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CNC - lathe versus mill ??

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  • CNC - lathe versus mill ??

    Having to choose between the two, limited by budget, would you favor a CNC mill purchase versus CNC lathe?

    I know this depends a great deal on "what are you using them for", for me, I use the lathe (manual machining) 80% versus 20% mill. But I don't see my lathe work as lending itself more to CNC than the myriad of applications CNC miling offers. (Or am I just dazzled by all the YouTube videos?)

    I'd be looking at home hobby CNC such as Tormach products with a budget of $10000 - $15000. I don't feel comfortable buying used CNC, as it seems an intimidating project if something needs repair or upgrading.

    This is all from the perspective of a CNC novice.

    Thanks for your input,
    Gary


    Appearance is Everything...

  • #2
    Mill for sure. Full simultaneous motion control on a mill opens up so many possibilities (ie no more rotary table) etc. CNC lathe allows you to do curves effortlessly, but how many times do you really need to do that? Both offer the advantage of unattended repetitive operation, and the ability to set it and forget it within reason. But IMO a mill offers much more. You can still do small turning in a mill too. We used to do it all the time before we got a cnc lathe.

    In the end it's your money, and your parts. But if I was writing the cheque it would be for a mill %100 (with enclosure, coolant, 4 axis, and toolchanger).

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    • #3
      Buy a mill with a 4th axis, then you have a lathe too.

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      • #4
        If I was making train car wheels for the live steam hobby, I'd want a lathe. Guess everything else, including drivers for a steam locomotive would work better on a Mill.

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        • #5
          Or build your own and you could get both for the price of one.

          Werner

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          • #6
            Speaking as a full time cnc programmer/machinist, I'd choose mill for sure.

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            • #7
              The CNC mill is much more valuable if you can only have one or the other. I have 2 CNC mills and one manual lathe.
              Kansas City area

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              • #8
                Originally posted by goose View Post
                Having to choose between the two, limited by budget, would you favor a CNC mill purchase versus CNC lathe?

                I know this depends a great deal on "what are you using them for", for me, I use the lathe (manual machining) 80% versus 20% mill. But I don't see my lathe work as lending itself more to CNC than the myriad of applications CNC miling offers. (Or am I just dazzled by all the YouTube videos?)

                I'd be looking at home hobby CNC such as Tormach products with a budget of $10000 - $15000. I don't feel comfortable buying used CNC, as it seems an intimidating project if something needs repair or upgrading.

                This is all from the perspective of a CNC novice.

                Thanks for your input,
                Round work or square? The lathe will make you more money with less hassles.!

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                • #9
                  Mill, dont buy a tormach, they are crap compared to ones from Charter Oak, theirs has brushless servos and an optional 30 taper spindle.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by macona View Post
                    Mill, dont buy a tormach, they are crap compared to ones from Charter Oak, theirs has brushless servos and an optional 30 taper spindle.
                    -I would be very interested in hearing more of this kind of comparison. I'm planning to buy both a Tormach lathe and the small mill, the first of which hopefully this year. I'll be doing small-volume production with both (50 to 300-part runs, generally aluminum, all fairly small) and budgets are an issue.

                    I've heard nothing but good stuff about Tormach, and would be genuinely interested to hear about any drawbacks or issues.

                    Doc.
                    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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                    • #11
                      Vertical Machining Center or CNC lathe with a subspindle so you can create part features that require a secondary operation with one chucking.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DR View Post
                        Buy a mill with a 4th axis, then you have a lathe too.
                        How do you figure that? They typically don't spin very fast, so seem of limited use in that regard.

                        Also if your work is small enough you can use your mill as a large by simply clamping the work in the spindle and the tool in your vise.

                        As for the OP, for $10-15k I'd be looking at used industrial machines rather than hobby-level stuff... Much more rigid and proper industrial controls. Fadals are only ok machines, but are cheap, plentiful, and built with common, off-the-shelf parts that make keeping them running a relatively easy task. With that kind of budget you'd likely be able to get both a CNC mill and CNC lathe.
                        Last edited by adatesman; 05-12-2016, 07:34 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by adatesman View Post
                          How do you figure that? They typically don't spin very fast, so seem of limited use in that regard.

                          Also if your work is small enough you can use your mill as a large by simply clamping the work in the spindle and the tool in your vise.

                          As for the OP, for $10-15k I'd be looking at used industrial machines rather than hobby-level stuff... Much more rigid and proper industrial controls. Fadals are only ok machines, but are cheap, plentiful, and built with common, off-the-shelf parts that make keeping them running a relatively easy task. With that kind of budget you'd likely be able to get both a CNC mill and CNC lathe.
                          Of course a 4th axis on a mill isn't a direct replacement for a lathe, but the combination of slow revolving part and high speed tool can do most everything a lathe can.

                          He clearly states he's a CNC novice. Large industrial grade machines in used condition is something he's not comfortable with. For good reason, they are huge in comparison to Tormach. Need major electrical capacity. Can be bottomless dollar pits for the inexperienced when (not if) problems come up.

                          In the last few years I spent the OP's total budget on repairing/updating controls on two industrial grade machines with good iron, a lathe and mill. And, that didn't include the costs for my time. For me it was a wise investment. For the OP old, used machines would make no sense from his description of the situation.

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                          • #14
                            +1 DR!

                            The cost to repair such technology escalates very fast. And without a fair bit of prior knowledge, skills, and funds, is a fast way to owning not only an expensive but highly accurate workbench/doorstop.

                            I would opt for the mill first. A CNC lathe is really great for repetitive work. But, while the CNC lathe does offer some time/effort savings over a manual lathe, the jump isn't nearly as great as a CNC mill vs manual mill.

                            Dalee
                            If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RB211 View Post
                              If I was making train car wheels for the live steam hobby, I'd want a lathe. Guess everything else, including drivers for a steam locomotive would work better on a Mill.
                              Perfect job for a CNC mill, not lathe! Large diameter but short length, spokes, offset crank holes, counterbores etc.

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