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Looking for Advice Picking my First VMC, Fadal?

goldenfab

Cast Iron
Joined
May 25, 2016
Location
USA Prescott , Arizona
I quit my day job a while back and converted a knee mill to CNC from scratch and have a manual lathe. I've mainly done prototype electronic enclosures and display panels out of my garage. One thing I'd like to specialize in is prototype/short run sand casting and sand casting patterns. I did some of this for a product idea which I have not got off the ground yet. The other thing would be making avionics display panels. This I have developed a process for and done a few prototypes of but have yet to landed a production run. I also have an interest in getting into injection molding but I don't have the experience and don't know if it would make good business sense. That being said I'll take whatever work I can get.

I've taken some time off from this to build a dedicated steel building shop and house on a few acres that is more conducive to machine work than the neighborhood I was living in. I have 400A service to the house with a 200A single phase dedicated electric panel for the shop. The shop is 34'x54' but the last 14' is framed out to live in right now so the shop floor is 34'x40' and has a 16' ceiling. I have a 12'x14' overhead door and the floor is a solid 6" plus concrete with #4 rebar 12" oc each way. My wife has been working and so we have been ok without my income but now that I'm almost finished building our house I'd like to be the breadwinner again so she can go down to part time and have more time with the kids.

My knee mill obviously limits me due to manual tool changes dealing with R8 collets and slow spindle speed so I'd like to get a VMC. I don't have jobs I'm turning down (not that I've been looking) and I don't want debt so I don't want to risk spending big $ on a new machine that may not get a lot of spindle time. While I don't have experience working on or using a "real" VMC I don't have any reservations digging into one and doing repairs and possibly even retrofitting the controller to bring and older machine to life. After reading a lot of forums on here including https://www.practicalmachinist.com/forum/threads/speedies-fadal-reality-checklist-pre-2014.293726/ I think a Fadal in a 4020 ish size would be a good fit.

I have acquired (yet to be delivered) for free less rigging expenses a Dyna Metronics DM4500. Its a 20"x16" travel VMC with a ATC. The guy selling it bought it and could never get it running supposedly due to a fault on one of the drives. The company is basically out of business and offers very limited support but supposedly Mitsubishi still supports the controller. My plan is to retrofit the controller but well see how that goes... ideally I'd like to have two VMCs so I'd still like get a Fadal and maybe a turning center down the road.

Any comments on this machine? https://midstatemach.com/machines/7328878-fadal-vmc-4020ht

Its located in CO and I'm in central AZ.
It has a 28" z so that's a plus.
What reasons would this machine not be a good fit for me?
Should I ask the dealer if they have had any inspection done? Do dealers provide any type of inspection reports or anything?
I guessing I'm better off hiring someone to inspect it myself?
I don't have time to drive to CO right now to check it out myself, if it were closer I would.
What what is a fair price for a machine like this?
I'm ready to jump on the right machine but I'm not in a hurry, it would be another few months minimum until I would be using it.
 
My advice is buy the best machine for your dollar and never, ever, ever buy used from a dealer. You're just going to get fucked.

I get the whole "fadal's are a great beginner machine, blah, blah" spiel. I don't agree with it, but I guess it can make sense for some folks, especially those terrified of what would happen if they had to call Fanuc or Mitsubishi and ask a question or two.

My question is why the hell do you want to spend your dollars on a machine that was bottom barrel when it was new? How exactly did Fadal get better with age? The buy a Fadal mentality would be like me telling my kids to buy a Model T instead of a 10 year old Honda or Toyota.

The money you would spend on a Fadal can buy a way, way, way better machine in perfect condition. That will probably never break down in your lifetime. Look only at machines with Fanuc and Mits controls, older Fanuc are better supported, but Mits is still great. Makino, Mori-Seiki, Okuma, Kitamura, Kuraki, Howa, Yasda, Brother, Even Hitachi-Seiki and Mazak are miles above Fadal. You can go back to the late 1970's and buy a VMC that will outperform a Fadal. Not even joking in the least.

Why would you want to retrofit anything?

Quick story- I sold a 1989 VMC last year. It had a 10M Fanuc. Around 500IPM rapids and 300ish feedrates. 256k memory, good enough for most things. This guy wanted to buy it just to retrofit Centroids latest, greatest control on it. Boy was he a Centroid fanboy. He was going to probe shit (which the machine could already do, it had the option2 quick stop board) then he was going to run all these high speed toolpaths (which the machine could already do). After listening to this guy ramble I looked up the latest greatest 2021 Centroid control specs and I don't remember what it was, but the rapids and feedrates were slower than 1989 entry level Fanuc.

I'm no rocket surgeon, but Fanuc has NEVER let me down nor has any top shelf machine tool regardless of how used up it was.

30 seconds on Prescott Craigslist- https://phoenix.craigslist.org/wvl/tls/d/cashion-makino-s56-axis-mill-19k-obo/7530695028.html

That's about 100 times more machine than a 4020 Fadal. I'm sure you can find all kinds of other machines in the $5k-$10k range if you watch craigslist, Ebay and Bidspotter regularly for the next few months.
 
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Thanks for the feedback and warning about dealers.
My question is why the hell do you want to spend your dollars on a machine that was bottom barrel when it was new? How exactly did Fadal get better with age? The buy a Fadal mentality would be like me telling my kids to buy a Model T instead of a 10 year old Honda or Toyota.

The money you would spend on a Fadal can buy a way, way, way better machine in perfect condition. That will probably never break down in your lifetime. Look only at machines with Fanuc and Mits controls, older Fanuc are better supported, but Mits is still great. Makino, Mori-Seiki, Okuma, Kitamura, Kuraki, Howa, Yasda, Brother, Even Hitachi-Seiki and Mazak are miles above Fadal. You can go back to the late 1970's and buy a VMC that will outperform a Fadal. Not even joking in the least.
I'm wanting the inexpensive and easy to work on but nothing fancy and a bit slow Honda or Toyota. I'm not wanting to spend more than 15k, am I going to find a 10 year old Honda or Toyota for that? Maybe I need to reconsider my budget. I have the Model T (my knee mill) maybe a Fadal is just going to be a Model A for me. If I knew I had the business for it I would be easier to justify risking more.

Do you see the iron of a Fadal as being a Model T or just the controller in comparison with a jap brand from the 80s? I realize better machines are more ridged but I'm probably not going to be machining a lot of harder materials.

Why would you want to retrofit anything?
Probably just a false economy view I have. If I knew I had work for the machine and had employees I wouldn't screw with it. I know discussing DIY retrofits here is taboo so I'll keep it short, I've used a decent dedicated motion control board which really performs well and from my understanding from a motion control and memory standpoint would rival machines that are out of my price range, I understand its not quite on par with industrial controllers but I would be the only one using it. Parts are super inexpensive and would be easier to work on (for me) than dealing with a "real" VMC controller. The sand casting patterns I've machined were really complex 3d surfaces and big files. I was reading about people having issues with Fadal drip feeding which I would like to avoid, the motion control board I used has handled large surfacing files really well.

I assumed all machines from the 80s would not be close to 300is federates so thanks for informing.
 
Thanks for the feedback and warning about dealers.

I'm wanting the inexpensive and easy to work on but nothing fancy and a bit slow Honda or Toyota. I'm not wanting to spend more than 15k, am I going to find a 10 year old Honda or Toyota for that? Maybe I need to reconsider my budget. I have the Model T (my knee mill) maybe a Fadal is just going to be a Model A for me. If I knew I had the business for it I would be easier to justify risking more.

Do you see the iron of a Fadal as being a Model T or just the controller in comparison with a jap brand from the 80s? I realize better machines are more ridged but I'm probably not going to be machining a lot of harder materials.


Probably just a false economy view I have. If I knew I had work for the machine and had employees I wouldn't screw with it. I know discussing DIY retrofits here is taboo so I'll keep it short, I've used a decent dedicated motion control board which really performs well and from my understanding from a motion control and memory standpoint would rival machines that are out of my price range, I understand its not quite on par with industrial controllers but I would be the only one using it. Parts are super inexpensive and would be easier to work on (for me) than dealing with a "real" VMC controller. The sand casting patterns I've machined were really complex 3d surfaces and big files. I was reading about people having issues with Fadal drip feeding which I would like to avoid, the motion control board I used has handled large surfacing files really well.

I assumed all machines from the 80s would not be close to 300is federates so thanks for informing.

Fadal is a model T because it can't interpolate a round bore. Because you can take a nap while it changes a tool. Because they didn't glue the Turcite in correctly and you have to rebuild the ways. Because the ballscrew thrust bearings are 1/2 the size they should be. Because every real manufacturing company that bought a Fadal on a salesman's promise quickly got rid of it when the Fadal was the endlessly broke down bottleneck.

The problem with retrofits is the only folks who think they are a swell idea are folks who've never run a real industrial CNC so they have no idea of how important a fast recovery from a power outage during a toolchange is or how critical it is, even when you can fix your own shit, that you can call any one of half a dozen local techs to come out and fix it when you are too busy. Because when you actually get busy and you need that retrofitted thing out of your way so the new Brother can come in absolutely nobody will touch it and you will fight to get it hauled off.

People that retrofit shit are cheapskates. They develop a cheapskate mentality. That mentality attracts other cheapskates. Then all your customers are cheapskates and you can't figure out why you aren't making any money even though your Linux CNC is just the greatest thing since sliced bread.

So back to your budget.

Did you call the guy with that tooled up ready to blast through parts 15K RPM 1600 IPM Makino who states he MUST SELL ASAP and offer him $10k?

What did he say?

Because I've done that about 50 times and about 20 of those times I got the prime rib for hamburger money.
 
Food for thought-

How many threads are there in the newly formed Fadal section discussing the repair of Fadal machines?

How does that compare to the Mori-Seiki, Makino, Okuma, etc, sections? Where are all the Brother and Robodrill help threads????

Do you think Fadal made more machines than those other companies?
 
My suggestion if you are looking at Fadal's is to look for an AC servo box way machine (DC axis motors are round, AC are square) the biggest difference is that the AC machines have optical 8192 line encoders that do not degrade like the resolvers on the Glentech DC motors.
The box way machines have gibb adjustments that need to be maintained for best performance, the gibbs with bonded Turcite randomly fail, they can be replaced with bronze gibbs.
The liquid cooled ball screw seals are high maintenance, any leakage will wash the grease from the trust bearings and cause the thrust bearings to fail, most now are bypassed.
You can find machines with dual arm tool changers that can pre stage the next tool and avoid the contamination problems with exposed tool tapers inside the umbrella.
The Fadal user base is quite large, and the machines are well supported, even by the legacy OEM Fives.
 
I started with a Fadal. It was ok. Definitely not great at round parts. I'd go look at that Makino and most likely get it for a song.
 
Fadal is a model T because it can't interpolate a round bore. Because you can take a nap while it changes a tool. Because they didn't glue the Turcite in correctly and you have to rebuild the ways. Because the ballscrew thrust bearings are 1/2 the size they should be. Because every real manufacturing company that bought a Fadal on a salesman's promise quickly got rid of it when the Fadal was the endlessly broke down bottleneck.

The problem with retrofits is the only folks who think they are a swell idea are folks who've never run a real industrial CNC so they have no idea of how important a fast recovery from a power outage during a toolchange is or how critical it is, even when you can fix your own shit, that you can call any one of half a dozen local techs to come out and fix it when you are too busy. Because when you actually get busy and you need that retrofitted thing out of your way so the new Brother can come in absolutely nobody will touch it and you will fight to get it hauled off.

People that retrofit shit are cheapskates. They develop a cheapskate mentality. That mentality attracts other cheapskates. Then all your customers are cheapskates and you can't figure out why you aren't making any money even though your Linux CNC is just the greatest thing since sliced bread.

So back to your budget.

Did you call the guy with that tooled up ready to blast through parts 15K RPM 1600 IPM Makino who states he MUST SELL ASAP and offer him $10k?

What did he say?

Because I've done that about 50 times and about 20 of those times I got the prime rib for hamburger money.
I've been checking out CL and somehow missed that Makino. I'm going to look into it. Thanks for sharing.
 
Fadal with a 28"Z is one of the smallest foot prints out there. Not a huge coolant tank though. And if you have mechanical and electrical aptitude then you should have no problems keeping it running. What Garwood forgot to mention is that their is aftermarket support with two well known Fadal controls. Nexgen and Calmotion. I think those can interpolate a round bore. Be prepared to do a full turcite job and clean and don't forget tool expense. It all adds up. Or go with a linear Fadal if you are only running aluminum and want peace of mind.
Mitsubishi has support but is expensive. Fanuc you can find but good luck upgrading for anything under $50k on the control/board side.
 
Fadal with a 28"Z is one of the smallest foot prints out there. Not a huge coolant tank though. And if you have mechanical and electrical aptitude then you should have no problems keeping it running. What Garwood forgot to mention is that their is aftermarket support with two well known Fadal controls. Nexgen and Calmotion. I think those can interpolate a round bore. Be prepared to do a full turcite job and clean and don't forget tool expense. It all adds up. Or go with a linear Fadal if you are only running aluminum and want peace of mind.
Mitsubishi has support but is expensive. Fanuc you can find but good luck upgrading for anything under $50k on the control/board side.

There's great online support for fadal. Makes sense to me. There's a big market for parts.

What was total Fadal production? Maybe 15,000 total machines. And There's how many companies making a full-time gig out of supplying that little number of machines Parts? Hmmm.

You do get that Fanuc has like 10,000,000 controls out there right? Theyve made something like 20,000,000 servo motors.

The $50K Fanuc retrofit thing is complete hogwash. I've done it for $0. I took a machine that had a bad memory board (memex was $600 for a new board) and I installed the complete, newer version control from a newer machine that i got for free, loaded all parameters from the old control and its working perfect.

Fanuc is fucking awesome.
 
Did you call the guy with that tooled up ready to blast through parts 15K RPM 1600 IPM Makino who states he MUST SELL ASAP and offer him $10k?
I reached out to him with some questions and one thing he did say was tightest tolerance he held was 0.002". I suppose that needs context as to what the geometry was but would I be wrong to think that isn't all that great for this machine once everything is dialed in? I can hit that with my diy conversion knee mill once I get everything dialed in. I made an offer like you suggested and he says he has a buyer pending.

I did some reading up on Makino and one thing that stuck out was a $2,500 registration fee with Makino and a service contract of unknown cost to get them to talk to get any tech support. If I was running a big shop I wouldn't see this as a big deal but for me, paying a quarter of what I'd be spending on a machine just to be able to get any type of support isn't attractive. If I can get all the specs and diagrams I'd ever need from manuals and parts can be ordered without jumping through any hoops then no sweat.
 
I reached out to him with some questions and one thing he did say was tightest tolerance he held was 0.002". I suppose that needs context as to what the geometry was but would I be wrong to think that isn't all that great for this machine once everything is dialed in? I can hit that with my diy conversion knee mill once I get everything dialed in. I made an offer like you suggested and he says he has a buyer pending.

I did some reading up on Makino and one thing that stuck out was a $2,500 registration fee with Makino and a service contract of unknown cost to get them to talk to get any tech support. If I was running a big shop I wouldn't see this as a big deal but for me, paying a quarter of what I'd be spending on a machine just to be able to get any type of support isn't attractive. If I can get all the specs and diagrams I'd ever need from manuals and parts can be ordered without jumping through any hoops then

I don't understand the context of your .002" statement. What was your question to the owner?

What parts did you expect to need for this Makino???

My Makino is a decade older than that one. In its life it has needed one part. A seal for the toolchanger. Local seal shop had it.

Makino is at the top. Best mills you can buy period.
 
You say you want to do injection mold work. My honest question to you is: why?

No one respects mold makers. Everyone thinks they can get Chinese molds and start making money. You cannot compete when your customers are tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. We had a reasonable business at one time repairing new Chinese tools.

I have two Fadals and some of the vintage Japanese iron Garwood is talking about. Doing anything mold related on the Fadals is a PITA. Forget making ejector plates or core plates unless you’re just roughing locations (what’s the point then?).

If you want to do commodity job shop garbage, Fadal’s are super. Even better if you want to hire unskilled operators. The controls are awesome. Five minutes ago I just picked up the centre of a die set in less than 60 seconds. Press 4, Fixture Offsets, Jog to Locate, touch w/your edge finder, Manual (stores point position), Jog (hit another edge), Manual etc. The control then computes the centre of a circle by the 3 points, store in Fixture Offset. I’ve got a program in the machine and spindle on in less time than just setting the X in G54 in a Fanuc. And forget Fanuc’s archaic “Opt, CARD, F SET, EXEC” from a freaking PCMCIA card to load a program. And the Fanuc won’t read a card larger than 512 mb…IN 2008.

With that said, I’ve never replaced more belts, bearings or axis amps on any machine than after I acquired the Fadals. So it’s really six of one and a half dozen of the other. What’s important to you? Ease of operation and cheap/available repair parts? Or a machine that’s more cumbersome but has better iron and doesn’t need those repair parts.

In any case for injection molds I’d not dick around with a Fadal as your sole machine.
 
I don't understand the context of your .002" statement. What was your question to the owner?

What parts did you expect to need for this Makino???

My Makino is a decade older than that one. In its life it has needed one part. A seal for the toolchanger. Local seal shop had it.

Makino is at the top. Best mills you can buy period.

I asked the guy what there was to know about it and if there was anything wrong with it. One of the things he said was "The tightest tolerance i held was 0.002”." I'm was just trying to make sense of his reply.

I don't know what parts it would need but I anticipate something is going to break eventually or something is broken already I didn't know about because I didn't know to check it.

You say you want to do injection mold work. My honest question to you is: why?

No one respects mold makers. Everyone thinks they can get Chinese molds and start making money. You cannot compete when your customers are tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. We had a reasonable business at one time repairing new Chinese tools.

I have two Fadals and some of the vintage Japanese iron Garwood is talking about. Doing anything mold related on the Fadals is a PITA. Forget making ejector plates or core plates unless you’re just roughing locations (what’s the point then?).

If you want to do commodity job shop garbage, Fadal’s are super. Even better if you want to hire unskilled operators. The controls are awesome. Five minutes ago I just picked up the centre of a die set in less than 60 seconds. Press 4, Fixture Offsets, Jog to Locate, touch w/your edge finder, Manual (stores point position), Jog (hit another edge), Manual etc. The control then computes the centre of a circle by the 3 points, store in Fixture Offset. I’ve got a program in the machine and spindle on in less time than just setting the X in G54 in a Fanuc. And forget Fanuc’s archaic “Opt, CARD, F SET, EXEC” from a freaking PCMCIA card to load a program. And the Fanuc won’t read a card larger than 512 mb…IN 2008.

With that said, I’ve never replaced more belts, bearings or axis amps on any machine than after I acquired the Fadals. So it’s really six of one and a half dozen of the other. What’s important to you? Ease of operation and cheap/available repair parts? Or a machine that’s more cumbersome but has better iron and doesn’t need those repair parts.

In any case for injection molds I’d not dick around with a Fadal as your sole machine.
Regarding injection mold work: Simple answer is I find it interesting. I assumed it would be competing with china which is why I said it might not make business sense, sounds like you agree. Maybe I should forget that.

I don't want employees and I want to keep a home base business. Is job shop work hard to complete in with this business model? Other than prototyping what would you say is an example of not job shop work that would be a good fit for a one man shop.
 
I second Garwood's thoughts on needing manufacturer support. I have a 1989 Mazak lathe that I have been running for 7 years and never needed factory support or parts. Only thing it has needed is a power supply, and that came from ebay. I had a 15+ year old Chiron mill with Fanuc control and ran it for a few years and never had an occasion to call anyone about it.

Only time I have had to call for factory support on my new Mazak machines is when the tool changer has been interrupted mid operation and I needed help recovering. Probably could have spent some time online and figured it out, but I think Mazak has free support for life. So call was easier.

Most often it seems that somebody who ran an old machine and is selling it has some contacts for parts and service. Get that information before you buy the machine, call their independent service person, and feel them out. If you get a good feeling, that says a lot.
 
I make our own parts so I decide the tolerances, and I am not making rocket ships or air plane parts, but have a Fadal that was rebuilt in 2003, that we bought in 2009. My first CNC mill and was all self taught on running it. Prior to that I had programmed and ran an old dinosaur of a 1980's cnc router.

We have ran that Fadal at 10,000 rpm the whole time we have owned it mainly machining brass and aluminum. I crashed it a few times in the beginning, nothing to crazy but it kept going and was still making good parts. I have replaced, an x axis amp board, the tool holder clips in the carousel, the draw bar and bevel washers, 3 or 4 sets of belts, Hi/Lo cylinder setup, Way Oil Pump, Spindle coolant pump and a couple years ago we replaced the spindle with one of ITSCNC new updated spindle versions. We bypassed the ballscrew coolant, when we first got the machine, as a service tech we know said, we should get that taken care of.

Currently I have gathered parts to replace the Ball Screws and gibs, as I have gone over what I can compensate for in the control on the Z axis for backlash, and am getting close on the X and Y, so I figure I might as well do them when I have some time for the machine to be down.

I like the Fadals, available parts and online support is great and work for me. I wish I could have a fancy machine but I don't want the payments currently, and aren't overrun with work or $ to justify a new machine at this time.

I also program and run a CR Onsrud wood router with a Fanuc control, and a Maxcut Cnc lathe with a Fagor Control. Controls you can learn, parts availability is more important to me.

One thing I have learned is don't buy a machine that is so old that parts are scarce. We had a big 40hp spindle Traub lathe from the early 90's with a Mitsubishi control. I really liked that machine, it was a beast when it came to material removal, and was very easy to program, It was cheap to buy but it had some electrical gremlins that aged me 10 years, trying to sort out. It would run great for a day then just quit and fault out and wouldn't start up again. Then later it would work again. I replaced control wiring, had boards shipped across North America, had technicians come and try and figure it out... Change a few parts and it would run, I would get to work and it would die again. In the end it just wouldn't work and the stress wasn't worth it.
 
I still really like my 4020. Mines a retrofit and it was a ton of work but i love the new control (dynomotion kflop). I bought a second 4020 this summer, working on retrofitting that one now as well. A retrofit can be a cool project if your interested in that kinda stuff and you have spair time. Not worth if if you have work to do right now.

The machine has been great. Its fast enough for low qty parts, very accurate with the new control and its been reliable for me. I replaced couple thrust bearings when i got it, few other minor things and its been very reliable ever since. Had to replace the capacitors in spindle drive, an air cylinder for belt, piston for spindle drawbar but thats about it in 5 years of hard use.

Last shop I worked at we had a mid 90's amera seiki mill with a fanuc control, and a new at the time mazak 510c. Honestly both these machines were more trouble then the fadal has caused me. I ran the mazak for years. It struggled with spindle orient errors and dropped tools from day one. Nobody could fix it. Parts of the dual arm toolchanger got messed up. An encoder had to be replaced. It would constantly loose hydraulic oil for the drawbar. Spindle cooling fan went and overheated motor. Wiring to the 4th axis shorted out. Batteries would die and was tricky procedure to restore the toolchanger.

Not bashing mazak. its still a good machine. I have a 40 year old mazak lathe thats great too. But just saying all machines have their issues. Im just thankful my fadal is simple, easy and cheap to fix, fairly reliable and gets the job done. Makes good money with very low risk.
 
Why would you want to retrofit anything?
I retrofit everything even if the existing control works.
The gives me one common user interface across all machines.
It gives me the ease to add probing, vision, load sensing and anything else I want on a whim.

Most owners I know are happy with a Fadal. Not a super machine but a real decent workhorse.
Bob
 
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I just updated a ac 4020 with the nxgen control. Installed it my self took about a day ( including the 4th axis) pretty straight forward if you’ve wired more than a 110 outlet and can follow directions. It was a good machine before the upgrade just wanted a more modern controller and almost unlimited memory. Havent ran it for long but so far it’s lived up to the hype. Dave has been super helpful and after installing he ran it from his office and set everything up and made sure it was right. Any problems and you can push a button on the home screen and log in right to nxgen and they can troubleshoot right there. Very nice people to deal with. Not real cheap but seems to be quality and dealing with the builders of the machine makes me feel better about it.
Only down two days to bring the machine up closer to todays spec
 








 
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