Extra money - purchase more efficiency or more capabilities
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  1. #1
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    Default Extra money - purchase more efficiency or more capabilities

    Long story short, I'm selling a CNC lathe and will have a small bit of cash that I'm dedicating to shop upgrades. Depending on how the discussion goes, I may try to sell a different piece of equipment to add to the pot. 90% of what I do is in-house work and I can currently handle everything that goes out.

    The options I'm leaning towards are: buying a stand alone rotary indexer (Haas 5C for example) to add a +1 axis to my existing 3 axis CNC knee mill (my most used machine) plus additional tooling; an inexpensive used 30x16 or so VMC that adds a tool changer, faster spindle and feed rates and enclosure (Fadal 3016 at auction possibly, I would probably also sell my knee mill if I did this); or go outside the box and get a CNC Plasma to add a bit of plate cutting ability.

    The VMC is my most desired route but CNC plate cutting is something that seems to have more efficiency and can possibly supplement enough to save up for a VMC. Every time I think I've decided, I'm not sure.

    Thoughts?

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    Plate cutting.
    I have a small cnc gas cutting machine, it works well. I do a lot of rush jobs, plate gets cut, job done, out the door.
    Very efficient. Waiting for a supplier to cut plate takes way too long around here.

    Extra money is a very good thing,
    Good luck

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    get a 4020 instead of a 3016, probably no difference in price, but the extra X and Y make a big difference in what you can put on a table

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    WTF is "extra" money?????

    Get a bigger VMC than you think you need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alphonso View Post
    WTF is "extra" money?????

    Get a bigger VMC than you think you need.
    Good advise if you are doing big work. My last shop had eleven 40 x 20 Fadals. About 95% of my work would have easily fit on a small Brother or Fanuc machine taking up far less floor space and being more productive. It all depends on what you're doing. JMHO

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    My main reasons for a 3016 are footprint and weight. I may decide to move my shop to the house and the lower weight and smaller size will make the move a lot easier. A lot of what I do is only in-house parts and everything foreseeable will fit inside a 6" cube. I'm currently using two 6" vises to hold one part each on my knee mill and use about 8" x 16" of travel. A Brother/Robodrill would be nice but out of budget.

    I don't have the order numbers yet to build multi-part fixtures and use the full travel. That would be ideal and a 4020 would definitely shine, but I really need to make the best use of my time.

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    Much as I've dreamed of having a cnc plasma (or laser), the truth is you've got to be set up for it. You're stocking and handling big sheets, a royal PITA without an overhead hoist and lots of floor space. And it probably needs to go in its own room, too.

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    Have you got any good local laser cutters? IMHO thats the way to go over plasma for smaller high quality parts in your size range, plasma makes more sense for small fab work or agricultural stuff.

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    VMC for sure. I wouldn't even consider a rotary if I was changing tools by hand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuFlungDung View Post
    Much as I've dreamed of having a cnc plasma (or laser), the truth is you've got to be set up for it. You're stocking and handling big sheets, a royal PITA without an overhead hoist and lots of floor space. And it probably needs to go in its own room, too.
    As well the guys buying large quantities of plate stock get way better pricing. I have bought parts laser cut for similar or less then I would pay for the stock.

    If your cutting is mostly for internal use a VMC with tool changer flood coolant etc. will free up a lot of your time. I would hang on to the knee mill for redundancy though. If your mill is a critical machine a breakdown can be a real problem. Maybe with internal use however a little inventory is cheaper though.

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    If you are talking small rotary parts the right live Tool lathe will make you wonder why you didn’t buy it first.

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    I have quality laser, plasma and waterbed shops I work with now. My wife and in laws are big into crafts. Besides whatever work I could drum up elsewhere, that's probably what a cnc plasma would spend it's life doing. I overlooked the fact that there are probably a dozen guys with cnc plasmas within an hour of me getting into the craft market.

    As much as I'd like to have a live tool lathe, I don't think I could swing that quite yet. Some design changes have made some of the parts round instead of square, so a y axis live tool lathe would help a lot in the future. All of the extra expenses (live tool holders, turn/mill CAM, etc) would hurt right now.

    Sounds like a vmc is the best bet, which was really where I was leaning, but I needed some outside opinions for confirmation.



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    I can't offer an opinion for machining equipment, but if your talking a cnc table. You not only need the room for the table, but also a place to store sheets and odd cut pieces. What about a forklift or hoist system for it as well.

    A cnc table is way more room then 4x8.

    As others have said, I can order laser cut 1/2" stainless plates cut to size cheaper then just the plate itself, without much waste.

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    I would get a small 1990s VMC and bank the rest of the money. The Fadal VMC10 and VMC15s with the 88hs control are great little machines as well. There was a really nice one around here last month for 10k. Had many updates like USB and Wireless transfer, a mist collector. If you can find something like that I think it would be a great fit if your thinking to possible moves your shop to the house.

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    Mill or milling ability all the way.
    Milling is your bread and butter, focus on making it as efficient as possible. The less time you spend on every part is time you can grow the business.

    A small enclosed mill would be very productive with a tool changer. A forth axis opens up options for even more efficiency a cheaply. Or even a deviding head as a 4th indexer?
    If the parts are small enough you'd be hard pressed to beat a lathe with live tooling and a bar puller tho

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    Sounds like a mill it is. The search continues.

    I currently only have one part that would fit a lathe with a bar feeder and it doesn't take long to make as is.

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    Yeah there comes a point efficiency adds more to the bottom line in a one man shop than increasing capabilities too. That said increased capabilities also means more potential work and a more certain future being buisy doing that work, its a double edged sword if there ever was one!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Fleming View Post
    Sounds like a mill it is. The search continues.

    I currently only have one part that would fit a lathe with a bar feeder and it doesn't take long to make as is.

    Plasma is dime a dozen, so unless you HAVE a need... Besides very dirty if going the CNC route. Plasma is also not very Mill tool friendly with hard uneven slag. For those reasons I said goodbye to my Plasma cutting setup.

    If you only have one lathe job and several Milling jobs...buying a CNC lathe will eat your money and give little return...live tooling and bar feed even less of a return unless you see yourself diving into that work or have a desire to.

    CNC 4th is the cats meow...that is IF you have a CNC Mill. A 4th before the mill is putting your cart before the horse.

    CNC Mill, enclosed, tool change, coolant...if you have mill work it will eat it up and should produce better work quality making for happier customers...that equals more work.
    Get enough work and enough 4th axis work, buy your 4th.

    FYI- if doing manual mill and even low volume CNC indexing work...look into a manual indexing head such as

    Indexing head Collet closer YUASA Set metalworking mill milling | eBay.

    I used these things on my CNC mill for a couple years to bring enough 4th axis work to justify a CNC Rotary. MO stop to index and continue.


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