Once you’ve scanned in or modeled a 3D form, these are the machines that turn it into a real physical object. Milling machines do this subtractively; a block of material is held tightly to the bed of the mill or in a fixture, then rotary cutting tools systematically remove everything that isn’t your part. CNC lathes work similarly; the workpiece is spun while a moving tool removes successive layers of material until a radially symmetrical part is produced. All these machines need toolpaths to follow, to take account of the tool and material being used and give the desired fineness of cut. Additive rapid prototyping machines work differently; these machines build up a form by accreting material a layer at a time, based on “slicing” software that analyzes your model and generates instructions for the machine to follow in reconstructing each horizontal section.
The Taig Micro Mill is an “overbuilt” miniature milling machine. The liberal use of steel in its construction affords superior rigidity and the ability to work on hard metals. It is equipped with a 6-speed pulley system, which yields spindle speeds from 525-5200 rpm. The working axis travel is 9.5 inches in the x axis (for the 2018), 5.5 inches in the y axis, and 6 inches in the z axis. The table size is 3.5″ x 15.5″
The Model 2019 is a little more expensive than the 2018 and is just the same except that it has a longer table (18.5″) and 12 inches of travel in the x axis. This is particularly handy if you’re using their 4th axis attachment, which takes up some space on the bed.
Taig spindle speeds are now 1,000 to 10,000 RPM for the CR and CNC versions. (The manual mills come with a smaller motor that isn’t as fast.) An ER-16 spindle is now standard for all Taig models; the collets are standard and widely available, they have more capacity (up to 3⁄8″) and can hold metric tooling.
Each of these two machines is sold in three versions:
The latest model is called the DSLS 3000, for the Digital Servo Lock System controlling it. This uses optical encoders mounted on the stepper motors to keep track of exact position as motion commands are executed, which allows the system to stop with an error if the position is off more than a certain small amount. We’ve been testing it, and found that this system runs reliably given a feedrate of 50 inches per minute, about twice as fast the standard system, and useful for those who use the mill to cut plastics and other soft materials. It comes with the ER spindle and two collets, a relay box for software controlled spindle on-off and and whatever you plug into an auxiliary 110v receptacle (such as a dust collector or mist coolant pump), plus a license for Mach3, the popular new CNC control software that runs in Windows XP or 2000. This control system comes with either the regular or Larger Envelope models.
For $700 extra, add a fourth rotary axis to any Taig CNC mill, parallel to the long (X) axis like the rotisserie spit on a grill. This includes a high-quality rotary table (made by Sherline) with a Taig-compatible mounting plate, a stepper motor compatible with your CNC system, and a dead-center tailstock to support the far end of your workpiece as it’s cut in “A” axis rotary mode.
Since these mills are built to order at the factory, they take approximately 6 to 8 weeks before they are shipped. We’ve started to stock some of the more popular models of CNC and CNC-Ready mills for those customers who don’t want to wait. For these rush orders from stock, we can’t offer the 10% discount off list but we can ship them immediately and can get the mills into your hands more quickly than the manufacturer will. Please email if you would like details on the mills we have on hand.
We’re an authorized dealer for Taig Tools products and can offer these and other products found on the Taig Tools site, including accessories when purchased with a mill, for 10% off list price. (This offer is limited to customers in the USA.) Please email us for Taig tools or other products that aren’t on our order list.
Manufacturer: Taig Tools
List Price: $788
List Price: $875
List Price: $1040
List Price: $1,156
List Price: $2,155
List Price: $2,355
List Price: $2,995
List Price: $700
List Price: $700
Sherline miniature machine tools have long been prized by modelmakers, hobbyists, and jewelers for their precision, performance, and low price which they have maintained although continuing to manufacture in the USA. Boasting a large range of accessories in hard-to-find small sizes, they have brought accurate machining within the range of thousands with neither the space nor funds to contemplate this before. The Sherline catalog features an enormous range of products, some hard to find otherwise. We offer a discount on the full range of Sherline products, so browse Sherline.com and, when you’re ready to order, just send us an email.
An excellent choice for jewelers and miniature model makers, the Sherline 5400 CNC Mill is equipped with a powerful hp variable-speed DC spindle motor for smooth speed changes on the fly. The control box comes ready to hook up four stepper motors, if you decide to upgrade with the 4th axis rotary table. Sherline supplies their own version of the open-source EMC software, which works on Linux operating systems. This allows you to run the mill and avoid the necessity of having to purchase Windows for your shop computer. We also can supply compatible 3rd-party accessories such as a longer-travel base and table and endmill holders.
The Sherline 8770 CNC Upgrade Kit for existing 5000/5400 series mill includes three Sherline 67127 Stepper Motors, the Sherline 8760 4-Axis Driver Box, power supply, cables, and the EMC software for Linux on CD. You connect your computer (not included) to the driver box using a 25-pin parallel cable (included) attached to your computer’s printer port.
Manufacturer: Sherline Products
List Price: $1,005
List Price: $805
Sherline is best-known for their lathes which, though small, are well engineered and supported with a full range of accessories. The 4400A has a 3.5″ swing and 17″ between centers, making it useful for small to medium-sized projects. The CNC version runs on the same control system and software as the mill, so it’s possible to save money by switching leads and running both machines with the same box, if you purchase both the CNC lathe and mill. We also can supply compatible 3rd-party accessories such as a quick-change toolpost and riser blocks to extend the lathe’s functionality.
The Sherline 8765 CNC Upgrade Kit adds two Sherline 67127 Stepper Motors, the Sherline 8760 4-Axis Driver Box, power supply, cables, and the EMC software for Linux on CD. You connect your computer (not included) to the driver box using a 25-pin parallel cable (included) attached to your computer’s printer port.
Manufacturer: Sherline Products
List Price: $980
List Price: $730
Roland Digital Group makes a series of machines for capturing surface data from objects and then carving them from solid material. We own and use an MDX-15 and MDX-20 ourselves, and we’ve found it a very useful tool for what we do. This is a combination unit, a touch-probe scanner and light-duty milling machine in one integrated package with a working envelope of 6″ x 4″ x 23⁄8″. The larger MDX-20 has a working envelope of 8″ x 6″ x 23⁄8″. On both machines, a fine and sensitive piezo-electric scanning needle records even delicate objects without damage or distortion and stores them as polygon mesh surface data which can be exported to other programs or milled out using the cutting spindle of this versatile machine. Roland’s Dr. Picza scanning software, CAM GL and Dr. Engrave milling software is included with the MDX machines. We’re an authorized Roland dealer so we’re not allowed to list our prices on these products, but we sell them for a significant discount and we’re confident we can beat the competition’s prices.
Manufacturer: Roland Digital Group
List Price: $3,145
List Price: $4,695
To fill a perceived gap in the market between small desktop mills, like their own MDX-15 and MDX-20 models (which retail up to about $4,500) and large precision CNC machines like their MDX-540 (which start around $20,000) Roland Corporation recently decided to introduce a couple of new machines, the MDX-40-K and the smaller JWX-10, at a price point of about $11,000. (The MDX-40A now lists without the rotary table for $6,995; the model with the rotary table is now called the MDX-40-K.) These remedy some of the shortcomings of their lower-priced offerings, by adding high-speed spindles—which are more effective with small cutters—and a rotary fixture that allows a workpiece to be held firmly as it is cut on 2 or more sides successively. These mills still embody Roland’s ideas about ease of use, so that the process of 4-axis CNC milling is reduced as much as possible to the difficulty level of printing out a document. While not intended for metals, the mill can make use of a wide range of materials as stock including wood, tooling board, engineering plastics, machinable wax, etc. Once you’ve run your part through Modela Player, all you do is load in the stock, zero the tool with its automatic toolsetter, and tell the machine to go to work—watching it run is optional. Both machines are fully enclosed, and come with all the software required to take in a part from scanners like Roland’s own LPX-250, or from CAD programs like Rhino in formats STL, IGS, DXF, etc. and turn it into a part that needs very little (if any) further finishing. The mills hook up via a USB port, which should be more convenient for users than the serial port connection on the MDX-series scanner-mills. The rotary table, toolsetter, and tailstock (which supports the far end of the workpiece) are also included, but can be removed for 3-axis milling of larger work.
With the MDX-40A, Roland is taking aim at the growing rapid prototyping sector. Before anybody produces a part these days, they usually want to be able to examine a close approximation of the finished product in order to generally evaluate its physical properties, make sure things fit together right, and determine that the part functions correctly. Up until recently, this has been done using rapid prototyping machines that produce parts by various additive processes, e.g. catalyzing layers of liquid plastic (SLA), fusing a powder (SLS), or laminating and cutting layers of paper (LOM). While these machines can make shapes and assemblies that are impossible to produce any other way, parts made by these methods have drawbacks which become apparent when their surface quality, durability, and appearance are compared with the final parts they’re simulating. Roland’s new machines make it possible to produce parts using the same plastics the final products will be made from, and the parts will have the same durability, as well as a superior finish. Another concern addressed is security. Doing prototypes in-house prevents the potential loss of product confidentiality that sending pieces out for production entails. Also, machined parts are by nature manufacturable, so nasty surprises are averted down the line. Coming in at roughly half the price of the cheapest additive Rapid Prototyping machines, Roland is convinced that customers will be willing to give their Subtractive Rapid Prototyping (SRP) systems a try.
With a working area of 12″ x 12″ x 4.1″, the MDX-40A is suitable for sizeable projects in 3-axis mode. With the newly redesigned 4th axis installed, it can handle a workpiece that’s 4.7 inches in diameter and 10.6 inches long.
Manufacturer: Roland Digital Group
List Price: $11,590
List Price: $7,995
List Price: $3,595
List Price: $495
If you’re working on larger parts, or in harder materials up to non-ferrous metals, then consider the MDX-540, Roland’s successor model to the MDX-650. This machine is a little smaller, but stronger, faster, and tighter, with a 12,000 RPM 400 watt spindle motor, and a closed loop servo control system capable of 295 inch-per-minute rapids. Axis travels are 19.6″ X, 15.7″ Y and 6.1″ Z, but this machine still fits through a standard door. Its modern control system runs off your computer’s USB port, and unlike other Roland mills it accepts the standard G-code written by most third-party CAM programs, although it also runs programs written by its included CAM software package. It comes with a nice hand-held pendant control, so you need not hover behind the computer when operating it, and a touch-off sensor for zeroing the tool. The included SRP Player software is a wizard-based CAM system that guides the user through setup, tool selection, and toolpath creation. Optional extras available include an automatic tool-changer which holds 4 tools, a 4th axis rotary table and tailstock, a T-slot table for part fixturing, and a safety cover. The MDX-540 Model A includes the automatic tool changer, 4 tool chucks, and a chuck setting clamp.
Here’s a review of the Roland MDX-540 called “A Mill for Every Desktop” written by Mike Hudspeth for the November 2006 issue of Desktop Engineering.
Manufacturer: Roland DG Corporation
List Price: $20,995
List Price: $31,495
List Price: $4,995
List Price: $1,295
List Price: $1,495
Roland’s JWX-10 is designed for jewelry modelmaking. Jewelers loved the ease of use and versatility of the MDX-15 for scanning and relief work, but they needed a way to make rings, which require carving on two or more sides, as well as bracelets and other parts in the round. Also, they wanted to add a lot of detail with tiny cutters, but these require more spindle speed to be effective. With the JWX-10, their prayers are answered. Its 20,000 RPM spindle allows the use of engraving tools and ultra-small endmills while maintaining a reasonable feedrate. This machine is much faster than the lower-end machines as well; it can run at up to 114 inches per minute, while it holds better tolerances (+/-.002″ repeatability).
The included rotary table and tailstock fixture allows the jeweler to load the same carving wax usually used for hand-carving, either in block, cylinder, or ring-tube form. It can handle stock up to 3 inches in diameter and about 2 inches long. There is an automatic toolsetting feature also included; just touch off the cutting tool to this button, then its height is recorded and the mill adjusts to accomodate. The totally-enclosed machine has a small footprint, and is quiet enough to run in an office environment, making it a good fit for a typical jeweler’s shop. The Modela Player 4 software included with the mill can bring in models made in general-purpose modeling programs like Rhino or Claytools, in jewelry-specific programs like Gemvision Matrix, Artcam Jewelsmith, 3Design, JewelCAD, JewelSpace, or any other 3D CAD software capable of producing DXF, STL, or IGS files. It then converts them to toolpaths with a minimum of questions asked (how big a cutter will you be using, how big is the stock, how fine do you want it cut), and runs the toolpaths controlling the four working axes of the mill to produce a highly-detailed jewelry model ready for casting without much (if any) finish work necessary.
This mill has recently been discontinued by Roland, but we still have some in stock, with the highly-regarded Protowizard fixture/software set included.
Manufacturer: Roland Digital Group
List Price: $9,995
Roland’s new milling machine for jewelers, the JWX-30, comes bundled with design software (Roland Jewel Studio) as well as a complete set of fixtures and toolpath creation software. The idea was to create a system for creating wax jewelry patterns that was fully integrated and easy for jewelers to learn and use. The mill itself is bigger and more robust than the JWX-10, their original jewelry mill, and has a faster spindle capable of 30,000 rpm—enough speed for even the smallest tools. The automatic tool height setter is spring-loaded, so there is even less chance of chipping a tool, and automatic routines for sensing the exact location of installed fixtures help avoid errors due to misalignment. It also comes with a detachable pendant for controlling the mill without recourse to the computer keyboard, although it is also possible to run it from an improved version of the Virtual Control Panel on the monitor.
Roland’s proprietary Jewel Studio software, which is not available separately or with any other mills, is built on the popular Rhinoceros modeling software, so it offers excellent spline-based freeform modeling capabilities. But it has enhanced that with a series of wizards, or “studios”, which flatten the learning curve so that jewelers without a lot of CAD drawing experience can jump right in and start modeling items that they need. The Ring Studio, for example, starts with the input of a ring size, and guides the user through the steps which result in the creation of a ring model which exports directly to the SRP (Subtractive Rapid Prototyping) Player toolpath creation module. (There is also a utility that cleans up the STL files that the system outputs, so they can be built successfully on an additive RP machine if desired). The Gem Studio has a large library of gem shapes, which can be sized and arranged in various ways. Pave spacing can be calculated automatically, based on the available surface of the jewelry model. There is a Bezel Studio for creating the right bezel to fit the stones chosen, and a Head Studio in case that type of setting is more appropriate. There is even a Celtic Knot wizard, which makes the creation of complex interwoven shapes much simpler than ever before. Here is a PDF that Roland put together to explain the features of Jewel Studio in more depth.
The fixture kit that comes with it has two square frames for holding pieces of wax as they’re carved on both sides. These attach to the rotary table, so that flipping the part over is done automatically, without loss of registration. The ring fixture also allows the part to be cut on both sides, then it is repositioned and held from the inside, so that the outer peripheral surface can be cut in rotary mode. There is also a tube clamp, which allows multiple rings to be cut simultaneously from a wax ring tube, and a swivel fixture useful for creating heads or fancy bezels. Each of these fixtures are chosen in the SRP Player software, recognized by the probing routines which exactly confirm their position, and are accounted for in the creation of the toolpaths which carve the jewelry parts from wax. A selection of cutters and wax pieces is also included, so that there’s nothing besides a computer (running Vista, XP, or Windows 2000) left to buy before starting to produce castable wax jewelry patterns. Here’s a link to the JWX-30 setup PDF.
Manufacturer: Roland Digital Group
List Price: $17,895
Advanced Control Tech of Granada Hills California introduced its new Desktop Machining Center CNC milling machine at the recent Westech show in Los Angeles. This fills a niche that hasn’t had many entrants—a compact but tight machine for cutting materials up to and including steel. It’s considerably heavier than other desktop mills, but is still something that two (relatively strong) people can pick up. The “bridge” design, with the X and Z axes running on a fixed beam while the tee-slot table underneath moves the Y axis, makes it possible to hold high tolerances. Since the bridge doesn’t need to move, it can be built more heavily than a gantry, which has to move while also supporting two moving axes.
High quality components—precision-ground zero-backlash ball-screws, 20mm square-section linear rails, and a lot of cast iron and steel—were used throughout, so motion is smooth and sure. Homing switches give a repeatable start point to reference from. The control system used is the highly-regarded Mach3, which makes it possible to use a regular Windows PC (included with Mach3 pre-installed) instead of an expensive dedicated machine controller to run the machine. This is a good base machine for customization, since its T-slot table is suitable for flood coolant, and it can easily be fitted with a range of alternate spindles suitable for different tasks. If you’ve been waiting for a high-spec metal-capable CNC mill to come out for an affordable price, this might be just what you’ve been holding out for.
Manufacturer: Advanced Control Tech