Hi all; I got my NM-200 a month or two ago and I've been so busy getting everything I need for full-on production that I've not had a chance to post a review. I think I can sum the entire thing in one word though - wow!
Simply put, I love this machine. A little backstory will help explain where I'm coming from. I'm an absolute beginer when it comes to machining but I've always loved the idea of doing it myself. I came up with the idea of making parts for hobbiest in the various hobbies I play around with - RC, robotics, etc. I converted a little Sieg X2 into a CNC machine and quickly learned the basics and that I liked it. I designed up a few parts and found I'd have no trouble selling them. I decided to take the risk and I got a business lease to pay for everything. That brings me to ordering the machine.
So my machine is slightly different than most of the S2's out there. I got a one-off machine from Khai - it has the S2 electronics and spindle but has part of the S1 frame so the spindle at lowest extension is still a good 5+ inches from the table. My only reason for getting this machine vs. a new S2 is that this was the last machine Khai had in stock. Ultimately this probably proved a mistake as it still took quite a few weeks to actually get my machine and the height of the spindle is a huge annoyance (my biggest one by far). I got the included computer, stand, coolant, 4th axis electronics (though not the rotary table itself), and a few spindle extender things.
I chose the Novakon over the Tormach for a couple of reasons. The first was the increased table travel which I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. The next reason was Novakon pre-sales support. I called Tormach 2x and Novakon multiple times. Khai is a customer service guru - prompt callbacks when I had to leave a message and just consistently pleasent to deal with all around. Tormach on the other hand was just not that helpful or even that friendly in the end.
Delivery and Setup
The machine is big. I had NO clue how large it would be until I actually saw it. It comes in two large crates, one that contains the base and one that contains the rest. It was reasonably well packed with foam and the like. Lots of people have talked about much of the set up and the manual shows this in great detail. I'll simply add that the foldable 2-ton engine hoist from Harbor Freight is NOT large enough to really manage this mill. That's what I used and it was a horrible nightmare I'd not wish on anyone. Actually getting the mill in my garage and on it's base was a terrible ordeal and very frustrating. I've already told my wife I'll never move from this house as I can't move the mill again.
The mill itself worked right out of the gate. Plugged it in, hooked up a monitor, keyboard, and mouse then turned it on. Everything worked first try. The mill tram is quite good initially as was the overall accuracy. The only thing that gave me any trouble was the coolant system - one of the tubes was far too large and didn't fit through the hole in the cabinet. I ended up doing some tricky routing with PVC instead. Additionally, a couple of bolts and nuts were missing so I had to snag them at the hardware store. All of them were for the coolant shroud though so no harm.
The mill has many good points, it seems very rigid though I don't have a good way of telling how rigid with the small work I do. It has a huge amount of travel - particularly huge when compared to anything in it's price range. It's accurate, powerful, well-designed, and well-constructed. The electronics cabinet is a wiring work of art. Adding the superb support from Khai makes it an easy choice and one I believe I'd make again.
The coolant system is pretty whimpy and inconsistent - sometimes the flow drops off a bit for no reason I can tell and even when it's at it's best, it's not as powerful as I'd like. At best it barely puts out enough oomph to wash away the chips. Additionally the coolant tub is just too small to let the machine run consistently. I plan on replacing the tub with a large Rubbermade-style bin that can hold a good 5 gallons. If the pump is too whimpy long term, I'll replace it with a good pond pump as well.
The spindle drawbar is too short as well - strangly so. It works, but I wish it had a good couple of turns of threads more.
Since the huge majority of my parts are cut from .09" to .125" aluminum, the first thing I did was to create a tooling plate 24" x 15" with 1/4" tapped holes set 1 1/2" apart. I then mounted this plate on two 8" Enco vises that I mounted on blocks to raise above the table. I hate having to raise the vises but this is the price to pay for the huge z-axis clearance.
Then I created a tall "enclosure" using PVC and shower curtains to contain the splash from the coolant. This actually worked out far better than it sounds and looks pretty good in the end. It was both inexpensive and quick to make while keeping all the mess totally inside. I'll take some pictures if anyone is interested.
Next on the list is a PVC keyboard/mouse/monitor tray - almost done with this one. After that will be a tool holder for the quick change tools I use most frequently.
I love this machine and would buy it again. Today was the first chance I've had to really try and run a significant job on it and it came out flawlessly. The job took about 3 hours and ran unattended (40k+ lines of gcode). It was a trial run for my production layout and looks like it will work great - the machine appears to be a huge success. Novakon, for Christmas I'd like an ATC to go with my great machine