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Workshop/benchtop CNC mills

JNHEscher

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1892
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Dogwood, MO.
Been browsing and researching them as I stumble upon options. Would jot a list of sorts down so I have a list of every machine available to compare them. Hell, I'll just list them here. Maybe some constructive advice will come along. Experience stories of any of these machines, manufacturer support, and controller connections are welcome. Keeping the options down to heavy duty tabletop support for affordability. There's plenty of threads out there of folks comparing two or three machines, but no full list of every machine available in the bench top type.

Some are starters and others are cream of the crop in their class. YouTube is great for scoping out their capabilities.


https://www.cncmasters.com/

https://tormach.com/machines/mills.html

http://www.skyfirecnc.com/

https://www.microkinetics.com/index....8844fOM28bAeJk

https://taigtools.com/product-catego...c-micro-mills/

Adding to the list.

https://us.syil.com/personal-cnc-mill

Apparently have to separate links with a text line to keep links from combining.

https://www.haascnc.com/machines/ver.../minimill.html

Novakon

https://www.novakon.net/products/tor...ant=5638693060

Hurco

https://www.hurco.com/en-us/products

Made in Poland

https://mdaprecision.com/product-category/benchtop-milling-machines/benchtop-cnc-mill/
 
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What are you trying to do with it? A lot of people end up very disappointed with these little mills when they try to do anything that requires a bit of rigidity. A lot of the time you can get an older knee mill for about the same you'd spend on one of those....as long as you have the room and power for it.
 
What are you trying to do with it? A lot of people end up very disappointed with these little mills when they try to do anything that requires a bit of rigidity. A lot of the time you can get an older knee mill for about the same you'd spend on one of those....as long as you have the room and power for it.

Ideas are still brewing as I've wanted a cnc mill for years and never thought I could buy one. However, the opportunity to do so is on the way and I'm putting serious consideration into. And, AND, the wife is 100% on board. Leaning hard towards the Tormach 770 because of size, price, support, materials it can handle, etc. I'd like to mill the steel exhaust manifold plates for the engine in my bus. Pretty sure that some of the folks that know what I'm talking about will read through this thread. Other parts are smaller, aluminum and stainless miscellaneous stuff that can be done on 3-axis. A few others would be enjoyable with the 4th axis option.
 
Ideas are still brewing as I've wanted a cnc mill for years and never thought I could buy one. However, the opportunity to do so is on the way and I'm putting serious consideration into. And, AND, the wife is 100% on board. Leaning hard towards the Tormach 770 because of size, price, support, materials it can handle, etc. I'd like to mill the steel exhaust manifold plates for the engine in my bus. Pretty sure that some of the folks that know what I'm talking about will read through this thread. Other parts are smaller, aluminum and stainless miscellaneous stuff that can be done on 3-axis. A few others would be enjoyable with the 4th axis option.

I have mixed feelings on the tormachs. The serve a market, but they're really pricey for what you're getting. Great for aluminum. Ok for harder stuff, but I don't think you'll be super happy if you're planning cutting more steel/stainless than softer stuff. I think you'd want the MX if you planned on doing much steel.

Problem is you can get a lot more in an older, used professional machine for the $15-20k you'll drop in to a tormach.


A few years ago I bought a Bridgport CNC knee mill from another member on PBB (old machine that he updated with new electronics and control). I think I paid like $3,500 for it. Very rigid and holds better tolerance than I'd need for 99% of what I do with it. I think after all the extra tooling I bought and the 4th axis I bought but have yet to wire up, I'm in to it for maybe $7k. Only real limitations I've run in to is that it doesn't quite have the spindle speed I'd like and the work envelope is relatively small (9x18). The shop in the new place I'm buying will fit and power a full VMC so once I start generating some revenue I'll probably pick up a full size machine.

I've seen a lot of similar machines for sale lately in the $5-7k range. Lots of used equipment on the market right now due to places shutting down.


When I got mine, I went up to OH and took John Saunders' class (NYC CNC on youtube) as a crash course in fusion 360. I then started watching the Titans of CNC videos and ran through a couple of his projects and that really when things came together. I can do most basic stuff now from a drawing and programming standpoint. These are a couple of the Titan parts I made on mine when I was learning.

IMG_20181125_150945.jpg
IMG_20181203_204756.jpg


And also
IMG_20181112_101335 (1).jpg
IMG_20181110_160643.jpg


:flipoff2:
 
I would look at a used Haas mini mill before any of those. The 1.5HP spindle on the Tormach would make milling anything in steel a real chore. Also, at 950#, it ain't going to be that rigid.

Edit: for reference, I bought a Haas VF4 with a 210 rotary table for 20K in real good shape.
 
I have mixed feelings on the tormachs. The serve a market, but they're really pricey for what you're getting. Great for aluminum. Ok for harder stuff, but I don't think you'll be super happy if you're planning cutting more steel/stainless than softer stuff. I think you'd want the MX if you planned on doing much steel.

Problem is you can get a lot more in an older, used professional machine for the $15-20k you'll drop in to a tormach.


A few years ago I bought a Bridgport CNC knee mill from another member on PBB (old machine that he updated with new electronics and control). I think I paid like $3,500 for it. Very rigid and holds better tolerance than I'd need for 99% of what I do with it. I think after all the extra tooling I bought and the 4th axis I bought but have yet to wire up, I'm in to it for maybe $7k. Only real limitations I've run in to is that it doesn't quite have the spindle speed I'd like and the work envelope is relatively small (9x18). The shop in the new place I'm buying will fit and power a full VMC so once I start generating some revenue I'll probably pick up a full size machine.

I've seen a lot of similar machines for sale lately in the $5-7k range. Lots of used equipment on the market right now due to places shutting down.


When I got mine, I went up to OH and took John Saunders' class (NYC CNC on youtube) as a crash course in fusion 360. I then started watching the Titans of CNC videos and ran through a couple of his projects and that really when things came together. I can do most basic stuff now from a drawing and programming standpoint. These are a couple of the Titan parts I made on mine when I was learning.



And also


:flipoff2:

I was poking around for local mills. Came up completely dry. I'm not really sure that I can put a knee mill where I intended to use this in the long term. I'll explain in a bit. Oh, and I watch NYCCNC and Titans of CNC almost weekly. Still have a steep learning curve, but it's time and there's no better way than hands-on.
 
I would look at a used Haas mini mill before any of those. The 1.5HP spindle on the Tormach would make milling anything in steel a real chore. Also, at 950#, it ain't going to be that rigid.

Edit: for reference, I bought a Haas VF4 with a 210 rotary table for 20K in real good shape.

All for Haas, though their mini mill is too big, I think.
 
Gonna get some hell for this, but here it goes. On the bus, I'm setting up a workshop bay. Mini lathe, plaz, welder, all that jazz. Something with serious beefy draws to pull out tables and such to work from outside the bus. A mill has long been on my list. CNC is pretty much a must have at this point. Wife knows I've wanted one and wants me to get one. She almost sounds more enthusiastic than I do.

The work envelope of the Tormach 770 is about as small as I want to go. And yeah, I know you pay for the Tormach name. The broad support kinda makes it worthwhile. Still looking. I had never heard of Skyfire until this eve.

Z heights in the envelopes I find useful are too tall for the lower storage bays of the bus. Putting a cnc machine down there in a non-climate controlled space seems stupid anyway. What's crazy is I kept thinking about this and could only see a mill being parked in the living quarters of the bus. As in the back (mom and dad's) bedroom. Then my wife plops down on the bed next to me one night and sees me watching videos of the 770 to see how big it is next to person. Starts telling me about how she and my buddy were texting that morning and eventually tells me that she thinks a mill should go in our bedroom. I was a little speechless, but hell yeah.

So the mills have the Z clearance in the upstairs of the bus. For now, it would be set up in the house or shed. I found the Tormach dimensional pdf's last night and drew the overall boxes. You can see them in the translucent green in the CAD drawing of the bus floorplan. The 770 fits in either bedroom or living room. Mind you I'm likely just as worried as anyone else about the vibration. I'll have to look the mill head and such down for whenever we hit the road. I can't think of any other reasonable way to do this because setting up the mill at a friends shop or elsewhere means it'll still be states away for who knows how long. I just have to get used to going down a checklist to make sure to mill is good to go after parking before I clamp up any stock.

I guess I could get a knee mill in there. The weight is more my concern.

bus floorplan.png
 
All for Haas, though their mini mill is too big, I think.

Trust me it's not. All one of those would do is piss me off, I have only worked in 1 shop that had a mill that small and it was a dedicated machine.
 
Fuck no to having it in a living space. The little chips that thing will produce will get everywhere. It would be like throwing a hand full of needles out in your bedroom. Fuck no.
 
Fuck no to having it in a living space. The little chips that thing will produce will get everywhere. It would be like throwing a hand full of needles out in your bedroom. Fuck no.

It'll be fully enclose. Like FULLY enclosed. I know exactly what wearing jackets full of metal chips feels like.

Wife says bedroom even though I explained that these make noise and will smell like workshop. I think up front because it'll be well away from bedrooms and be far better for weight distribution. Either than or I settle for a mill that will fit in the lower bay. That's gonna be really small.
 
IMO, anything small enough to not kill your living quarters will be too small to make serious cuts in stainless.
Also, you "may" want rigid transport stand(s) to park your Z axis before driving at all.
If you want a serious portable machine shop, your living quarters will be . . . a shop.
Coolant mist, way oil, funky smells from cutting oil or fouled coolant.
You'd be better off towing a military surplus machine shop trailer or being realistic about limitations.

Does your wife fully realize this isn't like the replicator from Star Trek?
Meaning, the cutesy hobby mill will not cut serious ferrous metal parts?
Not to piss on your dreams, but this sounds like a naive pipe dream.

I hope you prove my doubts wrong . . . :beer:
 
IMO, anything small enough to not kill your living quarters will be too small to make serious cuts in stainless.
Also, you "may" want rigid transport stand(s) to park your Z axis before driving at all.
If you want a serious portable machine shop, your living quarters will be . . . a shop.
Coolant mist, way oil, funky smells from cutting oil or fouled coolant.
You'd be better off towing a military surplus machine shop trailer or being realistic about limitations.

Does your wife fully realize this isn't like the replicator from Star Trek?
Meaning, the cutesy hobby mill will not cut serious ferrous metal parts?
Not to piss on your dreams, but this sounds like a naive pipe dream.

I hope you prove my doubts wrong . . . :beer:

We've talked about the trailer shop. Would need to be able to use a big enough trailer to haul the toad and tools. Or build one. Colorado sucks for home-built trailers. I think 70' is the longest you can be on highway. Bus is 40'. I'm sure there'd be about 5' or so between the hitch and front of the trailer.

If I get a mill, I'm going to try out the Blaser Swisslube. According to users, it doesn't stink like other coolants. Not sure on that. Wife chuckled about the smell not being a problem, telling me she's used to stinky smells living with three men lol. That attitude may not last long after smelling it.

The bedroom spot seemed alright since that'll be our workplace. I'm just not really crazy about listening to or smelling a mill in the bedroom and it would add too much weight on the curbside of the bus. The front area is our living room/entertainment room. Watching a mill would certainly be entertainment. The 770 is the max.

There's plenty of videos showing the 770 cutting stainless and titanium grades. They're no fast machine, but they get it done, it looks like. Most of my projects will likely be aluminum one-off stuff and prototyping. A few production items in mind if they take off.

This will start off in the house or shed. Probably the shed. Depends on what I get set up in there for heating and lighting. Doing so will allow some time to decide whether or not a mobile cnc setup is feasible. Either way, I want to size the mill so that it can fit somewhere on the bus in the event that it does get installed on it. And I'll definitely make some rigid stands to lock the axes down with prior to bumping along the roads.

Provided I do prove any doubt wrong (even my own), I'll be sure to share the experience. There's plenty of bus folks running 3D printers and vinyl cutters. Nothing like a mill, though.
 
I think you're going to be sorely disappointed in what you're going to get out of this and how much it'll impact your living space on the bus for relatively little gain. You could have a lot of parts made by a random machine shop on the road for what you're going to put in to that thing. I don't remember your plans for the bus - do you plan to completely live on this thing and sell your house when it's all done? If not, how often do you see yourself having time to machine parts when you're on the road? Or how often do you think you'll absolutely NEED to machine parts when you're on the road?

As others have said, even with an enclosure, coolant, mist and chips will get everywhere. I wouldn't want that shit anywhere near my living quarters. I still haven't set up coolant on my mill because I just don't want to deal with the mess.

If you just want something to fuck around with on the road, I'd look at a cheap little desktop router. You won't be cutting steal with it, but they can do aluminum, wood and plastic just fine. It'd give you something to play with and learn cad/cam without committing to having a "full size" tormach in your buss's bedroom. Get a bigger mill to run at home when you need it.
 
I think you're going to be sorely disappointed in what you're going to get out of this and how much it'll impact your living space on the bus for relatively little gain. You could have a lot of parts made by a random machine shop on the road for what you're going to put in to that thing. I don't remember your plans for the bus - do you plan to completely live on this thing and sell your house when it's all done? If not, how often do you see yourself having time to machine parts when you're on the road? Or how often do you think you'll absolutely NEED to machine parts when you're on the road?

As others have said, even with an enclosure, coolant, mist and chips will get everywhere. I wouldn't want that shit anywhere near my living quarters. I still haven't set up coolant on my mill because I just don't want to deal with the mess.

If you just want something to fuck around with on the road, I'd look at a cheap little desktop router. You won't be cutting steal with it, but they can do aluminum, wood and plastic just fine. It'd give you something to play with and learn cad/cam without committing to having a "full size" tormach in your buss's bedroom. Get a bigger mill to run at home when you need it.

This house will be sold. I'll be machining and fabricating way more once we're on the bus since that'll finally be my occupation, more or less.

35" is all the height I've got in the bottom of the bus. That limits me to the desktop type mills. Routers are a no go. I'll list all the mills that fit within that height.
 
What you want is what every "maker" wants. Small, but able to cut anything. Clean, but no space/money for chip augers, filters, etc. If it was possible someone would have done it already.

Buy a resin 3d printer, design and test parts with that and then send the fusion files to a job shop for the final part.
 
What you want is what every "maker" wants. Small, but able to cut anything. Clean, but no space/money for chip augers, filters, etc. If it was possible someone would have done it already.

You forgot to add they want it yesterday, perfect, and free :flipoff2:


Buy a resin 3d printer, design and test parts with that and then send the fusion files to a job shop for the final part.

JNHEscher - give that^ some serious consideration.

An FDM modeler is relatively inexpensive, "fun for the whole family" (could be a feature in the living space), and it will get you within .005" dimensionally. There are literally thousands of shops that will take a 3D file & credit card from a cadmonkey for one-offs, or gladly quote MOQ price breaks for production based off your STEP file (& hopefully a good drawing using GD&T).

If you want to make money making chips, the home-gamer table top mill ain't a viable solution, and that bigger mill with R8 collets isn't much better. If you want to make money prototyping and creating products, you could rapidly make ABS models for form, fit, function studies, then farm out the grunt work of the production runs. If you go with a "bus mill", still consider prototyping your stainless parts in aluminum, wood, or Freeman wax, then handing off the "real" machining to a good job shop. Otherwise, you'll have a version of the Breaking Bad RV with a legal product but far lower margin.

You seem to be an idea guy - this decision point may be time to redefine & elevate your spot in the new-product food chain. I'd honestly rather still be hands-on every work day, but I now assist and direct dozens of folks who do the value-adding operations. Just my $.02 - ignore it as you see fit :laughing:
 
What you want is what every "maker" wants. Small, but able to cut anything. Clean, but no space/money for chip augers, filters, etc. If it was possible someone would have done it already.

Buy a resin 3d printer, design and test parts with that and then send the fusion files to a job shop for the final part.

A resin printer in a small, enclosed space (bus) is probably not the best idea either.
 
A resin printer in a small, enclosed space (bus) is probably not the best idea either.

I agree, but a small ducted fan pulling fumes & discharging outside should make it possible to minimize the smell.
I hate plastic, but it seems like that could be less intrusive than a CNC spindle chattering like a mofo on stainless.
 
I agree, but a small ducted fan pulling fumes & discharging outside should make it possible to minimize the smell.
I hate plastic, but it seems like that could be less intrusive than a CNC spindle chattering like a mofo on stainless.

The formlabs printer I have at work doesn't smell much at all. The alcohol wash is the smelliest part by far.
 
The formlabs printer I have at work doesn't smell much at all. The alcohol wash is the smelliest part by far.

Yeah, we have a Stratasys Dimension SST in one of the copy rooms at work & it's not bad.
If I had to have that or a min-mill in my house, the "CNC hot glue gun" would be my choice.
Semi-off topic: 3D printing in wax for vacuum investment casting makes bitchin' stainless parts :grinpimp:
 
I had no interest whatsoever in 3D printers until somebody said investment casting stainless. Gotta look into this. No idea how I'd be setting up to smelt metals....on a bus.

Some time ago, probably on the other site in the original thread, there was talk about farming out parts from various cnc shops. Can't remember the name of the shop mentioned. Been on the fence about that because of the cost. I've paid out the ass for alu parts to be milled on smaller machines than what I'm looking at. Quotes for a couple other parts I drew a few years ago were higher than the cost of buying my own machine with tooling.

Farming is by far the better way to go here. Somebody got me right. Ideas guy. Too many ideas and not enough machinery. Chip collection is the biggest pain to overcome. I'll see if there's any worthwhile machine to stick downstairs so the chips can stay outside since I still want to have the ability to mill as we get on the bus.
 
Trailer is a WAY better idea.

No mill is sealed that well. At some point you have to open the door to get the parts out and clean them off. Then there's the whole getting the chips out of the machine......

Coolant tank? In a moving vehicle? Your going to have to make one in order to keep it from spilling. Mist system would eliminate that problem but coats everything in sight in lube. Chilled air kinda works but really reduces cutting speeds (even lower for those mills) but requires a lot of air to run.

Build a nice trailer with airbags and shocks and be a happy man.
 
i despise mini-mills.

for exhaust flanges and such, a torch or plasma with CNC if you just want to have it will do the 2D work much, much better, be more useful and won't piss you off constantly.

for a mobile setup? again, i have a very hard time justifying a mill at all.

Small lathe for making bushings and reducers and adapters? super handy and not as annoying. 3D shapes and such? 4.5" grinder, stack of wheels and a torch/saw with a welder as needed.

I've got a jet mill/drill that is basically a rigid drill press with like 3" of Z travel and a nice table on it, but it lives in a trailer and requires a decent generator to operate. I haven't used it and don't plan to unless my life depends on it and there aren't many things i can think of to mill that are life and death :laughing:
 
Trailer is a WAY better idea.

No mill is sealed that well. At some point you have to open the door to get the parts out and clean them off. Then there's the whole getting the chips out of the machine......

Coolant tank? In a moving vehicle? Your going to have to make one in order to keep it from spilling. Mist system would eliminate that problem but coats everything in sight in lube. Chilled air kinda works but really reduces cutting speeds (even lower for those mills) but requires a lot of air to run.

Build a nice trailer with airbags and shocks and be a happy man.

Me likes the trailer shop idea a lot. Kinda already had a heavy duty trailer on air build in mind. Roof offers more solar real estate to power said shop. Most certainly building my own coolant tank - because mobile. I don't see all this and a car fitting within the DOT limits, but I could start drawing more cartoon boxes in SketchUp to get a sense of it. Actually, I can get CAD files of most every powered tool I'll be carrying. Maybe I'll punch all this into Fusion.

This thread went on a tangent. Saw that coming though. I did say I'd get hell for this.

In a trailer, the smallest vertical thrusts will be at the very front. Don't think the rear of the bus will be that bouncy with as much as the drivetrain weighs. I'm open to ideas on it.
 
or just don't use lube and slow down a bit. even with a "CNC" lube is generally a nicety and not a must have, especially for aluminuim

edit: hand spray some as needed if you really need it
 
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