I Thought this might be of interest to those who contemplate buying an old machining center and rebuilding it, and the problems that can occur along way along with the things in life that may impede its completion.
But, it is a happy ending, and that just goes to show you that if you don’t give up, things will work out. I'm sorry that I cannot show you the pictures of the machine before the rebuild as they were lost during a messy divorce.
So here it starts:
Bringing to life a sleeping 1996 FADAL...
About 7 years ago (2003) I’m on a business trip down in San Diego, Southern California. At this time I happen to work up in Northern California in a town called Healdsburg, and I’m doing a vendor audit and first article inspection for parts on the Army’s Excalibur project.
For those who are interested, do a web search on “Excalibur 982”, that should link you to the details, it also has been on the program ‘Modern Weapons .
I work for General Dynamics, and they are the sole providers for the electro- mechanical system that guides the shell after it has been fired. Anyway, during a lunch conversation with that vendor, I happened to mention to the shop manager, I really wanted to have a machining center again for a retirement shop I was thinking of setting up.
He said he knew of an auto transmission shop just around the corner that had a 1996 Fadal CNC 88HS 15XT with a 4th axis for sale. It had programmable coolant, HT and ridged tapping…. and it was just sitting there… and it had been for a long time. He said they wanted to get rid of it so they could use the service bay it was in for transmission work.
The story was that the original owner was a ‘one man’ mold shop who, two years after buying the new machine, retired or got sick, I’m not sure which, at the time I wondered why a mold shop would have ordered it with the 4th axis, but who am I to question? Anyway, He sold it to this guy who owns the transmission shop and that guy sets it up in one of his shop bays.
You see, he has this idea he can make a lot of money making ball joints and steering linkages for VW’s which were really popular in San Diego at the time. Mind you, the guy doesn’t even know how to run or program the machine, so he has to hire a guy to setup and program it for him.
Well, this is 1998 and the machine tool market has just taken a big hit so nobody is buying. So, when the project falls through 3 months later, the machine sits in this bay, unused, gathering dust, dirt and crud for almost 5 years… never running.
Once during this 5 year period it’s slow at the transmission shop, and the owner, to keep one of his guys busy, tells him to go get paint and do the inside of the machine. He had him spray can paint it because it was coolant stained and he thinks it will help sell it easier being painted.
Well, his worker, who has not that experienced in painting, did no sanding or any preparation what so ever, he doesn’t even wash it off first and now it looks like hell inside and the color doesn’t even come close to matching the original. But, other than that and a 1/8” thick layer of dust, grit, plus the tool changer not working and faulting out because of all the gritty crap on it coming from some nearby grinders he uses for transmission rebuilds… most everything else works great and the table has not a mark on it.
I turned it on, home it, jog the axis and run the spindle, we talked a bit, and the guy, concerned about the tool changer, says that if I decide to buy it offers to get it fixed.
The year I’m looking at this machine is 2003, and it’s again right at the very bottom of a used machine market down turn, so 25 cents on the dollar is the normal selling value of a machine. I want the machine… but I’m not sure he’s going to go for what I got in cash to offer.
Anyway, as I said that’s all I got so I just decided to be honest and tell him what my situation is and how I see the market, because as I see it, it doesn’t hurt to try.
”Look, I said, if you were willing to hang on to the machine for somewhere between six to eighteen months the prices may come back up to 20 to 26k or even more for the machine after it was cleaned up. Right now though, a dealer is going to give you maybe 10 or 13k max, unless of course, he has a buyer on the hook, then he may go a bit higher, it’s even a possibility you might be able to pressure him you to get you 2K or more because of the 4th axis and programmable coolant."
I tell him,” they‘ll charge you six to eight hundred bucks to come out and fix the tool changer and it’s mostly just dirty which I can fix it myself, if I buy it. I want the machine, but my problem is I only have about 13k and I need twelve hundred for shipping and about eight hundred for a fork lift on each side, so I’ve only got around 11k left to offer you.”
I’m sure he probably won’t go for this deal, but he says he’ll let me know later that day. He seems to be a really nice guy and I’m glad I didn’t try to BS him, no matter how it comes out.
To be continued...