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  1. #1
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    Default What was YOUR first CNC

    I just saw a post about the history of CNC's... What was the first CNC. Cool from a historical perspective, but I was really hoping it was going to be a post about what was the first CNC you owned, and how you grew it into a business. You know, all the rags to riches bullshit that will get me loading parts for another day or two

    My first one that I personally owned was some Taiwanese knee mill with an Anilam Crusader M scabbed on to it. I think I bought it online, or maybe it was before Al invented the internet. It actually ran okay... once I figured out how to right a post from Mastercam to Pidgeon English (Anilam "conversational" programming"). I remember many a late night out in the shop trying to make a program go on that machine. I'll never forget the smell of the those horrible old electronics, and the screeching whine of the servos trying to keep position compared to the glass scales. A couple thousand parts (and many manual tool changes) later and I got to upgrade to a Haas with a 10 tool changer.

    Now some twenty years later, I'm deliberating on buying just one more Haas, or maybe stepping up to a "real" machine. Same cheap bastard I always was. I just think it is cool how all of the shops out there grew out of an idea and a big buy... then a lot of sweat and stress to make it a business.

    Assignment: Post up your first machine and then how it grew into a business. Hobbiests and employees are welcome to post how their company did it as well. I just think it is cool how we take an idea on a piece of paper or a screen and a piece of 'billet' (retard word), and turn it into money.

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    My first CNC was a new Milltronics Partner 4 3-axis knee mill in 1985. I was 19 years old and my parents co-signed on a $35,000 loan so I could get it. They allowed me to put it their walkout basement along with my other two mills and a lathe. My dad helped me take it apart to get it through a 36" door. Talk about great supportive parents. The machine sat under the living room.

    That machine opened up an entire new world for me and allowed me to create products that I just couldn't do manually. That little mill kick-started what became a 35 employee company 11 years later when I sold it.

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    Seig X3 manual mill in my 1 car unfinished shed. Needed light so I ran an extension cord from the house. Eventually I accidentally had customers... Not long after I sold a bike to buy all the crap to convert to cnc.

    Several years later I made my first parts for myself for sale.

    My parts exploded in sales so to speak so I bought a Tormach 1100 and ran power to the shed, and a 12x36 lathe, and blast cabinet and powder coat over and small booth.. Mind you I paid cash for all the work, build up, tormach, lathe, tooling, etc made on that X3. Over $200K made off a machine that cost me less than $3k.

    Another year past and I bought a new Haas TM2P in 2014. THAT meant moving to a 2,000sq/ft shop and was smart enough to find one with three phase. Last year bought an old Miyano BND34T2 lathe mostly just for one production line. No new toys this year

    Next year I'm looking at another machine (or two) but haven't found anything small enough to make since. Need many spindles at 10K+ rpm. Don't need power, or speed. 10,000 lb machine is just a waste of floor space.

    Sure wish they hadn't tied that Prototrak 2op's hands so badly. I was all set to buy one, with plans for 2 more.... But it won't play with macros and only 6K rpm. They just say 'it's for second ops only so we won't let it do (insert everything I asked about here)'.

    Guess customers will just stay on the waiting list for now.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk

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    In 1991 we took the plunge and bought a used Ikegai FX20N turning center, chucker-type (no tailstock), built 1979, with a Fanuc 5T control. The control was the last one before they had video screens and it just displayed the number when you selected the address. To program it you held down the address button until you got to G or X or whatever and then punched in the number. It didn't recognize the decimal point; you had to punch in four places before you got to a whole number, e.g. zero zero zero zero one it would read as "1." Punch in "one" and it would read that as .0001. I kept studying that piece-of-shit Fanuc programming manual trying to pierce the Japlish language barrier, but never could get the control to accept any input, not even MDI. This went on for a couple months until the electric-motor guy from next door came in one day and said, "If it says memory overflow and you can't erase what's in there, maybe the Erase button is burned out." Duh. Two minutes later a continuity test revealed that was indeed the case. He suggested we unsolder an unused button (Punch fit the bill) and use it. Amazing how you can make assumptions like doubting your IQ when something that basic doesn't work.

    Anyway, with the control working I soon got the hang of it. More experienced friends contributed tricks like how much data you could actually cram into one line, how to program a bar puller, how to compensate for taper and so on, and we were off and running. That machine's architecture was not typical, in that its turret axis was at right angles to the Z, but it had excellent chuck clearance and you could load a lot of tools on it. I became so familiar with it mechanically I ended up acquiring three more and rebuilding them. Those were the days when you could call up the manufacturer and somebody would walk you through tweaking all the potentiometers after soldering a new axis-motion chip onto the main board (good luck with that today). Those machines were massive iron and would hold tenths all day long, and we used them right up until we bought our first new turning center with a Fanuc 0iTC--by then of course the handwriting was on the wall.

    Like your first you-know-what, that machine's gone now but not forgotten...

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    Bought a Shizuoka ANS knee mill. fuddled with it for a couple years while I was active military then when I got out I sold it. Bought a '79 Mazak M4 lathe and a Mori MV45 VMC for peanuts and hired a part time programmer to make my ideas into parts.

    Both machines paid for themselves and the programmer, rigging, tooling, etc before the bad checks I wrote for them were cashed.

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    Spring 1986, a new Emco Maier lathe with a 5C collet spindle. Closed loop steppers with 4-1/2 hp spindle. Great little machine with 3" dia by 5" length capacity. A true CNC with canned cycles and rs232.

    I had started in the machining business a couple months before with an 11" Colchester lathe and a small horizontal mill with a B'port vertical head. The manual machines were hobby machines for me until then.

    CNC was a big jump. I had actually only been in one machine shop prior to startup, that was a summer job in an all manual shop while in college (the owner was a complete doofus, but he was raking in the cash so that stuck in my mind as a good career). Also had never even touched a CNC in any form. What I had done was get subscriptions to all the free trade mags I could find to read up and it seemed CNC was the only way to make money.

    In 1986 having CNC in a low overhead situation working out of my home garage was a good combination. As Microsoft got rolling Seattle became less of a Boeing town. Microsoft generated a whole lot of high tech spin offs so I picked up several customers that stayed with me for 20+ years.

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    First (and so far only) personal CNC was picked up ~4 years ago just before I retired from "real work". 1995 Mori Seiki TV30 3 axis mill/drill/tap machine. Keeps this old guy out of the wife's hair and bars and makes a nice bit of sideline coin. Kind of have my eye out for a small CNC lathe of similar vintage to round out the shop.

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    My first CNC was a Bridgeport EZ-TRAC that I bought new in 2000. Didn't realize what a nice machine a Bridgeport could be until I got to run one that wasn't completely worn out.

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    Haas and Okumas, in 2005.

    Before that, manual lathes only. (and a tiny bit of milling with Bridgeport knockoffs)

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    Started my own business in 1978 with manual lathes and mills. Finally decided that we couldn't keep up with the workload with the tracer lathes in 1992 so bought an eleven year old Monarch Metalist with a GE 1050HL control, single line display.

    Quite the learning curve: never used a computer, never used CAD/CAM, never ran a CNC machine. Learning all that while trying to keep up with the work load was a real challenge. Ran that machine millions of miles until it died. Started throwing an error code that was not related to the real problem. Two different retired GE techs, Jerry Welder and Randolph Terzis, each trained on the 1050 from day one couldn't figure out where the problem was.

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    My first CNC and still my only operational CNC is a late 90s Supermax YCM40 with a Centroid M400 control. I bought it so I could do in house what I had been farming out. I didn't build a business around it, nor has it made me rich but works like a champ and has paid for itself several times over in the year I've had it running.

    Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk

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    My first CNC was a Supermax YCM 30 with an Anilam Crusader II. It was "3" axis Bought it new in about 1986. It was followed by 2 used Lagun mills with the same control. The 3 machines all used Kwik-Switch 200 tooling. I could switch jobs to any of the machines. Also had the Anilam Minicam programming system and late 1980's bought a new Anilam Lathemate. Bought a used Sheldon lathe that originally had a punched tape control on it but had been retrofitted to an Anilam Crusader II L. These machines worked out great for me. That was in the days of a ton of work! Ready to pack it in now!

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    My first CNC was actually 2 stepper motor slides with 4" of travel bolted together and a controller kit bought online running Mach3.
    I set this up on my old round ram Bridgeport. My first job was cutting a circle into a lamp housing. That was also the last job with that setup. It worked fine, but I was hooked. I needed more. I started checking ebay for CNC machines somewhat close to home. I ended up finding a Lagun mill with a Bandit controller for a good price. My original plan was to rip out the old control and "upgrade" it with some more online stuff. When I mentioned to a coworker my plans, he asked does it work now? Try plugging it in and see if it works. It took a little figuring out how to get programs loaded and run it, but I'm still using today. I've made enough with that machine to upgrade my compressor, bigger lathe and my newest purchase a Fadal VMC20 all tooled up and a Kurt 8" vise. I'm still only doing this part time, but I'm planning to retire from my day job in 13 months.
    I don't think I'll have a problem keeping busy.

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    I began as an all manual machine startup. After about the first 10 years, I spotted an old Graziano at a machine dealer, with a Bandit control. The dealer got it working, and I bought it to get acquainted with cnc, not in a real pressure-to-get-it-going sort of way, but for the heck of it. Shitty stuff was expensive back then

    Probably one of the first jobs I really had for it in a mass production sense, was actually a cnc job more suited for a mill: spot, drill, ream, and counterbore. But, I could manage it with a Palmgren milling attachment on the cross slide, so that is what I used. Stood there all day swapping live tools (no spindle stop) with my trusty Laip quick change adapter in the spindle. OMG, I did that thousands of times, but no major complaints or boredom at the time.....guess I knew what the alternative was (cranking a cross slide table on a pillar drill). Baby steps, but you've gotta take them first.

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    Well I don't have my own machine although I'd love to someday. I use a CMS Antares at work with Fanuc 31i control. I was thrust into the world of CNC a little over two years ago and after some intensive training, a few programming courses..... and a collision... or two, I can't imagine doing anything else now. Everyday is a school day for me.


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    Bridgeport with Centroid CNC retrofit. Stepper motors, ball screws and the Bridgeport had two Spindles...

    Control mounted my machine with computer and screen in office, 50 feet away. Nothing like catching the corner of a part by jogging to X edge...run inside and do a X +.1 motion, then zero X, Run outside and catch the Y, run inside command a Y-.1 motion, Zero Y. Go outside touch off zero, go inside zero Z.
    Proof a program by hitting start and running outside to see what it's doing...or hitting. Took awhile before I realized an M2 would allow me t start program in office then go to control and hit start...

    I learned how to program a whole lot of stuff with a single tool...an endmill was my drill, mill, boring bar, stop...One tool roughed and finished as there was no tool change. So I did production using One Tool ALl Parts...load a new tool and run through all parts.

    Still, I made many many good parts using much less tooling and overall the parts came out faster then manual. I learned the machine came in each day, even weekends, worked through lunch and stayed late. It did not get in fights with spouses or have ego trips like some. It did get sick once in awhile...but I learned how to deal with that a little at a time the hard way. Centroid already sunset my product before I bought...so when tech called back after several days and gave me the Bob, worked on those...Bobs gone.

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    My two machines have already been claimed. First CNC was a Shizuka ANS knee mill, 40 taper NMTB tool changer hanging on the side and a bandit control. It even came with a Radio Shack TRS80 computer with a program for making tool paths. Paid $21k for it in 1986, had ball screws rebuilt and new turcite put on, used it for a couple years and sold it for $16k in 1988 when I bought the first fadal4020.

    The first lathe was a 1978 Ikegai FX20N running a Fanuc 5T like he said above. one word at a time on that non-screen programming and it would read paper tape at about 300baud. I had an antique teletype that would punch paper tape at the blistering speed of 110 baud. Program on a computer, punch tape, load tape in control, pray and go. It was one hell of a piece of machinery. I presized a shit ton of bushings for boeing back in the day. Take a semi-finish bushing, bore it from .370 to .3750/.3754 diameter. That way they could press them in and the ID was good. Sad to say an employee crashed it big time, spun that turret around a full rev and sheared off lots of taper pins. Never got it running again, scrapped it out when I bought a Daewoo Puma 8S machine in 1995.
    Last edited by Houndogforever; 11-08-2016 at 01:03 AM.

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  27. #18
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    My first was a 1996 Milltronics Partner VI, 40x20.
    I went to Houstex (our pitiful machine tool show) with the intent of purchasing a knee mill style, upgrade, or a new cnc knee mill.

    I left the show having bought a brand new Milltronics.

    Mind you, I was not even in the job shop sector, only making OEM parts for underwater housings for cameras.
    My Father cosigned for the lease, and helped me out (with payments) when I was cash poor.

    Here I am 20 years later, and still at it.

    Doug.

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    Bought a Fadal 4020 last year. I am far from a machinist but something about watching an end mill going through metal has always fascinated me. Two years ago I purchased my first Bridgeport, then last year took the CNC plunge. I still break a few end mills, but I am getting the hang of it. Learn a lot from the folks here on PM, thanks!

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  31. #20
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    Answering this question will give me nightmares. It was a pair of 1986 Southbend Magnaturn 1218's around 1999. The seller let me set up a part on them they ran ok for a couple hours and I bought the pair. One never ran after the move to my garage and I used it for parts to keep the other one alive on and off for a couple years. The POS never ran more than two weeks straight without a breakdown. The control was proprietary to Southbend and pretty much had no alarm codes, visible diagnostics or ladder. It just a guessing game swapping boards and testing components if it broke down. The machine rain on hydraulic rams, no ball screws, component failures would cause runaways of the turret in both x and z. A power outage or blip would cause the turret to sink where ever it was at, if it was boring or drilling, tool breakage was the least of your worries. From time to time (I finally think they have all been scrapped now)one would come up for sale here and on other forums. I always did my civic duty and warned the prospective buyers. Anyone who owned one for any length of time had to know they were trash.

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