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Recommendations for a learner?

pgg

Plastic
Joined
Dec 29, 2019
Hello all,

This forum seems a little more oriented toward professionals, so I hope a question with a hobbyist learner bent won't be a problem. If that's the case and you can point me at a more appropriate forum, please do.

I'm looking at buying a small CNC mill for personal use. I have no intention of ever running it as a business or for profit. Just a hobby. The last couple years I've designed and ordered a bunch of parts through emachineshop.com and it's worked out fine, but the cost-per-part is high for one-off needs and idle experimentation, and the wait time is longer than I'd like.

So I think I'm at the point where it makes sense to just get a machine and start doing it myself.


Budget - would like to stay under $10K, but if there was a compelling reason to push that a little higher I could probably be convinced. This will be installed and run at my home which has ordinary 110V single phase power.


At this point I'm leaning toward the Max CNC Mill from CNC Masters:

CNC MAX Milling Machine for Sale | CNC Masters

The 21.5" x 10.5" x 4.5" work area is big enough for my anticipated needs. Comes with a built in recirculating coolant pump. Has options for a 4th axis rotary table, quick tool changer.


Or the Tormach PCNC440

PCNC 440 Benchtop CNC Mill | Tormach

Though the 10" x 10" x 6.25" work area is maybe a little bit limiting. The largest part I've made to date was 18" long. This one has a more extensive list of upgrades including an automatic tool changer, but not a 4th axis option (they say "coming soon").


Any thoughts or opinions on these machines? Alternatives you'd suggest in this general range? This isn't and will never be a for-profit endeavor. Production speed isn't super important. I just like goofing off with robotics and gunsmithing and making stuff.

I'm not totally opposed to finding and buying something used, but as a newbie hobbyist there's a certain appeal to buying something that just works, that will let me get on with the process of learning how to use it. I have a day job completely unrelated to this so I'd rather devote my time to the "making stuff" learning curve than the "why won't my used machine turn on" learning curve.

Thank you.
 
This will be installed and run at my home which has ordinary 110V single phase power.

You have no 220V circuits? If truly limited to 20A 110V circuits, forget about a Fadal, and probably any other machine that folks on this board are willing to talk about.

Regards.

Mike
 
The problem with little pre-done dovetail CNC mills is that (imo) they don't just work, they require constant tinkering and I've found with mine while they can do some good work you have to baby them constantly, luckily I only bought mine with basic second op work in mind which it manages alright.

As someone who has bought new small/home workshop orientated machines and used industrial machines I would now only buy the latter if enough space is available.

Used machines can come with a bunch of issues, I'm currently repairing one of mine so I know that all too well, but the quality parts being made to amount of time messing around trying to make them ratio is far better with a reasonable used industrial in my experience.

I think one of the biggest mistakes I've made was buying a new small VMC with that idea of "it'll just work" rather than picking up a cheap Brideport Interact, I'm certain the Interact would have made better parts faster and left me with a huge chunk of change to spend on any potential repairs down the line.

If I was in the US I think I'd be looking at a used Fadal myself, the impression I get is they may not be the best but for someone willing to get their hands dirty and do repairs themselves they are a very viable option, especially if it's a hobby and time isn't so much money.
 
You have no 220V circuits? If truly limited to 20A 110V circuits, forget about a Fadal, and probably any other machine that folks on this board are willing to talk about.

Regards.

Mike
There's no way, right? At bear minimum the A/C unit is going to need 230v.

Fadal made some smaller mills that from the factory could run off 230v single phase service, maybe it was the VMC15's? If you could find one of these it would fit you bill quite handily.

Sent from my SM-G973U using Tapatalk
 
You have no 220V circuits? If truly limited to 20A 110V circuits, forget about a Fadal, and probably any other machine that folks on this board are willing to talk about.

Regards.

Mike

Now that you mention it, I'm sure our dryer and AC are 220V. I'm on the road now so I can't just go look. No big deal to get another circuit run from the main breaker, I suppose.


The price range for a Fadal gives me some pause. Their web site shows a few models (no prices) but even their smallest mill (the VMC-2015HS-II) looks like a large step up from the ~$10K machines I was looking at. New is probably out of the question.

Browsing the for-sale subforum here it looks like used ones start in the $12-15K range and go up from there for 90s vintage models.

As an hobbyist I'm not sure how far I want to stray from my ~$10K budget. And again buying used ... I don't know what I don't know, and it seems there's a lot of potential for a used "bargain" to be a lemon.
 
And again buying used ... I don't know what I don't know, and it seems there's a lot of potential for a used "bargain" to be a lemon.

This is true, you may end up with a machine with some wear. But even if you happen to have the worst luck and you buy an old Fadal in extremely poor condition with noisy spindle, toasted thrust bearings and loose ballscrews, It will still likely cut WAY better and more accurate then the Max mill or a Tormach.

In all honestly if your just a hobbyist needing an occasional part here and there the Tormach might be ok. But as others have said, a Fadal will be way more machine for possibly even less money if you have the room for it.
 
Keep in mind you might need ~$3-5k for tooling, compressed air, phase converter, etc.

Regards.

Mike


You got that right!

The OP did ask where to go, so I'll say it in a song. (Sung to the "Green Acres" theme song.)

Seeeeee-en-see zone is the place to be.
Haaaaaw-bee-millin is the life for me.
Reeeeeal 'sheen tools layin far and wide,
keep that iron just give me that dovetail slide. :-)

"Damn it Lisa I'm a machinist not a songwriter!"

Dave
 
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I’d say a fadal for your budget I could deliver a fadal to your place. A fadal can be had for under 10k. A nice clean or bigger one might run you a bit more though.
 
I’d say a fadal for your budget I could deliver a fadal to your place. A fadal can be had for under 10k. A nice clean or bigger one might run you a bit more though.

Are you speaking generally (i.e. that such things exist and I could find one), or do you have one to sell?


Thanks everyone for the responses. I appreciate it.
 
Maybe a fadal tool room machine would fit if you could find one enclosure is not as big. Look for a linear way machine with dc drives any of the controls would be fine for your use. Machine parts are cheap to buy and very available.
Should be able to run on single phase if you swap out the transformer if you can’t find a single phase machine. You’ll need at least a 60 amp circuit for single phase , 10 hp rotary for a converter at minimum for a three phase machine, but you better have a big enough pole transformer if you live in town or you neighbors will be pissed when you start it up. Most problems with them can be solved with a few parts and you tube. And if you don’t destroy it you can probly get your money back if you don’t sink too much in it.
Look around 10 years ago I bought a Vmc 40 with the 5 axis tr65. For 12,000
Use it daily not all day but many just replaced ball screws and spindle that’s it. Oh ya had all - 5 cards and expanded memory. Happy hunting!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Are you speaking generally (i.e. that such things exist and I could find one), or do you have one to sell?


Thanks everyone for the responses. I appreciate it.

I have two taking up space and I don’t need or want them.
 
I have two taking up space and I don’t need or want them.

Well then, I am interested.

This thread has just about convinced me to just get myself a real machine instead of a hobby one.

Sent you an email. Thanks!
 








 
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