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  1. #1
    300+ Forum Addict XOrionFE's Avatar
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    Mill? Lathe? CNC? What works for least?

    For those of you engineers that are making a lot at home what would you say the most versatile piece of equipment for making parts is also on a budget? I am considering buying a small mill or lathe but not sure what will get me the most bang for the buck. I would like to possibly make my own panels but could also see uses for a lathe (or maybe a combo machine?).

    CNC would be sweet but seems too expensive for the use I would give it (not trying to have a business...just hobby).

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    500+ This must be a daytime job BHawthorne's Avatar
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    I would suggest an X2 or X3 mini mill with a CNC retrofit kit. Run it with Mach3 software on a controller pc. I use FeatureCAM student edition for my CAM output for my G-code. I do things a bit strange with CAD though. I use Adobe Illustrator to generate DXF for FeatureCAM instead of a regular CAD program. CNC on a budget is not an easy thing to achieve. There are plans for router tables out there but they don't handle metal that well. It really depends on what your wanting to cut and how precise you want it to be.

    I use a CATIA -> MasterCAM -> Fanuc m-i0 workflow at my job.
    At home I use Illustrator -> FeatureCAM -> Mach3 workflow.

  3. #3
    300+ Forum Addict XOrionFE's Avatar
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    Thank you

    I was actually looking at an X2 varient at Harbor Freight. Maybe I start with this and add CNC to it later. Right now I think I could manual control most of what I want to do but can see huge benefit to doing CNC later so if there is a kit to convert this may be the ticket. I have an extensive woodworking shop but currently have nothing for metal working. I am also thinking about getting a metal cutting bandsaw.

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    500+ This must be a daytime job BHawthorne's Avatar
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    The X2 is pretty cost effective. I'd add some upgrades to it though over time. I have a belt drive kit and a spindle fan kit I've added to mine besides the CNC retrofit.

    A really good place to shop for mini mill supplies and upgrades is:
    http://littlemachineshop.com/

  5. #5
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    Hello

    I would say a 3 axis CNC is excellent for most of parts we need to make, but I'm just talking about my own experience. I've build my own CNC - a very low-cost unit. < $700, then add Mach3 and e.g. Sheetcam ($180) and maybe Meshcam to do 2-1/2 3D. The CNC is handling all sorts of plastics (Acrylic, Lexan, POM...) and of course all kinds of wood - e.g. MDF which is the BEST, even Aluminium if Iím careful.

    This is affordable if you even count in use of extra valuable spare time. I think building/buying a CNC and the use of it gives this hobby an extra dimension and the payback time is very short, at least if your building a more or less complete cockpit.

    Good luck with whatever decision you make.
    Regards,
    Per-Erik
    www.hoddo.net

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  7. #6
    150+ Forum Groupie WJH308's Avatar
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    For a metal shop, well, this is my opinion.
    1. Tool is the Lathe! The lathe is the machine tool handed down to mortals from god himself! It is the only tool that can reproduce itself. (Guess a mill could as well with a rotary table for doing some turning work)
    2. Metal cutting bandsaw, for cutting metal stock down to size.
    3... Drill press, Mill, welder? Need a grinder...

    Well if you are cutting sheet metal for panels, a cnc plasma cutter is probably a good idea. If you are making backlit panels and need to engrave lexan, a CNC mill or router with a very small ball endmill could work or make your own silkscreens for when you paint the plastic.

    From my own point of view, CNC is best for making multiple parts, or complex tool paths. For making one off's like bushings, shafts, tooling, etc, a manual Lathe can't be beat for price and ease.
    Thats the other thing, beware of the made in CHina tools. I cut my teeth with machining building a Live Steam locomotive. Started out with a Mini Lathe, soon sold it and bought a used 1941 South Bend 9" model C lathe that is my prized possesion, just wish I had it down here in Florida...

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    500+ This must be a daytime job BHawthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WJH308 View Post
    Thats the other thing, beware of the made in CHina tools. I cut my teeth with machining building a Live Steam locomotive. Started out with a Mini Lathe, soon sold it and bought a used 1941 South Bend 9" model C lathe that is my prized possesion, just wish I had it down here in Florida...
    The thing with the X2 mini mill is that you need to replace the cheap parts in it with upgrades otherwise it'll fall apart over time. If you upgrade it though it becomes a pretty nice piece of equipment. First thing I did with my mini mill is get rid of the cheap spindle gearing. The belt drive upgrade is really inexpensive and makes it a lot longer lasting machine.

  9. #8
    300+ Forum Addict XOrionFE's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. All great information and plenty for me to research. I like the idea of a CNC because of its precision, repeatability, and the ability to engrave also. The X2 sounds like the path to go down.

    Bandsaw is definitely also on my list. I have a nice woodworking one but not setup for cutting metal of course.

    The lathe also sounds like a future acquisition.

    I have to read up on the X2 CNC conversions as well as the other upgrades you mention. Thanks again.

  10. #9
    150+ Forum Groupie WJH308's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by XOrionFE View Post
    For those of you engineers that are making a lot at home what would you say the most versatile piece of equipment for making parts is also on a budget? I am considering buying a small mill or lathe but not sure what will get me the most bang for the buck. I would like to possibly make my own panels but could also see uses for a lathe (or maybe a combo machine?).

    CNC would be sweet but seems too expensive for the use I would give it (not trying to have a business...just hobby).

    Thoughts?
    Absolutely without a doubt is a Lathe. You can do limited milling in a lathe too.
    Combo machines are a compromise, I'd stick with individual machines. The lathe itself is a small price to pay, you will spend many more on tooling, and tools to support the tooling. What I mean is that you will need a grinder, to grind the HSS bits, you will need 4 jaw and 3 jaw chucks, maybe a collet system depending on what your doing, you will need a metal bandsaw for cutting stock to size, you will need measuring equipment, which are calipers, micrometers, height gauge, surface plate, marking fluid, center punches, scribes. Quick change tool post with holders, custom made tools that were made on the lathe for simple tasks, etc. Getting into metal working is no small or cheap task, and takes a while to get it going. You need to visit a machinist forum with active members to see their setups, and projects. Like I said before, I miss my machine shop, I wish it was with me in Florida, I don't have the time or money to tool up another shop.

  11. #10
    300+ Forum Addict XOrionFE's Avatar
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