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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Posts
    8

    PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    So I got a 5 axis router from PDJ for our business, largely as a test unit because it is cheap, and it seemed like a small risk because the tolerance applications of what we are trying to do is very loose. I couldn't find any info on the machine, so I thought I'd post my experience here for anyone else looking at one of these machines.

    So first things first, I ordered a 4250 5 prime router with 36" Z travel back in February. Total cost ended up around $14K. It is a 8020 frame machine that is set up to run off of Mach 3. Shortly after I ordered the machine, I got an email from the company saying that the owner of the company had passed away, and they were having trouble getting 8020 delivered in a timely fashion, so it was going to take a while to get the machine. They originally said it would take 6 weeks, but this wasn't a high priority at the time, and I didn't mind the extra wait. We just received the machine a month ago. So it actually ended up taking 5 months to get the machine. They claimed that the reason for the delay was 80/20 not getting delivered. After looking into the company more, there seems to be a lot of people who have had similar experiences. I don't want to say that they were lying about anything, but looking at other people's experiences, it looks like they do not have a great track record with timeliness, and they don't really seem to plan ahead in their business very much. Anyway. I received the machine in 9 boxes, when they said it would come assembled. A bit of a bummer, but I didn't complain and just spent a day and a half putting the thing together. I had a few small issues with assembly, but Phil was very helpful on the phone and really seemed to know what he was talking about. Once I got the thing running, I realized there were no limit switches on the machine. I emailed and got no response, but then I called and they told me that limit switches were backordered and they would send them when I received them. I doubted that limit switches were backordered, but I just went with it. Meanwhile I started to work on making programs for the machine, being very careful to make sure everything was within the limits of the machine. I'm using Fusion360 as cam, on PDJ's recommendation. However it looks like they never actually generated any code for this machine, and just used a few hand coded lines to test it out. Eventually I was able to work out a post processor that works. 2 weeks later I called in to check on my limit switches, and they said they would be shipping tomorrow. Convenient timing! I received my "limit switches" which turned out to be just a Z-axis touch plate. I called to ask where my actual limit switches were, and they said that this is what they do for limit switches now. Including X and Y axis. Nevermind the fact that you can see snap switches on their machines in pictures, or that a limit switch is supposed to be an emergency stop device, and not just a homing switch. Ok fine, I ust bought my own switches and wired them up myself. So as far as interacting with the business goes, Phil is really good at helping you with your machine, but overall the business is just not run well at all. They are always "too busy" to supply anything on time.

    As for the machine itself, we really got lucky because our tolerance requirements are low. They claim that the machine is super stiff, and stronger than what you would find at woodworking stores. They have a video showing the machine moving while someone is riding the gantry. Well the gantry is well reinforced, but the main frame of the machine is quite wobbly. We ended up adding a lot of reinforcement to the frame of the machine to beef it up, but the biggest problem is the BC drives. The 2 axis in the head use 80/20 to jog around and make room for the router to spin, but I can move the tip of the router 1/4" with one finger. It simply needs more reinforcement, and the fasteners that are there tend to slip. I used a laser center/edge finder to center the machine before I set up the limit switches. I used the laser to make sure the C drive was aligned with the router when setting it up. I adjusted things to make sure that the laser dot did not move when I rotated the C axis, then tightened everything down, and retested to make sure nothing shifted when I tightened everything. Then I ran a test program making a few cuts. When it was done I checked to see if it had shifted. It had, the laser now moved in a 1/8" diameter circle. And I could tell from the way it moved that it wasn't from the B axis missing steps. I made the same test by moving the z axis up and down, making sure the laser dot stayed in place, and got the same result. I might rebuild the whole head at some point, but for our application, we can handle this amount of slop. We are using the machine to trim thermoformed plastic parts and the trim line can move about 1/4" and it doesn't matter much. It also has a pretty major vibration issue. I got the 36" Z travel just thinking more is better and we might use it some day, but it really makes the head shaky, because it is bolted on to a 3 foot long piece of 8020. At the right feed rate, the tip of the tool was shaking back and forth 1/2". We were able to work around it by using crappy 1/8" shank bits that seemed to absorb a lot of the flex before the machine, and we played with the feed rates to make it work. Considering a commercial 5 axis machine with a big enough table for our parts costs upwards of $80K, I'm pretty happy with this machine.

    However, if you needed any sort of precision, this machine absolutely will not work for you. We lucked out because we just need really rough 5 axis work, but I can't imagine any other application where the amount of deflection in this machine would be acceptable.

  2. #2

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    Hi Tannerc,

    Thanks a lot for the detailed review on the product. We also ended up purchasing the same machine and are having a lot of trouble setting it up. We are quite new to using routers and request if you could help us with our questions. Truly appreciate your time and help. Thank you.
    Best,
    -Jai

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Posts
    8

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    Hey Jai, I would be happy to help you out as much as I can. Major changes that I have made are that I swapped out the original motion controller for a smoothstepper. I did this so that I could make the second Y-axis drive independently driven from the first, and it helps a lot to make sure the gantry is actually square. What issues are you having?

  4. #4

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    Thank you for your response. We are still trying to understand our machine and get it to run. My first question is that should the programming for 5 Axis be done from the Tip of the Tool or the Center of Rotation? Does Mach 3 support Tip of the tool programming? Also did you have to build a custom post for this machine to be used in 5 Axis? Basically we are trying to use this machine to trim plastic parts out and are not very sure about the setup process. Your input is truly appreciated. Thanks again.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Posts
    8

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    it must be programmed from the center of rotation. Mach3 has no idea where the tool tip is. It is a "dumb controller" that just follow instruction. What CAM software are you using? Im using Fusion 360, and I have found that the post processor they provide for 5axismaker works well. You just need to make adjustments to make sure your units are the same and all the different dimensions for your machine are the same. You can find it here: https://cam.autodesk.com/posts/post.php?name=5axismaker

  6. #6

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    Thank you for the link. I use CAM Works to program the machining. Will this post still work for me? Also I would need a little help with my Mach 3 setting. I am not sure if they are setup correctly. I tried to setup a machine home but am not sure on how to do that. Per my understanding after touching of the 0,0,0 on the stock part my tool should go to Machine Home position to clear any contours and then move to the lead in. Is this right? Kindly bear with me as I am very new to machining. Thanks a lot.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Posts
    8

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    I'm not very experienced with cnc either so my help is going to be rather limited. I have only used Fusion360 for cam, so I'm not really familiar with how post processors work with other software. As far as what the machine is going to do, it will do exactly what the code tells it to do. Nothing is automatic and if you want to do something you need to specifically code it in. For how my machine runs, I use limit switches to define where the head is, and I have locator pins to put my clamping fixtures in place. My home position is at the corner of these fixtures and never moves, so my machine knows where it is based off of the limit switches used to home the machine. When I start a program, I added in a line that raises the head above my fixture, then moves over to the lead in point and back down. Default coming off the post processor, it will just try to move in a straight line from where your machine starts to the lead in position, and it doesn't care if your part is in the way. You need to code to go around it.

  8. #8

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    Thank you for the information on setting the zero and position. Did you ever calibrate the rotations and x, y, z movement? Also we got a VFD Controller box with the machine which reads 6000rpm spindle speed. Do you know how to change the rpm on the controller?

  9. #9

    Re: PDJ INC 5 Prime Review

    tannerc: thank you for this review. I am in need of a 3 axis machine for thin carbon fiber trimming (UAVs), for wings and fuselage. The 42x50 with 36"Z seems to fit us perfectly. We really need that tall Z clearance to trim the fuselage. Anyway, we're trying to develop aircraft and not CNC machines. That said, we might just stick with a commercial turn key machine (Laguna or New Wave Shark) for wing trimming and, at least for now, continue to trim the fuselage using a hand dremel...

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