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questions to ask before purchasing an a51nx used primarily for aluminum production?


Hot Rolled
Jul 17, 2008
Gainesville, FL
I'm considering purchasing an a51nx for some upcoming aluminum jobs and have a few questions I'm hoping those who have been down this road can answer.

1. I have friends running 400mm Mazak and Matsuura HMCs on 6" slabs with no trouble. I read 300mm is the recommended thickness from Makino, which I am inclined to follow. I've also read the secondary benefit is the isolation from the rest of the floor if running other machines in the area. Are any of you running an a51 on a thinner floor (4-6") without (known) issues?

2. IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER MACHINE OPTIONS? If you did it again, what options would you order (or leave off)? I'm looking at a basic CT40 machine with a 60 tool ATC, 300 psi, workpiece probing, and a tool laser. Parts to be machined resemble shoe-box geometries and iPhone-size parts, so quite the spectrum.

3. How well does the vision tool monitoring system work?

4. In hindsight do you feel the 300 psi coolant system is okay, or would you spend the extra ~$18k for the 1000 psi? Have any of you had the upgrade field installed, and if so, were there any unforeseen issues?

5. Are there any controller / memory / work-offset options that should be considered before buying?

6. Are there any conveyor options that work better for primarily cutting aluminum?

7. How complicated was the controller to learn for someone experienced on Haas and Mazak machines?

8. Has anyone had a larger tool magazine field installed, and if so, were there any unforeseen issues?

9. Does anyone have experience with the more affordable a40, and if so, how does it compare to the '51?

Thanks for any feedback and opinions you can provide. I'm just trying to have a solid list of questions before sitting down with my regional sales rep.

Last edited:

Orange Vise

Feb 10, 2012
We run DMG Mori NHX machines but I can answer some of your more general questions.

1. On a 3-point leveling machine, you can generally get by on a 6" slab. The idea is that the base is rigid enough to avoid distorting itself under gravity, and due to the lack of additional leveling points, you couldn't "twist the machine into straightness" even if you wanted to, so it had better be straight "out of the box".

That said, it certainly wouldn't hurt to put these on a 12"+ dedicated slab. If you plan on running these machines at full rapids, they will need to be anchored.

2. The most important option to consider on an HMC is a pallet pool. It will completely change the way you run your shop. We recently installed a 21 pallet NHX4000 and it was one of the best decisions we've made. Pallet pools are often field retrofitable, but you want to make sure your machine is prepared for it down the road, which generally means a larger ATC.

From an investment POV, a pallet pool will outlast the machine and outlast your career as a shop owner. I see them as lifetime investments with minimal maintenance requirements that will make you money decades after they've been paid off, and after the machines have had their spindles and ball screws replaced multiple times. We have customers with Makino FMS systems that have been running daily since the 90s.

3. N/A - No experience with Makino's system, but a very good question. Tool life control is extremely important in lights out production, although you can get away with less stringent monitoring in aluminum.

4. We have HMCs with 200psi, 300psi, 1000 psi, and no CTS. We're happy with the mid pressure systems with a single pump on the coolant tank, since we don't do any small diameter, deep hole drilling. 1000psi is easy to field retrofit, and would be something I'd skip if you're on the fence.

5. We only use two work offsets, G54 and G59. G54 is the B-axis centerline with the Y-axis at the pallet base. G59 is a dummy used by the probe. We don't use the standard tool table and instead use the tool life management table, stored in the Windows interface, not the NC, so our tool table is virtually limitless.

6. Drum filter conveyors are the best for aluminum chips which like to float.

7. N/A

8. N/A - I'd imagine pretty easy, as is the case with most machines. From a financial POV, it makes a lot of sense to get a bigger tool magazine right off the bat. If you buy a bigger one later, you will essentially be tossing your old one in the scrap bin. There is no resale value for a used 60 ATC.

A field retrofit pallet pool is a different story, since you're not actually throwing anything away other than a few sheet metal panels.

9. N/A


Feb 20, 2019
Hi Mike, I have had the pleasure of working with the a51nx for a few years and am glad you're asking these very relavent questions!

1) I would recommend pouring a slab if you are thinking about it.. I am not sure what thickness ours are on, but these machines needed some tuning to run smoothly. They shouldn't need any tuning on a proper slab! Their acceleration is merciless and awesome. None of our other machines had any issue with the floor in the shop..

2) That option kit looks good. The laser is excellent, but is bolted on the front of the pallet and tend to catch chips, especially from facemills. If the laser was not there, I doubt any chips would build up there. The 300psi through coolant is reliable and incredibly handy. The probe is very versatile and absolutely a good idea for horizontal machines, much more than 3-axis (where it is already awesome)

3) We do not have it, the laser check works well but can fault out from coolant mist or a chip in the wrong place despite being well-designed. It also takes some time, which will add up in production. Sounds like a good option but no experience.

4) We have machines with both coolant configurations. If you're running big drills, using it quite often (I use it somewhere on every part) or doing lots of deep pocketing the 1000psi can be nice. 300psi works well enough though. Also consider that the 1000psi is a large seperate tank that has filters which need replacing and it needs to be run frequently if you do not want that coolant spoiling... Could add an aquarium pump if it sits often.

5) We have the extended G54.1P1-300 offsets and they are quite useful for dedicated fixtures and versatility or splitting a ton of offsets. It's more than we need but I would want more than 5...
I would look into G68.2 (tilted work plane) it allows you to pick one location on the part that will follow it if you index and make your code look normal so all the Z-values make intuitive sense (if programming from Z0, center of pallet). If You're mostly working at 0,90,180,270 it's not as big of a deal but really helps for any angle in between. G54.2 may do some thing similar but I am less familiar with it. I would talk to someone who knows more about this but really reccomend looking into them. Consider G93 (inverse time) if you are doing full-4th work.

6) The drum filter works great for aluminum and well enough for almost everything. Do not put any slugs or parallels through it as it can puncture and cost quite a bit to replace the screen and start clogging lines very quickly. Also keep an eye on the gasket... If an expensive looking piece of rubber falls out of the conveyer, please don't ignore it.

7) The Pro5 (now Pro6?) control is relatively easy to work with but not as intuitive as Haas. It makes more sense than the standard Fanuc interface but takes some digging, I like it well enough. No experience with Mazak.

8) We have 60-tool magazines and they are very reliable. Orange's take on this sounds like good advice re: preparing for pallet pool and no resale value. In hindsight, investing in resident tooling with a variety of reaches plus drill/taps and threadmills would be quite nice depending on your work mix. A 60-tool magazine fills up really quickly if your resident tooling is set to short gauge length. It is handy to have longer holders with tools ready to go when you need them, which can be often in a horizontal.

9) The A40 did not run a test program any faster. We ended up with the a51 as it seemed quite a bit more solid and we had the room. Would be interested in seeing some test cuts.. For certain aluminum parts it could be better, but not for everything else.

These are good dilemmas to have! The surface finish in aluminum on a new machine with good tooling is unreal. It can easily handle deep profiling cuts without a jostle and be remarkably accurate. Excellent choice for mixed part production. Hopefully you can cut some other materials on it as well, just to see what it can do. Good luck!


Hot Rolled
Jul 17, 2008
Gainesville, FL
Thank you both very much for your insightful replies!

1. Yeah, I'm going to plan to upgrade the slab since it's literally the foundation of the machine's accuracy and productivity.

2. The tentative plan is to use this machine to catch up on constantly backlogged parts and if the ROI numbers pan out, to add another one with a larger tool magazine and a pallet pool in the future.

3. Since all of our lightly supervised and (eventually) lights out work will be in aluminum, a few others I've spoken so said the camera should work fine. We could also use the tool probe (laser) for any critical tools at the slight hit to cycle time.

4. I'm going to follow your advice and field install the HP coolant system if it proves necessary. I think 300psi should work well for the type of work planned for the machine, with drilling ops typically < 4:1 L:D ratio.

5. I think I'll get the additional work offsets to have them available if future use determines it's a better solution than programming off B-axis C/L (which is the plan). I'll definitely look into the G68.2 option, as I don't recall using it in the past.

6. I think I'm going to go with the upgraded lift up chip conveyor since I know 90% of the predicted work will be aluminum. That's a good tip about being mindful about slugs and gasketing remnants as well.

7. That pretty much seems to be the consensus: it works well enough for a Fanuc :)

8. I learned the larger tool magazines are not field installable, but it's no longer an issue since I've decided to go with the standard 60 tool changer for this machine for budgetary reasons. As a data point for anyone looking at buying one, the additional tool magazines (133 and 218) run about $550 per additional pot.

9. That's what the sales guy said too. On one hand he said the a40 uses the same spindle and drive components as the a51, but then he emphasized that it's really only meant for lighter-duty use on parts like aluminum castings. I don't know. Maybe it's a commission thing and they only push it if the customer can't afford an a51? Maybe they've saved some money other places. I'd like to hear from someone who has run one to know more about them. I can't add anything conclusive about the a40 and how it compares, but I know that a small part of my work will be stainless, and I want to be able to cut more difficult materials in the future, so yeah, I'm planning to go with an a51.

Again, thank you both for taking time to provide such helpful feedback based on your experiences running HMCs!