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Starting advice needed & 2.5D specifics

Discussion in 'CNC IN THE HOME SHOP' started by Chris H, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. Chris H

    Chris H United States Iron Registered Member

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    Been mostly lurking for a while here and trying to learn, and I think I've hit a stumbling block. Here's some quick background, then the questions: I'm looking to make hobby/custom parts for sport/dirt/vintage/weird motorcycles. Triple clamps for swapping over forks, rear sets for bikes that don't have them in the aftermarket, etc. Also need to make bushings, sleeves, spacers and the like on a lathe, and would also need to be able to make axles and thread them. I have a large shop area with a dedicated 220 circuit (runs a welder, but I wouldn't be using it and the mill at the same time). I have no machining experience at all. I have built bikes from the crank bearings out, retro-fitted EFI systems, built automatic transmissions for drag racing, along with rear ends. I've just always bought the stuff I've needed, and now I want to start making it. This is a hobby, so production concerns are not relevant. I'm not rich, but I have some money to spend, and would rather invest the cash in a turn key approach than refitting a larger machine. I also want the machine to run, not to be spending time repairing or modifying it. Support for stupid questions is something I'll need (though this post likely makes that a tad obvious).

    Also, I would love to have 2.5d capability in the software. I"ve seen the videos of it with basic cameras, but it seems to have died out somehow. Tormach says they don't support it? (One of the videos is their guy in their uniform on their youtube channel)

    Whew! Okay, questions:

    1. Tormach vs Novakon. Which one and why?

    2. Precision Mathews CNC machine, PM-45, is it comparable at all? I've heard they also have a CNC for the PM-940 as well. Is it a contender?

    3. MPG pendants. Recommendations?

    4. Lathes. I need to be able to do METRIC threading. Precision Mathews touts this as a big advantage on their lathes. PM-1228VF-LB vs PM-1127-VF-LB ; what's the difference? Is a Grizzly G4003 basically the same? Why not? Alternatives in that basic price range?

    5. Touch probes. Which ones work best with the recommended mill?
     
  2. cs900

    cs900 United States maker of chips Active Member

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    so regardless of the machine you get, you're going to have to buy a CAM package as well to actual output the code to run the machine. Very few, if any, hobby level machines have good conversational programming ( that is programming done at the machine itself), so I wouldn't let that effect your decision.

    Having never used any of the machines above, I'm not overly qualified to give a solid recommendation, but tormach has a great reputation behind them. That said I personally own 2 PM mills, one of them being a PM45 that's cnc converted and for the price I couldn't be happier. I think you'll be happy with either machine.

    MPGs are great! I was a cheap SOB for the longest time thinking i didn't need it, but I got a bluetooth one and i'll never go back. Being able to control the mill without standing off to the side is very nice especially when doing your edge finding.
     
  3. markba633csi

    markba633csi United States Active Member Active Member

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    I hate to rain on you but.. You'll have to be able to do some heat-treating too and you'll need to learn some metallurgy. You may have to buy or build a furnace or, alternately, send stuff out for the heat treatment.
    And it takes a while to learn to be a decent machinist- you have to give it some time. When you make things that are "mission critical" (lives depend on it, like axles) you need to make sure they hold together.
    cheers,
    Mark S.
     
  4. Boswell

    Boswell United States Hobby Machinist since 2010 H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I have a PM-45CNC 3 axis. It is the only CNC machine I have ever owned so I can't offer any comparison. It appears that you have a great situation for a hobby machinist. You have a source of practical job related things you can work on but at the same time, your job does not rely on your machining skills. At least at first. As Markba633csi says, it will take some time to learn machining but I have found that it is learnable and this forum is a great place to ask questions. Like CS900 said, get a good pendent, It will reduce your frustration level when edge finding or "manually" milling. I also have a Grizzly G4003. I am pretty sure that it came with a set of metric gears but I have not taken them out of the oil-paper. Be sure you understand the impact of a "Imperial" machine using Metric Gears means. Not from personal experience, but I think I read somewhere that when you use an Imperial machine with Metrics gears set, The Thread Indicator that tells you when to close the Half-Nut for Threading will not work as expected.

    Glad to have you in the forum and looking forward to hearing more from you :)
     
  5. spumco

    spumco United States Active Member Active Member

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    Very similar situation/questions I went through last year. I went the semi-retrofit path - found a small but solid CNC mill that needed a bunch of work for a very good price and decided that the retrofit time/effort would be a learning experience rather than a source of frustration. I completely understand the desire to take that variable out of the equation by purchasing a turn-key machine.

    That said, if you're brand-new at this you will be learning 3 or 4 things at the same time:
    1. CAD
    2. CAM
    3. Basic CNC concepts
    4. Basic machining concepts (speeds & feeds, tool types, workholding, etc.)

    All of these subjects can get rather complicated, especially since they're inter-related when the tool meets the stock.

    My suggestion would be to start with the CAD/CAM first, and try to pick up on the 3rd and 4th subjects while you're learning the CAD/CAM. Reason for this is that the investment in money can be zero, and even if you have a shiny new mill sitting there, you're going to be spending plenty of time in front of the computer screaming at the CAD/CAM program.

    I'd suggest you check out Fusion 360 from Autodesk. It's free for hobby-types and is a rather powerful CAD/CAM package. It's not uber-pro level (5th/6th axis stuff), but significantly more powerful than other 'free' CAD software.

    Spend time drawing/modeling parts you want to make and then send them over to the CAM module and figure out tools and tool paths. You can even simulate cutting and it'll show you tool or tool holder crashes. If you get good at CAD, you can even model something and send it to a professional machine shop as a file and get a quote - handy for items that will be too big or complicated for you to make after you eventually get a machine.

    I know - you want to make chips. But remember that you HAVE to eventually be able to draw stuff and get it from brain to computer to CAM to G-code to machine control to tool and workpiece. Conversational CNC (search for the term if you don't know what it is) is great, but now that I've been doing this for 6-12 months I view conversational as an adjunct to actual CAD/CAM rather than a first step.

    If you're desperate to make some chips, buy a manual lathe first and figure out how to run it while you're learning CAD/CAM. Modeling a simple bushing or shaft and having a clean, printed 2D drawing to hang up next to your lathe is awesome and beats the heck out of a dirty napkin with crayon stuck to the lathe headstock. You'll get some experience measuring things, making chips, understanding feeds and speeds, carbide vs. HSS tools, etc. - and you won't have $10-20k in a mill sitting there waiting for your brain to catch up to the machine.

    So on to your specific questions:

    Tormach v. Novakon - I have no personal experience with either. My suggestion is to see which one has a more active and robust support system and user forum. You WILL need help, and the support you get from other users is critical to figuring out problems. My opinion, based solely on trolling through CNCZone forums, is that Tormach is better in this regard. Both machines appear to be more or less the same - Stepper motors, dovetail ways, enclosure available, tool changer available. Put together a wish list that has all the bells and whistles and come up with a final price. Compare the two and decide which is more valuable when you consider the available customer support and user-base support. Also, for education purposes, Tormach has a superb series of "whitepapers" on their web site under Engineering Documents that will help you understand some of the basic machine elements (dovetail vs. box vs. linear ways, and steppers vs. servos)

    Trust me, you will spend hours digging around on the forums and Googling "How the $#(*$*&! do I hold this part in the mill?" Those are times when having an active user base is invaluable.

    PM-45 and other Rong-Fu type mills (Charter Oaks, etc.) - Again, usually stepper and dovetail machines. Nothing inherently wrong with these. Basically the same as the Tormach and Novakon, but smaller companies. They may have upgraded components and slightly different machine travels. They may (probably) not have upgrades like tool changers or full enclosures. Not the end of the world, but do you want to fabricate your own power drawbar, enclosure or ATC when you eventually decide to make lots of stuff? What about a plug-in 4th axis?

    MPG Pendents - minor question. You have a million other things to worry about first, but anything you get can have a pendent fitted to it if it doesn't come with it. I'm using an X-box 360 game controller and love it, but that option is not compatible with every machine control system. Much more important to understand the machine control software that comes with (or doesn't!) the mill. Read up on the pros-cons of Mach3, Mach4, PathPilot, LinuxCNC, UCCNC, or some other non-commercial/industrial control software.

    Lathes - PM sells nice lathes. Just about any of the Chinese/Taiwan lathes will do metric threading, even if they have an inch lead screw. Check the specifications before you buy and see if there's a hugely complicated setup process for switching between inch & metric. I'd suggest estimating what the biggest thing you're going to machine is and choose a lathe based on that. You'll need much less customer support with a manual lathe than a CNC mill, so going with a smaller company like PM Matthews over Grizzly is a good way to save money or get a higher quality or bigger machine at a lower price. Things to consider with lathes:
    • Bore through headstock - this is virtually impossible to change, so if you want to make 1.5" diameter shafts or fix your buddy's buggered up F350 axle, don't buy a lathe with a 1.250" bore through the headstock. Same consideration goes for gunsmithing work if you're in to that sort of thing.
    • Spindle length through headstock - also impossible to change.
    • DRO (digital readout) - I now consider this essential, having built one for my lathe. No joke - it's like cheating. Get a lathe with one installed or plan on adding one immediately.
    • Mostly ignore spindle horsepower, since it's easy to fit a new motor with a VFD later on. You can get used 3-phase motors cheap and have a smooth-running variable speed lathe pretty easy. If you don't know what a VFD is, read up on them and how they can magically turn your 220 single phase garage in to a 3-phase industrial paradise.
    If you want my suggestion on a lathe - here it is: http://www.machinetoolonline.com/PM1340T.html

    That thing looks sweet. Just throw your money down on the preferred package, have them install a DRO, and be done with it.

    Touch Probe - like the MPG question, you're way ahead of yourself here. Get to the point where you're making chips first. Read up on them when you need a break from screaming at the CAD software and you'll see that the 'cheap' ones aren't particularly accurate, especially for doing 'point cloud' type work. There's a reason the Renishaw types are $$$$ - they're good to a micron and don't have internal contacts that wear out or get corroded from arcing. Reishaw uses some sort of electronic magic to drop the probe voltage before the contacts open so there's no arcing - no contact pitting. There is hope, however, as I've recently stumbled across a gent who is just about to market what appears to be a huge improvement over standard 'cheap' probes. Go over to CNCZone in the Tormach forum and root around for his thread - it's pretty recent. That or search Youtube for "Impact Tolerant Touch Probe" and get ready to drool. I suspect they'll be available way before you're ready to buy one.

    Sorry if this has been long-winded. Feel free to post further questions - I'm not an expert, but it sounds like I'm about 6 months ahead of you in the learning curve.
     
    Chris H and Al-Hala like this.
  6. Jonathans

    Jonathans United States Professional Fish Killer H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Not my thread, but Spumcos post should be a sticky!
     
  7. Wreck™Wreck

    Wreck™Wreck United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    You have not mentioned a price threshold, an excellent 2 axis mill for a beginner is the Bridgeport EZTRAK, excellent conversational control that is very easy to learn and may be had for less then $15,000 in decent shape, Bridgeport also produced a 2 axis lathe called an EZPATH with the same control, dead simple to learn and the hardware is robust, takes a liking and keeps on ticking so to speak. Both will also work with DNC.
     
  8. spumco

    spumco United States Active Member Active Member

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    I suspect OP is thinking of $15k-$25k for a budget. Perhaps a bit more if the lathe is considered. If he's not, then he hasn't gone internet shopping for turn-key machinery and is in for a possibly rude awakening.

    - A new Tormach 1100 with ATC, enclosure, and some tooling is $22k.
    - A Novakon Torus Pro with about the same stuff but minus tooling is also around $22k.
    - Add a $5k lathe and $1k of lathe tooling and we're pushing $30k.

    An EZTRAK can be had for 10-15. No ATC, no enclosure, slow spindle speed, outdated controller and expensive spare parts. That seems to be quite a bit of cash for a mill when a Haas or other 'proper' VMC can be had for $20k-$35k.

    If all this is a bit much for him then starting out on a converted Grizzly G0704 can be done for 2-3k and would be a great way to learn about crashing tools in to the vise and so forth.
     

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