if you do. Frank


          • #6
            "Frogwash" That's a unique moniker, I like it.

            Paul G.
            Paul G.


            • #7
              Check out this Group...


              These guys can really help in all aspects.

              Be honest with yourself on what is needed.
              Just don't over specify accuracy, power, etc.
              Things can get really expensive, quickly.

              Tom M.


              • #8
                If you are interested in converting a mill/drill to CNC, Roland Friestad wrote a four article series on this topic in last year's HSM. He is currently doing a series on updating old bridgeport CNC's to modern electronics. He covers the issues of ballscrews and getting them to fit into the mill. He has a website -
                On that site you can find a pricelist for a CNC'd mill/drill.


                • #9

                  First take Tom M.'s advice and checkout the Yahoo site.. There is a wealth of information there. To give you and Idea of what kind of money you will get into I'll share what I am working currently. I have a Grizzly G3102 mill I paid 1650.00 for the mill. I then bought Servo motors, Gecko drives and a box.. cables ...powersupply.. that all added up to about 1600.00.. I already had the controller software (mach1)that costs about 150.00. I am not going to mess with ballscrews as of right now but at some point will probaly retrofit this mill with them. There are some other items like belts and pullies. and some AL to machine mounts out of.. That would be another 100.00 or so.. that will pretty much give you a machine that is ready to cut.. But ... You now need Cam software! that is where you can get into some money.. Although there is some nice lowcost software out there. I went with VisualMill at the time they were having a great sale.. Got full fersion for about 1000.00 The current version 5 will cost you about 4000.00.. It all adds up fast.. but for me I feel it was worth it.

                  Jeff T.


                  • #10
                    Hi frog,

                    If you NEED a CNC machine to make your motorcycle parts I don't think you'll find anything in the under $15K range that'll be much good.

                    I understand exactly where you're coming from, you'd like a useful CNC without breaking the bank. Unfortunately that's like someone coming to you and asking for a custom motorcycle for $1500 to $2000. The prices are similar. To get anything that's more than a toy you need to spend the bucks.

                    You might be able to find something in the used market for substantially less than new prices, but you have to be careful and knowledgeable when buying used. Some of the older machines no longer have parts and service available.

                    Converting a manual mill is an option. I'll add this warning though. I have yet to see one that I'd consider owning. Most are worth less after the conversion than as a manual mills. To do a proper conversion you'd almost be at the retail cost of a decent commercial machine, so what's the use?


                    • #11
                      DR... i agree ... but i am not looking at machining engine or tranny cases... or anything that needs a real tight tolerance. I am a mechanical designer and have a 3d modeling software already. It appears the software is the inexpensive part of this whole thing. It appears to be the motors that will break the bank!

                      Jeffery71 has the mill that I am considering. I use a manual JET mill at work and really don't need much more (if that much) at home... I am talking just some small parts now and then. I currently have a nice ole' Logan Lathe that works great for my application. But I really don't want to have to crank handles all night to produce a part. Most items will be small brackets, handlebar mounted switch components.. etc.. no biggie. Shoot.. I might be just fine with a Micro Mill..!!! I just don't know. 2K and you have a cnc... just take it easy and not "hog" out with 1/8" cuts and I think it would probably be ok.

                      thx everyone... frog