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Thread: inexpensive CNC machine

  1. #1
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    inexpensive CNC machine

    Can anybody point me in the right direction for inexpensive CNC machines as far as brand and perhaps a model #?

    Looking to be able to do handgun sized items like mill out a gun slide..

    Thanks!
    Не умеете, научим. Не хотите, заставим!

  2. #2
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    Please be more specific about what inexpensive is. Inexpensive for a CNC? Or inexpensive for a person making minimum wage? Do you realize the difficulties involved with machining a slide?

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    Try microkinetics.com. They're stepper driven machines, not servo, but accuracy levels are well within the range for what you want to do.

    I bought my CNC retrofit parts from them years back and have no complaints with the products at all.



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  4. #4
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    bridgeport cnc knee mill, freind picked one up for 3k. do a google search for used cnc sales..... freind also picked up a mori for 22k enclosed horizontal mill, 33 inch travel with carasel tool changer
    Real Naval Gunners Hit Harder, and Penetrate Deeper, and just as accurate without Fire Control!

  5. #5
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    JMHO, but aren't "CNC" and "inexpensive" mutually exclusive words? As in, don't go together?

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    Nope, it ain't break the bank stuff anymore. It was still pricey back when I did the retrofit for CNC on both my lathe and milling machine for right at $4k with the microkinetics stuff. Granted, I did make my own mounts, couplers and drives, but the motors for both, 3 axis software, and controllers/PS/and PC cards weren't that steep.



    Tiger
    the weapon you have to "go get" is not a weapon, it is an emotional comfort talisman

  7. #7
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    Since I don't even have a CLUE about the ballpark of what one of these babies should cost; I don't know where to begin.

    But for "example", if some newbie asked about rifles, a Tikka would be "inexpensive" and a "Sako" would be OUCH.

    I'm looking for the Tikka of the CNC world.
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  8. #8
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    Got a place with the right power supply to put one? They don't run on house current. Can you program a computer? And you'll need the tooling. That's the really pricey part. Just curious.

  9. #9
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    Unless you're doing production runs, you'll probably be money ahead buying a manual Bridgeport. CNC comes into its own when running volume. One-off stuff is usually less hassle with a manual unless you've already got written and saved programs on a server or disk.

    Just my opinion.
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  10. #10
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    I agree with 1911 guy. You still need the background to know what auxiliary tooling it takes to perform certain operations, such as compound angular cuts, indexing, etc. CNC isn't magic, it just relieves you of the need to make each cut with manual feeds. There are still many machining operations that require specialised accessory tooling.

    Best place to start with machining is a manual rig to learn the ropes of layout, fixturing, workholding and suchlike. Imo anyway.



    Tiger
    the weapon you have to "go get" is not a weapon, it is an emotional comfort talisman

  11. #11
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    This happens to be something I know quite a lot about.

    Decent CNC can be done for cheap if you know what you're doing. I use and retrofit with the Flashcut CNC system, they have excellent support, good reliability, they offer it stock on some decent machines, and it's not too expensive.

    However, if you are not intimately familiar with creating toolpaths in G-Code and debugging machine mechanics, you're going to create a lot of frustration, shattered cutters, damaged ball screws, and scrap metal.

    Unless you are making runs of identical pieces (at least a dozen at a time, and you're planning to make more later) CNC is simply not worth the setup time. Yes, there are machines that can make one-off parts realistic and affordable, but unless you have a 10x15' pad to put them on, a hundred amps of three phase power, and at least a hundred thousand dollars... you aren't getting one. Also you'll have to run it 24 hours a day to make a return on your investment.

    Quality lathes and mills, Bridgeport being common in the used market, are not hard to come by. There is probably a store within a short drive of your location that will have these available. Otherwise, I have been hearing good things about the Grizzly line of lathes and mills.

    Be aware you will still need a substantial investment in tooling, especially if you're going to work with more than one or two metals.

    I have a decade of experience in small production run manual and CNC machining, with wood and soft metals. I'm still learning every time I get in front of a machine, and I've made about a million bucks worth of parts at this point.
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  12. #12
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    Ditto

    Quote:
    I'm still learning every time I get in front of a machine,

    Me too. I've been working in a machine shope since I was sixteen, with the exception of a few years in the Navy. There's always some new thing to do and learn.

    Honestly, you're best off, in my opinion, buying a used Brigeport and lathe. They'll cost a fraction of what a CNC will, even used. Tooling will be the beast in the budget, with turning inserts, end mills and drills. Then there's tool holders, fixtures, etc. It's going to be a lot to get a handle on when starting from ground zero and a CNC just adds the headache of programming on top of it all.

    I've trained a lot of new guys in the last few years and come to the conclusion that the folks who know only how to load a program and push a button have no right to call themselves machinists. Until you've learned the basics on a manual, all you'll do on a CNC is blow up tooling, crash fixtures and wreck machinery.

    Just as an example, my company just bought a new gear hobbing machine to the tune of 1.5 million dollars. The geeks who installed and programmed it apparently didn't know you can't run M2 tooling at the same speed as carbide. They blew up a 4,000 dollar hob. Their demonstration did not go as planned. Now I have to turn, mill, gash and relieve a new hob, send it out to get heat treated and give it to the surface and thread grinders when it gets back. If all goes well, it will take a month to get that tool replaced. All because somebody didn't pay attention to the basics.
    I wish I believed in reincarnation. Where's Charles "The Hammer" Martel when you need him?

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    yes, I play the bagpipes. No, I don't wear a skirt. It's called a kilt.

    Some of the smartest people I've known were "dumb hillbillies".

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1911 guy
    ~ come to the conclusion that the folks who know only how to load a program and push a button have no right to call themselves machinists
    +1 to that, bigtime.

    One other consideration here is that even if you do make the jump to CNC, for anything resembling production quantities and speed you can forget "inexpensive" because you have to include the expense of an automatic tool changer. Most commonly you'll find that quality, programmable tool changer will come close to doubling the expense of the base machine.

    I've seen a few exceptions, but for the most part when you begin talking about equipment in that class, you start shopping in 6 figures.



    Tiger
    the weapon you have to "go get" is not a weapon, it is an emotional comfort talisman

  14. #14
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    For small lathe work a quality tool changer can be had for reasonable $$$, if you know where to look and how to program it. I've built three machines off the long discontinued Emco "project lathe" turret, indexes within 0.01mm, it's not fast and it only holds three tools, but that's all I need.

    http://www.cncathome.com/latheturret.html


    That said, all my work has been done in someone else's shop. When I can afford a decent lathe and mill for my basement at home, I can assure you there will be nothing computer controlled about it (although I might buy some nice DROs!)
    "[The 2nd Amendment's] free exercise is the antithesis of serfdom and the only meaningful form of holocaust insurance known to man." -- Gus Cotey, Jr.
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  15. #15
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    I run a benchtop Taig for my prototyping business. Small. Tough. Made in America by Americans(I've been to the factory in Chandler, AZ).

    Here's how I've used mine. This was just the test cut. I've sped things up since then. http://www.johnbearross.com/prototyper.html

    Taig's home website is...
    www.taigtools.com

    My dealer is Nick Carter. Very good guy to work with, before, during, and after the sale.

    www.cartertools.com

    Taigs don't have a huge work envelope, but if you take your time, you can work most any material. One of my slated projects in an AR lowers from plans on www.cncguns.com

    Best,
    John Bear Ross
    http://www.johnbearross.com

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  16. #16
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    Well, I think the bases have been covered by other folks, but a couple of things are not 100% accurate.

    CNC is a great thing, but only if you know how to use it properly. That starts with manual machine experience. Knowing the correct cutters/fixtures/cutter paths/tons of stuff I can't think of in my currently inebriated state, makes a HUGE difference in how the machine operates + the quality/accuracy of the finished part.

    On the flip side, CNC can take out a lot of the room for error present in manual machines. I can give an idiot a couple of hours training and have him producing good parts, BUT, I still would have to set up the machine for him, change cutters/offsets/etc.

    The above is assuming a good program, which is yet another problem spot for some people. I can stand at the machine and write a G/M code program with nothing more than a pencil, calculator, and the blueprint...but some people have trouble with even very basic programming. On that note, some "programmers" can't even properly operate a CAM package.

    CNC can be a royal PITA at times, and a gift from above at others. It all depends on how much you know and your aptitude for it.




    Bennet Prescott, it has been my experience that DRO's and lathes do not work well together. It never seems to fail that chips get in the scale for the cross slide and it just quits for that axis. I much prefer Trav-a-dial setups on lathes.

  17. #17
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    I have never used one, but Loco CNC seems to make some smaller, and more affordable machines.
    Could someone please explain to me what this space is for?

  18. #18
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    I was a machinist for a lot of years, never realized how much I really enjoyed it until I was away from it, and didn't have access to do it anymore. Worked in some nice shops, and some real dingy dumps. I was always a manual machinist, never ran a CNC, but the factory I started out in had some of the first generation CNC machining centers, and those things were amazing to watch!

    That was 30+ years ago, I can't even imagine what's out there now.

  19. #19
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    My only experience (and little) is with the Emco 5 CNC lathe.
    The turret actually hold 6 tools - 3 are tangential cut, 3 are plunge (as in boring bar or internal threading).

    And some things almost require CNC. Like a radius cut, or a tapered thread. Even straight tapers are much simpler than a manual lathe and taper attachment.

    But I have found little that I can't do on my manual machines, if I have the talent.

  20. #20
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    machinisttx,

    I have never had a DRO failure in tens of thousands of machine hours. I am using mostly Sony DROs with a few cheaper glass scale relative units on some less critical machines. We do mostly wood and soft metal, though, and very little coolant, so YMMV.
    "[The 2nd Amendment's] free exercise is the antithesis of serfdom and the only meaningful form of holocaust insurance known to man." -- Gus Cotey, Jr.
    NRA, SAF, and JPFO Life Member. USCCA annual member.
    Public Relations Coordinator, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Inc.

  21. #21
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    Rex B,

    I have rebuilt 3 Emco CNC 5 machines, great little lathes. New control and motors and they are capable of exceptional accuracy and will run basically forever.
    "[The 2nd Amendment's] free exercise is the antithesis of serfdom and the only meaningful form of holocaust insurance known to man." -- Gus Cotey, Jr.
    NRA, SAF, and JPFO Life Member. USCCA annual member.
    Public Relations Coordinator, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Inc.

  22. #22
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    We run Haas where i work. I was learning about them when they were dropped.
    Originally Posted by 1911 guy
    ~ come to the conclusion that the folks who know only how to load a program and push a button have no right to call themselves machinists
    Could not agree more, 1st lesson, the machine only does what you tell it to, you f up so does it! Manual is tough, but really fun, it gives me a headache everytime i get to use it. I really like a challenge and learning though.

    Jason

  23. #23
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    Cutting threads manually with a single-point tool on a lathe was always a challenge, yet very satisfying if I succeeded! Especially threading right up next to a flange or shoulder, you know, something to crash into.

    I did a lot of repair work on oilfield equipment and pumping units. Sometimes they'd let something just keep grinding along until it siezed or crashed, then bring in the mangled remains and say "please make a new one". Did some pretty cool things, made some cool stuff. Very satisfying when the customer comes back and says "it worked perfectly".

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    Threading right up to a shoulder is pretty easy if you use a cutter mounted upside down on a spacer and run the headstock in reverse. Of course, it usually means a hand ground cutter with one thread width on the offset working tip, but upside down and reverse makes it a snap once you're set up, since you machine from and not toward the shoulder.



    Tiger
    the weapon you have to "go get" is not a weapon, it is an emotional comfort talisman

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    Ethelred

    I hope that I can get my hands on this CNC machine soon. This machine will help me with my latest best college essay writing services project, and I need that. Hopefully, this will prove to be important for me.

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