The low cost machine tool market is dominated by low-quality imports; the majority are copies of machines designed decades ago. There has been very little innovation. On the other hand, full sized CNC machine tools cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and usually require 3 phase power to run. For your reference, full sized industrial mill-turn centers cost upwards of 300,000 dollars
The SwissMak combines all the functionality of both CNC lathes and CNC mills. Turning parts is quick and easy with the 8 station live tool turret, and the swiveling 30 taper milling head lets you cut features at any angle. You can make any part geometry you want on a 5 axis mill-turn machine.
The SwissMak is built from solid blocks of metal. All linear axes slide on large vibration damping boxways, while the rotary axes spin on oversized roller bearings. This machine is designed for cutting metal.
The SwissMak is built to machine parts that require both turning and milling. The main headstock has a large 2″ (50mm) spindle bore for bar work. You can mount 4″(100mm), 5″(125mm), and 6″(160mm) chucks and collet noses to the spindle face plate. This covers the majority of workpiece and stock sizes, ranging from the tiniest needles to the largest tubes and bars that can fit in the chuck. Chucks and collets can be adjusted and indicated on the face plate to eliminate runout. As always, you can make your own fixtures for difficult parts.
The included ER40 tailstock lets you turn and mill long parts between centers, but it also functions as a holder for large cutting tools and deep hole drills. The live ER40 nose of the tailstock is capable of gripping bars from 1mm to 1.1875″ (30mm) for extra support, back side machining operations, or just for parting off without leaving a nub. You can use this as a trunnion support as well. By removing the Tailstock from the boxway plate, a vise can be mounted on the plate for simple milling operations with the milling head.
The SwissMak is optimized for round and hex bar stock approximately the size of a 2 liter soda bottle or smaller. Larger diameter parts up to 10 inches can be machined if they can be gripped safely. We recommend you be careful with any part that’s bigger in diameter than the chuck, especially longer solid metal bars of this size.
By default, the linear and rotary axes on the SwissMak will be equipped with dual shaft Nema 24 stepper motors. These plug directly into the control board and offer the lowest cost to the user, while still giving enough precision to make good parts. The back side shafts allow for manual hand wheels to be used.
The spindles on the SwissMak are powered by ODrives with closed loop BLDC motors. ODrive is a motor control board that turns any BLDC motor and encoder into a powerful, fast, and incredibly precise servo. This works great for our machine spindles, and it’s easy to upgrade other axes on the machine to be controlled by ODrives as well, since they can take step/dir inputs just like a stepper driver.
For users who want their SwissMak to be faster, more powerful, and more precise, we will offer ODrive servo upgrade kits in the future. DIY’ers can purchase ODrives from ODrive Robotics.
Note: The SwissMak 3 axis mill comes with ODrive servos on all axes, including the spindle.
You need a sturdy table or desk to put it on, a regular residential outlet to power it, and a computer to command it. Don’t forget safety glasses!
- Rigid tapping and spindle indexing
- Live tool capability on the lathe turret
- B axis locking and alignment pins
- Hard anodized boxways for long term wear resistance
- Live ER40 lockable tailstock for long parts and back face work
- Home switches on all linear axes, encoders on spindles
- Compatible with touchscreen controllers and LCDs
- Future compatibility with enclosures
- Future compatibility with automatic tool changers
- Uses inexpensive, open source 3d printer electronics
- No proprietary tooling or consumables
All our machines are built with the same components, and we designed them to be interchangeable and modular. This gives users the option of upgrading or adding modules to the machine later on. Also, due to demand for a simplified machine, we added a 3 axis mill to our reward tiers. The 3 axis mill is the only variant that is not modular, although it will be built with many of the same parts as the others.
Once the money is released to us, we’re going to rent a small industrial space and finance a large VMC to put in it. This will take a couple months. As soon as the machine is plugged in and tooled up, production begins.
We designed the SwissMak for ease of manufacture and assembly. Notice how blocky and simple the components are; this keeps cycle times to a minimum.
The production version will use keys and dowels to cut down assembly time and allow the machine to be put together square and true without tedious alignment procedures.
The machines we build are too big to fit in flat rate boxes. Freight rates will vary based on your location, so we cannot calculate/include shipping as part of our Kickstarter pledges. Once the machines are ready to ship, backers will be asked to pay the freight cost.
By default we will be building SwissMak spindles with large Japanese made tapered roller bearings. This type of bearing is nearly immune to being damaged by hard crashes, which is hugely beneficial for newer machinists.
For more experienced machinists who need to hold super tight tolerances, we’re offering to build your machine with P4 grade ultra-precision angular contact bearings, which runout within 2 microns. If you want your SwissMak equipped with these bearings, add the following amount(s) to your reward tier:
Milling Spindle: $160
Lathe Spindle: $200
ER40 Tailstock: $150
Are you outsourcing production to China?
- The machining will be done in the USA
- The ODrives will be made in the USA
- The spindle bearings will be made in Japan
- The main control board will be made in the UK
- Only the steppers and outrunners will be Chinese
Does this machine have an enclosure or a stand?
Not yet, but the machine will have mounting hardware for forward compatibility with enclosures. We will offer free plans/Bill of Materials to build your own from polycarbonate sheets and T slot extrusions with standard hardware. Eventually we will make sheet metal enclosures for our machines, but trying to make all of this during the initial production run would greatly increase the pledge costs and delay backer fulfillment for months. We want to keep things simple and manageable for now.
Can it do 5 axis simultaneous machining?
Yes, although you will probably need CAM software for curvy parts. Most 3+2 axis parts can be done with hand written gcode. We will make tutorial videos that cover all the basics.
What kind of tolerances can it hold?
It takes little effort to hold overall part tolerances to within a few thousandths. The machine alignment and positioning resolution are well under one thousandth of an inch. Rating the overall precision of a machine tool with a single number is kind of like rating the picture quality of a camera as megapixels.
The SwissMak would weigh over 1200 pounds (550 kilograms) if it were made from cast iron rather than aluminum. This would make it very difficult to move and install, especially considering that most people don’t have a forklift sitting around. Keeping it aluminum means that it can be moved and assembled by one or two people without the need for any lifting equipment. Also, aluminum is much less expensive to work with compared to ferrous metals, and will never rust or corrode. The production version will be anodized, with the boxways being hard anodized for long term durability.
Risks and challenges
It takes machines to make machines.
A lesson we learned from building the first two functional prototypes is that the quality and precision of the final machined product is dependent on the quality of the machine that was used to make it, in this case a vertical machining center (VMC).
We will be making each and every SwissMak in our own small facility, and to do this we need a big, rigid, accurate VMC. We’ve done our homework ahead of time, and we have quotes for several that fit the description.
We have hundreds of hours of machining experience, and we built two functional prototypes. We also have the prior logistics experience of manufacturing and retailing 3d printer hotends since 2014.
If for some reason we were unable to get our manufacturing operation running, we would issue refunds to all backers in the early part of the timeline, before any large amount of money was spent.
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