Anyone Retrofit a CNC Lathe?
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    Default Anyone Retrofit a CNC Lathe?

    Hey Guys
    I"m considering a Retrofit for my 1978 Howa with a Fanuc 5T,12" chuck that I bought new.The machine is still in great shape mechanically ,just controller died last year .I had 3 different Techs work on it and 5K later it is still dead.I bought a new ST 20 Haas with 8" chuck earlier this year ,which is better suited for most of my work.It does a super job
    running 12' bar stock 3/4-2" dia. The Howa I could still use as a backup and I have some jobs up to about 8" dia.
    Yes I could take the 20-25 Grand and get a later model running ,but it could also be a problem also I have 38 years of tooling and programming
    for it and it is wired and in place. I'm a little partial to it ,having run it for about 10 yr after I bought it.
    The only controllers that I have seen that seem to be able to do the job are Centroid,MachMotion and Seimens. Any Others out there?I would need a turnkey as we have very little electrical experience.
    If you have done a Retrofit please share your experience.

    Thanks for any help

    I did a Centroid on a Bridgeport Boss about 15 years ago and it was a POS. It cost me about a $1000 a year to keep it running,which was OK but the down time would hurt. I upgraded it to a PC based controller about 5 years ago and it has been running every day with no problems .

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    To my knowledge, the most popular way to do retrofits these days is to have a PC act as the controller, typically running Mach3/Mach4 or LinuxCNC. I think there's a lot more advancement happening, and a lot bigger community around the Mach systems right now.

    Typically this will mean removing all of the servos and replacing them with stepper motors of an appropriate size. You'll also need to map out all of the I/O points (home switches, overtravel switches, etc.) so the 'controller' can function like you're used to - meaning it will alarm out instead of doing stupid things and the machine tearing itself to pieces.

    In my opinion, retrofits are more suited to hobby and light-use guys: the ones who have more time than money, or who aren't working to any deadlines. It sounds like it might be a project you just want to do for fun, in which case I'd say go for it.

    If you're trying to save money to get an 'original' CNC back, I think you're going to wind up being disappointed on both fronts. Your time has a cost associated with it, and I have yet to see a retrofit I was impressed with, Mach, Linux, or anything else. They're always just a little quirky and buggy from what I've seen, and not nearly as polished or refined as even an older 'real' CNC controller.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny SolidWorks View Post

    In my opinion, retrofits are more suited to hobby and light-use guys:
    I also have an old 5T i'd like to retrofit, but this has been my opinion of the retrofit controllers I've seen. And who wants to take a lathe with a 30hp spindle and replace the servos with steppers? Step in the wrong direction

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    Take another look at the Centroid, they have come a long way from 10-15 years ago. I have a friend who has retrofitted 3 or 4 machines now with the "All in one" they call it and it works well. You can use all your servos and power supplies and such... upgrade to a PC and touch screen, makes for a nice control.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    Take another look at the Centroid, they have come a long way from 10-15 years ago. I have a friend who has retrofitted 3 or 4 machines now with the "All in one" they call it and it works well. You can use all your servos and power supplies and such... upgrade to a PC and touch screen, makes for a nice control.
    How much does that cost?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Dickman View Post
    I also have an old 5T i'd like to retrofit, but this has been my opinion of the retrofit controllers I've seen. And who wants to take a lathe with a 30hp spindle and replace the servos with steppers? Step in the wrong direction
    Then one also needs to figure out who is going to code the logic for turret indexing, gear shifting, tailstock operation, chuck clamp/unclamp, etc, etc.????

    IME this is where every retrofit I've ever worked on has been troublesome. Getting decent axis movement is the easy part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobw View Post
    How much does that cost?
    They talk about price on their website, but only indirectly. My suspicion is that it's only a cost effective solution on larger or specialty machines, and even then, you're still left with an old machine that has a new controller.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny SolidWorks View Post
    To my knowledge, the most popular way to do retrofits these days is to have a PC act as the controller, typically running Mach3/Mach4 or LinuxCNC. I think there's a lot more advancement happening, and a lot bigger community around the Mach systems right now.

    Typically this will mean removing all of the servos and replacing them with stepper motors of an appropriate size. You'll also need to map out all of the I/O points (home switches, overtravel switches, etc.) so the 'controller' can function like you're used to - meaning it will alarm out instead of doing stupid things and the machine tearing itself to pieces.
    I don't know who lied to you, but this is simply not true and also a bit of FUD.

    I've done two retros on lathes. One Emco 220P and a Mazak QT10. Okay, "done" is a bit incorrect. More like I was involved. They were mine, but I'm not the best when it comes to some electronical things... I had help with some of the Ladder/PLC type stuff. The Mazak worked wonderfully and did exactly what is was supposed to do.

    Both were servo driven.

    The Emco I did not complete simply for not having the time to finally run the permanent wiring. But all of it was tested individually and in concert with temporary wiring, and worked fine. I ended up selling the Emco ( more like giving it away ) to a friend that is an EE and wanted to play with it. I had been looking for a different turning center with larger capacity and tripped across one so bought it. As such, the Emco had to leave for need of the space.

    In my humble opinion, LinuxCNC is hands down the best out there for power and configuration options. I have used it for other types of machines as well. However, this can also be its downfall. Too many widgets and can get confusing quickly if one doesn't pay attention. I have not had experience with Mach for over a decade simply for hearing the complaints of others that tried to use it.

    If you want something configurable to the way YOU want to do things, LinuxCNC works great. If you want something that you plug together and start using, Centroid is probably your best bet. If you want something professional to wire in, look into a Siemens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zahnrad Kopf View Post
    I don't know who lied to you, but this is simply not true and also a bit of FUD.

    I've done two retros on lathes. One Emco 220P and a Mazak QT10. Okay, "done" is a bit incorrect. More like I was involved. They were mine, but I'm not the best when it comes to some electronical things... I had help with some of the Ladder/PLC type stuff. The Mazak worked wonderfully and did exactly what is was supposed to do.

    Both were servo driven.

    The Emco I did not complete simply for not having the time to finally run the permanent wiring. But all of it was tested individually and in concert with temporary wiring, and worked fine. I ended up selling the Emco ( more like giving it away ) to a friend that is an EE and wanted to play with it. I had been looking for a different turning center with larger capacity and tripped across one so bought it. As such, the Emco had to leave for need of the space.

    In my humble opinion, LinuxCNC is hands down the best out there for power and configuration options. I have used it for other types of machines as well. However, this can also be its downfall. Too many widgets and can get confusing quickly if one doesn't pay attention. I have not had experience with Mach for over a decade simply for hearing the complaints of others that tried to use it.

    If you want something configurable to the way YOU want to do things, LinuxCNC works great. If you want something that you plug together and start using, Centroid is probably your best bet. If you want something professional to wire in, look into a Siemens.
    Maybe it's a geographic thing? I respect your opinion and your perspective on this, but I've never even heard of anyone using LinuxCNC and having a working machine in the end. If you could point me towards a resource for it, I might skim it sometime, but I honestly have no interest in doing retrofits of full-time production equipment - not due to fear, uncertainty or doubt (yes, I had to look that up) but because I know all too well how projects like that go. I'm a full time automation engineer for a machine tool builder - I have a better idea than most what it entails, along with tons of resources to draw on, and better access to information and materials than about 99% of the population.

    And I'm still saying that, from my perspective, it doesn't make sense to retrofit a pretty typical job shop CNC machine. If you've got something massive, sure. And I'm sure if I tried, I could think of a couple other situations where I would want to, but by and large, it's going to cost more to retrofit an old machine than you could go out and buy a non-obsolete machine for.

    It's like restoring an old car: guys spend $20,000 and 10,000 hours of their time to have a car worth $30,000, and claim they made $10,000 if they ever sell it. That's fine if you like restoring cars, or just wanted a project, but from a per hour basis, it's not a great business decision.

    However, if someone wants to do it for the sake of doing it, because it seems like a fun challenge, or just because, I'm all for it. I've toyed with the idea of doing a CNC conversion for fun on an old turret lathe, just because I can (I think I might save it for a robot project, just because I can.)

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    Johnny SolidWorks - No, no... I was speaking specifically to the statements I quoted. No other.

    You had stated that, "Typically this will mean removing all of the servos and replacing them with stepper motors of an appropriate size." I was responding that this is simply not true. In fact, it was just the opposite on the Emco I did, having pulled the OEM steppers and replacing them with servos and encoders. On the Mazak, it was obviously already servo driven.

    You had also written, "You'll also need to map out all of the I/O points (home switches, overtravel switches, etc.) so the 'controller' can function like you're used to - meaning it will alarm out instead of doing stupid things and the machine tearing itself to pieces." One has to do this ANYWAY, in ANY retrofit. So, it isn't like this isn't a requirement already. And, truth be told, it's just not that big of a deal. Most all of it is readily available in the documentation that comes with the machine, or available from the OEM. This is why I used FUD as a descriptor.

    That said, learning of what you do, it is certainly understandable why you would think so. Fact of the matters are that, "it just ain't so."

    I have not poked around LinuxCNC in a while but they did have a forum and website for resources. You should be able to Google to satisfaction for learning resources. Most of the people involved are all too happy to assist, and many were helpful back when I used it. I have used it for a number of machines, but one area you and I agree wholeheartedly is that things change when the shop's primary goal is making money by making parts. I personally, would not endeavor the same as I have, today. Then again, if I were in the OP's boots, LinuxCNC would look VERY attractive to me since everything else is in good condition. Honestly, it would be a toss up for me. Being able to plug something in with very little technical involvement and start making money again would also be very attractive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobw View Post
    How much does that cost?
    Well, according to their website, the all in one for DC servos starts at $2250. I know that includes quite a bit of in/out, but if you need more, it's an add-on. Of course, that's DIY, if you want Centroid to do the whole thing, you can wrap up quite a bit more money, they show some various types of retrofits on their webpages, Mori Seiki lathes for example, probably pretty comparable to the Okuma.

    If I had primo "iron" and knew all the in's and out's of the specific machine, I would seriously consider giving it a second lifetime with one of these conversions, just my opinion.

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    I wonder what you could doo as far as just replacing the old 5 and updating to a 16 or newer control?

    Could someone pull your current ladder and pretty much re-use it?
    I imagine that maybe some of the PLC points may need relabeled, and you would need to get the card (?) that will interface to the old analog drives.

    Or maybe you just buy a lathe that is getting scrapped with a 16/18T on it and utilize the the drives and motors it, and just need to move/edit the PLC?


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    look at the GSK controls ... there a china made fanuc and I have been loking into them and the feedback from people is good ,,, sounds like there light on the paperwork but there is a couple guys in the US using them and I think with a little screwing around it would be a simple swap ,,

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    You should look into Centroid. I put an M400 control on my mill about 6 years ago I think, it has been flawless. I have not put a dime into the machine since the retrofit. Easy to program as well!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny SolidWorks View Post
    Maybe it's a geographic thing? I respect your opinion and your perspective on this, but I've never even heard of anyone using LinuxCNC and having a working machine in the end. If you could point me towards a resource for it, I might skim it sometime, but I honestly have no interest in doing retrofits of full-time production equipment - not due to fear, uncertainty or doubt (yes, I had to look that up) but because I know all too well how projects like that go. I'm a full time automation engineer for a machine tool builder - I have a better idea than most what it entails, along with tons of resources to draw on, and better access to information and materials than about 99% of the population.

    And I'm still saying that, from my perspective, it doesn't make sense to retrofit a pretty typical job shop CNC machine. If you've got something massive, sure. And I'm sure if I tried, I could think of a couple other situations where I would want to, but by and large, it's going to cost more to retrofit an old machine than you could go out and buy a non-obsolete machine for.

    It's like restoring an old car: guys spend $20,000 and 10,000 hours of their time to have a car worth $30,000, and claim they made $10,000 if they ever sell it. That's fine if you like restoring cars, or just wanted a project, but from a per hour basis, it's not a great business decision.

    However, if someone wants to do it for the sake of doing it, because it seems like a fun challenge, or just because, I'm all for it. I've toyed with the idea of doing a CNC conversion for fun on an old turret lathe, just because I can (I think I might save it for a robot project, just because I can.)
    I agree.

    But, retrofits or new at the factory installation still requires mapping of all input and outputs to the controller. There's no other way to do it.
    What is tricky on retrofit is the logic in the plc for tool changers and alarms ETC...

    Either way, much time will be spent working out the bugs.
    For myself,I'd go with Siemens 808d. The kit using their motors , drives and cables...
    .

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    I have a 3axis Cnc knee mill built with a heidenhain control circa '89. It had ballscrews, servos and linear scales rather than rotary encoders. Then the tnc155 croaked I retrofitted with LinuxCNC. Excellent solid program. I gutted the controller pendant and replaced the heidenhain with a barebones motherboard, hd, and touchscreen. I kept most all the original pendant buttons (cycle start, stop, estop). I kept all the original hardware, servos, scales. What makes LinuxCNC so strong is certainly the line of adding boards offered by Mesa. I used a 7i77 and 5i25 combo to interface with the original drives. Not hard at all on the hw side. The configuration HAL file is tricky but even I managed and programming is not my thing. I power up the control and the controller screen comes up. Works every time. Retrofitted my Cnc router table similarly and when the 6t on my hitachi seiki goes I might do the same. With proper hardware and a solid config file I think it would be just as solid as older controls plus the graphics are nice, touchscreen, and of course USB.
    Sorry it was so long, just thought I would add my experience. Conversions get a bad rap as hobby stuff but a little care, money in proper hw to interface with and it's solid.

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    Linux CNC is a turd when it comes to lathes. It lacks very basic things like the ability to mix incremental and absolute moves in the same line using X&Z and U&W. This an extremely common programming trick for dealing with tapers. It's been available on real CNC controls since the 1970s. But, Linux CNC can't be bothered. Forget about canned roughing cycles like Fanuc and others have had for 40+ years.

    I suppose you could figure out the turret logic and make the axes move. But, why bother? For less than you will pay for a retrofit, you can find a lathe with a 6TB or 10T or 11T control that will work just as well as most modern controls. It's not like a mill where you need fast block processing and tons of memory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    Linux CNC is a turd when it comes to lathes. It lacks very basic things like the ability to mix incremental and absolute moves in the same line using X&Z and U&W. This an extremely common programming trick for dealing with tapers. It's been available on real CNC controls since the 1970s. But, Linux CNC can't be bothered. Forget about canned roughing cycles like Fanuc and others have had for 40+ years.
    Jesus, ewsley, sometimes ... who needs that stupid shit ? I'm not a big fan of Loonix but these complaints are crap. And anyone who thinks a retrofit requires changing servos to steppers needs his head examined.

    Anyone here actually ever work in a shop ? Sheesh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeaMoss View Post
    ...... who needs that stupid shit ?
    Obviously you've not spent much time on a CNC lathe doing shaft work. Adding a U move on a Z line is the fastest and handiest way to compensate for taper whether due to deflection or machine alignment issues.

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    I don't know your budget, nor the actual cost of this option, but these guys are located in Texas for their US base: NCT Ltd. | … CONTROL DRIVERS MOTORS KEEP MOVING …

    Don't know that much about them other than they are around since the early 80-s for the most part.

    There used to be some links to the retrofits they've made in the US, might find some on the Hungarian site: History


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