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  1. #21
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    Datron? I would look at an old drill tap center such as a tapedrill, brother, robodrill or some other small machine. I've had small machines equivalent to a Tormach and while they are good for engraving achieving any type of decent removal rate is impossible. Low hp, no rigidity, poor tool life, can be difficult to achieve a good finish that's on size. If you want to make proper parts in a reasonable amount of time and not have to mess around doing it then you need a proper machining center or at least a light weight drill tap center.

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    Hi drogus:
    If you can embrace the idea of a used machine for little money, you could consider one of the mills marketed around the late 1990's as educational machines.
    Two brands stand out:
    One was made by "Light Machines" and the most popular of their models was called "Benchman"
    The other was made by Defiance.
    Both are defunct companies but their offerings are exactly what you describe as your wish list.

    I have an early Defiance VTX1:
    It's about 500 lb and 36" x 36" x 30" tall, so it's a benchtop machine
    Travels are 12' x 8' x 9" with about 12" of daylight under the spindle nose.
    It has an epoxy granite frame so it's rigid for its size.
    It's fully enclosed.
    It's a servo machine with ballscrews and linear ways, 10,000 RPM spindle and permanently installed 3/4" diameter R8 collet that uses straight shank toolholders with a pneumatic collet closer.
    It's happiest with cutters under 3/8" diameter but I have run 1/2" cutters successfully in steel.
    It has maybe 1hp at the spindle nose but I'm not sure on that spec.
    It runs on single phase 110 volts and needs compressed air only for the collet closer, so a little Home Depot compressor is more than adequate for it.

    I've probably put a couple of million dollars of work across that machine table since I bought it in 1998 and it has performed like a champ.
    It outclasses a Tormach by orders of magnitude in my opinion (within its work envelope) and has treated me well for the twenty grand I spent.
    They are pretty rare these days but I have seen them on EBay for as little as 3 grand

    Here's a link to a Benchman:
    Used Light Machines Corporation Benchman-5000 Mill

    Here's a link to a Defiance VTX1:
    Used Defiance VTX-1 | 38043 | Perfection Industrial Sales
    This one is a year later than mine and has the Creative Evolution control and a 45K spindle with a proper spindle taper and probably a toolchanger too.
    Mine has a Bridgeport DX32 control

    The nice thing about these is they can go into a basement or a garage with basically no prep.
    They'll fit through a door.
    No new wiring, no transformer 20 amps 110 volt and you're good to go.
    They will do your prototyping for you if you do smallish stuff.
    They're respectably fast; mine has 300 IPM rapids and with only 12" of X axis travel, the rapids won't put you to sleep waiting for it.

    If you can find one in running condition, I'd encourage you to look closely at one.
    I noodle with the thought of getting rid of mine from time to time, (I have casual ambitions to put something else in the space it occupies and I have a Haas Minimill too) but when it comes to it, I can just never seem to let it go, and it's run like a bunny for most of forever with no hiccups and making me a potfull of money.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    A:
    No.
    To the OP drogus.

    There are no, zero, modern small cheap machines of desktop size for actually making parts professionally.
    Tiny proper machines do exist, but they are more expensive than the smallest VMC, quite a lot more.

    I sold a 5-axis commercial desktop machine (very good), for about 100k€, new, as the factory commercial manager in 2012, iirc.
    Specialty app, very happy customer.

    The reason is money.
    It is more expensive to make a tiny VMC in desktop size, volume 100-200 / yr, than a mini full VMC like a HAAS Super Minimill, volume 1000+.
    For the manufacturer.
    Almost all the cost is in support, paperwork, manuals, legal, electronics, overhead - and none of that gets cheaper at all with a small machine.
    In fact, it is more expensive per unit made.

    If there was, globally, demand for 20.000 tiny real cnc machines, they could cost 19.000 $ retail each.
    But there is no such demand, nor is there likely to be in the foreseeable future.

    Because everyone in the jobshop world, 4M plus shops, with bigger 1.5M tables (aka VF6) would just make 10x volumetrically what the tiny-machine guys are making, and sell the parts for 1/2 the cost at 70% margin in 10-lots.

    So commercial realities make 20.000/yr tiny-machine markets unlikely/impossible.

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    There is essentially no need. Hobbyists won't spend that much and anyone who started with something similar moves on to "real" machines if they are actually manufacturing.

    The real question is what is the smallest (cheapest?) machine which will make the required parts comfortably. If price is the issue, most look at used industrial machines. Then you deal with risks of old equipment. If space is the issue, there are small machines out there.

    In Europe I would consider the Emco mills if capacity is suitable, Mill 55, 105, or 155. Maybe one of the older F1 or PC Mill 50 could work. They are proper cast iron machines, just small and built to match their capacities. Mill 55 and 105 are still produced, but 155 is replaced with 260. These can be found in the educational line. None of these machines are cheap if purchased new. But, they do exist used. Like the various Benchman and VTX-1, there aren't warehouse full of them(and probably zero in Germany), but they can be found. I had a Mill 125 and it was very capable for it's capacity. If any of these are practical, one of the Chinese based CNC could also work, like something from Wabeco. Going to small import VMC types Optimum, Skyfire CNC, Syil, etc.

    With the small router machines and fast spindles you give up face mills and are often limited to ER16 collet spindles. This basically limits depth of cut (and features) to ~12-18mm with a 6mm end mill. You can try larger tools, but I'm not sure many router will be capable without chatter. Then again, we have no idea how big your parts are, what operations are required, or what materials and tolerances you're working with.

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    Hah I forgot about that. I looked it up when it was announced at EMO.

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    Hi gkoenig:
    I was intrigued until I saw two things in the specs:
    1) they recommend it for cutting wax and plastic
    2) it has a Z axis stroke of only 1.5 inches

    I don't think it's gonna do the job for the OP.

    So my question to you:
    Does this line from you concur with my opinion?
    :UCKS::

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    Hi gkoenig:
    I don't think it's gonna do the job for the OP.
    With 1.5" of Z travel? I hadn't seen that, but that tells me it won't really do any job for anyone!

    It strikes me as odd that Haas hasn't entered the market here yet in a real way. They could put Tormach out of business in an instant with a $25k BT30 machine with a cheap umbrella toolchager. The demand in this market is huge (seriously, 2-3 threads a week of folks looking for basically a compact/hobby/starter CNC mill). Haas has the scale to buy the components inexpensively, the control is already done, the support network is there, financing is set up. Even if the thing didn't make huge money, 25% of those hobby machine buyers are going to step up to a "real" CNC someday, and they would probably stick with Haas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EmanuelGoldstein View Post

    Really ? What model was that ? Might be an interesting thing to copy
    Seems my memory was faulty, I was thinking of the SL-0.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Harrington View Post
    Seems my memory was faulty, I was thinking of the SL-0.
    SL-0 was a nice compact footprint turning center. Very popular to set up with a barfeeder. The L100 was a vertical spindle lathe of a similar small footprint but more targeted toward robotic automation.

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    This actually looks awesome as a training tool if you were trying to get people really comfortable with the Haas control before putting them on a proper machine (hmmm...) Haas has just the controller for training centres so this goes one better as you can actually make parts. I guess there's no word on price yet? That Z range issue is important by the way, there are lots of parts inside of, say, 6" cubed, but if you want to use a range of cutting tools, including decent sized drills and such, you rapidly get where you want the Z range of a full sized machine even if your X and Y can be quite small.

    This reminds me of an issue I run into making custom laminar flow hoods or extraction boxes to house robots for life science applications. These are made from 8020 extrusions and polycarbonate panels and tend to be from say two feet cubed up to 3'x4'x6' with various configurations of doors and roof equipment. It's generally true that the cost of the cabinet is going to scale with the surface area as the extrusions and panels get bigger, but the minimum cost, say if the box is 8 inches cubed, still contains all the joinery and cabinet hardware as in the big unit as well as all the design work and overhead. So if I charged $5K for the big box, I'd probably have to charge $3K for a small box. Obviously if the box is small there would be better alternatives than 8020 but for a serious small CNC machine you are going to need all the drive and motion hardware, just with smaller castings.

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    Thanks for all the responses! I'll be definitely going through all these machines and evaluating them.

    Regarding some of the responses about the price - I think that my post was a bit misleading when it comes to pricing. I mentioned minimizing cost but it was only in context of developing a prototype. With prices from machine shops and all of the back and forth needed to iterate on a product it would get expensive pretty quickly and as I'm not sure what comes out of it, I wouldn't want to put a lot of money into outsourcing.

    The machine itself doesn't have to be cheap, ie. I'm not looking for "precise, rigid, table top CNC for $3k". I also wouldn't probably need a micron level accuracy as the products I'm thinking about are not for machinists. So the place I'm coming from is this:

    - I want something rigid enough to not have to worry about chatter or machine flexing if I happen to do a bit deeper cut
    - space might be more problematic where I live. Before starting anything I'd need to rent a workshop and the cost of even a relatively small workshop may be $1000 a month (at least if I don't want to commute a lot). And in general it's easier to find small places around here
    - for prototyping I don't need production capabilities (so as I've mentioned I don't need a tool changer, a coolant system or a chip removal system)

    There are a couple of interesting machines in this thread, so I'm hoping that I'll choose something when the time comes. Swissmak looks really neat but with this price point I'm wondering where is a catch? 5 axis CNC for $5k on Kickstarter, so let's say $7-8k retail price? I'm definitely curious what first users will say about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drogus View Post
    - for prototyping I don't need production capabilities (so as I've mentioned I don't need a tool changer, a coolant system or a chip removal system)
    I have to disagree with you here - you will want all those things. Trust me, buy a machine without at least the first two and you'll regret it.


    There are a couple of interesting machines in this thread, so I'm hoping that I'll choose something when the time comes. Swissmak looks really neat but with this price point I'm wondering where is a catch? 5 axis CNC for $5k on Kickstarter, so let's say $7-8k retail price? I'm definitely curious what first users will say about it.
    I think Swissmak was brought up in jest, do not consider it for your needs at this time. It's a bit of a long story...

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    I have seen a couple of these come up for sale used and reasonably priced, believe they are 30 taper machines.

    Looked at one in person at Eastec, very small footprint.

    tsugami-va2.jpg

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    Hi drogus:
    A couple of considerations about your plan:
    First, I just noticed you're in Germany, and that significantly changes what's available and what it could conceivably cost.
    I doubt you'll find anything like what I recommended in post # 22, on your side of the pond , so ignore that post (even though they're nice little machines).

    Second, I've got to ask just how much, or how little experience do you have with machining and making things in general?
    I ask because your plan does not seem to include a realistic assessment of just what it takes in upfront costs and ongoing costs to have a shop that's capable of making much of anything to a level of quality necessary to do a decent evaluation of a prototype; especially a prototype of any complexity.

    I make a lot of prototypes as part of my business; I'm in 1200 square feet of space and over the last 25 years I have put in almost half a million dollars just in gadgets and toys, to get to the point where I can build most things to a decent standard of quality.
    It still costs me north of $6000 per month to keep my doors open and I'm just a one-man show with all equipment paid for.

    If I was in the business of developing my own products, I'd have to think really hard if it was going to be worth it, even though I love my trade and I've been doing it for over 40 years, so there's not much I can't build by now.
    6 grand a month will buy a fair amount of prototyping work especially if you are clear and unambiguous about what you want made.
    Good design and fully detailed drawings will be a far more useful investment in my opinion, than a new toy capable of doing only a small part of what typically needs to be done when you make a prototype of anything complicated.

    Please note; this is not to discourage you from getting new toys and playing with them for fun and to learn something, as well as maybe turning out a prototype or concept model of something that's caught your imagination.
    However, if you propose to set up a shop specifically with the intention of saving cost as you iterate your way toward a product you intend to sell, I predict a disappointment in your future when you find out just how much it's going to take and how distracting it will be from your core business.
    Unless your need is truly unique, or your IP is truly precious, or you just can't get what you need at any price, finding a good vendor will still work out better for the vast majority of entrepreneurs with a good idea that needs executing.

    I think it might be instructive to see if you can connect with a fellow German who has been Youtubing lately and has a reasonably decently equipped basement workshop.
    His name is Stefan Gotteswinter, and the link posted by precisionmetal (post # 9) is one of his videos.
    He might be an interesting guy to have coffee with to find out what it took him to set up in your country; what the hassles were, what his capabilities are, and what it cost to get him set up the way he is.

    As a bonus, he runs two different types of hobby class CNC routers and should have useful things to say about getting in at that level with those kinds of machines.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    Kind of "Riffing" off the good stuff implex is putting down and what drogus is seeking,

    It does seem that $500K is the "magic number" on the prototyping front.

    @drogus what are you trying to prototype in terms of materials, component sizes and key tolerances and complexity and types of geometry.

    sometimes you have to figure out what processes you want to have control over inhouse and what processes are a no-brainer to farm out.

    It maybe depending on what you are doing a wire EDM and surface grinder is a better fit + a manual mill, than necessarily a "CNC" "Mill". While having turning and cylindrical grinding operations farmed out (just as one example).


    So trying to figure out "Process" is more important than what "Machine" per se (sometimes).




    ^^^ This is interesting from the point of view of milling A2 "Hardened" / -ish (as you will see) tool steel.

    There are much more difficult materials to machine (Inconel, Monel etc. other special aerospace nickel ferrous allows and some titanium's. ).

    @drogu s---> questions of machine rigidity , theoretically the Tormach has a small force loop + cast iron,

    @drogus are you doing anything in Carbon Fiber CF ?

    __________________________________________________ _______________________

    Random questions: (no particular order)[email protected]

    Do you need good-ish 3d contouring capability ? [Or all prismatic ?].

    4th axis ? 5 ? 3 axes -totally does it ?

    Will you be able to make decent fixtures and softjaws etc. for multiple set ups ?

    In terms of metal removal and surface finishes and cutting capability ~ What type of spindle do you need ? [Before you consider "Machine".)

    @drogus you say you don't need "Micron" accuracy but having a machine that is only good to +/- 0.001" can be a pain in the ass also.

    Also do you see yourself doing small product/ production runs eventually ? (in house ?). Like what milland is saying it's worth thinking ahead... Otherwise you have to "junk" your initial investment … (Again HAAS shines there as there is a ready second hand market ).

    Ta.

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    Haas could be soooooooooo busy cleaning up in the high end model engineering world.
    This sort of thing with linear rails and a powered head but manual quill CNC Baron Milling Machine for Sale | CNC Masters

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    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    Second, I've got to ask just how much, or how little experience do you have with machining and making things in general?
    I ask because your plan does not seem to include a realistic assessment of just what it takes in upfront costs and ongoing costs to have a shop that's capable of making much of anything to a level of quality necessary to do a decent evaluation of a prototype; especially a prototype of any complexity.
    I've been doing various kinds of DIY stuff since I was a teenager (I'm now 34), but I started machining only a year ago. So not that much experience, especially that it's still a hobby. I can machine simple parts but I have a lot to learn.

    That's a very good point and even with my small experience I think I know what you mean - since I bought my first lathe I think that I've easily spent more than $15k on machines and equipment, which obviously is not a big number in professional machining world, but is significant for a hobbyist (the sad part of the story is that since I don't have a workshop in Berlin I have all the machines at my father in-law's place, so I work on them only when we visit, a few days every 2-3 months).

    That said, I'd like to start very very small. The first project that I have in mind is a relatively simple jig for woodworkers. Very few moving parts, rather small (largest dimension less than 20cm), would probably be made from aluminum. Accuracy is needed mostly for parts that will interact with each other so they run smoothly, but there's nothing critical there. As an example of some products in a similar footprint and complexity, I really like what Woodpeckers are doing: Woodworking Tools, Best Woodworking Tools, Woodturning Tools - they do a lot of interesting small jigs that are usually simple in construction but very well designed and they get the job done.

    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    I make a lot of prototypes as part of my business; I'm in 1200 square feet of space and over the last 25 years I have put in almost half a million dollars just in gadgets and toys, to get to the point where I can build most things to a decent standard of quality.
    It still costs me north of $6000 per month to keep my doors open and I'm just a one-man show with all equipment paid for.

    If I was in the business of developing my own products, I'd have to think really hard if it was going to be worth it, even though I love my trade and I've been doing it for over 40 years, so there's not much I can't build by now.
    6 grand a month will buy a fair amount of prototyping work especially if you are clear and unambiguous about what you want made.
    Good design and fully detailed drawings will be a far more useful investment in my opinion, than a new toy capable of doing only a small part of what typically needs to be done when you make a prototype of anything complicated.

    That's a very good point. But now when I think about it, maybe I was trying to rationalize doing the prototyping alone not because of the price but because I think I would really enjoy it much more then. Because after reading what you wrote I thought: ok, if that's true, the question is - do I still want to do it if I won't do the prototyping myself? And I'm not really sure yet. If running such a workshop ends up costing me 6 grand a month I'd definitely need to pass but I'm hoping that a start with one or two simple and very specific projects won't cost that much.


    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    Please note; this is not to discourage you from getting new toys and playing with them for fun and to learn something, as well as maybe turning out a prototype or concept model of something that's caught your imagination.
    However, if you propose to set up a shop specifically with the intention of saving cost as you iterate your way toward a product you intend to sell, I predict a disappointment in your future when you find out just how much it's going to take and how distracting it will be from your core business.
    Unless your need is truly unique, or your IP is truly precious, or you just can't get what you need at any price, finding a good vendor will still work out better for the vast majority of entrepreneurs with a good idea that needs executing.
    Sure, I'm not viewing it as discouragement and I really appreciate feedback from professionals. And then, again, I think you are right that I don't driving the cost down was my real goal when thinking about the whole thing.

    I think it might be instructive to see if you can connect with a fellow German who has been Youtubing lately and has a reasonably decently equipped basement workshop.
    His name is Stefan Gotteswinter, and the link posted by precisionmetal (post # 9) is one of his videos.
    He might be an interesting guy to have coffee with to find out what it took him to set up in your country; what the hassles were, what his capabilities are, and what it cost to get him set up the way he is.
    I'm actually not German, I moved to Germany a couple years ago from Poland I am subscribed to Stefan's channel but I somehow missed the video about his new CNC before. It actually looks pretty good for my needs. I'd definitely like to talk to him but I suppose he is getting a lot of e-mails with questions so I'm not really sure if he would have time to help me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cameraman View Post
    Kind of "Riffing" off the good stuff implex is putting down and what drogus is seeking,

    It does seem that $500K is the "magic number" on the prototyping front.

    @drogus what are you trying to prototype in terms of materials, component sizes and key tolerances and complexity and types of geometry.

    sometimes you have to figure out what processes you want to have control over inhouse and what processes are a no-brainer to farm out.

    It maybe depending on what you are doing a wire EDM and surface grinder is a better fit + a manual mill, than necessarily a "CNC" "Mill". While having turning and cylindrical grinding operations farmed out (just as one example).


    So trying to figure out "Process" is more important than what "Machine" per se (sometimes).
    Thanks for the input and that's a very good point. I think that for my first project (and further projects) a CNC mill would be the best fit. As I mentioned in my reply to @implmex I'd like to start with simple woodworking jigs, so I wouldn't too concerned with tolerances. Parts sizes will be rather small, at least for what I plan to start with. I think that CNC might be beneficial more in the looks department rather than in regards to overall parts geometry.


    Quote Originally Posted by cameraman
    Do you need good-ish 3d contouring capability ? [Or all prismatic ?].
    For the projects that I would like to start with 3d contouring might be for decorative purposes only.

    Quote Originally Posted by cameraman
    4th axis ? 5 ? 3 axes -totally does it ?
    3 would be enough, but if I was getting something a bit bigger (like a mentioned Haas) I might go for a 4th axis to have more options in the future.

    In terms of metal removal and surface finishes and cutting capability ~ What type of spindle do you need ? [Before you consider "Machine".)
    I don't need anything that would remove a lot of metal but I would prefer to have a surface finish that will not need surface grinder. As I'm thinking about starting with aluminum parts that might not be that hard but I'm not 100% sure.

    @drogus you say you don't need "Micron" accuracy but having a machine that is only good to +/- 0.001" can be a pain in the ass also.
    Good point. But it might be the case that I will need to work with what I'll get. I mean, I would want something better than +/- 0.001" but honestly I haven't researched what kind of accuracy is possible in each of the price ranges (like: accuracy for <$10k CNC router, accuracy for Haas Mini Mill etc)

    Also do you see yourself doing small product/ production runs eventually ? (in house ?). Like what milland is saying it's worth thinking ahead... Otherwise you have to "junk" your initial investment … (Again HAAS shines there as there is a ready second hand market ).
    Good question. I didn't intend to get there but now that I think about it I've seen some people online that are running small production runs on a Haas. Like for example Nerdly on youtube: YouTube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milland View Post
    I have to disagree with you here - you will want all those things. Trust me, buy a machine without at least the first two and you'll regret it.
    Now that I think about it, you may be right. Whenever I do any work on my manual Colchester I wish I had a turret attachment to not have to change drills (like a spot drill, a small starting drill and a bigger drill to make space for a boring bar). It's a small thing and yet I'm viewing those turret attachments on EBay from time to time. It's the same story with a milling machine, but there I don't really have a way to install a tool changer on a small Schaublin but yeah, I guess I would think about it if I could.


    I think Swissmak was brought up in jest, do not consider it for your needs at this time. It's a bit of a long story...
    I guess I need to read those linked threads as now I'm curious

    UPDATE: Ok, somehow I missed the part about the machine being made from aluminum


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