New to the forum and looking to get into CNC milling for firearms.
I have looked around quite a bit and have seen so many benchtop and mini mills I think I am going mad. Every one has features that I like or want, but most of them do not tell me what metals I can and cannot mill with the models.
Most of my work will be on aluminum, mild steel, composites. BUT, I may be doing barrel work and frame work later, so the kinds of steel would then be much harder steel, some stainless as well.
I also want a mill that I can do CNC or manual milling. As you well know, CNC is good for some types of work and manual milling is good for other kinds of work. I want the flexibility of both, the power and rigidity to mill whatever materials I am working on (listed above) and have a good all-around machine that will last.
Ya, I am asking a lot, and maybe building my own is the way to go, but honestly, I don't have the time to do the building part of it. I need to be able to buy most of it ready to go.
I am starting a small manufacturing business and that is why I want CNC - so I can repeatedly make parts and accessories. I am also beginning the process of getting my FFL (Federal Firearms License) so that I can do some gunsmithing and custom work for firearms. The overarching idea is to have at least 2 businesses serviced by this one machine. I may also be making small, custom parts and accessories for cars, so that may be a 3rd business. Only one may not be realistic, but I want to try. If I find I really need two mills, then so be it. I am not planning on doing all three at once. The first will be the firearms parts and accessories. Until I get my FFL issued, I cannot work on actions, frames, etc. anyway, so that will wait. The automotive parts is more of an idea right now, so that would be last. By then, I would know if I need more machinery or not.
So, budget is always an issue. I would say starting out my budget, all inclusive is around $3,500. I have the PC already. Otherwise, I would need the mill, CNC software and numerous cutters, accessories.
From my research so far, the brands that seem to be pretty god are;
Flashcut ($$$) CNC Express ($$$)
I am open to other brands, this is just what I have seen or read about online as well as in precision metalworking magazines and books.
What sort of work envelope do you need and what material do you expect to be working with?
Years ago I started with a Sherline manual mill and found that pretty modest depths of cut were required when milling steel with it. The Taig should be able to take heavier cuts from what I've read.
You might also want to check out the mills from Industrial Hobbies and Tormach, especially if you need to work on parts larger than the Taig or Sherline can handle. I'm a new Tormach owner and am very happy with the mill so far.
I second the Tormach idea. That would work very well for you, and it sounds like you would have the space for it.
I have both a Taig and a Flashcut-based machine, and both will likely do you want, but also very likely the Flashcut machine just won't have the bang-for-the-buck. The Flashcut system is definitely nicer in many ways, but whether it is worth the extra money or not is arguable in your case as for you they will both do the same job.
I have also worked with the Sherlines, doing gunsmithing incidentally, and they will be too light for your needs. I have no real experience with MaxNC stuff other than helping out other owners, but from that I have distinctly picked up the sense that thier entry-level stuff is not really something you want to get into.
If you are looking into production and can afford it, definitely look into Tormach.
I had to use a 1 HP benchtop mill with R8 spindle for some milling for awhile. It was a round column type. Junk! If you intend to actually make a living with this machine buy something truly decent. If you don't, you will scrap some expensive gun parts and waste a lot of hours doing it. You need at least a light duty vertical knee mill. A bridgeport clone of some type. Resist the urge to buy too light to get cheap. You'll pay dearly for it in the end. Remember you are not the only person trying to make a living at this. You will have alot of competition. Many of them with high dollar machines. I don't want to seem like a wet blanket, but if you don't get something decent to start with you could just end up wasting the investment your making and not having anything left to fix the problems you got into. For $3500 you should be able to get something fairly decent if you really shop around. Don't be to quick to spend it though if you can save up a little more and buy something nice. The Chinese machines that are available are at least solid iron, even if somewhat loose. Solid is what you'll need to cut alloy steels that guns are made of. Even aluminum takes some guts to cut if you expect to be competitive.
I would stay clear and I repeat "STAY CLEAR" of the MAXNC machines. I am speaking from experiance. I own one and the money I have put into this machine just to make it work reliably (Am still putting into this machine) I could have purchased something bigger and better.
My suggestion is a used CNC machine with good inteactive controls.
For the most part I have to agree with chineguy you want to be looking at a larger machine. You may very well get good results with a smaller conversion mill if you are targeting just one of your three considerations at a hobbiest level. It would be in my opinion a huge mistake to have one of these mini machines try to service three different business opportunities at once.
So doing a conversion on a knee mill would be one consideration. With the right controller software this would be a possible starter machine. I'd rather see you consider a real CNC machine with a tool changer though. Mostly due to the substantially different businesses you are targeting. Using an R8 based milling machine is going to be slow, especially if the items have any complexity at all. This has the potential to cost more up front but I believe would pay off almost immediately.
The other option would be to CNC a couple of small manual knee mills. In the end production type work requires the coolant containment and other options that a purpose built CNC has. An old R8 mill conversion will certainly do for one offs but once you get to the point of making multiple parts i see them as getting messy fast.
I would rather own a worn out real CNC VMC that anything converted!
I fully agree with wizard. Here is something that no one has mentioned!!! What about feed rate? If you want to make money stay clear of anything that is not true CNC Most people do not realize that full blown Machines are no that expensive anymore(given you have the space if not never mind!)
I'm not trying to br negative but but I do this for a living and as a hobby as well. If a man starts talking high precision and production he clearly is in the wrong forum. As for the cost, there are places where a man can pick up used equipment for $15,000. I realize it is a big investment but it will at least have a high return. People mormaly would not think twice to lay down $30,000 for that new chevy,Ford,Dodge or whatever so what would be wrong whit investing on something that has high return.