I would really like to buy a Tormach 440/770 or and HDM. I currently have an S3 with Z-plus and saunders fixture plate/vise. It has done well enough in AL for me so far however I would like an upgrade as well as the ability to be a supplier for Xometry.
I heard a podcast about Cerven Solutions, two brothers that started with a 440 and quickly outgrew it and upgraded to a Syil.
Is a 440 really enough to make money on Xometry? Better yet could an HDM be enough? Xometry now offers CNC Mill suppliers the chance to do a test part out of delrin which I am sure a 440 and HDM would have no issue with.
If I want to take on small jobs for Xometry should I just buy a real production machine?
This is a loaded question with so many variables. I jumped from a So3 to HDM for aluminum work and it does a great job for a 250lb machine.
I am also almost finished with the design and manufacturing of my first 3 sided small run production parts including the custom soft jaws and other work holding fixtures involved in making these parts.
I can tell you there is a massive difference between making 1 or 2 double sided parts and producing a batch of parts within spec that require several setups and tools. It take more time and test cuts than one would think. I have a drill jig on my counter right now that is scrap because of a tiny error and had to spend a few hours to make a new one. I did get it perfect on the second try but still it was unexpected material and time lost.
If you do get into manufacturing make sure you can afford the machine, it’s enclosure, air supply, work holding, tooling, material stock, and most of all be able to survive eating a total refund of an order on top of all that should you bite off more than you can chew. Work holding and tooling is not cheap.
It’s doable if your design, cam, and cnc skills are on par with what you are going to produce if not try to find someone who already produces parts in your area and see if you can learn from them as it will help massively.
The 440 is a fairly small machine but it does open up harder materials so that will depend on what you plan to machine. John at NYC CNC got his start on one but it will rely on you and your work ethics along with the rest of the other variables in the machining / life realm.
I am learning as much as I can about CAD/CAM through Fusion whenever I have free time. I have worked a lot of jobs but nothing has interested me as much as machining. Realistically I could afford a Haas mini mill if I really had to, but that would leave me with no money left for work holding, tooling or compressors.
I really like the idea of the Tormach machines and their prices however the people over on practical machinist really do not like them.
I do have two mechanical engineering friends that do CAD work all day that are into starting a machine shop with me. We have agreed to splitting most costs.
In general though I just want to do whatever it takes to get me into manufacturing as quickly as possible. If I have to load parts into a machine for a year I’m willing to just for the experience I can gain.
A fully set up 440/770 and an HDM are in 2 different price categories. If I was doing mostly plate aluminum work, I would pick the HDM because of the work area. For anything else, I would pick a Tormach. You have way more options such as flood coolant and an ATC. Don’t get caught up with the keyboard warriors on practical machinist, Tormach makes perfectly good machines at the price they sell for.
The HDM and a vertical mill have some functional overlap with mod vises, but are made for different functions. Any of the Tormachs will really confine you on the Y axis, especially depending on workholding.
The main factor with either machine will be you… especially with with prototyping and small batches. In aluminum/plastic your workholding practices and toolpath knowledge will be a bigger factor than either of those two machines. I’ve produced medical, experimental, and even research nuclear reactor parts on an HDM as well as a similar sized to a Tormach 700 series vertical mill. The main thing with all the prototyping and small batches I do, is how I hold the material. Flexibility and being able to think spatially take more time and mental effort and would mean the difference between success and actually making a small amount of money, and losing your ass.