first CNC machine purchase, advice wanted
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  1. #1
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    Default first CNC machine purchase, advice wanted

    Hi,

    I am looking to purchase a new cnc machine (mill) and I am looking for some advice. I am a hobbyist knifemaker from Canada. I currently manually machine my knives and hand grinding / finish everything. This has been a great way to learn but it is very slow. I have been fortunate enough to have a small demand build up for my work and I am looking at a CNC to help my throughput. I would like to be able to keep my prices lower while still making some extra money to grow my shop capabilities and provide a supplemental income. I am not looking to take on any extra cnc work (job shop)

    My background in cnc or machining at all is ZERO. I could not be more of a beginner. I am willing to do what it takes to learn and I fully understand that you don't just push a button and get perfect parts. I am trying to learn the programming through online courses in my spare time. I still plan to do a lot by hand but if I can get the knife mechanically working with the cnc I will be happy. Anything above that is a bonus.

    The materials I need to cut are titanium, stainless steel (hard and soft) and phenolics (g10, cf, micarta. I don't need to take massive cuts but I do need decent accuracy especially when it comes to locating holes. I would need to be within a half thou on my hole locations.

    I started out looking at tormachs. I was set on an 1100mx. My plan was to generate some funds and add a tool changer at a later date. After a fair but of research almost everyone seemed to recommend jumping up to a haas machine considering the cost of the tormach.

    I began looking into new haas machines since the used market in my area (Alberta Canada)is limited. I am also not overly comfortable purchasing used since my knowledge of these machines is limited. I am willing to save a little longer to buy new.

    There are two haas machines that are within my budget, a mini mill and a tool room mill. After some more research I decided the mini mill seemed like a better fit for my shop. My space is limited and the mini mill is about the max I can fit. I found a local HFO near my work (Thomas skinner) and I met with a salesman there to look at a mini mill. I was very impressed by the machine and the person I met with was vert helpful.

    My plan is to pay for half the machine cash and finance the other half. I fully understand that the machine likely wont make me any money at first because I am new to this. I will work hard to try to get past the initial learning curve but I anticipate that this may take a few months or even longer. As I learn more I plan to have my programs do more but at first if it can do some holes and counterbores I'm happy.

    I do not want my monthly payments to be a financial burden. I need to be able to pay them even if the machine generates no income at all for a while. If need be I will pay for more of the machine up front to accomplish this.

    I would love to hear from anyone who has experience with haas' financing.

    Here is where my real questions start.
    What options are worthwhile for someone like me. I know that certain options can only be ordered with the machine so I want to be as informed as possible before deciding on them. Based on my limited knowledge I think the mase model should be ok. It was recommended that I at least get a through spindle coolant ready option (about $1000) to allow for TSC in the future.

    The 6k rpm spindle seems ok but the 10k may be worth the extra. I don't hink this can be easily changed later. The 10k would be the absolute limit of my electrical. the higher rpm would be nice since I use mostly small carbide tools. I have zero experience with this so its hard for me to do a cost benefit analysis. If I can get the same job done just slower I would be OK with that. I will always be the bottleneck in my operation because there is a lot of hand work that goes into each knife. If my cycle times are an extra 30 minutes or so I don't care.

    I don't think I need any fourth or fifth axis at this time and it sounds like it can be retrofitted later.

    As far as coolant goes I imagine that the standard flood coolant setup is fine for me.

    The probe system looks awesome and I will get it eventually but the price is steep. I'm not sure if its worth it up front. I would need to make a few extra knives to pay for it and right now that's a slow process. Ideally I would like to get the machine for as little as possible and use it to pay for upgrades down the road. that said I'm all ears regarding your opinions on the different options. What's worth it and what's not? What can and can't be upgraded later? Is this the right machine? Was the tormach a better option, or is there another brand I should look at?

    As I see it here is a list of pros and cons for both.

    Tormach 1100mx:
    pros-
    less expensive
    easy to upgrade later
    self service
    cheaper parts
    more features included in the base price (rigid tapping, macros, 10000rpm)

    cons-
    no accuracy guarantee
    dovetail ways (people seem to feel these are lesser)
    much lighter weight
    I have heard customer service can be less than ideal
    fully loaded its pretty close in price to the haas

    Haas mini mill:
    pros-
    local HFO for support
    more accurate (accuracy guarantee)
    liner rails
    much heavier
    more rigid
    seems to be higher quality in general

    cons:
    more expensive
    options add up quick
    6000rpm
    less able to self service the machine
    less standard features

    Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated. As I stated I have no prior knowledge of this, so if I am way off on something let me know. I am just looking to grow my hobby into an actual business and this seems like the next step.

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    20200201_160343.jpg
    20200112_160131.jpg
    Here are some pics of my work to help convey the types of parts I would like to make.

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    Buy as much machine as you can afford. Just remember you need 10 or so grand for tooling.

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    Yeah you're not kidding. It cost me a few thousand just to outfit my manual mill. I expect to spend a fair amount to get up and running. I am actively researching fixturing techniques to try and determine what will be best for my application. It seems like that can get just as costly as tools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stang Bladeworks View Post
    Yeah you're not kidding. It cost me a few thousand just to outfit my manual mill. I expect to spend a fair amount to get up and running. I am actively researching fixturing techniques to try and determine what will be best for my application. It seems like that can get just as costly as tools.
    It's not a cheap hobby when you do it right, but the ends definitely justify the means if you can make it work.

    For fixturing, the best advice I can give you is keep it simple.

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    Sounds like you've been studying up on your own which is good. Every bit of advice already offered I second. On fixturng I wouldn't get too dazzled about all the "systems" pallet or otherwise you see out there. You can custom build your own from scratch and save a lot of money. The time they take will be your own, but at this stage it sounds like you can afford to give it for the cause. What they'll also give you is experience in fixture design and then programming and operating the CNC machine tool. All things you still likely need in spades.

    Probing is a luxury item at this stage. I did job shop work for many years without probing and without issues. I have probing now but the benefits are not as much as you think they might be unless you have them massively integrated into your production systems. Meaning finger banging out probe routines in MDI wins no work edge finding or tool setting races. Or even part feature measurement.

    As far as your spindle speed. If Aluminum is in the mix at percentages approaching 50%, with your apparent tool sizes even 10K will be slow-ish. If Aluminum is not that big in the picture do some math. You're likely already familiar with the basic cutting speed formula of 4 X SFM / Diameter. Make a small spread sheet of your general tool sizes and materials average SFM they're up against. If those numbers for the most part are falling under 6K then go that route. Use your money elsewhere... like on the most important thing I can offer as advise.

    That is -
    DO NOT BUY A MACHINE WITHOUT A TOOL CHANGER. Preferably swing arm type.

    Sorry... starting yelling, but it was important as general advise. I'm unfamiliar with your current choices. They may be so equipped.

    Dave
    Last edited by 13engines; 02-16-2020 at 07:02 PM. Reason: added tidbits

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    Someone posted a minimill for sale here not to long ago.
    Here is a link to it:
    For Sale: 2018 Haas Mini Mill in Seattle

    Edit: looks like he sold it

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob F. View Post
    Someone posted a minimill for sale here not to long ago.
    Here is a link to it:
    For Sale: 2018 Haas Mini Mill in Seattle

    Edit: looks like he sold it
    Hah I looked earlier as well

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    I'm on the hunt for some Haas mills and lathes if anyone has some newer machines they want to sell.

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by 13engines View Post
    DO NOT BUY A MACHINE WITHOUT A TOOL CHANGER. Preferably swing arm type.

    Sorry... starting yelling, but it was important as general advise.
    You know, I've made hundreds and hundreds of parts on a Hurco. The old blue looks-like-a-Bridgeport ones. Yes, a toolchanger would be nice but ....

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    When they're on sale for under $30k the Minimill seems like a good deal for an entry level machine and would probably be a good fit for you. But you'd probably benefit from the 10k spindle, and right now that puts the Minimill at over $37k. At that point you're within spitting distance of much better machines.

    If you don't mind a little occasional trouble shooting pick up a Sharp SV-2412, there's a few posted for under $20k.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LOTT View Post
    When they're on sale for under $30k the Minimill seems like a good deal for an entry level machine and would probably be a good fit for you. But you'd probably benefit from the 10k spindle, and right now that puts the Minimill at over $37k. At that point you're within spitting distance of much better machines.

    If you don't mind a little occasional trouble shooting pick up a Sharp SV-2412, there's a few posted for under $20k.
    I was quoted about 32 or 33k from haas. The exact price from the website. I will keep my eyes peeled for sales or promotions. I need to do some research on speeds and feeds to see if the added cost of the 10k spindle is justified in my application. I would be curious as to which better machines you are referring to. I will check them out. It seems like when a machine gets optioned out it is always close to the cost of a better one. That's how I arrived here from the tormach. Eventually I just cant afford to go any higher regardless of cost. That's about where I am with the mini mill. I am also space limited, my shop Is one bay of my garage That I framed in. The footprint is pretty close to the maximum I can handle. I figure if I outgrow the mini mill I also need to outgrow my home shop. If this happens I will consider myself very lucky. As far as buying a used machine I am a little gun shy. I don't really want another project, I already have enough of those. The idea of having the HFO so close is very appealing vs ordering parts online. They told me they can have someone out at my shop within 24hours if required. The only reason I am buying the machine is to grow my business. I want to have the machine making parts as soon as possible. I am hoping that learning to operate the machine is my only hurdle. I don't want to spend any time troubleshooting a used machine if at all possible. I understand that buying used can get me into a nicer machine for less but I look at it like buying a vehicle. Lots of people buy used cars with success but almost everyone has heard a horror story where the buyer is left high and dry. I guess my worry is that a machine requiring thousands of dollars in repairs would cripple me at this stage. I am willing to accept the fact that I could have stretched my dollar further for this peace of mind. That being said I would love to research any competitive options you can think of.

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    how many knives a week or month you aiming to make or sell? as far as options go i'd think you'd do just fine with just about a bare bones optioned machine. a couple thoughts:

    1 - coolant pump i'd go with the larger pump unless its changed the larger pump wasn't much more but haven't looked at them in years....
    2 - like stated unless doing a lot of plastic or aluminum 10k spindle may not be necessary
    3 - i'd think you'd be doing some 3d contouring on your knives, maybe not....if you are high speed machining look ahead as a control option is going to be a necessity to keep up
    4 - again unless its changed getting the plastic lid for the top of the machine to enclose it keeps things a little cleaner
    5 - the Haas staple on just about any mill...4th axis wiring I could see with knives this coming in handy down the road with a small rotary table
    6 - TSC for your needs probably money spent elsewhere TSC really comes in big for A LOT of drilling or deep hole drilling neither of which is probably high on your list

    i'd keep as much money on tap for tooling & fixturing this bad boy up. again options and the mini mill may have changed but back in the day a lot of mini mills came in with the bare bones put on them.

    just a couple thoughts....and last may want to ask the question to your Haas contact see if he knows of any of the shops in the area looking to unload an older machine or make room for new spindles never hurts to ask.

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    Having just done this, Id budget-
    $200/pocket in the tool changer for holder/collet/stud/tool
    $750/2 parts on the table for vises/jaws
    $2500 for other shit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cole2534 View Post
    Having just done this, Id budget-
    $200/pocket in the tool changer for holder/collet/stud/tool
    $750/2 parts on the table for vises/jaws
    $2500 for other shit.
    And then double it for all the tooling he is going to break while learning

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by ducesrwld View Post
    how many knives a week or month you aiming to make or sell? as far as options go i'd think you'd do just fine with just about a bare bones optioned machine. a couple thoughts:

    1 - coolant pump i'd go with the larger pump unless its changed the larger pump wasn't much more but haven't looked at them in years....
    2 - like stated unless doing a lot of plastic or aluminum 10k spindle may not be necessary
    3 - i'd think you'd be doing some 3d contouring on your knives, maybe not....if you are high speed machining look ahead as a control option is going to be a necessity to keep up
    4 - again unless its changed getting the plastic lid for the top of the machine to enclose it keeps things a little cleaner
    5 - the Haas staple on just about any mill...4th axis wiring I could see with knives this coming in handy down the road with a small rotary table
    6 - TSC for your needs probably money spent elsewhere TSC really comes in big for A LOT of drilling or deep hole drilling neither of which is probably high on your list

    i'd keep as much money on tap for tooling & fixturing this bad boy up. again options and the mini mill may have changed but back in the day a lot of mini mills came in with the bare bones put on them.

    just a couple thoughts....and last may want to ask the question to your Haas contact see if he knows of any of the shops in the area looking to unload an older machine or make room for new spindles never hurts to ask.
    I will look into the larger pump, I don't think it was too much extra. Is the stock one a bit lacking?
    I am hoping to find that the 10k spindle is not required. The only aluminum I plan to do is for fixtures.
    The look ahead I believe is a macro function and can be added later. I may be wrong but that's my understanding.
    I do all my contouring on a 2x72 belt grinder but I may try to do some on the machine down the road.
    The mini mill is fully enclosed now.
    I agree that 4th axis may be useful. I'll stick to 3 until I gain some experience.
    I don't think I'll need TSC. My thickest parts are just over .200".

    I did ask the HFO about used machines and they said there were some just no mini mills and nothing in my price range. It seems that finding a used mini mill is somewhat difficult. The only way I would consider it is if it was local to me so I could go see it and have it inspected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cole2534 View Post
    Having just done this, Id budget-
    $200/pocket in the tool changer for holder/collet/stud/tool
    $750/2 parts on the table for vises/jaws
    $2500 for other shit.
    Very helpful Thanks for the info.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stang Bladeworks View Post
    I will look into the larger pump, I don't think it was too much extra. Is the stock one a bit lacking?
    I am hoping to find that the 10k spindle is not required. The only aluminum I plan to do is for fixtures.
    The look ahead I believe is a macro function and can be added later. I may be wrong but that's my understanding.
    I do all my contouring on a 2x72 belt grinder but I may try to do some on the machine down the road.
    The mini mill is fully enclosed now.
    I agree that 4th axis may be useful. I'll stick to 3 until I gain some experience.
    I don't think I'll need TSC. My thickest parts are just over .200".

    I did ask the HFO about used machines and they said there were some just no mini mills and nothing in my price range. It seems that finding a used mini mill is somewhat difficult. The only way I would consider it is if it was local to me so I could go see it and have it inspected.
    There is a minimill on eBay right now for under $30,000



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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    And then double it for all the tooling he is going to break while learning

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Yeah, It's not as much fun to budget for that but It's on my radar. If I have learned anything so far it's that if you want to make anything well you will need to scrap things along the way. Maybe even a lot of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stang Bladeworks View Post
    Yeah, It's not as much fun to budget for that but It's on my radar. If I have learned anything so far it's that if you want to make anything well you will need to scrap things along the way. Maybe even a lot of things.
    It's all part of the game. I don't harp on my employees for scrapping parts or breaking tools every now and then. Stuff happens... Just budget for it and you're all good.



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