I am interested in making some full size engine connecting rods out of some type of billet (steel)for race engines. I am not a machinist nor do I have a machine at this time. But being dissabled now and spending my whole life in racing & building race cars it seems like a good place to take my love of racing & skills to ( making specailty parts). I have some time on manual machines but not much more than what a good Auto machine shop would do back in the older days.
The only thing is I just do not know what I need to start this. Will a small mill do this work. I know there would need to be honing to both ends but can this be done at home on a small mill ( then a local shop can finish the honing for me). If so will it take a bigger machine than a X3. Of course I will be wanting to make other thing but they will not be as hard as this. If I had a maching that would pull this off the rest of the things I wish to make should'nt be a problem.
I am not to conserned about doing it fast. I would rather spend my money on a very good machine and deal with it and then go CNC later. It seems the X3 may be a bit light to do this kinda work but I dont know. If so what would be a good size up from this to handle the work. I have spent a lot of time ready this forum and other info but it gets a bit over welming & I need some direction on what I need to be reading up on. I want be buying any machine for about 4 months, there is just to much to get a understanding of to even think about making a purchase without putting alot of research into. But I will have about $5000.00 to work with when the time comes for me to make choises. The subject of machining is so vast that I quickly realized that I need to stick to a few guns instead of trying to equip for a vast range of projects. Most other things I need to make are pretty simple but the connecting rods have me wandering what I need. Where do I go from here?
I bought a on old CNC. It's a big, heavy duty and accurate machine. I got it for around $2,500. I think this is a way better deal than most of the small hobby machines that are out there. It takes up a lot of space and requires a 3-phase converter though.
If I were to do it again I would probably have gone with a Tormach system. For around $6K you could get a new system. The other system I looked at was the shopmaster tri-power (similar price and it's a "good" 3 in 1...most 3 in 1's aren't considered good at anything). I don't know what the material/hardening requirements are for a connecting rod but a CNC mill would do the trick.
That being said, I'm still working on my shop and to have a basic shop you almost have to have a Mill, a Lathe and a bandsaw so it's quite a hefty investment. You don't have to have a CNC mill but if you want to make many parts or any unique shapes it sure helps.
Well it sounds as if making con rods on a mill is possible anyway. I am not sure of the metals hardness but 4340 billet & better will be the metals used. I will use some AL to get the design & process down but in the end it will be good metal. In time I would put in the honing equipment to do the whole job in house ( besides cyro treating & shot peening).
I really think it would be best for me to stay away from used machines because of not having the know how to even know what I was buying was usable. But still I have been around machines all my life so its not like I would'nt have some idea. I am old enough to of been making 10 second passes in Hemi cars back in the 70's, although I did get a good start when I was young with the hot rodding and building cars. Having & building a few fast cars before I was old enough for paper to make me legal on the road. So I am not totally over the hill yet.
From what I read the 3 in 1 machines seem to be something I dont want. I believe my needs will require a bit better machine than this. Although about 80% of what I want to do could be handled with a 3 in 1 or small equipment there will be the few things that need a good machine. Having a life long tool set already the machines and tooling will be the main things I have to buy. I will have more than the 5g's to start with but I also inteand to buy a lathe around the 2g range & already have a Miller Tig on the way. I use to run & own my own performance shop & outside some learning curves & the computor side of CNC I feel I will be able to fall right into to this type of work. Dont get me wrong I dont expect any thing to be easy. And I also only have about 10g's to get me started so I need to make my choices good and will be needing the returns from my investment to pay the way to go farther.
As far as a mill I really dont want to buy more than I need as long as what I get can do the job. And I would kinda like to start out with manual ( but dont have to). My main consern is getting a machine that can handle making the con rods. But I could see it very easy to spend 1 or even 2 g's on tooling to be able to jump into many deffernt jobs. But if there is a CNC around the 4 or 5 g range that can handle making the con rods then I would probably go that route & sqeeze myself on just the major needed tooling at first. I just dont know what class machine I need to handle this & if I have to pay 3 to 4 g's for just the machine the CNC will have to wait. My son has several years in auto cad and other softwear so if I do go CNC I will have some daily help even though it would still be a learning expierance for both of use. We also already have any computors needed to run a machine & if I need more computor I am capable of building it myself. But my first consern is the machine itself handling the job and being no bigger than I need. Although my shop is not real small I dont want to use no more space than I have to, but I dont want something that I am pushing the limits on a whole lot. I also would like to stay single phase at least at first but if its really needed to get started then I will do 3 phase.
I am not going to even get into the how to's of making the con rods yet, I intend to get many training Vids & a lot of research before I even start to buy equipment or put tool to metal. I am sure the CNC would help to acomplish this but I feel sure it can be done manualy even if it does take a lot of work or setup to ensure matched sets & quality. To acomplish this with a manual I know it will take some skill but if it comes down to that I will take the time to get my skills to this level before making them. I just need the machine & tooling to be upto the job & dont know what machine can handle this type of metal & job and then be converted to CNC if its not already.
This may be the wrong topic in the forum to be asking such aquestions but I wasnt sure where to put this. Even though I dont know the right questions to be asking maybe some ideas from the forum can get me pionted in the right direction. Well I'm off to read & research more.
I've heard bad things about most 3 in 1's. I don't have any personal experience and I want to believe that they would be OK because they are inexpensive and don't take up a lot of room. I've heard that they perform both functions OK but don't perform either function up to the level of a stand alone machine.
If you are seriously considering converting to CNC, I would look into the tormach or the CNC options with the shopmaster. Grizzly even has a nice looking Knee CNC (The controller alone would be around $8K). I've been having a hard time finding a decent turn-key controller setup for under $6K. Both the Tormach and Tri-power offer a full CNC system for around that amount complete. You could build a system for way less but you really have to do your homework and then it seems like you end up with a bit of a half baked system.
As far as unobtanium metal cutting...it seems to mostly come down to the cutter. You just have to take things slow and expect certain metals to wear the endmills faster than others. Again, I'm still just figuring this stuff out but I've been where you are not too long ago so I can at least share my experiences.
Thanks Chris64, yea there is a lot to take in when your just starting to look into all this and have no expeirance with the performance of each machine out there.
I have already done some research on the Tormach you listed and I must say this is impressive for this amount of money. I could see the extra money being worth it in the long run if I was to spring for this type of machine. Not to meantion the abilities it would give me to be able to do a vast range of work which would help to keep a income flow for sure. I really just dont want to get into building my own setup unless it is down the road after I have learned a lot more & this machine looks like it could cary me for quit awail if I was to dig deep enough to buy it. It has got me thinking for sure but I have plenty of time for that. The size and weight of this machine fits into my shop room very easy also. The only thing is it is quit a bit more money than I was planing. By the time I have softwear,tooling and maybe a fourth axis it would take up all the budget I have and leave no room for other things. But I believe that would be returned pretty easy once up and running.
Again thanks for your time & all the links, I will research plenty more for sure.
Thats a real tall order..To make / manufacture billit steel rods on a manual machine...Design, tooling , jigs and set up is an awsome job..just real time consuming and technical..Even with 35 years experiance ( and a lot making some real horse power) as a machinest/ engineer, it would be overwhelming..not impossible..but real difficult.
I had an accident 4 years ago that left me in a wheelchair..I found it difficult to operate my manual mills and lathes, so I retrofitted to CNC. The Mill is done, has produced some very nice parts..but I had to learn a CAD/CAM program ( vector 10 ),and learn how to program at an old age..just a real big learning curve ( for me anyway..some of the younguns are really fast at this ), had I not had the math and machining experiance, would have a been a long ..long ..haul..still have a lot to learn in CAD..still have lots of tricks to learn in CNC machining..
My advice would be to download some CAD/CAM free programs ( most give you 30 days free trail ) and see how you do..try several..then research some CNC programing, get some books ( CNC for Dummies, like me ) do some tool paths..then really study machining tecniques..Then you will be ready to evaluate machines and tooling..tooling can be very expensive, but correct tooling is as important as the machine.. it takes time, do not waste your money an an inadequete piece of machine that becomes a big boat anchor in your home shop..and remember, have fun at what you are doing !( and be safe)
Question , Why spend all that time and money in just making steel connect rods ?
the market place is floated with them from cheap chine's , Taiwanese and other country's out there European , Australian and USA makers of steel conrods.
There are good and bad conrods out there.
from carrillos , manley , crower , eagles , scat , arrors the list is endless
and to use a small cnc milling machine it will take ages to do one rod at a time
most con rod manufactures are doing a jig form of rack of 6 conrods or more spaced out on a milling table less down time
wish things go well for you , happy maching.
Yes I am sure it will take some time for sure. The reason why,
One, I get a lot of satisfaction making any & all things for my HotRod. The more I can do myself the better it feels when I take the win light against a big team or factory backed racers. I just love it I cant help it.
Two, there is no company that makes rods for my aplication. When I contacted a few of the rod companies about making rods to handle the HP that will be produced the price exceads $2000.00 or more ( and this is only around 1000hp, nothing real big on power). I believe I can make them for around $400.00 to $600.00.
Three, If I can achive this then I can be the one selling the rods for $2000.00 also.
In the end if I can supply them for myself I will be doing good. Even if it takes me alot of time it will be worth it for my own needs. Plus the skills from achiving such a thing can go even farther into other areas which will make me a better machinist & Racer.
As far as a small mill, the more research I do the more I see how important choicing the right machine is going to be. I have narrowed choices down to few machines but am unsure at this time which will be the one. Even at that I do plan to keep my eye out for a good priced Brigdeport to bring bach to life. In my area I do see them around quit a bit but I dont want to buy one first and have to rebuild it before I can even make parts so I will buy a fairly good size & quality machine to get me started & pickup a some old iron for a good winter time prodject. Right now I believe the IH,Tormach or the Grizzly 1240 will be a good setup for me. The more I reseach the IH or the Barebones 1240 may just be my choice & I can do the CNC myself ( which I think will give me a better machine in the end). I dont have to be making ConRods right off but in time I do hope to achive this and even more. To tell the truth the more people think this is a bit much for a home shop to be doing the more I am getting hyped about doing it. Kinda like running a Tunnel Ram & two fours on a street engine. Most say stay away from it, but its the best setup I ever ran on may street cars in MPG, power & drivability. But it does take a lot of work to make it happen. But aint that part of the fun.
I always thought strong conrods were forged and not machined from a billet? I know when we were making hot VW motors the polished standard conrods would survive 99% of the big dollar chevy H-beam rods, they were forged 4340 I Beam.
i am currently running fairly large sized connecting rods at work right now , they are castings run on a horizontal cnc 4 axis 1 op.
something that looks so simple is actually a very involved part ,on a good day we get three parts per shift and we don t dick around
you may need to look at the number of operations involved if your going to run them on a bridgeport , you will be looking at a good number of them ,
don t get me wrong ,i say all the power to you , have fun !
remember save the spot faces and bores to the very last operation
after doing a search ,typical connecting rods are fairly straight forward,the ones we are doing are slit , drilled and tapped at an angle on one side for the small id and where it s split at the large id we bore and add bushings before reasembling the two halves which i would suggest you do in order to uphold a better accuracy if you plan to do some balancing and want everything to stay the same when dismantling and reassembling
have you concidered using aluminum?
If you want to make useful things for hot rods there are many more items other than a part that is highly stressed and so open to failure.
You could specialize in certain brackets, and other such easier to make useful items.
To make a connecting rod ie. one that will actually work. You will need much more that a chunk of 4340 or what ever. To start with if the material has inclusions in it you will be sunk in the begining. Also you will need to have grain structure id'ed. And like the one fellow said. The best and strongest is a forging. You will never make a product productivly to sell on a manual machine. I ran them years ago. And mind you all you have to do is one goof up and many hours of work and the material go into a scrap bin. Not saying it can't be done. It would be a chore on an old K&T Rotary head mill which I spent some time on in the old days.
These days a person doesn't even need to be a machinist, a computer will do it for ya. But you do need to know a bit about how to go about it.
As far as making such things as a connecting rod for racing or ? If you don't have a grasp on engineering principles and the properties of the various materials, and the dynamics involved, and all the correct test instrumentation. You would be better off making a tool or something else useful. Because a pretty con rod can be just that and nothing more.
Sorry to sound so negative, but it just isn't practical with a limited amount of machinery.