I want to start my business. Need a CNC vertical mill. Advice, please.
I'm posting this here because I'm not sure exactly where to put it.
I'm looking to turn my hobby of building guitars into a business. I'm on a shoestring budget but need to get into a good workspace and
want to add a CNC vertical mill in the very near future.
My intended shop space will lease for 500 bucks a month and it's 800 square feet with air conditioning and 3 phase power. Which I have to have.
It's more than twice the space of my garage and existing storage/workshop unit combined, so for me it's plenty big at this point. Adding a CNC mill
will take up part of that extra space but I'll still have plenty left over.
I'm really just looking for realistic pricing expectations for the mill. Realistically speaking, how cheaply will I be able to find a decent, running CNC
vertical mill that isn't junk? Used, of course. New is simply not within the realm of possibility.
A Haas TM-2 would be large enough in all axes (40x16x16) for all my needs. A smaller TM-1 (30x12x16) is a bit too narrow as 13" is about the minimum
for a guitar body. But 30" X travel is enough for any neck.
I'm not saying I have to have a newer Haas. But I do need about 30x16x12 as my minimum travels.
And...my budget only allows me to look at machines with a price of 5000 dollars or less if I buy outright. I could possibly go for a more expensive
machine if it was rented or leased at a low enough monthly cost.
Give me some realistic ideas about my price hopes vs. actual real world pricing for a mill that'll get the job done and isn't garbage.
Go to auctions. You can usually pick up a machine in your price range... albeit not new and *exactly* what you want/need, but should be able to do what you want. If you want something now, w/ specific reqs... Buy new and finance...?
PS: Also look at Frank Ford's posts if you have not already.
Last edited by Chazsani; 08-04-2012 at 10:33 AM.
Reason: Fixed iPhone spelling of name.
Fadal 3016 or 4020
Cheap to buy
Cheap to fix
Easy to run
But $5k is not going to get a solid working machine.
Tooling will run you a good bit of coin as well remember that too
Keep in mind regardless what you buy, you will need a rigger to place the machine in your building, don't choose by lowest price.
If your cutting mostly wood, you don't have to have an enclosed machine
Don't overlook a knee mill/cnc conversion, but do your research on the control for tech assistance and capability. There also may be an additiaonal benefit if you can find one that has manual operating capabilities.
Buying used w/o a warranty will almost guarantee sometime in short time after purchase replacement of parts that can expensive.
Once you find one that may fit your needs, get as much info and post here to get input on typical problems
I say good luck as I'm catching up on 3 weeks work after my VMC had a bad encoder that needed replacing
I'm not trying to shoot you in the rear here, but have you sold any guitars yet? These are just curious questions, to see how far ahead you've been thinking. A product shop, like yours is different than a job shop. A job shop, making a customer's parts, has the parts sold before he starts making them. I say this because it can be faster to get the money in to support the shop. In a product shop you have to make the items you're going to sell, then go and try to sell them. If you are already in business this may be a non issue.
Do you know how to run a CNC Mill? There is a learning curve (BIG). The good news for you is you are only going to need programs for a small catalog of parts. In a job shop you have an infinite number of programs to make because you don't know what the customer is going to bring you.
Additional... Tooling for a mill, tool holders, cutters (you can buy as you need them) air compressor, work holding tooling, software for programming the CNC are considerations too. If a 24 x 14 table travel would work, the old Blue Hurcos are pretty good. At lease I like them. They have the programming software and are easy to get going. I sold one of mine last month for about what you want to invest. What ever you pick up, buy it only after you and a cnc guy friend see it running and check to see if everything works, including up load and down load of programs.
I'm not trying to pick you apart. If you have answers to these questions, good. If not then try to envision your work around's for them, and you'll be better prepared.
Of course there is more......
Are you carving more than wood? There are CNC machines that were only expected to cut wood, such as patterns.
Are you expecting to cut the neck using CNC? That would be an additional cost 4th axis, at the least.
I am not current with cable TV reality shows, is there one that portrays building guitars by CNC?
Since you are planning a product that doesn't involve ferrous metal (right?) and doesn't involve non-ferrous metal (right?), you have come to the wrong place for optimal advice.
Perhaps all you need is one of these, which is sold from Ocala Florida:
CNC ROUTER 3D MILLING MOLDS PATTERNS ENGRAVING DRILLING 48"X48" 10" Z VISUALMILL | eBay
Which is still out of your budget, and may not offer a 4th axis, and definitely isn't intended for ferrous metals, and most likely doesn't have a tool changer.
Getting back to my question about reality TV shows, if there is one, what sort of equipment was displayed? Was that truly needed, or just some pay-for-placement advertisement, posturing as a barrier to entry?
If you have no plans to ever have a CNC carved neck, you most likely don't need a 4th axis. But the first time you want to see a workpiece spinning around on its axis, while a milling cutter goes up and down, back and forth, left and right, THAT requires a 4th axis, and you need to budget and plan for it.
From what I see on ebay, a used 4th axis will destroy your budget.
Which YouTube videos have inspired you? Why not post the links, and the members can attempt to identify the machinery involved.
This one doesn't look like anything in a metal shop:
This one was done on a copy-carver:
And....you haven't said whether acoustic or electric.
Though that was good advice at one time, I can't quite agree with this anymore.
Originally Posted by alliancefab
Fadal being out of business now makes the machines even cheaper to buy. However, they are getting far more expensive to fix due to parts availability drying up.
I do agree that $5K isn't going to buy much machine. If your product is made from wood, you should be looking at CNC routers made for that purpose.
as Mr. Bausch has suggested, i would think your really needing a cnc router? for the bodies a necks, maybe a small cnc vert for the little metal stuff would be in addition to that.Hav'nt shopped for a router for awhile but i remember them being reasonably priced in the size you would need.Would i buy a big honking VMC to make wood guitar bodies and necks?...No.,wrong machine for that in my opinion....however if ya got the money..get one anyway .
However, they are getting far more expensive to fix due to parts availability drying up.
There are at least 3 companies who now specialize in repair and replacement parts for Fadals. One is owned by one of the original DeCausin brothers who started Fadal.
Since these companies are competing head-to-head for business, parts and repair for Fadals is more affordable now than it's probably ever been.
Plus most of the parts on a Fadal are standardized items. Glentek servo motors and drives, Baldor spindle drives, etc. It's all common as dirt, and available from many sources.
Thanks for the input. It's appreciated. I'm reading every word and taking notes.
The option to do metalworking is very important to me as well. I'd rather have a metalworking CNC machine and be able to run wood on it, than get a CNC router and be
unable to run metal on it.
I will be wanting very high spindle RPM capacity if I can get it. 30,000 RPM is not too much although there's a limit to what I can pay for high spindle RPMs.
In the matter of tooling, honestly I've done the figuring on that and can get by with a handful of assorted tool holders. Maybe as few as five or six, and a collet set.
My existing capability, machine-wise, consists of a healthy Sharp YC 1 1/2VA vertical mill equipped with a 4 axis Acu-Rite DRO system (Z on both knee and quill), X axis
power feed, an 18" Brown & Sharpe rotary table, and a collection of about 50 QC30 toolholders (the spindle is QC30, which is unique for a Sharp, and I had to figure out
what had to be changed and custom machined to make it fit, so it probably IS the only such mill featuring a QC30 spindle) and a variety of cutting tools.
Thus, it would be a plus to find a mill that's got a QC30 spindle. I then immediately have tool commonality and my need for additional tooling drops to essentially zero.
I was not aware that Fadal was out of business. Good to know that.
At any price, a mill with insufficient travel in any axis is not a bargain. I need 21x14 for X and Y at absolute minimums. Any mill that is limited to 12 inches Y travel
would be of very limited use to me as it can't profile out a complete guitar body in one setup.
I'll be looking. And, if I can make the right payment plan happen, I can exceed the 5K target budget. It's always been a "hope for" price point, not a "can't exceed" price point.
Moderator, thanks for moving this to the appropriate forum.
If you are not going to have the volume of business to keep a machine busy 'round the clock making parts, might be better to farm it out.
Before buying machines, might want to check around and see how much you can get the guitars machined by some other shop with a CNC router. Kpotter learned it was cheaper for him to send the work to shops who can crank out his parts. He is still assembling his presses, but no longer makes EVERYTHING because it was not cost effective to do so.
Unless you are vigorously protecting intelllectual property, trade secrets, etc. and you must keep the process under your own roof, behind a curtain, etc. it sometimes doesn't make sense to do it all yourself.
I recall that Cisco doesn't own any factories.
You want a VMC with that envelope and a 30k spindle for $5k... hahahahahahahahaha.
I want a brand new 10EE in a crate for my garage for a thousand bucks, but only if it has a 30" bed
I still send my production out it is way cheaper than owning an expensive machine. If I could find a decent mill for 5 grand I would buy it but that is not going to happen. I have looked hard and I used to work for a machinerey dealer and that stuff doesnt come up at least not right now. A big new recession might shake some stuff out of the machine tree but 5 grand is pretty low. Draw the stuff in cad and send it out then you dont need the shop or the mill or the 3ph electric. Do what you do, design the product that is were the money is. The lions share of profit is in the design and selling of your product the manufacturing is small potatoes. I love machines more than anyone and have a whole shop full of them but sometimes I have to look around and go why the hell am I storing all these things.
I'm learning G and M code programming, and will be making a start at Mastercam very shortly, as part of my ongoing education.
I'm taking up an apprenticeship with a local machine shop. The owner, whom I've known now for a couple of years, thinks I have a lot of
untapped potential and frankly wonders why I'm not making good money doing my own thing already. So he's taking me under his wing, so to
speak, and before too terribly long I should be able to design parts and write code for the machines to run on. Starting simple, of course.
The idea of having some of the work farmed out to a machine shop is certainly worth considering, and I HAVE considered it, but I always prefer to
be fully self-sufficient at least for the prototype work. Once I've got a well tweaked design that's proven good, THEN it can be produced at
a jobber shop for me. But until that's done, I sure can't afford to be paying a shop repeatedly to do a tweak here, an adjustment there, a change somewhere else,
etc. as the designs develop to maturity. I'm always playing with design and construction methods. I've got ideas in my head that are constantly trying to
make their way to paper and then to wood or metal. I dare say that if my ideas were fully realized, some of my instrument hardware designs would be acclaimed
as the best in the industry once they're tried out. I intend to prototype them soon.
Now, what I'd LIKE to get and what I can AFFORD to get are two different things. But defining a goal is the first step toward achieving it. I can get there in
incremental steps. A high speed spindle is something that will have to wait, but a good size work envelope is mandatory even for the first machine.
So, a machine that has the features I want and need most would have a decent sized work envelope and have a 30 taper spindle (QC30 if possible, NMTB otherwise)
and ideally would have a fast spindle but I can always make do with a lower RPM range. 3000 RPM is actually more than enough if I keep the feed rates low enough.
My existing mill only goes to 3K and I have done plenty of wood milling on it and the results have been excellent. But at relatively low feed rates, given that it's
a manual mill. For a manual mill, 3K IS enough. But at several x the feed rate, I'd want matching spindle speed increases.
You could get one of those "air spindles." I thought I saw one on a Haas... 20k rpm... I think it is was a tool holder (Cat 40) with an air attachment to turn a tool at 20k rpm.
Last edited by Chazsani; 08-04-2012 at 11:08 PM.
Reason: Add URL link
Since you will cut the wood dry, and may desire to use coolants when cutting metals, you will either spend a lot of time cleaning and drying the table before woodworking, or...
Have a mill dedicated to wood, another dedicated to metal.
If you are still reading, there are manufacturers that focus on pattern-making CNC milling machines. On paper, they are sophisticated machines with built-in rotary tables, but unfortunately, no facility for coolant use.
Which means they bring no bids on ebay.
F. Zimmermann is one of the makers. I watched an ebay auction "F. Zimmermann FZ 4 (NMTB # 40, 4 axis, pattern milling" some time ago, and it got zero bids.
Your exact need is essentially pattern milling, since you aren't using coolant.
While guitar makers may be using typical CNC mills, pattern makers may not.
So....since your business isn't pattern-making, and your business isn't metal working, either, you might want to see if any pattern-making shops are in your area. You are looking for a machine, and they are looking for business. Perhaps a deal can be struck, somewhere in the middle?
At the least, you can call around and confirm/deny my understanding that former pattern-making CNC mills are somewhat orphans, and don't bring much money (they don't have coolant, and some folks think sawdust is destructive to machine tools).
I will be replacing my old hurco this fall/winter with 31 x 16 inches of travel. I have had a few issues with it which you will see on my post on here but it runs every day sometimes 16 hours a day and its what got my business started. I need to upgrade for the kind of work I do.
I know you want to do a body in a single setup, but there is no reason that you have to. Fixturing goes a long way here. You want a sub plate you can spin 180 degrees, while maintaing orientation. Not a huge deal, especially since you don't need to match within super tight tolerances, your finishing will take care of that.
I've been using speed-locs pretty successfully (there are other similar products) to locate fixture plates in my mill and then subsequently in other machines. Something like a fixture plate with these would allow an easy flip of 180, and you would cut your body out in two ops.
IMHO spend less upfront and save that money for the other things you are going to need. If the biz takes off later down the line, it'll be easy to justify the added production capability that a larger envelope machine will offer. If you want to build a business instead of buy one, it takes a bit more work and ingenuity to get around pesky things like travel limits. Again, you are talking to folks used to holding tight tolerance over a large distance in metal or plastic. Wood is a different animal, and with intelligent toolpath management no one will know that it wasn't cut in one.
One thing about coolant and sawdust...rather than run coolant, I will in fact be running a strong vacuum cleaner with the nozzles fixtured near the cutter at all times. It makes cleanup SO much easier.
The thing to watch out for with sawdust is that it attracts and holds moisture. So it can't be left anywhere on the machine or it'll start rust spots. Particularly considering that the tables have to be kept dry and
free of oils while in use. But no matter what, at the end of the session, the table gets wiped down with a light oil preservative. It's really no chore at all to have to then clean the table off again the following day.
Even on my manual mill, it's almost a rule that if I'm routing wood, the vacuum is running all the time. There's no reason not to.
The operation that I really admire is the Paul Reed Smith factory. Their Fadal mills are set up to machine two guitar bodies at a time or three necks at a time, using vacuum clamping fixtures. A really sweet setup,
that I'd love to have. There are several good videos on it on youtube.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm taking an apprenticeship with a local machine shop. They're busy enough to be looking adding a second shift, so this would not be the time to think about using their shop
to machine out bodies for me, but I at least expect to learn the drafting, programming, and coding required for such an operation for when I eventually do have my own machine. And, bonus points here...if it's a solid and
sufficiently capable machine, I could run parts for the shop in my off time and thus make some extra money on the side.
Nothing would make me happier than for my own enterprises to take off well enough that I can walk away from my day job as it just gets in the way of making more money. Though I DO enjoy my day job,
(I'm an electronics engineer/technician working in RF systems), it's very limiting. I'm at the ceiling in this small company. It doesn't pay very well and my boss can't afford to pay me more. Nice place to work,
but no growth potential is there. Not unless I buy the place, and I would NOT do that. Not interested.
I could put up my extensive collection of excellent, modern test equipment for sale and probably fund my new shop plans for the better part of a year. I can and will be doing that, because I don't just have some
test equipment, I have duplicates of nearly every piece of gear. I can sell off the duplicates and make a lot of money. But that leaves me without backups....which is risky.