1. #1
    GND's Avatar
    Lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 2 Weeks Ago Has been a member for 3-4 years. Has a total post count of 65. Received thanks 2 times, giving thanks to others 11 times.
    I am looking at add a small CNC metal machining capability to my workshop, to sit alongside a larger manual mill. I am extremely limited in space, but I believe I could just about fit a smaller Denford or Boxford VMC without actually knocking down any walls. These seem to be an easier path to follow compared to a manual mill conversion.

    My initial research suggests a Denford Novamill might be a good option - newer and better spec than a Starmill, and smaller than a Triac (which wouldn't fit!). Alternatively a Boxford 190 VMC could work. I just wondered whether any owners out there might have reasons to go for one brand over the other? Both seem equally straightforward to upgrade to Mach3/LinuxCNC without ripping out all the electronics. Are there any other considerations before I go looking to acquire?

    Thanks in advance
    Graeme

  2. #2
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 9 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,148. Received thanks 236 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    I can't comment on Boxfords, but I'm aware they certainly used to refuse to deal with non-educational establishments, so information is scarce about them. However I have seen a couple comments lately where they appear to be a bit more open.

    I had a Novamill. It was a sturdy machine for it's size, but work area was limited. Biggest limitation is the spindle clearance, especially if you run the Coventry Quickchange system. There are plans for a rise block on the Denfordata forum, which contains a lot of information.

    If you get a fully working Novamill with a VRMilling licence key, I wouldn't personally be in much rush to upgrade, as VRMilling is pretty good software. The one I had happened to of been upgraded to the USB controller, and there would be limited gains to be made by changing.
    Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.

  3. #3
    GND's Avatar
    Lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 2 Weeks Ago Has been a member for 3-4 years. Has a total post count of 65. Received thanks 2 times, giving thanks to others 11 times.
    Thanks for that, m_c - useful background. I have to say that the amount of info on Denfords seems to massively outweigh that on Boxfords, both in terms of original support and documentation and also forum-style experience with doing mods and upgrades. Denford is therefore in some ways my preference - but then I know Boxford kit is solid stuff too. In some ways it may be a case of what becomes available first.

    Good to know the Denford sw is usable - if provided. I am guessing its cost is silly if the license key is missing.....

    As an ex-Novamill owner, can I ask what the situation is with tool holding? Some of the ads I've seen come with loads of holders, and some with just what's fitted - ie. one! That could make a huge difference to the cost to get things usable afterwards.

  4. #4
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 9 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,148. Received thanks 236 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    From memory, it's about 200 for a VR Milling license, and it is pretty good software, but I probably wouldn't pay that to run an older serial controlled machine.

    Regarding tooling, you have to be aware of spindle tapers. I think Novamills always used BT30 tapers, but there is a possibility older ones could be 35 tapers.

    ATC versions (pretty rare) had a carousel mounted on the side of the column that swung around. It is possible to upgrade a non-ATC spindle to a power drawbar, as the main spindle is identical. You just have to swap the fixed drawbar, for a drawbar with gripper and adjuster for Belleville spring washers, then add a release cylinder/linkage. All the drawings are on the denford forum.

    The far more common setup, was a standard BT30 taper fitted with a Coventry QC system. It's a good system, and toolholders are available, but at over 80 a shot, costs quickly add up, and you loose a couple inches of clearance between the table and spindle.
    Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.

  5. #5
    GND's Avatar
    Lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 2 Weeks Ago Has been a member for 3-4 years. Has a total post count of 65. Received thanks 2 times, giving thanks to others 11 times.
    Mmm, interesting - I hadn't realised the software was that reasonably priced. I think I'd seen figures mentioned over 1k, but perhaps I'm confusing it with something else. Boxford maybe.

    In terms of tool holders, the ideal of course is to find a machine that comes with several included. As you say, if they are 80 a pop, then it could easily become too costly. I presume you could just get a suitable ER32 collet chuck though, if you accept that you'd need to manually calibrate Z height each time you switch tools. That's what I do in the router, so I don't see that as a deal killer. Depends on what you are used to I suppose.

    One further question on the Novamill if I may. I just wanted to check that machining mild steel is well within its capabilities - assuming sensible sized cutters and feeds of course?

  6. #6
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 9 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,148. Received thanks 236 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    If you wanted to upgrade the controller to the USB version, then it's over 1k, but the software license alone isn't that much.

    A Novamill more than capable of handling steel. The biggest issue is it's not got that powerful a motor, so you have to make sure you use suitable cut rates. I'm sure I did work out a bigger servo motor could be squeezed in, but I really needed a bigger work area, so I bought a Triac and sold my Novamill.
    Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.

  7. #7
    GND's Avatar
    Lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 2 Weeks Ago Has been a member for 3-4 years. Has a total post count of 65. Received thanks 2 times, giving thanks to others 11 times.
    OK, that is certainly useful to know. If it wasn't the USB version, it would probably make most sense to add a UCCNC motion controller or similar I guess - that was my plan at least.

    Thanks for the confirmation on cutting steel. My plans do not entail commercial use, so taking more time and leaving it running on its own making smaller cuts is OK with me. As we all know, that situation may change once I get one of course - the next job will always need a bit more than you can accommodate! But for now at least, a Novamill or similar is absolutely the largest machine I can fit in my space - with literally a few mm to spare on each side....

    Anyone any input on Boxford equivalents, or are we all just favoring a Denford...?

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