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Why even bother anymore with manual machines?

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  • Why even bother anymore with manual machines?

    Did not want to derail another thread, but my Taig CNC mill pretty damn quickly opened my mind about things. I want a serious discussion on this.

    1. People often say that CNC machinists are just operators, not machinists. I call bull. It's very apparent that a CNC machinist must know his speeds/feeds, optimal chip loads, and individual machines to a level greater than a manual machinist who can react to feel by turning the hand cranks, greatly reducing the need to machine by numbers.

    2. Extended tool life with using CNC. With Fusion, I can create tool paths that put a constant load on the endmill that utilizes more of the cutting edge, with out straining the system, because I can set the feed rate and chip load to be constant and within the machines capabilities. Opens the door to using carbide endmills.

    3. Advanced techniques easily implemented. You can use thread mills, so no more broken taps, and unlimited thread sizes and fits. Chamfering, cutting bevels, 3d surfacing, probing, curves, etc.

    4. Repeatability. I got into machining to build large scale model trains. Making one train wheel is fun! Making 18+ is torture! Time is money to most people. To me, time is fleeting, rather give more of it to my family when I can.

    5. Earning potential. Let's face it, if you're selling a product you produce, it's either a turret lathe, or CNC.

    6. Is turning dials really the fun part? Or is it really the road from initial design to holding a tangible part that you designed/created?

    7. CAM is free now, and top quality with Fusion360. Don't care for it? Conversational programming exists too.

    8. CNC can be a new hobby for you, or your next career, or both.

    That little Taig really opened up a new universe to me. I secretly desired all of the above in the worst way but stuck to manual due to price and macho attitudes masking my true feelings.

    Manual seems useful for prepping stock quickly, but no reason CNC can't be either.

  • #2
    For milling I am 100% cnc, I can generally do just about anything on a cnc mill faster and more accurate than what people can do on a manual machine this includes one off things.

    Turning is another story. Its much more of a pain to setup and many things are just easier to do manually for one offs or a few, especially maintenance related stuff. I have not touched my little cnc lathe in years. Haas and other make a hybrid cnc lathe where it still has hand wheels but they are really just MPG for X and Z so you can operate it like a regular manual machine.

    But some people just dont want the learning curve of cad and then cam.

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    • #3
      1) Simplicity. Manual machines are easier to operate, with a lower learning curve.

      2) Cost. A decent manual lathe can be had for $2,500, with some pretty fair capacity- 12" to 14" swing, with a 2' to 3' bed. That same $2,500 gets you a desktop quarter-horse Taig... without a computer to run it.

      3) Practicality. The vast majority of home-shop lathe use is simple straight turning, facing and drilling. The kind of thing that can be set up and completed on a manual machine before the operator has his zeroes set and even a simple conversational typed in and run.

      There's more, of course, but those are the biggies.

      Your question is like asking "now that we have cars, why do people still ride bicycles? If we have SUVs, why do people still have compacts? They've invented hamburger-making robots, why aren't all the restaurants in the US now using automated food processing? Now that we have 3D printing, why do we bother cutting metal OFF a piece to make it?

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

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      • #4
        I have manual machines. I understand many / most concepts of 3D modeling, but find it tedious to do with most tools. Some cad programs do most everything well, but it's a pain in the ass when you have to use (and remember) workarounds for specific situations. I have not once enjoyed modeling something on a computer.

        On the other hand... I find that some of the fun of manual metalworking lies in being able to make parts that are exactly as designed. When using a mill or a lathe the time flies as I become engrossed in the work.

        Think of it like target shooting. I can practice using open sights for hours day after day and eventually get good enough to put most of them in the middle at 100 yards. Or I can get a rail gun and get them all in the middle, and many through the same hole. One is a test of my ability. The other is a test of the gun's abilities.

        Machining is like that. As a hobby it can be expressed as an art. As a profession it should be treated like a science.
        Last edited by danlb; 12-29-2018, 02:17 AM. Reason: I wrote sites where I meant sights. Thanks for pointing this out.
        At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

        Location: SF East Bay.

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        • #5
          1. CNC Operators and CNC Machinists are two completely different things. CNC Operators are legitimately nothing more than button pushers and part loaders. Typically CNC Machinists are an entire order of magnitude more experienced and come from either a manual machining background, or have significant experience with CNC program tuning; your average CNC Operator doesn't get to touch the code handed to them.

          2. There's just as much potential to break and wear out tools with CNC as a manual machine, especially when you're running what are mostly one off programs. The number of 'CNC evangelists' I see on YouTube for example running absolutely crap toolpaths that are guaranteed to trash tools is proof that just because you have the computer there capable of making really sexy, efficient toolpaths, doesn't mean the moron operating it knows how to feed the computer the parameters necessary to get those toolpaths. That comes back to the 'Machinist vs. Operator' distinction. You need the experience under your belt to be able to intuit the parameters that will result in a good toolpath, and I think a big part of developing that intuition is running a manual machine and getting a 'feel' for the cut. If you go into CNC without that under your belt you're at a massive disadvantage, and will break and wear out more tools than someone with manual time.

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          • #6
            I bother with manual machines because I spend all day dealing with computers.
            It’s a simple as that for me.
            I know that I can program, but there is more relaxation in doing it by hand.

            Dave
            Just south of Sudspumpwater UK

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            • #7
              I do this to get away from sitting in front of a computer.

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              • #8
                I guess I enjoy the CAD, CAM, and watching a successful run on the CNC machine more than turning dials. Somehow I feel more satisfaction from it. Maybe it's being able to add nice bevels in designs and knowing the CNC will do it. Free's me from trying to design something that is easy to machine manually, to something that takes far greater advantage of my creativeness. That's probably it, along with my natural love for electro-mechanical things.

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                • #9
                  Doc Nickel covered most of it but also time isn't money for a hobby. Time is fun time and if you are in a tearing hurry you've got the wrong attitude. I'm not against CNC and computers though as one of my hobbies in the 'seventies was building computers when you couldn't buy such things.

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                  • #10
                    Like computers and TV's, they make your mind mush. I prefer to use a manual lathe.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by danlb View Post

                      Think of it like target shooting. I can practice using open sites for hours day after day and eventually get good enough to put most of them in the middle at 100 yards. Or I can get a rail gun and get them all in the middle, and many through the same hole. One is a test of my ability. The other is a test of the gun's abilities.
                      .
                      You probably mean "open sights," (as opposed to a scope) ... though hopefully you'll be doing it at an open site free of other people and objects aside from the target.

                      A good analogy, nevertheless.
                      Lynn (Huntsville, AL)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Brett Hurt View Post
                        Like computers and TV's, they make your mind mush. I prefer to use a manual lathe.

                        Keep telling yourself that. Many/most cnc machinists progressed from being manual machinists. Adding cnc knowledge and cad/cam to ones skill set is NOT a trivial process, many find their mind already "mush" and not up to it.

                        After many years manual machining I progressed to cnc a few years back. I can attest that manual machining is the easy compared to what I had to learn progressing to cnc. Now, I can do both.



                        I agree with what Macona posted earlier, I find the manual lathe easier for many easier tasks and have both cnc and manual lathes. The mill is another story, I don't miss having a manual mill at all, the cnc easily replaces it.
                        Last edited by Sparky_NY; 12-28-2018, 08:41 AM.

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                        • #13
                          When I seen this thread topic this morning I just knew this would become a hot thread. The forum prohibits discussion on politics and religion, this topic may be even more volatile.

                          Going to be fun to watch ! And thanks RB211 for stirring up a hornets nest.

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                          • #14
                            I'd love to have a CNC mill but quite frankly the learning curve is beyond my grasp; I just can't remember stuff anymore. I'd also have to replace both my lathe and mill at a relatively big $$$ cost. It would be completely impractical to go to CNC so I stick with what works best for me...manual machines. I should also mention I just don't do all that much machining anymore.
                            Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Arcane View Post
                              I'd love to have a CNC mill but quite frankly the learning curve is beyond my grasp; I just can't remember stuff anymore. I'd also have to replace both my lathe and mill at a relatively big $$$ cost. It would be completely impractical to go to CNC so I stick with what works best for me...manual machines. I should also mention I just don't do all that much machining anymore.
                              Can't fault that logic one bit. As home shop machinists we do this for enjoyment, if we are having fun that is all that matters.

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