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IndustryArena Forum > Events, Product Announcements Etc > Want To Buy...Need help! > Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine
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  1. #1

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    Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    Hi everyone!,

    I started life doing basic CAD in my spare time for a little bit of extra cash, years later I bought a 3D printer and learned Autodesk Fusion 360 which I really enjoy (my obsessive hobbies now!).

    I've decided to make the leap from 3D printing and I wanted to get into CNC milling, I would like to use Fusion 360 to CAM the designs and then either drip feed or upload them to the milling machine.

    The problem is that I have no experience in which CNC machine (controller) would be best for myself, my main goal is to have a milling machine which I can use Fusion 360 to plot out all the milling operations and fire it across to the milling machine controller which requires a post processor to code it correctly, as well as drip feed if required as I have read that some controllers struggle with large files and lack memory.

    If anyone could enlighten me with pros and cons plus which you'd recommend, also if these mills/controllers can do what I require with using Fusion 360 CAM, and if there are available proper functioning post processors available for Fusion 360 that would be superb!

    XYZ KRV Pro3000 with Proto Trak AGE 2

    XYZ DPM with Proto Trak AGE 3

    XYZ EMX with Proto Trak EMX

    XYZ SM2000 with Proto Trak SM

    Braithwaite Millpower with Acu-Rite Millpower

    Lilian 5VH with Acu-Rite Millpower 2

    Bridgeport Interact 1 with Heidenhain TMC 151


    I know some listed above are pretty old and probably are only able to drip feed large files but im just listing what I have been looking into so far.


    I hope you guys can help me make a choice because I am a bit lost to be honest and I dont want to purchase a milling machine and regret the choice I made.


    Cheers!

  2. #2
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    I have a very low tolerance for antique controllers. My personal preference is to buy a mechanically excellent machine with a dead controller. The controller is the cheap part to replace. Many times you can get these machine for scrap price or less. Fusion has post processors for most popular aftermarket CNC control programs. Fusion post processors are also pretty easy to modify if needed.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dawson View Post
    I have a very low tolerance for antique controllers. My personal preference is to buy a mechanically excellent machine with a dead controller. The controller is the cheap part to replace. Many times you can get these machine for scrap price or less. Fusion has post processors for most popular aftermarket CNC control programs. Fusion post processors are also pretty easy to modify if needed.
    Hi Jim, cheers for the reply, so would a proto trak SM or EMX or the acu-rite millpower version 1 and version 2 be not worth looking at?

    A couple of machines are about 7 years old, when I get home I will post up the ebay links.

    I'm willing to spend up to £10,000 so I just want to make sure I pick the best one and not regret my purchase.


    Cheers

  4. #4
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    I'm a bit unclear as how to advise you. One normally chooses a machine for some general use case. Normally you would choose by machine type, work envelope, and spindle power. Then other considerations might be footprint and/or required power if those limitations exist in your situation. Trying to choose a machine based on what Fusion post processors are available for the existing controller is really kind of unusual. I do use Fusion as my CAD/CAM software. I would not reject or choose any particular machine based on the controller.

    Buying used machinery is more about finding mechanically good equipment that will meet your needs. If I could only have one milling machine in my shop, a vertical turret mill (Bridgeport or clone), which can be operated in both manual and CNC mode would be my first choice. But this is a best fit for my particular needs. I have such a machine. It came with an antique Anilam M controller and I used that until it failed then installed a modern controller.

    Another story, I needed a CNC lathe. I found one that met my criteria for functionality and was in very good mechanical condition. It had a Fanuc controller. About a week after I commissioned the machine on my floor, I realized that the antique Fanuc controller was not going to meet my needs and ripped out everything that said Fanuc on it. Repowered it with modern motors and controls.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  5. #5

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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dawson View Post
    I have a very low tolerance for antique controllers. My personal preference is to buy a mechanically excellent machine with a dead controller. The controller is the cheap part to replace. Many times you can get these machine for scrap price or less. Fusion has post processors for most popular aftermarket CNC control programs. Fusion post processors are also pretty easy to modify if needed.
    how does fusion work anyway? and where do you get the post processor
    i downloaded the free trial but man it was confusing as hell
    i couldnt even orient the part

  6. #6
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    There are many video tutorials on operating Fusion. Many post processors are built in, and others are available from the Fusion website.

    There is a learning curve as with any software, but it's not too difficult to learn.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  7. #7

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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dawson View Post
    I'm a bit unclear as how to advise you. One normally chooses a machine for some general use case. Normally you would choose by machine type, work envelope, and spindle power. Then other considerations might be footprint and/or required power if those limitations exist in your situation. Trying to choose a machine based on what Fusion post processors are available for the existing controller is really kind of unusual. I do use Fusion as my CAD/CAM software. I would not reject or choose any particular machine based on the controller.

    Buying used machinery is more about finding mechanically good equipment that will meet your needs. If I could only have one milling machine in my shop, a vertical turret mill (Bridgeport or clone), which can be operated in both manual and CNC mode would be my first choice. But this is a best fit for my particular needs. I have such a machine. It came with an antique Anilam M controller and I used that until it failed then installed a modern controller.

    Another story, I needed a CNC lathe. I found one that met my criteria for functionality and was in very good mechanical condition. It had a Fanuc controller. About a week after I commissioned the machine on my floor, I realized that the antique Fanuc controller was not going to meet my needs and ripped out everything that said Fanuc on it. Repowered it with modern motors and controls.
    Hi Jim,

    Well to be honest I kind of been looking at machines within my budget so there is not a specific requirement I am looking for, but being a virgin CNC guy I was aiming for a mill that can potentially mill 300x300x300 at least,

    I do want to mill parts with a purpose but at the same time I will be a beginner, I think my main concern is just with the controllers, I would like a controller that mainly does not cause a headache with going from CAM and either sending the file to the machine or drip feeding, I have been leaning to Proto Trak controllers but again, its just a fair bit of money to then be told that it was probably a worse choice opposed to other controllers.

    I have attached ebay links below to some machines that I have been looking at.

    Lilian 3 axis with Anilam 3000m - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/325283220095

    Lilian 5VH Turret with Acu-Rite Millpower 2 - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/354150325891

    Braithwaite Milling machine with Acu-Rite Millpower - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/224942174040

    XYZ EMX with Proto Trak EMX - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/125422462533

    XYZ SM2000 with Proto Trak SM - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/255593051297

    XYZ KRV PRO3000 with Proto Trak AGE 2 (bit of a ancient/older controller) https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/255559945231


    Any suggestions or recommendations would be very helpful!


    Cheers


    EDIT: I do understand that some of the machines I have sent links to may not achieve the 300mm Z height but I am just looking for a reasonable milling sized platform as I cannot see much use for machines with a small X and Y size in the example of 150mm X and 150mm Y

  8. #8
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Natej123 View Post
    Hi Jim,

    Well to be honest I kind of been looking at machines within my budget so there is not a specific requirement I am looking for, but being a virgin CNC guy I was aiming for a mill that can potentially mill 300x300x300 at least,

    I do want to mill parts with a purpose but at the same time I will be a beginner, I think my main concern is just with the controllers, I would like a controller that mainly does not cause a headache with going from CAM and either sending the file to the machine or drip feeding, I have been leaning to Proto Trak controllers but again, its just a fair bit of money to then be told that it was probably a worse choice opposed to other controllers.
    The control should be the last thing to worry about. It is replaceable. I'm not sure if the Proto Trak will accept a drip feed or not, there is conflicting information on the web. Proto Trak would not be my first choice. I think the Acu-Rite will accept a drip feed. On the other hand I have never been able to get a drip feed to work at all on any machine, and I have a pretty good background in serial communications. But I have no tolerance for systems that don't work the way I think they should. If it doesn't work on the first try, then it's time to do something else.

    Modern toolpaths create huge G code files. It's common for me to run half million line programs on my machine, I think drip feeding that might be a bit problematic under the best of conditions. I have Fusion installed on my machine computers and I post the G code directly to a folder on the machine, then just open it in the CNC program. I can have Fusion and the CNC program running at the same time, and can work on drawings while the machine is running if I want to.

    I have attached ebay links below to some machines that I have been looking at.

    Lilian 3 axis with Anilam 3000m - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/325283220095
    £3,150.00
    Manual/CNC
    3 axis
    Looks like V ways
    10x49 table?

    Lilian 5VH Turret with Acu-Rite Millpower 2 - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/354150325891
    £7,800.00
    Manual/CNC
    3 axis
    This is a lot of machine, very heavy duty
    #40 spindle
    Square ways

    Braithwaite Milling machine with Acu-Rite Millpower - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/224942174040
    £9,000.00
    Manual/CNC
    3 axis
    R-8 Spindle
    9x49 table
    V ways

    XYZ EMX with Proto Trak EMX - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/125422462533
    £9,750.00
    Looks to be a 2 axis machine
    R-8 spindle
    9x42 table
    Looks clean and low use.

    XYZ SM2000 with Proto Trak SM - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/255593051297
    £9,600.00
    I don't see any axis motors at all, but the add says it's a CNC. I assume the pictures were taken before the motors were reinstalled.
    Looks to be a 2 axis, I don't see any provision for operating the quill under computer control.
    R-8 spindle
    V ways, look to be little to no wear.
    10x60 table? 40x14 travel?

    XYZ KRV PRO3000 with Proto Trak AGE 2 (bit of a ancient/older controller) https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/255559945231
    £4,980.00
    Looks to be a 2 axis machine
    #40 spindle, stated, I can't tell for sure
    Square ways

    Here is another that would be worth looking at.
    CNC milling machine Semco Anilam https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/334520810...EAAOSwSGNivtyE
    £2,750.00
    Manual/CNC
    3 axis
    looks like a 10x54 table
    #30 or R-8 spindle, I'm not sure
    Square ways

    And if it weren't about 5000 miles from me, I might even drag this one home. And it looks like you could pick up a roll of carpet while you're there
    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/115479137...MAAOSw9bdhwGmi
    Manual/CNC
    3 axis
    This is a lot of machine
    #40 spindle
    Square ways


    Any suggestions or recommendations would be very helpful!
    Buy a machine for the mechanical condition. Don't worry about the control. Any of the above machines would be OK, assuming good mechanical condition. I would spend less money on the machine, and put the difference into modern controls.


    EDIT: I do understand that some of the machines I have sent links to may not achieve the 300mm Z height but I am just looking for a reasonable milling sized platform as I cannot see much use for machines with a small X and Y size in the example of 150mm X and 150mm Y
    Most of these machines will be in the 800x350 X/Y range. Quill travel is 125 in all cases, and the knee travel will be around 350

    I'll be happy to try to answer any questions.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  9. #9
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    Re: Beginner looking for advice on choice of milling machine

    Hi,

    I'm not sure if the Proto Trak will accept a drip feed or not, there is conflicting information on the web.
    The only Proto Trak machines I've fiddled with did not natively run Gcode. Proto Trak is more a conversational programming affair, and to be honest I thought it quite
    good, sort of like a manual machine but with the ability to layer simple numerical toolpaths on top of it. I did not think it suitable as a genuine Gcode interpreter/controller.

    Overall I'd have to agree with Jim, forget the controller, you'll likely have to replace it anyway, the real deal is to find a machine in top mechanical condition with the power, accuracy
    and rigidity you need at a price you can afford.....then worry about a controller.

    Fusion has hundreds of posts built in and even more to download, don't worry about Fusion, it will generate useful gcode when the time comes.

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