Tormach 1100MX opinion

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Jon James

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Hi all,
I am seriously thinking about a Tormach 1100MX.
I am self-taught hobby machinist. The only CNC experience I have is with 3D printing. I use Alibre for CAD designing.

As with anything on the net, there the usual horror stories and the usual very positive fan boy stories. I don't know how concerned I should be regarding a few negative "reviews".

Options-wise, I would want the tool changer and and probe. Not sure which coolant system I would want.

Yes, I have looked at Haas mini mills. Base machine is reasonably priced, but the options seem to get very, very pricey, and I do not intend to do any production CNC work.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Jon
 

Scott_M

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Hi Jon
I have an 1100 series 3. Bought it way back in the beginning (2007) and have been updating it to the newer designs.
I guess I am in the fan boy corner. The machine has been great for me and has been very productive. And the company has always been there if any trouble arose.
There will always be bad reviews about anything. You just have to decide for yourself if they have merit.
If you are getting this for hobby reasons I would not suggest a tool changer. It will add several layers of complexity for very little return. It may even make small jobs more complicated. Unless you need to run unattended there is very little reason to get it. And as a new machinist it will give you time between tools to make sure all is going as planned.

If you do not have any experience with setting up a mill then CNC will not help. I always encourage people to learn on a manual mill so they understand how to set up the machine. A Cad and Cam program will not make you a machinist.
If you do not have any mill experience this would be overwhelming. I would suggest a class at a local school or collage to get you up to speed in the basics before considering CNC.

Scott
 

byawor

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I bought a new 770M several years ago it has been a good machine and support has been ok. I would agree with Scott's comments re tool changer. If I remember the cost of tc, power draw bar and enclosure would have nearly doubled the cost of base machine never got those options. I use a Hammer instead of probe and find it adequate. Path Pilot has a built in DXF to G code program that works reasonably well. The spindle is variable speed with high and low range but it is a pain to change. This is a bit of a problem because if you are in high and need to slow down below about 1000 rpm you lose a lot of power. I have not checked lately but I think cost has gone up a lot since I bought mine. I think if I really needed a fully optioned machine I would seriously consider a used "real" machine.
Bob
 

kvom

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I have a similar size mill but run Path Pilot. I definitely prefer PP to Mach3, which I ran before. I've had this mill 10 years, so now I would get a tool changer if I were to upgrade. But unless you're running multiple parts the cost benefit is negligible. If the budget allows, I would get the power drawbar.

Using Tormach tool holders is convenient is budget allows, as you can set Z0 once for all the tools you've measured and placed in the PP tool table.

A probe would save a lot of time as well.
 
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Jon James

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I bought a new 770M several years ago it has been a good machine and support has been ok. I would agree with Scott's comments re tool changer. If I remember the cost of tc, power draw bar and enclosure would have nearly doubled the cost of base machine never got those options. I use a Hammer instead of probe and find it adequate. Path Pilot has a built in DXF to G code program that works reasonably well. The spindle is variable speed with high and low range but it is a pain to change. This is a bit of a problem because if you are in high and need to slow down below about 1000 rpm you lose a lot of power. I have not checked lately but I think cost has gone up a lot since I bought mine. I think if I really needed a fully optioned machine I would seriously consider a used "real" machine.
Bob
Thanks for your thoughts.
Jon
 

Bruce T

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I, too, am a hobbyist. I, too, thought I would buy a Tormach. In fact, I had located one within 10 miles of my home and the guy had made some pretty amazing things with it. It was overpriced and was a basic 770 with no toolchanger and a homemade enclosure but I knew as soon as I saw it I wanted to buy it. Until.... It was located in the guy’s garage. In the same two car garage he also had the Haas VF2. To clear the Z spindle he had cut a big hole in the ceiling. I have NO idea how he got it under the door.

As we talked about the Tormach he kept extolling the virtues of the Haas. He had every reason in the word not to say anything bad about the Tormach. Instead he told me the truth as he saw it. He said that if I could afford the Haas to buy it. He said the difference was like a Chevy and a Rolls Royce.

I left that day and contacted the Haas people. Next week they will commission my new MiniMill 2. It is fully loaded with a 20 pocket tool changer, WIPS probe, chip conveyor, 4th axis with 160mm rotary table, and most importantly a 10K spindle. In the end, it was about double the price of a similarly configured Tormach. It is in my one car garage.
498647D8-B0C8-4748-97D7-B8D9B09E22A2.jpeg


I think the Tormach is a great machine for the price. But it you can afford the Haas go that way. I am also a CNC beginner. If you look at the resources on the Internet you will find the Haas has FAR more support. Haas themselves have a massive amount of Youtube videos showing how to use every aspect of the machine. The Facebook support groups for Haas are large and amazing.

I suggest you download a copy of Fusion 360. The Haas rep told me 75% of his people are probably using it. I would say the percentage is even larger for the Tormach users. For hobbiest use it is free.

Just my 2 cents worth and as they say.....you get what you pay for:)

Best of luck whichever way you go!
 
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ssaxer

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I teach the intro machince shop classes at a local university and I use 4 series 3, PCNC 1100 tormach mills for the CNC portion of my class. Overall they are pretty good machines for what you pay for them. The accuracy and repaeatability is far better than what I get on the manual mills. We have had our share of problems that Tormach can't seem to fix. The biggest is that the relays on the mothreboard that control the spindle VFD have failed on 3 of my machines. Once I figured out it was the relay I no longer buy replacement motherborads I just replace the relays in one of the EE labs. I also had the stepper driver fail on one of my machines and Tormach chalked it up to dielectric grease not being used on the connectors when the machine was built. Tormach did replace all three driver units for free (even though I was out of warranty, pronbably because my other 3 machines were also missing grease (not now though)).
 

Mike Henry

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Jon - since you are in Ohio and new to CNC, you might want to consider the on-site CNC classes that Saunders Machine Works offers. They have both Tormach and Haas machines so you could see both in action, the classes would help you get up to speed, and John's people seem to be straight shooters that would give you an honest opinion on which might work best for you. If SMW doesn't appeal to you, Tormach might still provide referrals to local owners who will usually let you visit their shop and answer questions. I did a demo to one guy who ended up giving me enough to short run work to pay off the mill.


I bought an 1100 Series 1 that has since been upgraded to a Series 3 and it has been running fine for the past 10+ years, although it doesn't usually see daily use. I agree that a tool changer is not necessarily useful for a hobbyist but you should consider the power drawbar. If you want a probe, consider the ITTP unit sold by Hallmark out of New Zealand. It is accurate enough for hobby work and is very resistant to damage. The controller software (PathPilot) that Tormach uses comes with conversational wizards that are quite easy to setup or use and that can handle many routine machining tasks.
 

Shawn M

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Hi all,
I am seriously thinking about a Tormach 1100MX.
I am self-taught hobby machinist. The only CNC experience I have is with 3D printing. I use Alibre for CAD designing.

As with anything on the net, there the usual horror stories and the usual very positive fan boy stories. I don't know how concerned I should be regarding a few negative "reviews".

Options-wise, I would want the tool changer and and probe. Not sure which coolant system I would want.

Yes, I have looked at Haas mini mills. Base machine is reasonably priced, but the options seem to get very, very pricey, and I do not intend to do any production CNC work.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Jon

I bought a brand new Tormach (as well a bridgeport and grinder) back in 2018 when I left my old job to start up on my own.

Personally I found it to be extremely disappointing.

This is not to say that it was necessarily bad, but going from a modern VMC with a Toolchanger to a tormach is a giant leap backwards.

If you do buy one, be sure to check out Scott_M's lever drawbar setup. I bought a set of plans from him and it is super slick, probably the only part of the machine I do like.

There a few things I really hate about the Tormach.
1: Stepper noise. I am used to dead silent servos, the stepper harmonics drive me crazy.

2: Other vibration noise: The enclosure rattles allot when taking a heavy cut, which I find pretty distracting.

3: Lack of rigidity: This is the big one for me. A lot of the youtube guys love to talk about how the Tormach can do everything the big machines can do but slower. That is a major understatement. The largest endmill you can really take advantage of is 1/4" of an inch, anything bigger and you have to worry about the tooling pulling out, lack of horsepower, intense vibration with terrible surface finish, lost step count, and maybe a scrapped part .

4: Very Slow Productivity: This is a direct result of the lack of rigidity and horsepower. The MMR on the tormach is literally less then 1/10th of the Fadal 4020 I recently purchased. The Tormach doesn't even compare to a bridgeport rigidity wise.



If I were to do it over again, my first choice would be a small linear way Fadal (EMC, VMC15, VMC3016L etc). They can be had for 10k, have a toolchanger, a full enclosure, and are light enough to fit in a garage.

Choice 2 would be a TRM, either a Fadal or Haas. Fadal TRM's can be had for about $6k and weigh around 5000lbs. This is IMO the heaviest machine one person can move around in their garage on their own.

Choice 3 would be a ProtoTRAk. I think this would actually be best for somebody doing this as a hobby. highly versatile and very easy to learn how to use. The only problem is that you are limited to 2 cnc axis machining.
 
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mfrick

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Well I looked hard at purchasing a Tormach when I retired 6 years ago. Having left teaching Machine Tool Tech program and having three Haas machines I had to look at coast and reliability I found a Haas TM1 VMC with tool changer with low hours and in very good condition the machine is real solid and I have had zero problems with it nice thing is it is 220 single ph. Haas has a great support system. The TM1 is a very heavy machine and handles all the work I need it to do, and it is built in the USA.

Mike
 

Jon James

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Jon - since you are in Ohio and new to CNC, you might want to consider the on-site CNC classes that Saunders Machine Works offers. They have both Tormach and Haas machines so you could see both in action, the classes would help you get up to speed, and John's people seem to be straight shooters that would give you an honest opinion on which might work best for you. If SMW doesn't appeal to you, Tormach might still provide referrals to local owners who will usually let you visit their shop and answer questions. I did a demo to one guy who ended up giving me enough to short run work to pay off the mill.


I bought an 1100 Series 1 that has since been upgraded to a Series 3 and it has been running fine for the past 10+ years, although it doesn't usually see daily use. I agree that a tool changer is not necessarily useful for a hobbyist but you should consider the power drawbar. If you want a probe, consider the ITTP unit sold by Hallmark out of New Zealand. It is accurate enough for hobby work and is very resistant to damage. The controller software (PathPilot) that Tormach uses comes with conversational wizards that are quite easy to setup or use and that can handle many routine machining tasks.
 

OrangeAlpine

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Interesting to see opinions on larger bed mills but no mention of the Charter Oak machine. Know zip about it, so I'm not promoting it, just wondering why.

Like not in any way comparable?

Bill
 

Shawn M

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Interesting to see opinions on larger bed mills but no mention of the Charter Oak machine. Know zip about it, so I'm not promoting it, just wondering why.

Like not in any way comparable?

Bill
IMO that machine looks equivalent to a tormach, maybe even slightly lighter. For nearly 12k you could put a whole lot more machine than that in your garage, something like a used Haas TM1, Fadal TRM, or even a small vmc. (haas minimill, fadal vmc15) As mfrick stated above, the haas TM1 and minimill can be run of singlephase 220v as well.
 

Mike Henry

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Is Charter Oak still in business? Their forum on CNC-Zone hasn't had any activity in a while and seems to have disappeared.
 

JPL

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I just purchased a ProtoTrak KMX to retro fit my Birmingham mill- It is a true 3 axis machine. I used to have the CNCMasters CNC system on the mill but it was acting up to the point I got very frustrated and looked at a new controller. The CNCMasters set up I had I had used for 14 years so I did get my money out of it. However, I now have 100 ipm fast traverse speeds, much more accuracy (we measured less then .0001" in 6 inches of movement in all three axis), and a much better display- no separate computer needed. I just finished an engine crankcase that was about 60,000 lines of G code and it performed flawlessly. Before I needed to run the part at about 10 ipm and this one I was up to 28 ipm- could go more but I was happy there. Downside- it came to abt $15K for everything (and I still have the flaws in the knee style machine- somewhat light weight). I figured this is the last CNC machine I will purchase so I went with it and like I said, am very happy.20200616_160701.jpg20200616_160731.jpg
 

GaryLa

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I used to teach CNC classes at several Maker Space facilities. One had a Tormach. Perhaps I was spoiled, but I found the Tormach to be a pretty awful machine.

From their tooling, to the dovetails, to the casting quality, to the sheet metal base.

It wasn't very rigid, impossible to keep trammed, and flexed while making conservative cuts.

The spindle motor is a poor design relying on VFD to achieve spindle speeds is cheesy. It's gutless at the lower speeds, of course.

The fact they tried to rip-off LinuxCNC (until they were threatened with court action) also left a bad taste. The Python script they wrote to wrap around LinxuCNC looks cute, but it's severely limiting. You cannot make changes to the configuration file which are "unapproved". One such change was the backlash compensation. I called support and they literally said, "we don't know how that works." But I did. When I changed the LinxuCNC config file to compensate for backlash, PathPilot would not boot up. Nor would it report what the problem was, which is a secondary issue.

At $13,000 for the 770 that the Maker Space had, I could've spent less on "old iron", retro-fitted it for CNC, and had a superior machine.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that they don't resell well. Lastly, their add-ons are insultingly expensive. $4500 tool changer, $1500 rotary table, etc.

They aren't actually machine-makers. They import everything. They're really a marketing company. Go to any real machine shop, not only will they not have any Tormachs, but they likely have never even heard of them.
 

Bruce T

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After about 6 weeks with the Haas MiniMill2 an update....

There have been no surprises. The machine works as expected, It seems to be insanely accurate. I am able to make parts to a precision I could not dream about using manual methods.

I was absolutely a beginner when it came to CNC. I had prior CAD experience but only from the drafting and design stage. I had zero experience with the CAM side of the equation. I have found that the time to properly design a part and figure out the proper tool path takes far longer than I thought. I can usually muddle through a Fusion 360 design in short order. Getting the proper toolpaths has been more challenging. Because time is not a factor in the machining process I find myself using very low speeds and feeds and not pushing the machine to the limits. Sometimes a simple part might have a 5 hour machining time. That is because I set the rapid feed rate to 5 inches per minute instead of 100:)

I’ve learned the control system reasonably well. It is kind of quirky and not very user friendly but it isn’t as bad as I first believed.

The one thing I’ve learned that I could never live without is the WIPS probing system. Once I figured out the work coordinate system for the Haas and in Fusion 360 the WIPS makes setups quite easy. Simply plop in a part, probe for the X, Y and Z using a number of different methods, make sure it corresponds with the Fusion model design and press “Cycle Start”. And then......5% maximum feed rate because....I’m still a big chicken:) When the machine seems to be doing as expected I sneak the feed rates up to 100% which means I am still running a lot of tools at 5-10 IPM. LOL. Fearless? I’m not! And you can easily see why I have long machining times. The truth of the matter is the machine has a LOT of power. I have a lot of aluminum stock and it will burn through massive cuts and never get close to bogging down.

I’ve also learned that using the proper fixture for the Second Op or Third Op is both an art and a science. A lot more thought must go into the proper fixture. When producing something manually I think we all tend to do a lot of flipping the part 180 degrees, tightening it in a vise, and starting the process. Because it is manual you are able to twist dials and make adjustments on the fly. Things such as clearance heights, retract heights, are not an issue. I have about 4 broken end mills to prove it IS an issue when doing CNC work:)

I have zero regrets in not buying the Tormach. I have a professional level CNC mill that I will never outgrow. In the end, it cost me far less than an airplane or boat:)
 
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