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  1. #1
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    Jan 2021
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    21iT control retrofit?

    Not sure if this is the correct place to post this question?

    I have a lathe with a 21iT control and want to retrofit the control to a more modern control with conversational capabilities.

    Red cap servos and all are working great.
    Lathe is in very good mechanical condition and accurate with low hours on new spindle bearings and rebuilt ball screws.

    Anyone had experience with this type of retrofit?
    What are the pros and cons?
    Do I need to replace the drives?

  2. #2

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    Aug 2019
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    What are you looking to achieve with the conversational?
    The 21i has CAP (Symbolic / Super CAP) ability as an option.
    I'm not sure what base hardware is required or what the cost may be to upgrade an existing control with this feature.

    Sometimes a low cost CAM system is a better alternative than a conversational control as you can be programming offline while the machine is running production.

  3. #3
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    Well I do a lot of small runs or one offs.
    The fanuc is cumber sum to make small changes and the memory is very small so constantly moving programs in and out.

    I have other machines with PC based controls and they are much easier to work with.
    Would be nice to have all machines on the same system.

  4. #4
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    About 3 years ago I went through exactly the same thing with my lathe and for the same reasons. I have a very low tolerance for antique controls. My controller was a Fanuc OT with red cap motors. The red cap motors are pretty much not compatible with anything, although I think Centroid may have a solution.

    Now with a Win10 computer on the machine I'm able to run Fusion 360 (or any other CAD/CAM programs) right at the machine. Want to make a change? Update the drawing right at the machine and repost, boom, done. I personally think conversational programming is useless, I would much rather do it in CAD

    I got into the retrofit and realized that the red cap motors were not going to work, so I ripped everything out that said Fanuc on it and replaced everything with the exception of the spindle motor. I bought 4 DMM Tech 1.8kW servos (X, Z, Live tooling, and Turret) The spindle motor I ran off of a VFD up until a couple of months ago when I replaced that with a 7.5kW SureServo2 (Delta) from Automation Direct because I needed a full C axis for some new parts we are making. The spindle motor was the last Fanuc part on the machine.

    For software, Centroid, Dynomotion, and CamSoft are good solutions, and of course there are others. I just wrote my own CNC software and use a Galil motion controller as the brains of the system.

    I think my cost would have been < $20K for everything, if everything was purchased new. Not exactly sure of my actual cost because I used a lot of parts that I had on the shelf.

    Overall I couldn't be happier with the outcome, and run the machine dark all the time.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  5. #5
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    Thanks for the reply and sounds like a great project

    I cant justify 20k on this machine

    I found a company that has boards capable of converting the fanuc encoders to industry standard "HALL" so the servos should not be a problem.
    Drives are another story.
    Centroid is my first choice as I have their control on another machine and it works great.
    Sounds like their conversion requires the encoders to be changed and recommended replacing all motors as the encoder cost is high.
    Their drives are not too bad of price
    Hoping to see what others have used and what they think

    Thanks

  6. #6

    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    seems crazy to me to "retrofit" a machine with a control that new esp when its not even having any problems ,
    www.wildhorsemfg.com machinist / gunsmith
    accumax with Fanuc 11M , Hitachi seiki 3NE with 6T

  7. #7
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    Quote Originally Posted by wildhorsemfg View Post
    seems crazy to me to "retrofit" a machine with a control that new esp when its not even having any problems ,
    Not sure what you mean by that NEW?

    My machine is a 2001 model
    Again the memory is very low and suppose I could upgrade.
    When I have a problem with this control, drives, or servos, I am told "this stuff is old" and "you should scrap the whole thing"
    I understand that sooner or later, everything will need to be laid to rest
    Not everyone can afford new machines!

    Most CNC control systems are 20k or more just to get the parts not including any labor or tech support.

    There are new machines similar to mine for 50k

    Just seems that this decades old technology has not followed the same trajectory as other electronics.

  8. #8
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lethal View Post
    Not sure what you mean by that NEW?

    My machine is a 2001 model
    Again the memory is very low and suppose I could upgrade.
    When I have a problem with this control, drives, or servos, I am told "this stuff is old" and "you should scrap the whole thing"
    I understand that sooner or later, everything will need to be laid to rest
    Not everyone can afford new machines!

    Most CNC control systems are 20k or more just to get the parts not including any labor or tech support.

    There are new machines similar to mine for 50k

    Just seems that this decades old technology has not followed the same trajectory as other electronics.

    I just found the BOM for the retrofit on my lathe, turns out I was a bit high on the parts. It came out at $11K assuming all new parts, my actual cost was dramatically less because I had the controller on the shelf along with quite a bit of other hardware. The most expensive single item was the 7.5kW servo spindle system at $3300.

    Quote Originally Posted by wildhorsemfg View Post
    seems crazy to me to "retrofit" a machine with a control that new esp when its not even having any problems ,
    I'm thinking about retrofiting my 2016 Haas just to get a couple of features I want without paying Haas their stupid prices for upgrade functionality. I can retrofit the machine for less than they want for their function upgrades.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  9. #9

    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lethal View Post
    Not sure what you mean by that NEW?

    My machine is a 2001 model
    Again the memory is very low and suppose I could upgrade.
    When I have a problem with this control, drives, or servos, I am told "this stuff is old" and "you should scrap the whole thing"
    Not old compared to Machines people are still running with actual outdated controls like 6T , 6M , or 10T or my newest .. a 15M :banana: ...


    I've thought of retrofitting the 10T machines as the control is dead and its a large lathe with live tools and C .. but everyone seems to think that's a waist of time guess its become a world of just throw away and buy new
    www.wildhorsemfg.com machinist / gunsmith
    accumax with Fanuc 11M , Hitachi seiki 3NE with 6T

  10. #10
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    Re: 21iT control retrofit?

    After doing more digging I think the Centroid CNC is the way to go.
    If I can reuse the red cap servos and spindle motor then their drives are $1500 each and the main control board is $2300 so for roughly $7000 I can have a better system

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