What's new
What's new

Advice needed on buying a new or used Tormach CNC Mill

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
I am dipping my toes in the waters of machining as a part-time gig. My focus for now will be small jobs from Xometry. I know people have strong opinions about Xometry, but for now it's the best option for me and my current goals.

I have an opportunity to buy a used Tormach PCNC 1100. If you were starting a small, one-person, side-gig CNC machining business in your garage, what machine would you choose? Please keep in mind that my budget is somewhere in the $16k range.

My options are :
- A new PCNC 440 with some extras.
- A new 770M with very limited extras.
- A used PCNC 1100 with lots of extras, for a great price that is pushing my budget a little, but well below $20k. Below is a list of what comes with the used PCNC 1100.

A little about me. I'm a tech nerd. I'm in my 36th year as software engineer. I love Fusion 360. I'm finishing off a Fusion 360 deep-dive course. In October, I head to Saunders Machine Works (DIY CNC) for his Hands On CNC Machining Training Class. I already own and work on an Emco Maximat Super 11 lathe and BP milling machine clone. I've considered doing a CNC conversion on the mill, but have decided that's not the path I want to go down.

Thanks!
Chris

296032545-10166508355260301-8351661205782758846-n.jpg
 

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
Flee the wrath that is to come.

Skip Tormach, get a real machine. Rigidity, speed, power, there's just no comparison.

Not trying to be rude, as a learning or hobby machine the PCNC's are fine, but not trying to make money.

I'm guessing you're space and power limited, so I'd look for an older 30 taper, Brother or Robodrill. There's drawbacks as far a memory, but they can still burn though parts.
 

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
@LOTT, first ... thanks for the helpful responses!

Would I love a Haas, Brother, or Fanuc? I'd give my left ..... no .... wait .... I probably wouldn't.
Sadly a machine of that calibre is just not possible for me right now.

A nerds gotta start some place. Because of my power, space and budget limitations the Tormach's gotta be that some place.

Also, because I'm just getting started, I don't want to deal with the expensive issues that can accompany a 20+ year old high-end machine. I'd rather start newer and smaller, saving and working my way up to the big guns. I'm starting this venture with cash and debt free. I've already got enough challenges getting this dream of mine off the ground.
 
Last edited:

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
I hear you, but I think you're mistaken. Unless you're literally in an apartment the step to a used 500mm BT30 is very doable (space and power wise).

And a 2005 Robo is probably more reliable than a new Tormach in all reality.

If you want to learn and have fun with a hobby the Tormach is probably fine, but if you want to turn a profit it's not worth it.
 

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
@LOTT, I'm always open to great ideas and I will look into your suggestions. Can you recommend a good used machinery source? The few used machinery sites I found that reveal pricinga are showing 2005/2006 Fanuc's for $30k and up which is way out of my budget. I have a $16k budget that I may be able to push to around $17k.
 
Last edited:

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Unfortunately the price:capability ratio of Tormach machines isn't that great. The ROI is going to be very long. It is a very anemic machine.

For less you could get a beefier TRAK CNC machine or Bridgeport CNC conversion.

Only disadvantage would be most of those that I've seen don't have tool changer. You can get around that with a machine with power drawbar and some creative tool holding.

Scour your local Craigslist and EBay for a good deal. Also keep an eye on auctions. Good machines for cheap. Good things come to those who wait.

I was also looking at Tormach at one time but I really wasn't impressed. Better to save that money to buy a shop and better machines.
 

Vancbiker

Diamond
Joined
Jan 5, 2014
Location
Vancouver, WA. USA
Also, because I'm just getting started, I don't want to deal with the expensive issues that can accompany a 20+ year old high-end machine......
What do you believe the expensive issues to be? Careful selection of a used machine typically gives one a decent reliable machine at low cost.

As an example, a few years ago I helped a CNC startup operation pick a really cheap VMC, Kuraki KV700. ~30 year old machine at the time. It cost more to rig it than to buy, and they had less than $5k into it by the time it was installed in their space. Some time later, the motherboard (Fanuc 11M) died. A replacement was had off ebay for $450 shipped. They still run that machine. They showed me some ti parts they made that had a 1” diameter boss milled on it. They were circle milling and holding roundness to .0005”. Wonder if a new Tormach at 3 or 4 times the cost be able to do that.

If a hobby machine is your goal, finding a forum of hobby oriented machining will be a better fit.
 

Rob L

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 5, 2019
Location
Staffordshire, UK
Also, because I'm just getting started, I don't want to deal with the expensive issues that can accompany a 20+ year old high-end machine. I'd rather start newer and smaller, saving and working my way up to the big guns. I'm starting this venture with cash and debt free. I've already got enough challenges getting this dream of mine off the ground.
Forget used high end, a decent used lower end industrial VMC will beat a Tormach in most or all respects, the key word being decent, you don't want to be buying anything that's completely worn out, beat up, in need of an overhaul or is completely unsupported now.

Having first hand experience with small/hobby/education type machines and used industrial machines (40 or so years old with a 23 year old control, 22 years old and 15 years old respectively) I would never touch a hobby CNC machine again, yes they come with some problems, yes they need repairs now and then and yes they come with enclosures scratched up in ways that will baffle you but that used machine will make more parts faster and pay itself off fast if you get the right work for it.

If you are mechanically and somewhat electrically competent then you'll be able to do most repairs yourself, a Tormach isn't going to be trouble free either and there is probably more information around for a popular used brand like Fadal too.

Final note, if you plan to get work through something like Xometry you may want to add a big lump to your budget for tooling and inspection kit, even if you have some already (which I guess you do) you're going to either need a lot more or better stuff that can be relied upon for job shop work.
 

Comatose

Titanium
Joined
Feb 25, 2005
Location
Akron, OH
If you're trying to run the machine for money, even pocket money, get something with a tool changer. That's absolutely job #1.

Making money, even just beer money, running commercial parts after Xometry's already stripped the cream off the job? That's gonna be tough. Here's why:

A Tormach is about 4x slower than something like a Haas VF to run a part.

A Haas VF is about 2x slower than a nice production-oriented machine (A Brother or an Okuma or some such) to run the same part.

Assume that each has a productive 5 year lifespan (The real machines will go longer)

The Tormach is ~$20k with a toolchanger and an enclosure, minimally optioned

The Haas is about $50k minimally optioned

The Okuma is about $100k minimally optioned.

Over 5 years, that's $4k, $10k and $20k per year in machine cost.

A minimum wage operator (which could well be you, in this analysis) costs about $30k a year. A real operator making $20 an hour costs about $60k a year, with benefits and taxes and whatever.

So the labor plus machine cost is $80k a year for the Okuma with a $20/hr experienced operator. The Okuma will reliably spit out 8 times as many parts. To compete, the Tormach operator (you) would have to be paid under $9 an hour.

It gets worse, though, because Xometry isn't preying on guys who have brand new machines and paid operators. Xometry is preying on guys with a paid off $15k Fadal 4020 and a long list of bill collectors. That Fadal is still 4x faster than a Tormach. So cut the Tormach pay down to about $4 an hour to compete.

It gets worse, though. The Tormach is a much less rigid machine, so the wear on tools will be significantly more than the guys with industrially sized machines on a per-part basis. So cut the Tormach pay down to $2 an hour to compete.

Those are the real numbers. People here don't denigrate Tormachs because we're tool snobs. We denigrate Tormachs because this is "practical" machinist, and busting your hump feeding a Tormach for $2 an hour isn't real practical.
 

memphisjed

Stainless
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Location
Memphis
Get a mill to have fun and expand your abilities. A tormach might be an option. A bpc with a decent control would be a far faster, stronger, cheaper, better machine and can machine steel without question. No toolchanger or cabinet, both a big deal and part of the decision for direction.
Thinking you are going to profit from buying a machine (welder, typewriter, weed eater, or mill) just because it is used in a commercial setting is a good way to loose money.

Buy a toy and have fun. Dollars and adulting is for the day job.
 

mhajicek

Titanium
Joined
May 11, 2017
Location
Minneapolis, MN, USA
I watched a Tormach struggling to take baby cuts in aluminum. It was screeching like a banshee just taking a .100" x .100" cut with a half inch endmill. Surface finish was crap, and the guy couldn't hold a tolerance. I think he was feeding at about 10 IPM. I'd rather cut parts freehand.

If I were you, I'd use that money as a down payment on a new Haas Mini Mill. You can run it on single phase in your garage; that's what it's designed for. I went a slightly different direction and bought a CM-1 a little over a year ago, for small medical device parts, and it's paying the bills reliably. Then once that's paid off and still making money, you can invest in a real machine.
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
Is it imperative that you get a machine right now? I'd wait until you have more than a $16k budget. Skip the tormach if you want to make any sort of profit.
 

Overland

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 19, 2017
Location
Greenville, SC
American,
You've asked for advice here, and it's probably not at all what you wanted to hear.
You've probably got some "well researched" ideas in your mind, and you felt you were on a good track and just needed some help to finalize your thinking.

I've learned a long time ago on here, that if I ask for advice, be prepared to accept it.

The money you're planning to spend on training could go towards the machine.
I've got a hair up my butt about getting a Mazak lathe for some, well, reasons: I'm fascinated by them, I enjoy machining, I'd love to learn programming and I enjoy. Not planning on going full-time as I'm retired, but I can probably afford it if I get a few jobs every so often.

I've been watching Phil on his youtube channel "Mazatrol tips & tricks". I think I could learn to program watching Phil. There's probably similar sites for VMC.

Maybe you should find a machine shop in your area and go see them, and see what's involved in a VMC. Maybe someone on here might offer to show you their machines.

There's quality machines out there, on ebay for example; not too expensive, and not too big and heavy.

Listen up and let these folks on here help you.
Good luck
Bob
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
@LOTT, I'm always open to great ideas and I will look into your suggestions. Can you recommend a good used machinery source? The few used machinery sites I found that reveal pricinga are showing 2005/2006 Fanuc's for $30k and up which is way out of my budget. I have a $16k budget that I may be able to push to around $17k.
dont forget for any machine, there are moving/rigging costs and installation. plus tooling that can easily be in the thousands.
there are good machines out there and deals to be had. a tormach isn't one of them. maybe ok for a hobbiest but even then might as well just throw it away.
 








 
Top