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Advice needed on buying a new or used Tormach CNC Mill

plastikdreams

Diamond
Joined
May 31, 2011
Location
upstate nj
He might be the only one to make millions with a tormach.
His surface finish is better than the fraud with Okuma and haas vf 1000 super duper speed. So there is that.
Anyone that can put together not only 1 but a few cnc crash compilations is pretty much written off as not one to take advise from.

Have I crashed machines, you bet...but it's in the low single digits lol.

The most interesting 2 crashes were on a mighty viper with meldas magic controller. If you stopped the program then hit reset it would reset the z0 height to where you stopped the z axis. First time I was like wtf, Second time I remembered I stopped and hit reset and investigated from there. Weirdest damn thing I ever saw a cnc control do.
 

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
Thanks everyone, I am seriously considering all your advice. I am spending a lot of time on ebay and reseller sites.

I found several Fadal's and other mfg's in the $10k range that have some great features. There are few major challenges I see. The height of most of these VMC's are averaging 100+ inches tall. They would never get into my two car garage which has an opening a little under 84". And I'm not sure the garage floor could handle the concentrated weight of these machines, which is averaging 10k at best. I don't think it's a 4" slab. And I'd have to drop some coin on a rotary phase converter to get the 3-phase juice needed to power these beasts.

But I love a good challenge. I will keep looking at other options.

I posted on this forum because I know there's a lot of experienced machinists here and I could count on getting some good advice with a slight sprinkling of some salty trolling. Thanks for all the input.
 

GiroDyno

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 19, 2021
Location
PNW
I may have missed it, but did you ever explain what you're trying to make? Size, shape, materials? Is there a product you want to sell, or are you just trying to get into job shopping? Maybe you don't even want a mill?

As was suggested earlier (and is always suggested in every single one of these threads) an early 00's vintage Robodrill or Brother would be perfect for a garage. They're small enough to fit into garages, and light enough to sit on a thinner slab. They have minimal power requirements and will happily run off of a small rotary phase converter. BT30 machines are also happy with smaller (ie. cheaper) tools so your consumable costs are inherently lower. There are also 1000's of posts here about how to manage issues like the low memory or ballscrew replacements on these machines because everyone who starts one of these threads inevitably buys one of them instead of the Tormach, fixes some problems, and hopefully shares the knowledge they gained from the experience on this forum.
 
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AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
@GiroDyno, great question!
I have a great full-time job, but I am approaching retirement in a few years.

I have a couple of small product ideas, but that's not the goal or focus for now, maybe in the future.

I love machining and making and would like to have a part-time machining gig where I could make some extra cash and enjoy the process of machining and running a small business.

Job shopping definitely interests me, but for starters I have more interest in Xometry work while I get my feet wet in the industry and I grow my skills.

I currently have a manual lathe and mill. Digital machining is exciting and challenging. I love the design and programming process and I definitely want a CNC mill, and possibly a CNC lathe at some point.
 

rk9268vc

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 2, 2021
Location
Minnesota
He might be the only one to make millions with a tormach.
His surface finish is better than the fraud with Okuma and haas vf 1000 super duper speed. So there is that.

Have you seen a SMW shop tour? Saunders makes a lot of money making his fixture plates, mod vises, etc. Not a single tormach is used by even him in production. His Tormachs are all exclusively for his classes.

Abom79 just did a shop tour of SMW / NYC CNC, go watch it
 

jaguar36

Cast Iron
Joined
May 13, 2015
Location
SE, PA
If you're looking at jumping into a new business/side gig without much experience, I'd be making sure that you can recoup most of your investment if it doesn't work out. That means looking at used machinery that you can resell for close to what you paid for it. I'd be looking at a Haas minimill if it was me. Its much more of a machine than a Tormach, but you can still find decent ones pretty easily in your price range. Most of the BT30 type machines in that price range are going to be in fairly poor shape. Also keep in mind that the cost of concrete and a bigger door are pretty minimal compared to the cost of a machine.

I'd see if you can hook up with a knowledge local guy who you can toss a couple bucks to come look at used machines with you. Regardless of if its a Tormach, a Haas or a Mazak, there are ones that are completley abused and worn out that aren't worth more than scrap out there.

Have you read all the threads here on Xometry? Its a pretty hard place to make a living (although it is possible). If you're willing to work for free and just use it to pay for the machine/tooling while you learn you might be able to make it work.
 

rk9268vc

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 2, 2021
Location
Minnesota
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I've considered doing a CNC conversion on the mill, but have decided that's not the path I want to go down.

I am an automation engineer as my day job. Mechanical engineering degree.
I CNC converted a PM-30MV with Teknic servos, ballscrews, centroid acorn, a SMW fixture plate, etc.
It cost me around $12K all in all.
It has the same travels, speed, and power as the 1100MX. Actually uses bigger teknic servos. 475in/min on all axis, 2.1hp servo spindle (ditch the factory one)

I have a day job, this is as a hobby. Never meant to feed the family.
Mill paid for itself in 2ish months.

Big takeaways though for a tormach sized mill is that you absolutely can not and will not compete with a "real" mill.
They can mill aluminum and steel, but at no where near a competitive speed. Best I can do is with a shear hog getting 5 in^3/min MRR roughing.
With YG alupower endmills i get a great surface finish, and can run them hard. But still, at nowhere near the speeds of a 90's Haas.
On aluminum jobs that are competitively priced, I only make about $25/hr gross, often times less because the cycle times are so long.
Do not think you can go on xometry and make money at those prices.

IF you do decide to go this route, the money is in plastic one off parts. Find a machine builder that has you making one-off UHMW or Delin parts.
These parts are the ones a bigger shop doesnt want to do, so you can charge more.
Plastic parts dont need a ton of rigidity in your mill, and often times the limiting factor is actually the material of the part, and how well you can grab it without warping it.

I do these little UHMW parts for a shop. Features on all 6 sides, so 6 setups. Parts are roughly .75x4x6". Takes 12 hours to do one (lot of ball endmill work). But I charge ~$900 each. So minus material and tooling is roughly $65/hr profit. Peanuts to a big shop, but as a hobby that pays for itself, it keeps me busy.

Bottom line is that a tormach or tormach sized mill will never feed your family. But as a hobby it can be fun and profitable. You will outgrow it very quickly, I started a savings account for a "real mill" after using mine for a week. If this will always only be a hobby, go for it. But if you seriously want this to be a day job, buy a used "real" machine.
 

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
Have you read all the threads here on Xometry? Its a pretty hard place to make a living (although it is possible). If you're willing to work for free and just use it to pay for the machine/tooling while you learn you might be able to make it work.
jaguar36, that is exactly what I'm looking to do! I have a great paying full-time job. While I'm still there I can do the Xometry side-gig to build my skills and use the money I earn to help pay for tooling and a more serious machine. I may have to supplement those earning a little with cash from my full time gig when I'm ready for a bigger VMC, and that's okay. In fact I'm counting oh having to do that.

I know someone doing the Xometry route. They bought a Tormach 440. Made about $15k with Xometry producing really small parts that the 440 can handle. They later sold the 440 for another $10k and sunk that $25k into a $38k VMC. Now they are onto bigger and better jobs.

And like him or not, if you follow Saunders story, he got his start on a Tormach and worked his way up. His 12+ years of getting to where he is now is well documented.

I get it, there are bigger and better machines out there and I am open to the possibilities. But modifying my house to fit the bigger machine is not an option.

So with my current limitations right now the question before me is, do I wait and save longer and try and find a more capable machine that I can fit in my 2 car garage? I'm starting to wrestle with that question now thanks to all the great input in this post.
 

newtonsapple

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 16, 2017
I own a Tormach 1100. I own it because it met my needs in terms of space and what I need it to do and I found it at an acceptable price ($4500). Mine is a plain series 3 with a base and chip pan, no tool changer. I have a power drawbar ($300) and a pair of Renishaw probes to use as probe and tool setter ($250) to put on it still. It will probably get an enclosure and coolant. I wasn't willing to give up my garage or deal with the moisture and temp issue in the garage, so my machine is in my basement shop (bulkhead access). The options were pretty much a Tormach or Bridgeport conversion given the location. There is a thread around where someone put a Kitumura MyCenter (>4000lbs) in a difficult to access basement, but I am not that crazy. The main Tormach assembly is around 1200 lbs.

IMG_0318_50.jpg

I build custom manufacturing equipment for medical device manufacturing as a side gig. So I am not a job shop and 98% of my parts are made in real machine shops. My reason for having a mill is to address timing issues and fix problems where I need to modify a part I screwed up the design. I will also knock out dead simple parts sometimes, but even then it is probably better to hand them off to one of the shops I work with. In general, if I am running the mill, I am loosing money, but it is hopefully keeping me from loosing more money than if I needed to wait for an outside shop to do what I need. I am making one offs with most programs running under 10 minutes, so the slow speed is not an issue in my use. The Tormach does what I need given the space constraints.

Now if I was running a job shop, the Tormach would not be my choice as the productivity is not there as has been pointed out. It just isn't fast or super robust. It is really in a similar class as a Bridgeport conversion, trading a bit of mass for better 3d performance. To get it to run well, you need to pay careful attention to the gibs and thrust bearing. An industrial machine will generally need much less attention in the same number of cutting hours. The thing will absolutely cut steel and aluminum. Although as a beginner, it is more challenging to get good results on it than it would be on a more robust machine.

So do you have a garage you are willing to commit? Do you really want to be a job shop*? If you do go for a Fadal, Brother, or Robodrill.

*As a software engineer, why do you want to have a job shop running Xometry parts? Are you using Xometry to justify a hobby that is more expensive than you can afford? If that is the case, then run away. You will be WAY ahead working a couple more hours as a software engineer. If this is a hobby that you can afford, what are you looking to build? For a hobby or niche work with space constraints, the Tormach might make sense. I cringe at the new prices though.
 

FredC

Titanium
Joined
Oct 29, 2010
Location
Dewees Texas
I bought a couple of Dyna Mechtronics 2800s and they are still my CNC mills. Original controller was a joke and I replaced them with AHHA which is no longer available or supported. Four people can move one of these and set it on a stout table. The machine is fairly rigid and has a fast manual tool changer. Also precise with .0001 inch steps. If one could find one with a good controller it would still be a good choice for small precision work. There was a later version with an automatic tool changer but I have no knowledge of them.
 

AJ H

Hot Rolled
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
The Haas minis and TMs are probably the best garage/budget machines on the new market. They run on single-phase power and fit under garage doors. The controls are user friendly and have the largest database of instructional videos. Buy once, cry once. I feel like it's better to buy good shit the first time. If you outgrow your Tormach in a year you have to pay trucking and rigging twice and learn a new control all over again.
 

newtonsapple

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 16, 2017
I know someone doing the Xometry route. They bought a Tormach 440. Made about $15k with Xometry producing really small parts that the 440 can handle. They later sold the 440 for another $10k and sunk that $25k into a $38k VMC. Now they are onto bigger and better jobs.
The accounting potentially not good here. Do you know if they made $15K revenue or profit from Xometry? You would certainly want to know how many hours it took to earn that.

How much did they pay for the 440 prior to selling it for $10k? The one with the tool changer lists right now for $18K. So if they took a loss on the machine, you need to factor that into the effective hourly earning on the initial $15K.

If you are going to own a mill, even as partially as a hobby, there are a lot of good reasons to treat it as a business. Just make sure you understand how to do the accounting.

And like him or not, if you follow Saunders story, he got his start on a Tormach and worked his way up. His 12+ years of getting to where he is now is well documented.
I think he makes most his money from YouTube.
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
He might be the only one to make millions with a tormach.
No, he's not making money with that machine.
He's a content creator 1st and foremost, so take that for what it is, he's all about YouTube. And he's a complete hack, I wouldn't let him touch my machines.
Having a Tormach, whether it was a paid promotional advertising from Tormach or he bought it outright I don't know. But he is a perfect case of right place right time.
This machine, and the introduction of Fusion 360 made all of the home shop harry's who were greener than a bullfrog's ass drool. They flocked to his videos and he made his beginning money from YouTube views and sponsorships.
But hey, good for him I guess.
 

Conrad Hoffman

Titanium
Joined
May 10, 2009
Location
Canandaigua, NY, USA
Investigate the financing options from Haas, Trak and others. I think they had some deals where you paid a reasonable rate and could just return the machine at 1 year for any reason. Cheap learning and you might actually make some money. At least you have a decent machine and the option of continuing or getting out if things don't go your way.
 

kazlx

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 22, 2010
Location
Tustin, CA
Thanks everyone, I am seriously considering all your advice. I am spending a lot of time on ebay and reseller sites.

I found several Fadal's and other mfg's in the $10k range that have some great features. There are few major challenges I see. The height of most of these VMC's are averaging 100+ inches tall. They would never get into my two car garage which has an opening a little under 84". And I'm not sure the garage floor could handle the concentrated weight of these machines, which is averaging 10k at best. I don't think it's a 4" slab. And I'd have to drop some coin on a rotary phase converter to get the 3-phase juice needed to power these beasts.

But I love a good challenge. I will keep looking at other options.

I posted on this forum because I know there's a lot of experienced machinists here and I could count on getting some good advice with a slight sprinkling of some salty trolling. Thanks for all the input.


You just haven't done enough research. A Fadal will 100% fit under a standard door. I got a 3016 in and out of my garage. It will absolutely run circles around any Tormach. You can buy any possible part you would need for it off the internet and lots of people have literally rebuilt them from the casting up. I bought my 3016, used it for a few years and sold it for more than I paid for it to buy a brand new Brother Speedio. You won't regret buying the best machine you can if you're truly interested in it and even if not, you most likely wouldn't lose much money, if at all, if you buy a nice used machine. A friend of mine just sold a Brother S2A for 15k with DNC capabilities. The right machines are out there. Don't buy a Tormach. Put the money you have down on a new Haas or find a decent used machine for the right price. Ultimately, it's less than a car payment, and if you're truly motivated, it's not hard to cover a payment with work. I should have bought my Speedio years ago. I'm already trying to figure out how to fit a second one in my garage.
 

AmericanMaker

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Location
Franklin, TN
A Fadal will 100% fit under a standard door. I got a 3016 in and out of my garage.
Funny you should mention a Fadal 3016. I found this one on eBay earlier today.
I could pay cash for it and have money left over for shipping and some tooling.
Not being familiar with these machines, I'm pretty nervous about buying a crappy, worn out VMC.
But I will research that one and shop around more. I'm finding lots of Fadal's out in the wild.
If there are any memory issues, I may be able to use one of these Titan Drip Feed units.
 
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kazlx

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 22, 2010
Location
Tustin, CA
Fadal coming out and the Speedio going in. Knowing what I know now, I'd buy a Brother (or Robodrill) to start, even a S2A or S2B, mainly for the parts I do and the parts that most people in a garage would be able to do. You can still get creative and remove the doors if need be. I don't personally know anyone that's been happy with a Tormach. It's always either a terrible experience or a 'well, it got me to a better machine' while being a pain in the ass the whole time.
 

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