Machinists: Need opinion

Discussion in 'General' started by GRH, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. GRH

    GRH Well-Known Member

    Any opinions on this machine for home use?
    I am looking to get a CNC but know very little about them in terms of reasonable hours, what to look for, support. I thought buying a used industrial unit versus something like Tormach would be a better way to go plus Tormach is Chinese I believe.
    I don't know how to program but obviously have an interest in learning it.
    I currently have a Bridgeport and lathe with DRO's that I use regularly but as a hobby, not to make a living.
    This unit also has a rotary phase converter with it that can be purchased for another $1k, I'm on single phase power with no access to 3 phase.
    Thanks for any input.
  2. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    My advice would be to do what I did and start small. Having no practical experience in any part of the process from CAD drawing to CAM to actually running the machine I was unsure if I would be able to learn all the bits necessary. The reason I went small is simply for this reason. A CNC machine will do exactly what you tell it to do. It will do so without emotion or compassion for anything including your wallet. If you tell it to do something stupid like drive a 3 inch face mill directly into everything below it a rapid speeds it will happily smash the work piece, the vice, the face mill and the spindle all to do your bidding. The bigger the machine, the bigger the HP, the bigger the crash and potential expense to repair. They are unforgiving of error in that regard.

    The Tormach 770 would be a good start or even a G0704 conversion. That's what I went with and have been happily making parts since I got it. Well not entirely happily. There was plenty of cussing involved while I was learning my way around. The 1100 is a good machine although a good bit larger. That is the next decision after you learn your way around is how big a part do I want to be able to make and how fast do I need it to be made. Those are the things that crank the size and expense of the machine up to absurd levels.

    We won't even get into the discussions of the used VMC market and buying an older Fadal or HAAS machine just yet. There are drawbacks to the older control interfaces and limited memory in some of those machines that cast big dollars to upgrade if you retrofit a newer control. Not to mention any repairs that will need to be done to bring that machine back into spec. There is likely a reason it's being sold off and that could be either they needed a larger faster machine or that they have damaged that one to a point that it is not a viable economical proposition to repair it. I would suggest getting someone that knows machinery to go with you to look at any potential purchases of used machines. no different than having a mechanic look at a used car you plan to purchase.

    I'm not a machinist but I am far enough into the rabbit hole to provide a little feedback. Also look up AT-Man Unlimited on the Youtubes. He has a pretty good group of videos on things to consider when purchasing a used VMC.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
    badmoon692008, SpeedyE and sbk1198 like this.
  3. SLLaffoon

    SLLaffoon Well-Known Member

    The last two HAAS machines I've bought have been pretty plug and play. But, I haven't used anything older than circa 2004ish. The HAAS control is very straightforward, at least for me. The newer controllers have quick code and other non-programming options. I had a TM-1 as a prototype mill in my first job without any CAM software. We used a combination of hand programming and quick code. There are more reliable and more precise machines out there, but when used for the appropriate tasks, I've had good experiences.

    What's your air compressor situation? Do you have a dryer?
    The_R1_Kid likes this.
  4. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    That's actually good to hear as a TM-1P is on the shortlist for machines I am considering. My only concern with those is the limited amount of memory in the older controllers and the preponderance of floppy drives in the controls. I know there are companies the produce the USB device that emulates a floppy but I am not sure how reliable they would be.
  5. SLLaffoon

    SLLaffoon Well-Known Member

    How big of a program do you want to run? They are just text files. Unless you are trying to do a bunch of surfacing, I don't think you'll have an issue (unless you're talking super old controller). And, if you're planning on doing a lot of surfacing, I bet you'll want to spend the $$ on cam software and controller to match.
  6. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    Some of my programs are 2 and 4 MB's. Some of the 3d adaptive tool paths can make for a lot of lines of code. I can always break the operations down further in to individual programs but that kind of eliminates some usefulness. My current PC based Linux controller has no such limitations.
  7. drop

    drop Well-Known Member

    We just got our tm 1 and a tl1 about 3'months ago. Both of them are fantastic machines for there small size.
  8. Dan Dubeau

    Dan Dubeau Well-Known Member

    I'd pass on that CL haas. That's a lot of dough for a "dinosaur" While haas parts have traditionally been easy to get, and fairly cheap, that has really begun to change, and the cost to own the older machines is only going to get more expensive. Rumour has it there are some obsolete boards in the older controls, that when they go, the only solution is to upgrade controls to the tune of $10,000. Personally I'd be wary of a haas of that vintage.

    Venom, look into drip feeding via rs232. dead simple, and doesn't matter how much memory the control has. we use Onecnc, but there are a ton of other free programs out there. I'm drip feeding a 10 hour 3d finishing program right now to a haas vf6 while i'm siting at home on the couch. Very rarely do I ever load a program into the control anymore.
  9. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    I hadn't given DNC much thought but that would work fine. That would be a fairly simple Arduino project to make it self contained without the need for an additional PC.
  10. rk97

    rk97 Well-Known Member

    How many of you are machinists by trade? That's my uncle's gig, and I just can't picture him programming anything...

    Is there still a place for "old school" machining?

    This is "that uncle" in my family. I only get calls from him when he gets another OVI, and he's late or a no-show for holiday meals. But he's always found work as a machinist. I assume he's pretty good at it to maintain employment at this stage of life/alcoholism.
  11. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    Not I. By trade I am a carpenter via the skill set my father passed on to me. And for the last 20 years I've been in the IT industry. The computing part is easy for me. The design, fixturing and working in metal are the hard parts.
  12. rk97

    rk97 Well-Known Member

    My uncle can't be a dummy. My dad isn't stupid, and there's just no way his brother is an idiot.

    Clearly he makes poor decisions (the afore mentioned OVIs, and being burglarized by a hooker jump to mind), but I am sure he is competent with a lathe.

    Actually, the more I talk about Al, the more I wish I was 20 when he was 30.
  13. Venom51

    Venom51 John Deere Equipment Expert - Not really

    I'm sure he's not. The guys that have been making complex machines long before CNC made it easier have a very difficult skill set to master. They have my utmost respect.
  14. rk97

    rk97 Well-Known Member he's skilled, just obsolete.

    That sounds right.
  15. sbk1198

    sbk1198 Well-Known Member

    Seems like that depends on the industry. I've met machinists who didn't have a clue about either programming or using manual lathes and mills, and all they had to do was follow a specific set of instructions given by engineers to run certain machines. That's typically in production environments. In a job shop however, is where you have the real machinists and tool makers who are much more skilled. Yes there are still people that do manual work, without programming anything. Those skills are still needed in job shops. I'm no machinist, but I took a machining class at the local community college to learn how to do it just for fun and also because I do a lot of designs at work and knowing how shit's actually made can be very beneficial in coming up with better and cheaper designs. All I learned in that class was manual lathe and mill work. A CNC would be helpful for sure because it can save a lot of time. The "old-school way" is just using G-code which is time consuming and much easier to mess up. Nowadays if you have a decent machine with CAM software and you also have a 3D modeling software that you can make your part in and just import it in the CAM software, it makes things so much easier!

    With that said, I'd stay away from an $8k old Haas. Those machines were crazy expensive when they were knew. There's a reason it's that cheap...cuz it's old. You'll end up with a huge pile of scrap in your garage in a few years most likely or it will cost you a fortune to repair. For that much money you can but a decent mill for like $6000 or so and then spend another $1500-2500 to convert it to CNC and you'll be better off....aside from not having that 4th axis most likely but do you really need that for home use?
    SpeedyE likes this.
  16. Newer and smaller vs older and larger. A lot of them have the room to do 2 set ups if your piece is slightly bigger than the machining capacity. There is some software that looks for stupid stuff but you have to set up the limits correctly. I'm going to pull the trigger on one shortly just waiting on the right one to pop up. I currently use a buddies Haas to make carbon fiber molds, he also has a scanner to that makes life easier or I just use one in one of our plants.
  17. Dan Dubeau

    Dan Dubeau Well-Known Member

    I'm the opposite. The computing part might as well be a foreign language to me. I'm not sure what my "title" would be, but I'm predominantly a CNC programmer/designer/machinist/toolmaker/fixture builder. I spend most of my day job sitting at a desk, doing 3d surfacing and programming, but also setup and run the programs. I also get to build the fixtures, turn/grind/fit (the manual toolmaker stuff) all the assemblies to make the fixtures (checking fixtures are our business). Mostly program the mills (haas/fanuc) with edgecam/Rhino, and the lathe (Nakamura tw-20/fanuc) by fingercam g-code. At home I love to tackle more fab/welding/woodworking related jobs as a break from the stressful tight tolerance day stuff ha ha.

    I view computers as just another tool I use to do my job. In that context they are the same as a mill/lathe/surface grinder etc. I can pick up new cad/cam software extremely fast, but I get lost in the details of how computers/networks/internet work etc. Yesterday I was looking at getting a new workbook for home and I'm not sure my brain has recovered from all the details. Not sure if I understand it more, or if I'm even more cornfused than when I started.....

    The most I've got involved in the computer side of it is writing/editing post processor files, and building cables and setting up DNC software. It's incredible the stuff you can learn on the internet these days if you know where to look. I'd love to learn about these arduino things and all that jazz, but I just don't really have the time to get into it right now. I've got 2 kids (2.5/4) who both love building things. I'm looking forward to getting into building some cool shit with them as they grow older, and teaching them all the skills I've learned, while also learning from them about all the newer technology.
  18. Rdrace42

    Rdrace42 Almost Cheddar

    Just a comment on DNC, works great if you've got a stable connection, into a stable controller. Older machines tend to be a bit more finicky, and can drop the connection, or even garb up the code.

    That Haas you were looking at....would make a great boat anchor. Anything pre-97, good luck getting parts (nevermind it was sketchy when it was new).
  19. Britt

    Britt Well-Known Member

    I bought "Old Dinosaurs", I run them off a 25hp Rotary Phase issues..
    IF you can afford to buy an older machine and pay cash for it, I suggest that for learning over making payments on a newer machine...JMO.

    Also, I see guys now who can run CNC's but have zero idea how to Manual Machine...always jobs for Manual Guys somewhere...

    JAFO's are a dime a dozen.
  20. drop

    drop Well-Known Member

    Machinist by trade.

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