Originally Posted by JWPCOLORADO
My name is Chad Dixon. I'm too lazy to log onto my account so I'm using one of my employees for this.
I'm not a sponsor on this site, but I've been a gunmaker since 1999 and helped pioneer the use of CNC turning/machining centers in custom gunmaking.
My shop is based on this ideal and I now have four machines used every day in my shop. We are successful. VERY successful.
You WANT a CNC. The tools are very powerful and if you spend a little time being creative, you can fit barrels to accuracy levels that will rival the best barrel fitters in the world and you'll laugh all the way to the bank because you'll hang more sticks per hour than most do in a day.
Don't be swayed and don't quit. Your onto something. I've proven it.
We can accurize and barrel over 100 barreled actions in a month.
Do the math. . .
Here's a teaser:
Imagine being able to accurize a receiver (M700 for instance) and fit up a barrel tennon in less than 20 minutes.
Now imagine having your ENTIRE reamer inventory cataloged and the tool length offsets PRESET so that you know exactly where that tool is. Now imagine just calling up that offset (T0515 for instance) and adjusting the Z depth for that particular chamber. Plug in your muzzle flush setup, RESET, MEMORY, CYCLE START, and go drink coffee and you chamber away.
Easy so long as you have the persistence to sort it out. You WILL run into challenges.
DONT GIVE UP and IGNORE the Nancy's who say you can't do it!
I'd suggest looking at slant bed, 10 position turret (minimum of 10 tools) production grade turning centers with A FANUC series control. The OI Mate that I have has been robust and rock solid.
I also encourage you to look towards Korea for machines. Daewoo and Doosan are both excellent pieces of equipment and you can get parts easily.
Others that come to mind:
Kitamura (I own one in a mill, its bad ass)
Okuma (as stated above, it's ok, but I loath the controls)
Brother (yeah, same guys that make printers!)
Deckle (bring your visa. . .)
Haas is crap if you ask me. Castings are too light, and the machines aren't built for robust use. Talk to any experienced job shop setup guy or programmer and they'll tell you that when your cutting AL go Haas. When you cut STEEL, there are better options. Linear ways are for quick speed and cutting soft chit. BOX ways are for machining tool grade steels.
Harrison Alphas? I set up the 3rd one in the United States. The Harrison Alpha 1330U to be specific. ONCE the metric/imperial algorithms were sorted out so that the carriage didn't rapid intermittently towards the spindle and ONCE the Troyke turret finally repeated and ONCE the spindle stopped disassembling itself (Tapered Gamut spindle bearings, uhh, no thanks- least thats how it was back in 03/04) the machine wasn't TOO bad so long as you kept the depth of cut, feed rate, and SFM conservative. (like stupid conservative).
My advise: AVOID.
The lack of hardened box ways kind of irked me too.
Get voltage conditioners if power is the least bit shady.
If you buy a used machine, have it independently inspected/serviced/calibrated. Used machine dealers are just like used car lots.
"it spent its whole life in a medical shop making plastic knee caps. . ." (how come there's D2 chips stuck under the way covers then?????)
make sure you have a well prepared surface for the machine to sit on. A 8000lb machining center should not sit on a 3" thick garage floor. MASS is everything. It'll be immediately evident in surface finishes, repeatability, and overall service life.
Cry once and buy the time/experience of some good concrete folk!
If dollars are no object, have a machine purpose built. Put dual chucks on it and dual carriages so that you can work both ends in one setup. Imagine being able to fit a tennon, walk to the opposite side of the machine and have the muzzle sticking out ready to be parted off and threaded/crowned, whatever.
Someday. . .
All the best
Brothers in the machine tool business? Boy that's a new one on me! When I first read your comment about a machine from Brothers, I immediately thought of those small Swiss Turn machines, But who knows what they are like. <g>
* Okumas are as common as Mustang automobiles, and they come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. They do have a pretty good frame design that is fairly rigid. They are built well enough that you can hard turn with them if you are ontop of your game. But also not for the amature to start with. Their turrets are prone to move on you under hard pressure, and if you leave the steel alignment dowl pins in the slide you will ruin any chance of coming back to the starting point. (always pull them on every machine!) The turrets are also prone to high pressure coolant leaks under the turret, and a pain in the but to do anykind of a quick fix. But at least they are hard piped, and if you use your head and not bend the piping you can seal them up fairly good. If you use your machine over 12 hours a day, plan on a turret rebuilt every 30 months max. Usually closer to 18 months. Head stock alignment is the second worst I've ever encountered to get back to square one! A Monarch TC-1 is the very worst! (mainly because of all the sheet metal you have to remove) There are some serious electronic under the turret on the Okuma, and expect problems with high pressure coolant leaks. But the design itself if firm. The one major issue with the Okuma lathe is the way they setup their over travel and grid switches. This needs a complete redesign, and I'm not sure how you'd go about it. They use a common cable with everything going thru it, and if the cable fails expect some serious hair pulling. They are also prone to tampering with the machine perimeters setup in the control. If left alone, they'll never show their ugly face. Okuma uses two different controls, and have no serious issues with either one, even though I hate Fanuc controls. I would get the Okuma control as it has some really nice features
* Mazaks run well, but a not over built in any critical area. Have a hard wreck (you will someday), and you maybe faced with a major repair at the least. Or even a complete rebuild. They don't rebuild well.
* the best frame design ever made was the old J&L CNC lathe. They hold up well under a high speed wreck that will send most others to the junk pile. Sheet metal on them is a PIA on a good day! I've never been around one that had live tooling other than at the factory. I like their concept better than the others, but also maybe a nightmare down the road. These machines come back from a major crash very well and also very quickly once you learn the art of removing and replacing all that tin! These machine rebuild well and are fairly simply to work on. Good tail stock design. The turret switches are blind, but not all that bad to work on. You will have to remove the turret (s) to replace them (everybody's fail sooner or later). The ten or twelve sided upper turret is much easier to work on when removed in one piece, and goes into alignment with the dowl pins (pull them before running the machine). Ball screws are easy to change, but be sure to leave enough room to get the Z axis out! Many folks forget this issue, and have to cut a hole in the wall. Ball screws can be purchased at Lead Screw International in Michigan (they also did a lot of the OEM screws). Looking for a good used machine, this is where to start!
* I don't think I've ever been around a Monarch CNC lathe that had a tail stock. They are pretty good machine, but also have the same issues with the turret index as all the others do. The are not a true slant bed design, but a true vertical bed design. Not as good as a slant bed, but much easier access to the tooling and chuck. Of them, I like the TC-2 better as it's built much heavier.
*Warner Swasey's! Oh My, and I still hate them. I've been around about every size and shape you can think of, and they are still a PIA on a good day. Looking for a good used one? Look for one that has the two speed transmission in the head stock. Otherwise your stuck with making lots and lots of light cuts to get the job done. Frame is OK, but not nearly as good as a J&L. Spindle bearings can be a serious issue with them, and this is not for the shade tree mechanic to tackle (an Okuma can be a bear as well). But when they run, they run very well.
* G&L made a series of slant bed lathes that were similar in design to the American Panther and Hustler series with a much shallower bed angle. Probably better quality than the American. But the American is the only lathe I've seen with a differential resolver as well as the normal one. This is fantastic when doing touch off points to start a full bore program in a part. Head stock is probably one of the hardest I've ever rebuilt. Comes apart in about eight hours, and goes back in 20 hours if your lucky! Clutches can be an issue here.
* the slant bed Hardingh is the Cadillac of CNC lathes! Best live tooling I've ever seen. The frame on the smaller ones is made of plastic!!! I was very suspect of this concept, but it doesn't change over time like the others will. They fill the headstock with grout, and also a lot of the base. The machine is very rigid, and actually will change less than a J&L of similar size. This is an honest .0005" or less machine. Hard turns very well, and holds up well cutting the hardened rods. Threads so well that you'd think the threads were ground. Plus they are cheaper than a similar Okuma.
For a machine to do work like you'd do on a typical Bridgeport, I like the Fidal out of California. They come with converstional controls that use touch off points. Seem to hold up very well. I like their table design over most of the others. It's a large rectangle shape that allows you to have several fixtures placed on it to work off of. Some folks have a B axis and a couple angle plates on them at the sametime. Even a rotary tail stock setup. They are not expensive either. These machine will flat smoke a Bridgeport with the Prototrac unit on them, or the Southwest Trac as well.
Of the Asian designs I like the Okuma Howa (not the lathe folks), and the Makino best. Won't run with a G&L in any way shape or form. But are nice machines. The Okuma lathe folks also have their own line of machine centers, and they are not bad, but once again won't run with the big dogs
Accuracey wise, the old Devlieg is the top of the ladder. I've been around the SIP of similar design that was so raved about. It's a piece of junk! And they are way over priced for their engineering and design. Folks that own Devliegs tend to rebuild them, rather than replace them. The old K&T (and now G&L) MM series are great machines than can be picked up for a song! Honest .0005" machines or less. Easy to rebuild as well. For gun parts an MM600 would be fantastic, and you can completely rebuild one in about six weeks or less. Fantastic control as well (this is the one Fanuc and GE stole). But they did a few with Allen Bradleys, and there's nothing wrong with them as well. Get the Gemini control as it's that much better. I think all they make now are MM2300's, and these machine are way over the top. But extremely accurate and extremely bullet proof. Spindle bearing pack will seriously hurt your checking account, and you can't replace them. You have to send the cartridge back. They are ceramic and very expensive (about $10K). The average end user should get five to six years out of them. We got two years max. The older MM series used conventional angular contact ball bearings, and you could buy a set of Bardens for about five or six hundred dollars (best ball bearings made). Hydra-Ribs are another beast that are also not easy. Tricky to setup, and also don't come cheap. But very accurate.
I've rebuilt a lot of machines in my lifetime, and repaired a lot of wrecks as well.