What's new
What's new

Recommended CNC Mill for High School Robotics Team

never buy a Tormach package they include stuff you will never use and are over priced.

The educational package includes the base machine, stand, and enclosure, as well as additional tooling. We have some tooling from an manual mill already (although, we would likely want to get additional endmills that we commonly use. Outside of that, are there any items you would recommend that we do no need (or definitely do need) from the educational package.

As it stands, on the Tormach front, we were looking at the following from the Educational Package (all prices in USD):

32085 - PCNC 1100 Series 3 - $8,412.00
31374 - Automatic Oiler Kit (230V) - $294.00
30297 - PCNC 1100 Deluxe Machine Stand w/ Coolant Kit - $1,644.50
34427 - Full Enclosure Kit for PCNC 1100 - $2,460.00
35550 - Enclosure Door Switch Kit for PCNC 1100 / PCNC 770 - $98.50

31446 - Lifting Bar - $93.21 - suggests that this is needed for lifting the machine?
35286 - PathPilot Controller - $715.00 - if we opt to go without this, what control system is used? Can we just install PathPilot on one of our own computers?
38207 - Wireless Network Adapter for PathPilot Controller - $13.95 - this specifically says for LAN connectivity (which we want), however, we don't want to connect wirelessly (rather, by Ethernet)
30616 - Jog Shuttle - $84.02 - have had some recommendations that this is useful for manual positioning.
32284 - TTS CNC Operator Set with Tormach Tool Assistant - $795.00 - we will need some set that is similar, not sure if a different set would be a better choice.
31284 - TTS Touch Tool w/Digital Indicator and Box - $82.38 - we do need something similar for gauging material height, not sure if there is a better choice.
31925 - Floating Tramp Oil Collection Pillow - $10.35 - not sure if needed.
31386 - Machine Oil - $34.50 - probably needed, not sure if better options exist.
31750 - Full Synthetic Coolant - 1 Gal. - $29.95 - probably needed, not sure if better options exist.
33337 - G Wizard Machinist Calculator for Tormach - $79.00 - for this piece of software it is a good price - not sure if better options exist.

Don't Get:
34437 - Cable Kit for Tormach PCNC Mills - $39.95
34668 - Machine Arm for Tormach PCNC 1100/PCNC 770 with Full Enclosure - $195.00
30615 - Standard LCD Monitor - $162.80
35575 - 17" Touch Screen Kit - $259.00
31371 - Mini Keyboard - $19.80
31384 - Cover for Mini Keyboard On Backorder - $9.63
31289 - USB Bulkhead Port Assembly - $32.88
35593 - Essential Metalworking Gauge Kit - $205.00
30553 - 5" Machinist Vise - $495.00
31687 - 2pc Vise Alignment Keys with Screws for 5" Machinist Vise - $14.03
32580 - Clamp Kit for 5/8" T-Slots (58 Pcs.) - $64.63
33031 - TTS SuperFly Cutter Kit for PCNC Packages - $148.50
33479 - 1/4"-90° - $4.10
33482 - 1/2"-90° - $9.45
33489 - 1/16" - 1/2 " Jobber Length Drill Set (by 64ths) - $72.76
33443 - 4 Flute HSS End Mill Set (5 Pieces) - $35.55
33465 - 2 Flute HSS End Mill Set (5 Pieces) - $39.00
So you want them (in 6 weeks) to design a robot, learn machining as well ?

Me thinks you should concentrate on the design part, massage the original theoretical
design with a meeting from a local machine shop, "here's how we make things, let's make it
Then have the students make drawings, and get local shops to make the parts.


Got to walk before attempting running.
Good choices you are looking at..

Think you might send out letters to local and not so local big shops and see if a donated machine (or two) might fill the bill.. You can use up the $20k on broken end mills and the like PDQ.

Vocational arts class might do much of the making parts, with with your group doing design and drawing the part prints.

Likely you will do much of the set-up and let your kids turn the handles( op..push the start button)

Write Programs and push the start button .. that is a lot for such kids.. good for you.. we much like that in the US..
One group has much parts making donated by Whirlpool.
As for the 30" X travel requirement: not really a necessity for drilling holes along a straight line. You can make a movable pallet to slide along the table top part way through the process. I'd suggest maybe an aluminum plate with a keyed bottom that engages the table T slot. Rig up a system of stops so that you can slide the pallet along a known distance, clamp it down again and then run the second half of the program. This is one practical way to eliminate the costs of getting and setting up a larger machine with a long table that won't fit through your doorways.

A totally enclosed machine with short travels could well be a PITA for long parts/long pallet. It should have end ports in the enclosure that can be opened part way to allow long parts to hang out.
Agree with HFD in last post..A smaller open machine even a manual mill with two hand safety. CNC is not always the best for one-ups.

Good drill press, DP vise, hack saw, bench vise and files can do may one-ups faster than a mill

Agree It is good to teach boys CNC in this age of machining..
We have a little flexibility in some of our constraints, but not much. Some of that comes at the cost of extra setup time (we could take the enclosure off, or build or own enclosure), and some of it comes at the cost of usability (we can settle for a 16" x-travel). That is exactly why I am here - to find out which of these trade-offs we should be making.

If you can live without the enclosure you can save over $2600 plus the freight right there. I wouldn't buy any consumables from Tormach.
any measuring equipment is over priced and mostly china crap
from tormach the one exception is the Haimer.

you have to think about what you need for tooling,
that operators set will have stuff you will never use.
3 or 4 er collet holders a compression tap holder.
even in aluminum you won't use much over 1/2 in end mills.

don't know about pathpilot.

that other forum has a Tormach section those guys can give you good info on specifics
We are definitely trying to narrow down what is necessary and what is not. The enclosure is necessary for two reasons - firstly because of safety. In addition to an eStop, our school board requires that the machine is fully enclosed and can't be operated while the enclosure is open. We may be able to build an enclosure that meets these requirements, but we would need to get it independently approved.

While the actual build of the robot is 6 weeks, most of our students remain on the team for multiple years. We also meet throughout the year. It is our hope that during our off-season we can teach the students the skills they need, so that during our competitive season they are able to apply them to make amazing robots. For instance, last year, we made a t-shirt cannon and mini dragsters during our off-season.

In an ideal world, we will be doing the setup and helping the students with the design the first year, but then the veterans on our team will be able to help train the rookies and we will just need to give things a final once over before they run the task.

The end-ports suggestion is a great one. We will definitely look into it.

Thanks for the great feedback so far. It is sounding like something along the lines of a Tormach, with a bit of creativity on the setup front could meet our needs. Haven't seen any support for the Supra or other alternatives like Novakon - so I am guessing that reaffirms our choices on that front.
The Novakon torus pro is a bit lager than the Tormach 1100 with available servos instead of steppers. The smaller pulsar has rigid tapping. When it comes to interlocks and safety/ enclosure, though, a real VMC with a industrial control would be a must IMO.
For your long side-rail with bearing holes you don't need 30" of travel or even a special fixture unless you want to make it fast for production. For a one-off I'd just add a reference hole in the center of the part. First indicate the part straight, then create or indicate on the reference hole, then make your one-end bearing hole. Then slide the part down, indicate it straight, pick up on the reference hole again, and make your other-end hole. Whatever method you use though you will need 60"+ inside your enclosure, which is why most machines with enclosures have side-doors which can be left open with the machine running.

Just to add to your options I've been considering getting a CNC Max from these guys for at home: CNC Mills, Lathes, & Milling Machines for Sale | CNC Masters
You can get started for about $6-10K. The spindles are R-8 so you can re-use any of that tooling you may already have. They have a toolchanger in the beta testing stage too.
That's what they make idlers for. I Don't think there is a single drive belt on the planet
that relies on hole spacing for proper tension. Maybe a ribbed or conveyor belt here or there,
but even a cogged timing belt has a tensioner.

I've seen quite a few, even for large tank drive robots. Gates and SDP-SI publish engineering manuals showing how to calculate the correct distance under the heading "fixed center designs".

They call out +-0.003" as the suggested tolerance but in my experience you have significantly more room than that, especially with larger belt pitches and center distance. For one-off use you also have the option of making three or four and picking the ones that work best.
On the Tormach 1100 I have run out of Y axis travel more than the X. So check out if you need more than 9" travel there.
Only the center t-slot is ground for fixturing on mine.