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  1. #1

    New guy needing advice

    Hi guys and gals , I need some advice .

    This could become rather long winded so forgive me .

    As I am new here it might help to know a little about me .
    A little over 7 years ago I developed some health issues that made me virtually unemployable in what was my choosen field of work .
    Without any education or other real job skills And medical bills driving me towards bankruptcy and homelessness .
    I took a chance on an idea related to a personal hobby and spent my last $1500 on a grizzly g0602 lathe and very basic cutting and measuring tools . Without a single iota of machining experience or knowledge .

    Quite contrary to the hoards of naysayers both online and in person within 3 months I was able to pay some of my bill's and buy groceries .
    Within 6 months I was able to pay all of my bill's and eat meals that didn't consist of Ramon noodles and craft dinner .
    From there into the second year I was able to catch up on all the bills I was behind on and progress beyond a bare subsistence lifestyle . With nothing more then a cheap Chinese 10x22 lathe and a 8 inch bench grinder to grind tools . That anyone with an opinion told me I'd never be able to make money with.

    After the second year I was able to start expanding my shop ,
    I bought a Logan 8 inch shaper , then a g0704 milling machine and things kept progressing. A surface grinder , tool grinder , small horizontal mill , air compressor, tig welder and and assorted gadgets all found their way into my shop , thanks to my little g0602 lathe .

    I won't say it was easy , or that I have made huge amounts of cash , Quite truthfully I'd be very surprised if at any point in the last 7 years I've averaged much better then $10 an hour to my pocket . But my needs are few and I'm quite content .

    So let's get to what I need advice with .

    I've reached a bit of an impasse with what I've been doing , I've saturated the niche market I've been working in and I've gone stagnat . I need to progress beyond what I've been doing

    In short , I think I need to come into the modern age and get a cnc milling machine . But I know absolutely nothing except being a self taught manual machinist .

    I've read a whole lot here and countless other places about tormach mills . And I am pretty well convinced that a 440 or even a 770 will suit my needs quite well in terms of accuracy and work envelope . With the 770 being being my first choice .
    So here is what I need help with , what to start with when it come to a new machine and basic starting tooling .
    With the idea of being very budget minded without hamstringing my self in the immediate future .

    Right now the things I make on my g0704 mill are easily converted to cnc without much fuss . Material being used is mostly anealed 4140 and 12 l 14 and I only use about 6 tools total .

    I know I want to expand beyond where I'm at , but I don't have a clear path in mind yet , and yes I do know that makes it difficult to give good advice .

    So yea ... that's all clear as mud isn't it .

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Its always heartening to learn of somebody using his initiative to make life better and it seems you have done just that.Its also sensible to plan for the future and you seem to be doing that too.Before committing cash to a machine would it be worth spending some time learning to use the software that will be a necessary part of the process?The days of sitting in front of a machine with a print and a calculator and typing in G code are over for most of us-and a good thing too.Even conversational programming is unlikely to keep pace with a competent operator and a very basic CAM program (yes I expect a reply from an indignant conversational programmer and he may be right if only basic parts come his way) and a basic piece of software doesn't have to cost much or even anything.I would advocate learning some software and paying close attention to the simulations so that when you look at a component you can be confident of actually producing it instead of hoping it turns out OK.A week or two exploring the possibilities and maybe looking for a machine should focus your attention to the features you will benefit from.

    Then when you part with the money for the machine you will be in a position to start producing parts. Unless there are confidentiality issues a few nicely finished parts photographed well and on a website will alert people to your extended capabilities and who knows what might turn up at your inbox.Good luck.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Sounds more like a business question than a machine questions to me. What parts do you hope to make? The parts dictate the machine. Routalot has a good point on the software as well. If you are only going to make parts that you currently make on your G0704 you may be able to get by with conversational and hand programming. If you plan to do a lot of job shop work, you will want cad/cam.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Portlyinohio, I get the impression from reading your post that you are ready for CNC. I am a believer that a Tormach is a great place to start.
    3 yrs ago I was in a similar situation wanting a larger more capable machine and had no experience with CNC, and the cost of the basic 440 with very few accessories was a stretch on my budget.
    With just a few tool holders and basic tools you most likely have already you’ll have a good start, many of the fancy options like a tool setter, probe etc, are a nice luxury but not required to get started. A piece of paper and 1-2-3 block works great for setting Z heights and a inexpensive edge finder can be accurate within .001”.

    I had planned to make parts with just 4 or 5 tools, no coolant and no enclosure, it didn’t take long that the parts I learned to make and quickly became comfortable with 3D toolpaths that those were needed but could be inexpensive DIY solutions that work well, like a shower curtain enclosure and inexpensive ebay mist system got me along for a good while and I added more tools and tool holders as I could. I’ve since sold the 440 and upgraded to a 770M, and am so glad I did, if you can afford it the 770 is what I would recommend to start with.
    The 2 things that helped me learn what little I know about CNC & G-coding is Fusion360 and Pathpilot, other CAM packages seemed so expensive there was no way I could have started without Fusion. I have a long background in CAD so a few tutorials helped get started with cad but the CAM was a little more involved but there is a lot of free help to get the basics, and then it just gets easier from there.
    Fusion is available for free and you can start now learning now CAD/CAM and see how your parts cam be created using the simulation and learn one step at a time. PathPilot also has a virtual simulator available online so you can see how you like it and try the conversational features before making a commitment. I do many on off parts manually with the shuttle and DRO’S and conversational programs, it is a great way to start.

    Good luck with what whatever you decide and feel free to message me if you have more questions about getting started.

  5. #5

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Ok So I have given a good bit of thought to learning a machine control and some basic cad / cam software .

    I hope I don't sound arrogant by saying this , but that aspect doesn't intimidate me in the slightest even being almost totally ignorant .
    pathpilot controll is probably my biggest draw towards tormach .
    From the little I've learned reading and watching YouTube videos it seems rather intuitive to learn once you have the basics down And it offers everything I need now and a whole lot more for the future .
    I am very confident that with fusion I'd be off to a good start .

    Where I get shakey in the legs is the actual spending of money .
    So here is what I am doing now

    I make re-loading die's and custom sights for antique and obsolete rifles along with any other related trinkets and gadgets that my customers have asked me to make .
    Since the start I've worked totally word of mouth with no web page or advertising and it's worked out fairly well .

    In the future my main focus to start will with the sights

    My biggest handicap with manual machining so far has been the time involved .
    I simply dont have enough time to expand and make new things.

    I have a long range sight I make now that takes me something like 30-35 hours to finish manually .

    But with a cnc machine , once I've made the initial time investment in modeling the parts , working out the code and work holding I can turn 4 days into 4 hours .

    ... I'll continue on this later this evening , company has shown up interrupting my train of thought .

  6. #6

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Fusion is a great place to start for learning CAD/CAM because there is tons of content for people who are completely fresh. I was self taught in SolidWorks and SolidCam and it was a hard process, when I switched to Fusion I was blow away by that amount of info, and that was like four years ago. It's even better now.

    Just throwing this out there, a G0704 conversion might be in your wheel house. You already have a lot of tools, you could buy a kit or make the parts. Since you already own the G0704, it will be the cheapest route.

    As far as machine control software, I've them all pretty easy to learn (out of the four or so I've used). The main advantage of PathPilot, IMO, is that it's turnkey for whatever machine you buy from them. If you build a machine, you will have to learn how to set it up. That takes time.

    For my shop (I build motorcycle parts), I bought a G0704 and never anticipated converting it. I knew how to do what I wanted to do manually, and I did that just fine for a about six months. As business grew, I wanted to stop standing in front of the machine for 4 hours a day. That's when CNC became very advantageous. I doubled my work force without having to hire a person.

    Finally, a lot of people go on and on about conversational design, CAD, CAM, MDI. The truth is a I do a bit of everything. When you get handy in CAD/CAM you can pump out simple parts and g-code in like seconds. Sometimes I want to clean up stock, I can do that with the handwheel or via MDI, sometimes I'll do it in CAD/CAM. All I'm saying is that it's not that big of a deal once you get in the swing of things. CAM doesn't have to be an intense process for complex parts, and sometimes I don't feel like hand writing code. So don't get too hung up on any single piece of software because most of the options out there allow you to do the same or similar things.

    P.s. congrats on your hard work and dedication, I lived in my car for about 4 months one year despite being a full time employee at the time, it was a hard time and I don't envy anybody that finds themselves in that scenario.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Re: New guy needing advice

    I don't have a whole lot to add to the conversation, but I do have a few things to suggest.

    Fusion sounds like a great place to start for learning the CAD/CAM process. I think any other software pack is going to be extremely expensive.

    As far as the machine goes - there are a lot of pros and cons to different machines. Over time I have come around to the philosophy of getting the best, biggest machine you can afford. However, the learning process can be expensive for CNC. You will eventually crash your machine and break something, and those lessons may be easier to learn on a less expensive machine. Furthermore, tooling, vises, measurement devices, indexing tools and edge finders all start to add up to the overall price of implementing CNC machinery.

    If you are definitely going to be limited to small parts, learning on something small and cheap like a Taig CNC micromill may not be a bad idea (I used one in a prototyping shop for 4 or 5 years and turned out hundreds of parts on it). A Grizzly conversion also sounds like a good way to learn more about the process and really know your machine (though they can take a while to get up and going).

    To me, a lot of this comes down to time. Do you need something that you can immediately get started on? Do you have time to learn on something small and possibly upgrade your machine in the future? Do you want the capability of larger work envelopes and faster production now or can you put it off? If you have time, taking a local tech class (or even like a Tormach CNC class) may be a good way to get some hands on experience and get a better feel for what your business needs. For me, getting my first machine up and going and learning how to post CAM to it was pretty easy and straightforward, but the real ongoing challenge is workholding, tooling, and fixturing.

    Good luck on your expansion!

  8. #8

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Ok so the holiday interruption made me totally lose my train of thought . But once things settled down I downloaded fusion and spent a couple hours looking around and playing .

    Wow is there a lot to learn .
    Without any tutorials I was able to figure out how to do a simple line drawing .
    I was pretty darn proud of myself for about 20 minutes then I figured out you can start with basic shapes and an origin point to expand , stretch , spin and all kinds of fun stuff to get what you want without a line drawing .
    Then I found a Dutch or Swedish sort of fellow on you tube with a bunch of beginner tutorials that look like a very good time investment.
    Starting this evening I'm going to dedicate at least an hour a day to learning fusion .

    And as mentioned tormach does have a pathpilot simulator .
    I haven't sat down and toured it yet , but it's on my weekend to do list .

    And to answer a few things ...

    I'll start with the possibility of starting with a smaller machine like a taig or converting my g0704

    Converting my mill is not an option , right now it is accounts for about 70% of my income .
    There is just no way I can do without it for the amount of time needed to convert and get up and running .

    When I first started to give serious thought to going to cnc.
    I put a lot of thought into a taig.
    It has a lot of positive aspects for me , I could get started without financing ... that's a big plus .
    And I could work within its envelope for all my immediate needs . I am also convinced I could make one pay for itself And make me money without much fuss .
    What killed the taig for me is that I know it would just be a stepping stone and in a year and a half or two years I'd want to upgrade .
    And that leads into the most often brought up aspect of going cnc .. it's expensive.

    So far all trails have led me back to tormach , because it's expensive .
    I have a budget of about $15,000 . I have $5000 in cash saved up for this and I have a low interest loan for $10,000 in place waiting for a signature.

    I feel I need a machine that I can hit the ground running with.
    In an ideal situation , I could get the basics worked out and be making some parts after 30 days .
    And within 60 days have things dialed in enough for the machine to be paying for its own running costs .
    And then within 6 months for the machine to be paying for itself and the beginning of an actual income .

    I don't think I am being to unrealistic with my expectations.
    But I've been wrong many many many times .

    I started to price the machines from tormach this morning , this evening I'll finish it and share what I've come up with as a starting point And see what you all think .

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Re: New guy needing advice

    There are a number of levels of "time saving" you can add.

    The first is to avoid scrappage by accidentally turning the handle too far -- a simple CNC is great at that.

    The second is avoiding hands-on-wheels time by setting the box running, and then doing something else, until it needs the next operation -- a simple CNC is great at that, too, as long as you can clear chips somehow. Worst case, put a thin compressed air stream right at the work and clothe it all in a shower curtain to confine the chips to the immediate area. You'll still be running to the machine each time a particular tool pass is finished. A shower curtain is cheap :-)

    The third is saving time in setting up and indicating/measuring each operation. Here's where things like power draw bars, using the tool table with pre-measured tools, and using work holding fixtures with known coordinates makes a difference. The PDB is like a thousand bucks, plus it needs compressed air. Plus the cost of the mill.

    The fourth is saving time in the actual cutting -- flood cooling lets you run faster, reduces tool wear, and evacuates chips. Flood cooling really needs an enclosure -- the shower curtain method will be tough to work with long term for that. This will actually make you run to the machine more often, because it will cut faster, and thus finish each individual operation sooner. You're probably $20k in here.

    The fifth is saving hands-on time in the overall part operation -- put stock in, press button, get finished part out. This requires workholding automation, an automatic tool changer, and perhaps a 4th or even 5th axis trunnion. Even going affordable, and cobbling things together on a Tormach, you'll be in it for $50k or so. (Actually, not even sure PathPilot can do fifth axis -- you may need to customize the underlying Linux CNC for this.)

    The sixth is lights-out machining. At this part, you have raw stock on precision pallets, you have robotic arms loading/unloading parts, a chucking lathe with auto bar feeder, and video cameras to detect when things go off the rails. You're likely a million bucks into your shop at this part if you're on a budget, and ten million if you're a modern "best practices" production facility.

    I've done similar reasoning, but coming from a different background. Here's what I considered:

    I recommend absolutely getting the power draw bar. The repeatability in tool position and the process robustness and speed of tool changes is a real improvement.

    I recommend tool measuring/setting some way. If a height gauge plus vee block works for you, that's great! (This works for TTS tools, not for BT30 taper -- you need a special taper-based holder to do it manually for BT30.) If a cheap electronics ETS is in reach, that's a reasonable alternative.

    I recommend ER20 collets (or ER16 if you use very small diameter tooling.) Pick one size, and stick with it, so that you don't need multiple collet sets and tools.
    8 ER20 collet tool holders, and a metric set of ER20 collets would be quite affordable. Double up on individual collets for popular sizes, especially if you have drills. Note that the metric collets contract to hold imperial, so you can use a 7mm collet to hold a 1/4" end mill or whatnot. You will likely want more tool holders in the end, but if you think you need 6 tools, using 8 collets is a good minimum.

    I recommend getting the stand, chip pan, and full enclosure, if you want to go for flood coolant, and I do recommend flood coolant. If money is absolutely tight, and the extra monthly cost if you finance this is a big deal, you could probably do without this, at least at first, but the retrofitting is a bit cumbersome once you realize you need it.

    Depending on how well the business goes, and how far you want to expand it, you could also consider the lower-end Haas mills. Both the "toolroom mill" and "mini mill" options are available under $40k with tool changers, and may have more robust factory-like options that may or may not be interesting to you. The main difference seems to be that the mini runs slightly faster; the toolroom has bigger bed, and both of them are slightly gimped compared to the VF2/VF3 series which is their "standard" line of mills. But that's a pretty big step up from a Grizzly, so the 770 seems like a good step for you, especially if you want to go incrementally, rather than all-in.

  10. #10

    Re: New guy needing advice

    I was sitting on my butt anyway so I went ahead and priced what I think is the absolute minimum . Price wise , for the minimal difference I see no need to even consider a 440 .
    So the 770m it is .

    The machine .
    5 inch vice
    Manual oiler
    Power Draw bar
    Stand , coolant tank, chip tray assembly.
    Jog / shuttle controller
    Fog buster coolant kit

    Totals out at $12,000 and some change .

    And I am giving the tool assistant package with the tool setter some serious thought @ $995

    That would leave roughly $2000 to put towards work and tool holding .

    You did a very good job of breaking it down .
    My goal is to be right between your second and third level .
    I feel the power draw bar is a must have , no exception .
    I do want flood coolant in the future , but right now I'll have to live in a budget and settle for a mess and mist coolant for chip evacuation.
    Preset tools sure seems like a big time saver to me as well .
    I think the tool setter kit tormach offers fits inside my budget , at least I'm hoping it fits .

    I never really gave the haas machines a lot of thought .
    They are just beyond my budget .
    The tormach I can pay for without stress or strain regardless if I ever make penny with it . And fix it if I break it .

    While I could pay for a $40k machine with a lot of stress and life style cutbacks , if I ever crashed it and broke something I'd be out of business.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: New guy needing advice

    I kind of started the same way with a home made foundry making thermoforming tooling in my driveay. Depending on your space requirements I would look at finding an older CNC mill with blown up controls and do a conversion or build of controls using a PC
    with software like Mach3. Lots of drivers out there such as Gecko . Lots of support out there on the internet on how to do this. Try to find something that utilizes common tooling like R8.
    As long as the machine is half way tight and mechanically tight I would go for it. Don't be afraid to look at off brands.
    I see you are in Ohio.
    Take a look at HGR up in Euclid. You can negotiate with them.
    Take a look at software like FreeCad for drawing and possibly an older version Of BobCad, Version 18 to 20 would probably fit your needs and can be mastered by using the manual and not
    being gouged by support costs. There are free forums and support.
    Bridgeport Series 1, Cincinatti 20 x 40 bed mill, 5c gang lathe, 20"x 20" x 20" 3D printer, CNC router.
    If you want to see some examples I am located in northern Ohio.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Re: New guy needing advice

    @Portly that sounds good! My sacrifice for getting the flood coolant and enclosure was "drive my old car for longer," and because there's no real problem with it, that was an easy decision for me. Sounds like you are only slightly different. Adding the enclosure later is easy if you have the stand and pan!

    Also, don't avoid third party tools -- a $150 tool setter from Ebay may work just as well. The Tormach just sees "contact or not?" so there's no real compatibility risk, as long as it's the same make-or-break kind of contact. There's even Tormach-specific after-markets, like this one: https://www.ebay.com/itm/ECs-Automat...4AAOSwOFZd610c

    Good luck on your antique-style sights and accessory business! I imagine even something as simple as a bracket for a leather strap can be a valuable replacement part ...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Quote Originally Posted by jwatte View Post

    I recommend absolutely getting the power draw bar. The repeatability in tool position and the process robustness and speed of tool changes is a real improvement..
    I know many are going to jump on me for this, but if he's looking to cut his time per part from 4 days to 4 hours, than the Power Draw Bar is a luxury. A manual tool change takes less than a minute (more like 30 seconds), and that $1K could be better spent on other things to get started. Plus the PDB is an easy add on that could be installed later down the road if he chooses. And I'm not sure what you mean by "repeatability in tool position". How is a PDB more repeatable?

    I do agree with your TTS advice...pick a size and stick with it. The operator set for $1K is ER20 which I'm not a fan of because of the smaller tooling I use. I wish I had thought it out a bit more, and bought just the tooling I planned on using most instead of the operator set.

    The community support and knowledge base makes Fusion the only choice in my opinion. The price can't be touched either. I'm not trying to sound like an Autodesk Fanboy, but for starting a small business, it's a tough act to follow.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2016

    Re: New guy needing advice

    I would skip the operator set. You can buy the tools you need when you need them.

    I would definitely stress the other way on the power drawbar though. I wouldn't even use my 770 if I had to do the tool changes manually. Sometimes when doing one off, prototype or short production where you don't have the best fixtures you might need half a dozen or more tool changes per run. It also makes using a probe so convenient you'll just leave it hooked up and grab it whenever you need to. With the PDB, you don't think twice about just hitting the button and throwing the probe in to pick up a feature or hole... then switch back to the tool.

    There are incredible expensive probes, but I use the hell out of this $110 Wildhorse probe that plugs right into the Tormach panel and it serves me incredibly well. Every project starts with it. Wildhorse Innovations - Econo-Probe 3D Probe & Tool Height Setter

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Re: New guy needing advice

    If money wasn't an issue I would also go for a PDB, but he said he was on a budget.

    On a small real estate mill like the 770, I feel $1K is better spent on a $600 fixture plate, and a second $400 vise. Two vises will do more for your productivity than a PDB, and a fixture plate is a game-changer on a small mill

  16. #16

    Re: New guy needing advice

    From my point of view , after 5 years of tool changes on my g0704 , budget be dammed a power draw bar is a must have .
    Even if for purely psychological reasons .

    I've been giving what you guys say about tool holding a whole lot of thought .
    Except for facing stock I don't use any big tools .
    1/4 inch is the big for me and 5/32 is average .
    Having a 10k spindle and the ability to use smaller size tools would be a step up for me .
    I think I should be thinking about what I could be using instead of what I am currently using as far as tools go .

    I haven't given work holding as much thought as I should be yet . My initial thought process was to just use the vice and make multiple sets of soft jaws to start with.
    But yet again , I'm starting to learn that I need to quit thinking about things from a manual machining perspective.

    So much to learn ...

  17. #17

    Re: New guy needing advice

    I built my G0704 PDB for like $400. No matter your choice in new machine, make the leap to a PDB on your G0704. You'll also have to adopt TTS, but you'll have that already assuming you buy a 770.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Re: New guy needing advice

    Sounds like you have a good plan together.

    I would agree with the others about the tooling - I would skip the ER operators kit and kind of order as you go. Maritool seems to be a pretty good source for decently priced, accurate collets. It seems there are multiple sources for TTS holders, but I've always gotten mine from Tormach directly in larger batches as I need them. ER16 has generally been large enough for me, but I also have a few ER32 holders that I keep on hand as well.

    I would skip the 5 inch vise and look at either 4 or 6 inch vises from reputable sources that are compatible with Kurt style vises. There are many great workholding systems available that use custom jaws for those vises.

    I think another good time saver may be a Haimer or a well reviewed touch probe. Edge finding has always been a long process for me.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Re: New guy needing advice

    How is a PDB more repeatable?
    My experience:
    The tool holding pressure when manually cranking on the drawbar varies with each tool insertion.
    The pressure from the compressed air is fairly consistent.
    However, the manual drawbar I used was on a well worn 1100; the PDB has been on a fresh 440.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Re: New guy needing advice

    If you want to make money with your budget, I would go with Industrial machine like this.. tool changer, full enclosure etc.


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