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VMC vs CNC Knee Mills

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
I love it here when "experts" make assumptions, and tell people they don't know what they're talking about. Insisting that someone starting out, little to no experience in machining or CNC's, a home shop, no distinct plans for volume widgets, learning and doing one-offs and gunsmithing requires a VMC as a priority off the bat is dubious advice. I've had a VMC at my former business (didn't have room for it when I moved out) I do mostly one-off prototyping for engineering/ R&D projects, testing, test-fixtures, etc. and now have a good-condition manual BP and the Interact. I have not missed the VMC (much) FOR THE TYPE OF WORK I DO. If I have complicated CNC machining to do, or something requiring multiple parts, I have people that know a lot more, are much more efficient, get better results, and have much better equipment than I can (or want to) justify purchasing, maintaining, and becoming expert in all the details of proficiently using it.
I also love it here on one hand the "experts" here often lambast newbies for their naivete regarding the cost and complexity of doing machining correctly and efficiently, and to "leave it to them" (the "experts"), while insisting that a novice go out and buy a VMC....
Ok, so your argument is that you don't need a VMC, because you can send the work to someone who has a VMC?? That argument could be made about anything under the sun.

The OP asks our opinion, every one else says skip the CNC knee mill and go straight to VMC. Not because parts can't be made on a knee mill, but because VMC's are nicer to use in every possible way.
 

car2

Stainless
Joined
Sep 19, 2009
Location
Apex, NC
Ok, so your argument is that you don't need a VMC, because you can send the work to someone who has a VMC?? That argument could be made about anything under the sun.

The OP asks our opinion, every one else says skip the CNC knee mill and go straight to VMC. Not because parts can't be made on a knee mill, but because VMC's are nicer to use in every possible way.
With all due respect, that's not what I said, nor was it the argument. I was commenting on the tradeoffs and possible options based on cost/benefit/skill-level/resources/intentions etc that the OP related as a novice getting into varied machining, prototyping and gunsmithing. Sure, a "VMC is better than a kneemill".
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
I love it here when "experts" make assumptions, and tell people they don't know what they're talking about. Insisting that someone starting out, little to no experience in machining or CNC's, a home shop, no distinct plans for volume widgets, learning and doing one-offs and gunsmithing requires a VMC as a priority off the bat is dubious advice. I've had a VMC at my former business (didn't have room for it when I moved out) I do mostly one-off prototyping for engineering/ R&D projects, testing, test-fixtures, etc. and now have a good-condition manual BP and the Interact. I have not missed the VMC (much) FOR THE TYPE OF WORK I DO. If I have complicated CNC machining to do, or something requiring multiple parts, I have people that know a lot more, are much more efficient, get better results, and have much better equipment than I can (or want to) justify purchasing, maintaining, and becoming expert in all the details of proficiently using it.
I also love it here on one hand the "experts" here often lambast newbies for their naivete regarding the cost and complexity of doing machining correctly and efficiently, and to "leave it to them" (the "experts"), while insisting that a novice go out and buy a VMC....
You are entitled to your opinion no matter how wrong it may be.
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
No need for everyone to get worked up. I didn't mean to start the "VMC vs manual" war. I asked for opinions, and I have gotten many (thank you). We all have opinions, and what works best for one individual isn't necessarily the best, nor the worst, but I think it's important to look at everything as a whole to make an educated decision. After all, even if we disagree, we've learned something (right?).

Either way, I've got a lot to consider. I don't know if I should buy one quality machine, or try to get as many different (old/used) machines as possible. On top of which type of machine to buy, I have to decide if I want single or three phase. And if I pick three phase, do I go with a VFD, or a PRC. Then I have what I consider a "minimum tooling list", which I have no idea about, but I'll figure it out as I go I suppose.

Thanks again for everyone's feedback and input. I know this is a very subjective topic, but again, I think it helps us learn.
 
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Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
I have to decide if I want single or three phase. And if I pick three phase, do I go with a VFD, or a PRC.

It's already been said in this thread. There is no real single phase machine option. You might find a couple tiny mills that can run single phase, but they charge a dramatic premium for that.

Phase converters are simple. RPC is a solid choice. If you have too much money and need to piss some away go for a Phase Perfect (that's not a VFD BTW).
 

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
You're in the same realm as the guy asking about a Tormach, and again I don't think a Haas TM would be the worst option. It's single phase, has a tool changer and flood coolant, and a large work envelope. If/when you outgrow it you won't have any trouble selling it off.

An older high end machine might be more bang for buck, but I understand the hesitancy to jump in the deep end without experience.
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
You're in the same realm as the guy asking about a Tormach, and again I don't think a Haas TM would be the worst option. It's single phase, has a tool changer and flood coolant, and a large work envelope. If/when you outgrow it you won't have any trouble selling it off.

An older high end machine might be more bang for buck, but I understand the hesitancy to jump in the deep end without experience.
I'm certainly committed to learning everything CNC. I have quite a bit of manual machining experience from my aviation career, but that will only take me so far (mainly with the gunsmithing side of it). But I want to get into prototype and one off work, hopefully stay small and happy as long as I can before making serious investments into machines and the business in general.

On that note, I'm definitely keeping an eye out for a used Mini Mill 2 or a Syil X7 (honestly anything that might fit in my garage).
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
So I'm quickly learning that garage size vmc's are 1. hard to find used, and 2. come at a premium. Who would have thought you could get a used VF0/1 cheaper than a Super Mini Mill (approx same vintage)???

Can't find the Syil used, and I've decided against tormachs.

Any suggestions on possible alternatives? Or should I just take up my entire garage with a VF1 😂
 

rklopp

Diamond
Joined
Feb 27, 2001
Location
Redwood City, CA USA
So I'm quickly learning that garage size vmc's are 1. hard to find used, and 2. come at a premium. Who would have thought you could get a used VF0/1 cheaper than a Super Mini Mill (approx same vintage)???

Can't find the Syil used, and I've decided against tormachs.

Any suggestions on possible alternatives? Or should I just take up my entire garage with a VF1 😂
Bridgeport GX480 or 710, Bridgeport V480 or V710, Hurco VM1, Hurco VM ONE (different machines), Doosan DEM 4000, Sharp SV-2412...
 

LOTT

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 28, 2016
Sharp SV-2412 is what that other guy landed on, they're a good garage machine.
 

GT6_Racer

Plastic
Joined
Jan 2, 2017
I have both a very nice fully rebuilt Bridgeport series 1 with a Newall dro and a 2014 SWI SMX bed mill. Both have their uses. I use the bedmill far more than the Bridgeport I started with. The smx is a full 3d control. I program with fusion 360. For the work I do, repairs, tools, fixtures, hobby robot parts etc it works very well. 3 Kurt 6” vises can do several small parts at a time minimizing tool changes by hand. it doesn’t compete with a VMC for speed, but it was far cheaper, smaller footprint, and is easy to transition from manual to CNC. I still use the old Bridgy, but usually for second operations, small drilling, or dividing head work. The choice is really personal and what’s best for your work desires. In any case tooling cost is staggering. cat 40 spindle is far stiffer than R8. A commercial rotary phase converter and proper 3 phase panel & distribution was the best investment I made for the shop early and can’t recommend the individual machine VFD route unlesss you only plan on very few old small manual machines. After several years, If I had to have only 1 mill it would be the bedmill with a cat40 spindle. If I was running production I’d buy a proper vmc as new as I possibly could afford sized for the work. unless you are an electronics whiz, old CNC can get unbelievably expensive very quickly. Went through that at work with a pair of Fanuc controllers on Swiss lathes. Eventually we replaced the lathes. Just my 2 cents.
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
Anyone with experience on a Milltronics RW15? Found one locally for $16k (2006) 40x20x20 10hp, pretty clean looking. I can't find much info on these older Milltronics units. Are parts easy to find for these?
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
marysville ohio
I'm certainly committed to learning everything CNC. I have quite a bit of manual machining experience from my aviation career, but that will only take me so far (mainly with the gunsmithing side of it). But I want to get into prototype and one off work, hopefully stay small and happy as long as I can before making serious investments into machines and the business in general.

On that note, I'm definitely keeping an eye out for a used Mini Mill 2 or a Syil X7 (honestly anything that might fit in my garage).
The cnc mill I have for sale will go in your garage.
Anyone with experience on a Milltronics RW15? Found one locally for $16k (2006) 40x20x20 10hp, pretty clean looking. I can't find much info on these older Milltronics units. Are parts easy to find for these?
You find parts at your local Milltronics dealer. Used to be able to buy direct from militronics but not anymore. I have an old ML20 lathe, it is fine.
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
The cnc mill I have for sale will go in your garage.
Where do I find this machine for sale?
You find parts at your local Milltronics dealer. Used to be able to buy direct from militronics but not anymore. I have an old ML20 lathe, it is fine.
Is there a guide on buying uses machines (especially old machines)? Seems like it's not quite as simple as checking a manual machine, but I imagine the process is somewhat similar.
 

kazlx

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 22, 2010
Location
Tustin, CA
There's a lot of machines that will fit in your garage. I started with a Fadal 3016 and now have a Brother Speedio 700X2. Personally, I'd suggest buying a VMC. You'll want everything they have to offer at some point. I've been in your shoes and basically just further along in your shoes. Everything is in a 500 sq ft garage shop. Speedio, Monarch 10EE, 10x18 bandsaw, Doall Vertical bandsaw, some tooling cabinets, tig welding setup and table and a couple benches. I started out on a manual Logan lathe knowing literally zero about machining. A few years later, I'm seriously considering quitting my job just on job shop work. I run everything on a 15hp RPC. It's a lot to take in at once, but you won't regret getting a VMC of some sort. I started out with a fraction of your budget. You could easily buy a used Mini Mill or even a VF2/3 and get your money back out of it if you take care of it. You easily have a nice budget to set up a shop. You also don't need as much inspection and tooling stuff as people make it sound like. Just keep some cash set aside and buy stuff when you need it for a job or just decide that you want it. Check out auctions, local listings, etc. You can pick up some used stuff and buy new stuff that you use a lot or just want something nice.
 

Bakerprecision

Plastic
Joined
Aug 20, 2022
There's a lot of machines that will fit in your garage. I started with a Fadal 3016 and now have a Brother Speedio 700X2. Personally, I'd suggest buying a VMC. You'll want everything they have to offer at some point. I've been in your shoes and basically just further along in your shoes. Everything is in a 500 sq ft garage shop. Speedio, Monarch 10EE, 10x18 bandsaw, Doall Vertical bandsaw, some tooling cabinets, tig welding setup and table and a couple benches. I started out on a manual Logan lathe knowing literally zero about machining. A few years later, I'm seriously considering quitting my job just on job shop work. I run everything on a 15hp RPC. It's a lot to take in at once, but you won't regret getting a VMC of some sort. I started out with a fraction of your budget. You could easily buy a used Mini Mill or even a VF2/3 and get your money back out of it if you take care of it. You easily have a nice budget to set up a shop. You also don't need as much inspection and tooling stuff as people make it sound like. Just keep some cash set aside and buy stuff when you need it for a job or just decide that you want it. Check out auctions, local listings, etc. You can pick up some used stuff and buy new stuff that you use a lot or just want something nice.
Kazlx, thanks for the input!

I ended up buying a 2008 TM-1. It's a very clean machine with only 174 hours on it (not a typo). Yes, I know it's not a Vf2 in terms of speed and performance, but it checks most of my boxes, it has a smaller footprint, it's local, and I don't need a small nuclear reactor to power it. I felt like it was a better option than the mini mill because of the table size and less cost. And it was a good $10k less than all of the mini mills I saw. I have a 420sqft garage, but the problem is I only intend to use half of it. I have two kids, and I still need space for their stuff. It will be tight, but doable.

Now I'm searching for a lathe (1440). There's a lot of options for these as well, so I'm just hoping to find the best machine I can for $15k (hopefully less).
 








 
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