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  • Buying a machine sight unseen

    OK, looking for a sanity check here. I have been in the market for a high-end hobby/prototyping machine like a Tormach or used baby VMC in the 10-15k range. I have only seen one VMC on the market in New England that fit that bill and it was gone before I could get to it, that was 2 months ago. I have industrial space/power but ceiling height is very limited at ~9' max and anything over 8' gets tricky. That has ruled a lot of other options out.

    I've been leaning towards a new Tormach but an opportunity came up to buy a used one basically with almost everything I'd ever want for about 40% off new price. Machine is one year old and had been used enough that they recently replaced the spindle. Seller is an established commercial business upgrading to a full-on VMC.

    The catch is that I'd have to buy this sight unseen as it is halfway across the country from me. I can get pictures, video, etc. but going to visit it first would be expensive. My main fear is a mechanical problem that cannot be fixed affordably, such as wear on the ways. If I get the seller to take a good picture of each axis with the covers off is that going to give me an idea of their condition? If the spindle sounds good, all the axes move, and the machine looks clean overall (the pics I've seen it looks like it was taken good care of) are there any other things I should be scared of?

    Also, let's not rehash the VMC-vs-Tormach debate, please. If you happen to have a Fadal VMC-15 or similar for sale within 500 miles of Boston, we can talk, but I've seen nothing on the market under 20k anywhere near me. As squicky as I am about buying a Tormach remotely (and I know I can service a stepper machine) I am ten times more nervous about a real VMC where parts can get MUCH more expensive.

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Ask them to sign a statement that the machine is not worn out.
    Amount of experience is in direct proportion to the value of broken equipment.

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    • #3
      Yeah, I was thinking of a simple sale agreement that basically states that they have disclosed all flaws that they are aware of and that they would be liable for any misrepresentations.

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      • #4
        It always a crap shoot when purchasing a machine sight unseen.
        I once was looking at a welder in TX, I live in IL, had an online
        friend who lived nearby go over and check it out, turned out to
        be a good machine I bought it used it for several years before
        upgrading to my MM 350P. Maybe a member here is close and
        would not mind helping you out.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Shade View Post
          It always a crap shoot when purchasing a machine sight unseen.
          I once was looking at a welder in TX, I live in IL, had an online
          friend who lived nearby go over and check it out, turned out to
          be a good machine I bought it used it for several years before
          upgrading to my MM 350P. Maybe a member here is close and
          would not mind helping you out.
          That's probably the best idea. If you disclose the machine's location you may get a volunteer to go look at it. Just don't tell fylo as he'd probably buy it.

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          • #6
            If you buy it & have it delivered you'll be responsible for loading/shipping both ways/ On a purchase that large give him a deposit subject to approved inspection & either fly out or hire a pro to look at it. "Worn out" or most any terms like are subjetive to interpetation. A few $s & time spent now may be a great investment later JMHO

            I'd hire a pro & get a detailed report. So if something happens in loading, shipping, etc you can prove condition at purchase. Also a Pro will probably know more & check more than you.
            Last edited by flylo; 06-06-2013, 12:23 PM.

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            • #7
              Probably get a 60/40 split whether I'm worn out LOL! If he turns it on & it makes the part it's not worn out which he can video. It might only make 10 more parts till it's worn out.
              Originally posted by Jaakko Fagerlund View Post
              Ask them to sign a statement that the machine is not worn out.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dr Stan View Post
                That's probably the best idea. If you disclose the machine's location you may get a volunteer to go look at it. Just don't tell fylo as he'd probably buy it.
                Best idea I'd say, have someone go look it over for you. Just need to remember that they are doing you a favor, and as mentioned 'good' 'worn out' 'easy fix' etc are subjective terms, one persons very nice hobby machine could be another persons full recondition project.

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                • #9
                  If you are short on vertical space look at a small HMC. We have a couple makino HC 40 HMCs and they are pretty tiny. And they come with a 4th axis standard.

                  They would make a great home shop Cnc. And they have a real control on them with a tool changer.

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                  • #10
                    Isn't it standard practice to have a mechanic look over a used car before buying it? Why should it be different with a machine tool that costs a comparable amount?

                    Fadal's are pretty common, so finding a service tech to look at it shouldn't be much more than the cost of a service call. Even better, they'll be able to provide accurate reports on machine accuracy, backlash, etc. Personally I'd look to get a ball-bar test done as well, but that might make it a bit harder to find a tech (dunno how common that equipment is).

                    I'd also suggest asking over on PracticalMachinist if there's someone in the area that could take a look at it (or know of service techs). No offense to folks on HSM, of course! Lots of good knowledge here as well, but this sort of machine is somewhat beyond what a lot (most?) folks here play with.
                    Last edited by adatesman; 06-06-2013, 01:06 PM.

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                    • #11
                      It's northeast of St. Louis by Granite City. I'd be willing to pay for someone who knows what they're doing to give it a look. I priced a trip to go see it and it gets pretty close to the cost of shipping the machine back.

                      One of the reasons I've been avoiding the real VMCs is that I want a more hackable control like LinuxCNC/Mach for some of the research work I'm doing. I know the industrial controls are better suited to a job shop environment but my purposes are slightly different. I know I could get creative with DNC but at the same time I _know_ I can make the machine do what I want with the PC-based controls.

                      My other line of thinking is that if I do find myself outgrowing the Tormach it's the sort of machine I bet I could sell locally pretty fast and easy. If I get it used I've already knocked off a good chunk of the depreciation. There are a lot of hobbyists around here with more money than space.

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                      • #12
                        If it is really only a year old, I wouldn’t think the ways could be too bad, provided they kept oil in it. Wouldn’t expect he spindle to die in that short of time either though. Did they crash it?
                        Might want to check with Tormach to see if they work with anyone in that area. I know they have a few guys scattered around that are available for customer service.
                        George
                        Traverse City, MI

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                        • #13
                          If it cost $500 it's money well spent either way. I poste pics of my diesel flatbed. I use a top notch diesel expert that works at a dealer days at home night. I took it to him for a total service, all fluids a good look at everythink. He changes the oil, trns fluid say brakes are new & was very plrased as it was very well maintained. Then I got the call the breather was knocked off the rear end but everything was fine exeppt the bearing. Guess what bearings no longer available, had to buy everything new in the housing. But for all he did & made a brakeine it was still under $1600 & know we have a benchmark so he knows what to check when. Same with this I think under 5 hrs at $100/hr would reveal anything needing servive or near futiure. Well off to see if my foot stays or goes & I was just getting attached to it, d*mn!

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                          • #14
                            If the machine is still under power,have them machine up a few sample parts on it,say something that works towards the maximum envelope of the machine and send them to you for inspection.That's the best way to tell you what shape the ways are in.

                            You could also,since the machine isn't very old contact Tormach about it and see if anything was done under warranty.
                            I just need one more tool,just one!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by George Bulliss View Post
                              If it is really only a year old, I wouldn’t think the ways could be too bad, provided they kept oil in it. Wouldn’t expect he spindle to die in that short of time either though. Did they crash it?
                              I talked to them for a while today, seemed like good guys. They do a lot of small engraving work using the full 10k spindle speed and after a while they said it was starting to make a slight noise that they didn't like. Surface finish etc. wasn't affected yet but since they were using it to make money they decided to replace before failure. They said it ran a few hours every day give or take.

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