Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

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  1. #1
    Member Bill_B's Avatar
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    Default Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

    Im looking for a start up turning center and was pretty close to pulling the trigger on a 2005 Femco HL-25. Im not new to CNC milling BUT the milling I have done in the past was only organic surface models and sculputure milled in wax. I have basic knowledge and experience in manual mill and lathe. I have no CNC lathe or turning center experience at all. I am working Fusion 360 for CAM and CAM as well as Rhino for CAD. I have been a CAD designer 3D modeler, digital sculpor for 20+ years. I have basic skills programming in Fusion BUT have no real experience with mechanical assembly parts on either mill or lathe. The end goal is a start-up business making parts for the retail market. I am not trying to become a machine job shop. I will only be prototyping and doing small production runs of my products. another big consideration is I need to set up and install whatever machine I end up with in my home garage shop (3 car garage).

    My question is, IS an older (late90s early 2000s) turret style turning center with Func controller just too much to learning curve to get into this? OR should I take the advice of a seasoned fabricator & machine and buy a Tormach and start small?

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  2. #2
    Member Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

    Nothing wrong with going from zero to big We did with a1989 machine with a Fanuc OT controller. Like you, we bought the machine to make our own in-house parts for the retail market. We are not a job shop, although we do take in outside work occasionally. Keeps the machine from sitting 6 months out of the year. I normally figure a run of 10 parts to be the minimum that I would run on the CNC lathe, fewer than that it is normally faster to run them on the manual lathe unless they have a complex curved profile. It just takes too long to set up the CNC for short runs, a half day of setup time to make a 1/2 hour run just doesn't make much sense.

    One thing to concider is the amount of power that you have available in a home shop. We limited to a 7.5/10HP spindle because of limited single phase power. The 2005 Femco HL-25 seems to have a 15/20HP spindle. A phase converter of some kind will be required if you do not have 3 phase power available, we installed a 15 HP rotary phase converter for ours. I would want a minimum of 100 Amps of 240V, single phase power available. The machine won't use all of that, but concider lighting, and other tools running at the same time.

    The difficulty of setting up the machine really depends on your machine installing experience. Not really that much to it, but it does need to be moved into position, leveled, and wired up. That's a big chunk of iron to move around. Unless you have your own lifting equipment (large forklift) hiring machinery riggers is not a bad way to go, but not cheap.

    Now I have to say that we did not get along well with the 30 year old Fanuc software/controller, and shortly after running the machine for a bit we ripped out everything that said Fanuc on it, except the spindle motor, and replaced it with modern hardware. Doing a full controls upgrade on a real industrial CNC lathe probably should not done by a home shop owner with no industrial controls experience or at the least has upgraded a couple of less complex machines.

    It is not that Fanuc didn't work, but rather it lacked the modern conveniences like ease of uploading programs, and was generally clunky in other areas. I'm sure the Fanuc Oi-TC software is a bit more modern, and I think comes with a floppy drive as standard equipment.

    Fusion 360 has a few posts for Fanuc turning. Here is a good place to learn more about CNC turning with Fusion 360, and it's free.
    https://academy.titansofcnc.com

    I hope I haven't discouraged you here, but just wanted to point out some things to concider before jumping into a larger machine.

    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA


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    Member Bill_B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

    You have pretty much confirmed what my colleague has told me. ALL of this is just such a BEAR! Setting up a 3 phase machine in a garage just seems like so much to deal with. Let alone learning a 25 year old machine and technology from back in the day with modern CAD & CAM. It might just be better to go with Tormach to get started and do all this over once If I get funded, then buy real machines.

    Do you know of any smaller 220 single-phase lathes under 15K I've been looking?

    Does the phase converter work for you guys and how much did that cost?

    Big question IS, What is your input IF you are not planning on a full controller retrofit and had to run an older machine on the old Fanuc OT controller and that would be all you have to work with? Just how painful would it be? and biggest question yet would it be worth it in the end? OR all in am I better off just starting with a Tormach SL-15? I could probably a lot of what I need to do in the conversational at and it looks really easy to use and a great intro to CNC turning. BUT what I HATE is the idea that a lot of the investment in tooling and time will not roll over when you go big and get into an industrial machine? Then you're learning everything a second time and spending more money all over again.

    As far as Fusion to Fanuc control, do you have any idea IF Fusion is capable of control for ALL axis? with live tooling and C axis? I don't see that inside fusion CAM for setting up and such so wondering how that all works? AND if running a lathe with C axis and live tooling would that mean I would need to have another CAM package to handle all that?



  4. #4
    Member Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_B View Post
    You have pretty much confirmed what my colleague has told me. ALL of this is just such a BEAR! Setting up a 3 phase machine in a garage just seems like so much to deal with. Let alone learning a 25 year old machine and technology from back in the day with modern CAD & CAM. It might just be better to go with Tormach to get started and do all this over once If I get funded, then buy real machines.
    I think first you have to decide on the sizes of the parts will be building, and then what production rate do you need. That will dictate the size, power, and speed of the machine you need. For instance, our parts are maximum 1.5 inch diameter, and 4 inches long. So we needed a minimum 1 9/16 spindle bore, 1 5/8 is a common size so that was not hard to find. Most lathes with that spindle size have a max machining diameter of around 6 inches or so, and a maximum length of around 12 inches. Then below you mention live tooling and C axis. We do have live tooling but no C axis, yet. That is currently in process. I'll address how we handle that below. The Tormach is not going to be as fast as a larger machine, and has limited spindle HP, 3 HP I think. On the other hand, it's an 1800 lb machine vs. a 7K to 10K lb machine. Machine weight makes a lot of difference in machine rigidity, that and spindle HP dictates just how much material you can peel off of a part in a single pass, and thus dictates your maximum production rate. Just to put this in perspective, my machine has about the same work envelope as the Tormach, but weighs 10,200 lbs.

    Do you know of any smaller 220 single-phase lathes under 15K I've been looking?
    There are a lot of used 3 phase machines in that price range on EBay. You are not going to find any new machines in that range. I don't really know of any single phase machines except EMCO-Meier and Tormach

    Does the phase converter work for you guys and how much did that cost?
    The phase converter works very well, we built it ourselves and I think we have about $1200 into it. It has a few features that you would not find on a commercial unit. To buy a commercially available one might be in the up to $2500 range depending on the required size.

    Big question IS, What is your input IF you are not planning on a full controller retrofit and had to run an older machine on the old Fanuc OT controller and that would be all you have to work with? Just how painful would it be? and biggest question yet would it be worth it in the end? OR all in am I better off just starting with a Tormach SL-15?
    I find old controllers to be a PITA. If I didn't have the skills to do a controls retrofit on a machine, I probably would have bought a late model Haas lathe. We knew going in that a controls upgrade might be in our future so we were looking for a machine that met our mechanical criteria and was in good mechanical shape. Working controls was just a bonus. As it is, we have about $20K into our lathe, including purchase price, shipping, rotary phase converter, and upgrades.

    I could probably a lot of what I need to do in the conversational at and it looks really easy to use and a great intro to CNC turning. BUT what I HATE is the idea that a lot of the investment in tooling and time will not roll over when you go big and get into an industrial machine? Then you're learning everything a second time and spending more money all over again.
    It could be that the tooling between a Tormach and a larger machine might be interchangeable, not sure what size insert holders the Tormach uses. We use 3/4 shank tools in out lathe. We just buy Accusize insert holders from Amazon, and buy most of our inserts from Shars Tools.

    As far as Fusion to Fanuc control, do you have any idea IF Fusion is capable of control for ALL axis? with live tooling and C axis? I don't see that inside fusion CAM for setting up and such so wondering how that all works? AND if running a lathe with C axis and live tooling would that mean I would need to have another CAM package to handle all that?
    I believe that Fusion is capable of generating mill/turn G-code. But I have never used that. For our simple milling routines it is just as easy to hand write the G-code and add it to the part G code file. Hand writing the C axis routines won't be any more difficult.

    I hope this helps. I'll be happy to try to answer any other questions you may have.

    Last edited by Jim Dawson; 11-27-2019 at 01:53 AM.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA


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Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

Input for lathe turning center for newbie.

Input for lathe turning center for newbie.