Shopping for a new machine can be one of the biggest decisions for your business.  With the vast selection of builders and machine types to choose from, narrowing down the right machine can seem overwhelming.  The perfect machine for someone else is not necessarily the right decision for your shop.  Based on several criteria, this article will try to help narrow down which may be right for you.

 When researching a new piece of equipment, it is important to consider the following.

Best Fit - What type of work will you be doing with the machine?  Will your parts be small or large, simple, or complex, involve both milling and turning, loose or close tolerances, excellent or acceptable finishes, tough or easy materials, low volume or high production?

 

Price - While price is less important on a piece of equipment than overall value, at the end of the day someone has to write the checks.  It is not always possible to jump straight into a high-end machine, many shops evolve along the way.  There are many success stories that started in a garage and grew to a manufacturing powerhouse.

 

Build Quality – The saying “You get what you pay for” rings very true in manufacturing.  With machines ranging from hobby level to a few tenths being a loose tolerance.  Building a good machine that will last for decades comes at a price.

 

Accuracy – Hand in hand with build quality, accuracy is often determined by going to extra mile in construction.  Hand scraping, being hand built by one expert instead of an assembly line, exotic castings, bigger and more rigid construction, advanced design over decades of refinement.  One simply cannot expect a Kia to perform like a Koenigsegg.

 

Service – Maintaining a machine is critical to uninterrupted production, when you need service, who will you call?  It takes serious infrastructure to have parts and service techs available for every machine ever sold.  Where some builders are heavily invested in service after the sale, it is not always the case.  Service can range from excellent to poor regionally, what are other businesses in your area saying about service?

 

Controller – Often overlooked, the machine’s controller is extremely important.  Controls can vary from basic to highly intuitive, even on lower end machines.  While good parts can be made on nearly any control, the frustration of getting from print to part can take a toll.  Do you program at the control, or offline with cad/cam?

 

Overall Value – The most important criteria, the value the machine will afford considering all other criteria.  The return on investment will depend on a host of factors, especially best fit.  If a machine is purchased to perform a task it cannot do optimally, the potential will never be realized.

 

 

 

To begin, lets cover some popular machines from entry level to professional.  This list is not intended to criticize any builder, if they are on this list, they are doing something right.

 

Tormach

Best Fit – With a growing offering to choose from, Tormach has Mills, Lathes, Routers, Grinders, Bandsaws, Plasma Tables, and even Robots.  For the sake of this article’s brevity, let’s talk about Tormach Mills.

Price – With Tormachs PCNC 440 Mill starting at $6,490, starting a business with room to grow has never been easier.  It should be noted that this price is for their entry level package, including just the Mill and Controller.  Luxuries like an enclosure, flood coolant, and a tool changer are only included in higher end packages approaching $18,000.  If there is room in the shop, a step up to their 1100 MX is close in price if all the bells and whistles are needed.

Build Quality – With Tormach being one of the most popular entry level brands, there are thousands of customers documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly.  With popular customers like NYC CNC and Nerdly on YouTube, it is apparent that Tormach does its best to fill the niche for which they were created.  Quality may vary by most accounts, but overall Tormach has a loyal customer base for a reason.

Accuracy – Purchasing a Tormach to machine high end parts may be unrealistic, perhaps you receive a machine that can hold tolerances above its weight class, but it should not be expected.  There may be customers machining relatively close tolerances with theirs.   +-.025mm should be considered an extremely good machine with +-.075mm being more realistic.  One of the best tests of any machine is to simply interpolate a circle using best machining practices like finishing tools and spring passes utilizing wear compensation.  What is the overall deviation from a true circle that is on size, and can the machine do so consistently?  Add in simultaneous XYZ moves when 3D contouring, and the error may be more severe.

Service – It is impossible to determine what level of service you will receive until you need it.  It is recommended you consult other customers in your area, visit the builder’s facility, and do your own research on such an important topic.

Controller – By all accounts PathPilot is a great control for an entry level machine.  After years of testing and plenty of vocal customers voicing their opinions on Tormach, the controller is widely praised.  Until you use a more difficult control, it is hard to appreciate a simplistic control with plenty of memory and common-sense features.

Overall Value – Tormach earns high marks for overall value with one caveat.  Once all the bells and whistles are added in, does making a step up to a stouter machine make sense?  There is a wide gap between some of the more affordable entry level machines in capabilities.  Will your business outgrow a Tormach quickly, and will it be the perfect fit for your parts?  If your job is making molds in tough metals the answer is likely no, but if you are making decorative parts or those with less critical tolerances it may be.

 

Syil

 

Best Fit – With offerings ranging from personal CNC Mills, to Tapping Centers, to entry level Vertical Mills.  Syil is beginning to gain traction in the market, with higher end features found on much higher priced machines. 

 

Price – Syil’s flagship entry into professional CNC Machining is the X7 which starts at $21,900 and comes in at $36,500 for the Premium Package with a Siemens 828D control.  The X7 looks like a fairly affordable machine given its specification, and a direct competitor for some popular machines in the same category.

 

Build Quality – Manufactured in China, Syil quality is more of an unknown factor compared to similarly priced Tormach.  From what we have seen so far, the machines capabilities are impressive.  Nerdly on YouTube while having a paid partnership with Syil, does a good job demonstrating what the machine is capable of if you want to check that out.  Jason is known for not pulling punches and sacrificing integrity when speaking about his business. 

With available BT-30 10,000rpm, 12,000rpm and HSK-E40 30,000rpm spindle options available, 12 pocket carousel tool changer, thru spindle coolant, chip conveyor, probing, higher end components sourced throughout, and an epoxy granite frame.  Syil has what on paper sounds like a very competitive machine with 10,000mm/min | 393 IPM cutting feed, and rapids of 30,000mm/min | 1181 IPM.  There has to be a catch, right?  It is hard to say without a few more years of customers sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you have a Syil, let us know what you think of yours!  This is an unbiased article; nobody is paying us to write good things.

 

Service – At the time of writing this article, service seems to be nearly nonexistent.  Once the machine is delivered to your door, it is likely on the customer to troubleshoot issues and order parts etc.  Feel free to reach out if you have experience one way or another.

 

Controller – With Fanuc OiMF Plus, Fanuc OiMF (1), and Siemens 828D controls to choose from, these industry standard controls are tried and proven.  Having used Fanuc controls for a number of years, there are a lot of good things to report, and some bad. 

The Good.

  • User Base - The most common control in the industry. Machinists have sworn by Fanuc controls for decades because they have largely remained unchanged for better or worse.  With serviceability and dependability that are hard to match, you will find them as an option from nearly every builder.  If you have run one Fanuc control you can likely learn another in short order.  Standardizing your business with one control is a powerful tool.

The Bad.

  • Limited memory – With the growing file size of modern computers and programs, the antiquated storage of a few hundred KB or optional 2MB expanded memory simply do not cut it. To be fair, a compact flash card can be used which functions as well as the built-in memory and has a much larger capacity as an addon.  It is also possible to send programs directly to the control like with most machines.  The main problem with running from flash cards for a shop like ours is the sheer number of cards we must keep track of.  If you machine the same parts day in day out this likely is not an issue.  Lacking comforts like a well-designed keyboard, more complicated menu navigation, and lackluster graphics earn low marks.  The good news is that these are things some builders choose to make better when integrating the control to their machines.  If there is one thing most Machinists can agree on, it is we want to use an easy control with plenty of storage. 

 

Overall Value – From what we have seen, Syil has positioned itself to be an attractive option in the entry level market, and perhaps knock on the door of the next builder on our list. 

 

 

Haas

 

Best Fit – Whether you are in the market for a Mill, or a Lathe, Haas has an extensive lineup to choose from.  Being the largest machine tool builder in the western world, Haas is the only company many businesses will need to consider.  Depending on the type of work you plan to do, they have a machine that is competitive in almost every class.

Price – With machines like the ever-popular Mini Mill, and Toolroom Mills starting at around $30,000, Haas is a step up into the professional class.  With many vehicles now being more expensive than a machine tool that can pay for itself several times over, starting a business with something like a Mini Mill is very attractive.  Clearly listed pricing on their website makes it easy to shop different configurations and make informed decisions on your own terms.  One caveat is once you begin to add in optional equipment, the price can quickly double for features that may be standard equipment with other builders.  Haas does have more affordable options for some features than others, some builders will charge vastly different amounts for the same hardware.  Haas options do not add up as quickly as many others on this list, overall, they are competitvely priced.  Addons like a chip conveyor/auger, thru-spindle coolant, and high-speed machining are hard to live without.  You will likely face the same dilemma with most builders, it is all part of the decision-making process.

Build Quality – From our own experience, build quality and workmanship is excellent.  While the machine itself may not be as rigid or fast as more premium offerings, you get what you pay for.  With a large and vocal customer base, you hear the good, the bad, and the ugly which is to be expected with so many installations worldwide.  It is not uncommon to hear about one machine that can hold tight tolerances all day, and another that is error prone.  It should be noted that we have never heard of a Haas customer that was not taken care of if a machine was not built to specification.

Accuracy – Finding shops with dozens of Haas machines in neat formation down every aisle is not uncommon.  Temperature is the greatest factor in holding tighter tolerances from our experience, a Haas that is “Up to temperature” will be much more consistent.  Overall accuracy is good for this class of machine when keeping this in mind.

Service – With one of the best equipped service infrastructures in the industry, Haas has excellent service overall.  Just like every other builder’s service, results may vary regionally.  We recommend you talk to shops in your area about what kind of service they receive.  One strong selling point for Haas is their loyal customer base.  You can likely receive technical support from a friend if needed as many businesses have already experienced the same questions.  A quick search online can often answer your questions as there is a host of information available thankfully.  Haas is also at the forefront of education with their YouTube channel which puts the power to learn and service their machines in your hands.

Controller – The Haas control is one of the best in the industry for ease of use.  Featuring everything you need to get the job done in an easy to learn package, standardizing your shop with this control is a big selling feature for Haas.  Many technical schools that have CNC equipment train students to use the Haas control because walking into a shop with some knowledge using it is beneficial.  The newer Next Generation control has experienced some growing pains compared to the classic control, but overall is excellent. 

Overall Value – Considering every aspect of what Haas brings to the table, overall value is excellent which is why you see them in so many shops.  The question is whether your parts are a good fit for Haas machines, or do you require a higher performance machine?  The saying that Haas can only cut Aluminum is false.  You can cut any material on a Haas, just not as efficiently or accurately as some more premium offerings.   If you can put several machines on the floor versus one from a premier builder, it is hard to beat.  The Haas EC, VF, and DT series are renowned for their value.

 

 

Doosan

Best Fit – With very rigid offerings for both turning and milling, Doosan have a machine for nearly any application.  Whether you need a compact Mill that is rigid and capable, or a gargantuan Bridge Mill, Doosan have you covered. 

 

Price – Doosan earns high marks in regard to price; a good comparison is between one of the machines we own.  A DNM 750 II/50 versus Haas VF-6/50 with the same options added in.  If you are in the market for a Doosan, you are likely also considering a Haas.

[ Haas VF-6/50 base $165,995 + Equivalent Options $32,555 | $198,550 ]

[ DNM 750II/50  15,000 kg | 33,000 lbs. 1181 ipm Rapids ]

[ X Axis-1630mm (64.2”) Y Axis-762mm (30”)  Z Axis-650mm ( 25.6mm) ]

Features that were included at the time we purchased the machine. [ 300 PSI Thru Spindle Coolant | Auxiliary Filter | Thru Spindle Air Blast |Dual Washdown Shower Coolant | Spindle Chiller | Renishaw Probing and Tool Setting | High Speed Machining Comparable to Haas Package | Compact Flash Memory | Oil Skimmer | 3 YEAR WARRANTY ] $143,000 Total

Doosan have recently completely overhauled their standard features as well with even more modern conveniences as standard.

Build Quality – Overall, the quality of Doosan has only improved over time and been excellent in our experience.  Some models are higher performance than others such as their 5 Axis offerings, with rigidity being present throughout the range.  The DVF series look very impressive and are generating quite a bit of buzz in the industry.

 

Accuracy – From the first part of the day to the last, we know our parts will be on size.  Accuracy is phenomenal for price of the machine; temperatures remain consistent throughout the day in our climate-controlled shop.  With the included spindle and axis chiller unit, non-climate-controlled shops would also likely have great results.  We can interpolate accurate bores consistently which is very convenient.

 

Service –Just like every other builder’s service, results may vary regionally.  We recommend you talk to shops in your area about what kind of service they receive.

 

Controller – Fanuc, Siemens, and Heidenhain options available.  Fanuc will likely be equipped on the majority of machines from the factory.  Doosan have recently made a series of improvements to their Fanuc interface which look great.

The Good.

  • User Base - The most common control in the industry. Machinists have sworn by Fanuc controls for decades because they have largely remained unchanged for better or worse.  With serviceability and dependability that are hard to match, you will find them as an option from nearly every builder.  If you have run one Fanuc control you can likely learn another in short order.  Standardizing your business with one control is a powerful tool.

The Bad.

  • Limited memory – With the growing file size of modern computers and programs, the antiquated storage of a few hundred KB or optional 2MB expanded memory simply do not cut it. To be fair, a compact flash card can be used which functions as well as the built-in memory and has a much larger capacity as an addon.  It is also possible to send programs directly to the control like with most machines.  The main problem with running from flash cards for a shop like ours is the sheer number of cards we must keep track of.  If you machine the same parts day in day out this likely is not an issue.  Lacking comforts like a well-designed keyboard, more complicated menu navigation, and lackluster graphics earn low marks.  The good news is that these are things some builders choose to make better when integrating the control to their machines.  If there is one thing most Machinists can agree on, it is we want to use an easy control with plenty of storage. 

 

Overall Value – Doosan is currently providing one of the best values in the industry.  Excellent iron and excellent results regardless of the material or complexity of the part.  If there is one builder not to overlook, it is Doosan.

 

 

Hurco

Best Fit – Whether you are in the market for a Multi Axis Turning Center, Horizontal, 5-Axis Swivel Head VMC, High Speed VMC, or a Double Column Mill, Hurco has an extensive lineup of machines.  Ideally suited for smaller shops with their intuitive control, or full production output.

 

Price – We have reached the point in this article where price is going to require contacting sales.  Which is exactly what we did when we were considering a Hurco for our next machine.  Suffice to say, Hurco is within many shops budget in most categories.

 

Build Quality – Having spoken to many well-respected Machinists who have several Hurco machines, build quality is on par with any other machine in its class.  With Hurco’s performance models capable of 1260 in/min (32m/min) programmable feedrates and up to 10,000 block lookahead, Hurco performance is impressive.      

 

Accuracy – With hand scraped machined surfaces and premium components sourced, Hurco is a preferred builder for many high-end shops.  While Hurco may not be as renowned for accuracy as the most high-end builders on the market, they are on par with anything in their class.  High speed 3D contouring is one area Hurco really shines.

 

Service – It is impossible to determine what level of service you will receive until you need it.  It is recommended you consult other customers in your area, visit the builder’s facility, and do your own research on such an important topic.  Good service is as important as any other facet of owning a machine tool.

 

Controller – With arguably one of the best controls in the industry, 5 axis toolpaths can be programmed at the Hurco control and simulated real time.  Hurco’s conversational programming is an intuitive way of creating programs using template based guided creation.  Solid models can be directly imported to create programs, classic g-code programming can also be used.  As a shop that has thousands of parts on file and is creating something new every day, an easy-to-use control is worth its weight in gold.  One of the few controls powerful enough to replace Cad/Cam in many instances, a subscription to Fusion 360 for modeling solids and the occasional special toolpath generation are all you need.

 

Overall Value – Imagine going from DOS back in the day to a modern computer, which is basically what you are doing when switching from other more basic controls.  An easier user experience and efficient workflow will lead to higher profits.  Hurco have created a winning combination of performance and modern technology.

 

 

Brother Speedio & Fanuc Robodrill Ultra-High-Speed Compact Mills

 

Best Fit – If you are in the market for a compact Mill with extreme performance, look no further than the Speedio and Robodrill.   With both companies offering exceptional machines, team blue versus team yellow has no clear winner.

 

Price – Price is going to be offset by extreme performance, while you can find cheaper Mills with more overall capacity, they will look like they are sitting still alongside them.  “Float like a Butterfly, sting like a Bee, check out these Mills that use BT-30!”  Ok, that is enough with the jokes, no seriously, these Mills are ludicrously fast.

 

Build Quality – With rapids that are better measured in G-Force, these highly accurate machines are built for 24-7 production.  Capable of tapping at 6,000rpm, the acceleration and deceleration is something to behold.

 

Accuracy – It goes without saying that these machines are accurate.  Maintaining that accuracy while navigating a toolpath that looks like an Indy Car racing is what is even more impressive.  What they lack in rigidity they make up for in finesse.

 

Service – It is impossible to determine what level of service you will receive until you need it.  It is recommended you consult other customers in your area, visit the builder’s facility, and do your own research on such an important topic.  Good service is as important as any other facet of owning a machine tool.

 

Controller – The controller is the main difference between team blue and team yellow.  If you are used to Fanuc, the Robodrill is going to be familiar, this is their flagship Mill after all.  The Brother Speedio’s control is very well received in the industry for its ease of use.  The control will likely be the deciding factor for many.

 

Overall Value – Spending 6 figures on a small mill may seem like a lot at face value, but the price to performance ratio is unparalleled if your work commands high productivity.  Many parts can see a massive cycle time reduction simply by transferring from a standard machine to a Speedio or Robodrill.  Add automation to these machines and the value only increases.

 

 

Mazak

Best Fit – It is easier to list the type of machines Mazak does not make, Blenders, they do not make Blenders that we know of.  If you are in the market for a professional Lathe or Mill, Mazak has to be part of the conversation.  With a pedigree spanning decades, Mazak is one of the most respected names in manufacturing.

 

Price – When considering a higher end machine like a Mazak, price really only acts as a benchmark against what you would receive from comparable builders.  With highly specialized machines that perform their intended task efficiently, high value work can be completed to specification.

 

Build Quality – Mazak is synonymous with build quality, their Integrex Multitasking Lathes especially are renowned for being some of the best in the industry.  With loyal customers that fill their shops with orange and white, Mazak has one of the best reputations for build quality.  It should be noted that Mazak builds certain models in Japan, and others in Kentucky USA.  Just like every builder, you will hear the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences from their customers.  Overall, Mazak is a premier builder at the upper echelon of manufacturing.

 

Accuracy – At a certain point, can one machine really be that much more accurate than the next?  The answer is yes.  Accuracy over the course of a 5-day stretch running unattended is where builders like Mazak really shine.  Maintaining that accuracy over the course of several decades with proper maintenance.

 

Service – It is impossible to determine what level of service you will receive until you need it.  It is recommended you consult other customers in your area, visit the builder’s facility, and do your own research on such an important topic.  Having spoken to many Mazak owners in our area and around the country, service has always been dependable for them. 

 

Controller – Mazak is known for having its own ecosystem when it comes to the control, Mazatrol is the only software many Mazak shops will ever need.  Capable of being programmed using template based guided creation software, as well as being able to utilize Fanuc-compatible G-Code.  Mazaks conversational programming can perform simultaneous 5 axis machining all while simulating it with stunning graphics.  Training new Machinists to create complex parts is made easier with Mazak.

 

Overall Value – Whether you are making complex parts with hundreds of toolpaths and hundreds of unique tools, or running high volume production, Mazak provides excellent value.  If you are in the market for a phenomenal machine tool, Mazak cannot be overlooked.

 

 

Okuma

Best Fit – Okuma has been making some of the best machine tools in the industry for over 100 years.  Founded in 1898, with their first lathe manufactured in 1918, Okuma pretty much wrote the book on modern machine tools.  With heavy duty Lathes that are built to make even the toughest metals submit, and some of the most dependable and respected Mills in the industry.

 

Price – Like every premier builder, you are paying for a machine that is built to make good parts without constant intervention in the shortest amount of time possible.  We have inquired seriously about purchasing an Okuma recently and pricing is actually very competitive at this level of capability.  Okuma has in recent years introduced the Genos line of machines that are part of their affordable excellence program.  The Genos line is made in Taiwan to their exacting specification, and final assembly is done by Okuma’s expert builders in Japan to offer the best value possible to customers that want a great machine at an affordable price.  Okuma’s M560-V has taken the industry by storm by offering extreme performance normally only found in much more expensive machine tools.  Okuma’s Japan built flagship machines like the MB series have optional equipment available that may not be offered on the Genos lineup. 

 

Build Quality – Okuma has built a reputation for a no compromise approach to their standard lineup of machines.  With a bridge style construction on their vertical mills, they are extremely fast, rigid, and stable.  The LB and Multus lineup of Lathes are some of the most highly regarded in the industry.  Heavy machines with the power to cut any material with ease, Okuma earns top marks for build quality.

 

Accuracy – With intelligent designs, Okuma builds highly accurate machines with decades of refinement.  Bridge style construction offers many benefits with accuracy being one of the greatest.  Whether you are machining at 1,000+ ipm, or contouring a Mold with their high-speed spindles, Okuma’s accuracy is impressive.  While other machines have trouble maintaining their momentum and accuracy through high-speed corners, Okuma excels.

 

Service – Gosinger have always been very helpful when we had questions, they treated us with respect and were very prompt.  In an industry where customer service is so critical, Okuma seem to have chosen a good partner in Gosinger.  Service in your area may vary, again we recommend you spend as much time as possible with other customers in your area and make sure your needs are going to be met.

 

Controller – Okuma’s OSP suite features some impressive features like their Collison Avoidance System.  If your 3D models are accurate to the machine, the control is smart enough to prevent a crash.  The OSP control is user friendly and intuitive.  With a modern feel, Okuma have one of the better controls in the industry.

 

Overall Value – Okuma provide some of the best value machines in the industry, especially with the introduction of the Genos MV lineup.  From their introduction a few years back, shops everywhere are stepping into an elite machine that does not break the bank.  Whether you are running lights out production, or running low volume high mix, Okuma have some of the best solutions on the market.

 

 

DMG MORI

 

Best Fit – DMG MORI have an extensive lineup of machines built to suit any task, from compact footprint Mills to gargantuan machines that are roomier than most NYC apartments. 

 

Price – With machines that resemble a Hypercar, and perform as good as they look, DMG MORI are a no compromises premier builder.  You are going to pay a premium for what goes into making one of the best machines out there, but you receive a machine you can count on.

 

Build Quality – With build quality second to none, DMG MORI invest heavily in offering the best machines possible.  

 

Accuracy – Built to perform day in day out, DMG MORI  machines intelligently monitor and compensate for changing conditions from the first part to the last.  Like all the high-end machines on this list, .025mm is a loose tolerance, these machines combine accuracy and speed. 

 

Service – It is impossible to determine what level of service you will receive until you need it.  It is recommended you consult other customers in your area, visit the builder’s facility, and do your own research on such an important topic.

 

Controller – DMG MORI have an excellent choice of controls based on which style machine you are using.  Siemens and Heidenhain are both well-known and highly regarded controls in the industry for their ease of use and intuitive function.

 

Overall Value – DMG MORI have an established reputation for building machines that will pay for themselves with high value work and continue to earn for years to come.  Investing in a high-quality machine tool if your parts command it is always a safe bet.

 

 

There are many high-end builders who should be considered when looking for a machine tool.  There are many that lead the way in this segment, Hermle, Matsuura, Grob, Makino, the list goes on.  The problem with searching for a new machine is you will likely receive polarized opinions one way or another for a specific brand.  Hopefully, this article shed some light on the options available, feel free to contact us any time.