I'm Adam Collins from Northeastern KY in the US; I've been a member of this site for a couple months but haven't gotten around to introducing myself until now. Work has kept me busy enough that I haven't even had time to peruse the site, but I've gotten much of the CNC mill work at the shop caught up to a point now so I'm not working over 50 hours a week. That should give me a little more than just a few hours a week to pursue my own CNC projects and endeavors...
A little background information about myself: I am a machinist by trade; not just a machine operator. I have years of experience operating all sorts of manual and computer-controlled machines and equipment, from surface grinders, gear hobbs, wire EDM machines, plasma and torch gantry-style tables (some as large as 10' x 30', or 3.048 x 9.144m) to four axis manual mills and three axis CNC milling machines and also some really nice CNC lathes (Okumas, Daewoos, Kias, Milltronics, etc.). I have experience with Fadal, Mitsubishi, and Centurion controls, and some (currently) limited experience with Mach3, as well as some custom made plasma and torch control programs. My current job consists of machining mostly burn-outs; drilling, tapping, roughing via helical interpolation, and boring holes takes up the majority of my time at work on a Milltronics RH30 mill (decked out with all the options, but a bit finickey due to some previous operator's lack of knowledge and skill). The conversational programming used on the RH30 (and the new Milltronics lathe at the shop) is a bit different than what I've been used to, but has proved to be very quick and precise at creating programs from scratch right there at the control, without a separate CAD program; all my previous employers strictly used G-code programming so that's where the majority of my programming experience has derived...
Anyway, I'm sure I'll have all sorts of questions as I convert my HF 7x mini lathe to full CNC control; I have a 14" bed extension kit that I'm in the process of quantifying and plan on reducing any components of the lathe needed for manual operation to a bare minimum, if any at all. So far, I have a licensed version of Mach3 that I plan to use to control the lathe, Keling 282oz-in NEMA23 steppers, and home-built drivers (but I may end up going with Gecko drivers before it's all said and done). I also have a couple of cheaper ballscrews and nut assemblies sourced from www.surpluscenter.com about a year ago. If I don't use those, I'll order some better quality versions for both the Z and X axes. For the spindle drive, I currently have several DC motors and KBIC speed controls, but I would prefer to use an inverter VFD (single phase input, either 120 or 208-230VAC, and 3 phase output at 230VAC) to power a 1HP 56 or even 143T frame 3 phase 3450rpm motor. (Yes, I have a massive platform to mount these components to.) I also plan on building a full enclosure for the finished machine, a complete flood coolant system, and I'm dreaming and drooling over a four- or six-tool rear-mounted turret. After the saddle has been hand-fitted to the quantified bed ways, I'll use my Taig mill (or the RH30 at work, since I have the Milltronics FastCAM software on my workshop computer here at home, I can quickly create programs for the 60x30x28" travel RH30) to remove the dovetails from the saddle so that linear guides can be fitted to it and the matching bearings fitted to a custom cast t-slotted cross slide. Since there will no longer be a need for a compound slide, I can afford to raise the cross slide's height by 19-25mm (3/4-1", depending on if I build or find a turret, it's overall size, and other factors, but there are simpler, albeit less glamorous alternatives)...
This may not sound like a very exciting project to some, but I'm going to work with what I have instead of buying something new. I have a Sherline 4400 manual lathe, a Taig powerfeed lathe, and a Taig 2019CR-ER (CNC-ready) mill, as well as an ongoing Emco Unimat 3 lathe project that will most likely remain a manual machine like the rest of my smaller machine tools. I have the resources available to me through work and online, and it's just more feasable for me to invest more of my time and less of my money (as compared to purchasing a new or even used "off-the-shelf" CNC lathe) to convert a Sieg-manufactured 7x14" lathe to full CNC control. If I were a single bachelor with no kids, I'm sure I would have already purchased a smaller CNC mill and lathe, but I have a lovely young fiance, a 12-year-old son, and a 3 1/2 month-old son to provide for now, so they have to come first. On my current salary I could probably afford a $15k CNC machine in about two years; I believe I can afford the parts and components for this conversion within six months (and without sacrificing any of the family's necessities). So that's my rational behind this conversion. I really don't need another manual lathe right now anyway, but I would like to own an old Southbend, Atlas, or LeBlonde with a 10-12" swing and a 36" bed sometime in the distant future, as my workshop expands and I'm nearly ready to start my own shop...
Ok, my apologies for the long-winded post. I can be bad for that at times but will try to keep it to a minimum from here on out. Too much time typing steals precious minutes from my work...
I hope this community is as nice as it seems-I still have a lot to learn about everything (as we all do), and would really appreciate all the thoughts, opinions, comments, and guidance as I work on this project...
sounds like you might be one of the experts around here with all that experience :)
it will be interesting to see how you impliment your turret if you decide to go down that road
good luck :)
Thanks for the kind words, but I don't know if I'd consider myself an "expert"; especially on building or converting a machine tool to computer control. While I do have a fair amount of G-code and converstaional programming experience, there are still a great deal of things that I don't fully comprehend or have any experience with yet.
As for the turret, so far all my research on commercially available turrets has proved useless. It seems that nobody builds and offers a turret small enough for my needs. Even a Pragatti BP50 would be about three or four times heavier than I could use (not to mention quite complex and pricey for my budget). My best bet would be to design one myself-using a rather simple design with hardened pins to lock the tool disk in place, a stepper or servo motor to control the indexing, and possibly a pneumatic cylinder to release the tool disk from the locked or "clamped" position. But that's another worry for a later date; I need to situate the spindle drive and control first...
I believe I've settled upon the Mitsubishi FR-D700 series VFD to control the spindle motor. Even using a 1725rpm 208-230VAC 3-phase motor, I could (at least temporarily) see 11.5K rpm motor shaft speed with the drive's up to 400Hz high-speed parameter setting, eliminating the need for a 3450rpm motor or any gearing in the headstock (which would be tricky to control without manual intervention). It appears I'll have to invest in a few other products to control this drive with Mach3 and to incorporate the E-stop to both the spindle motor drive and the axis drives, but it sounds like the benefits of this VFD will be worth the additional cost of those products.
I believe I'm going to post a new thread to see if anybody on this forum has any experience with this Mitsubishi FR-D700 inverter VFD...
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