Live Steam CNC Defender

This forum is dedicated to the Live Steam Hobbyist Community.

Moderators: Harold_V, WJH, cbrew

User avatar
Bruce_Mowbray
Posts: 642
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2003 7:45 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Bruce_Mowbray » Sun Sep 16, 2018 8:47 am

In the wake of a recent post, and I'm not posting this to make waves, (pun) I think it's important for modelers and home shop tinkerers to be informed about both sides of the spectrum.
CNC may not be for everyone. But, If you have enough funds to buy one, or you're able to pick one up for a good price or even free (because it's too old, not fast enough, too small, being replaced etc.) from a commercial or school shop that is upgrading, they are yet another great tool to have. CNC's are really not that hard to program, it's just a matter of remembering some simple code and learning how it's applied to what you want to happen. CAM (computer aided manufacturing) is not necessary in CNC programming. Instead of your brain telling your hands what to do with the machine, you tell the machine what to do directly. And, the choices are endless. Tell the machine to make a thread, any thread. Need to adjust the thread? Simple, just tweak the program or adjust an offset, just like you would turn the dial a few thousandths. Want to mill a curve? Just tell the machine what curve you need and it's done. I've made many single parts on my mill. Everything from painting stencils for my bathroom, fancy wood plinth blocks for windows, to a set of main rods for a 1 1/2" scale NKP Berkshire (live steam content), one left hand and one right hand, just by switching the "mirror Y parameter" from off to on. A pair of A-5a locomotive frames milled from plate that were customized to become an 0-4-4 Forney. I mill, drill and tap cast plumbing fittings 2,4 or even 6 at a time. I mill and drill my plastic ties. I even make tooling to use on my manual machines, ie. Vice and chuck jaws to hold irregular shapes. So, don't discount CNC. Experience what it can do for you, then make your own decision.

Thanks for reading.
Bruce Mowbray
Springville & Southern RR
TMB Manufacturing & Locomotive Works

AnthonyDuarte
Posts: 196
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:46 am
Location: Mountain View, CA
Contact:

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by AnthonyDuarte » Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:50 am

Thanks for starting this thread.

My biggest problem with the anti-CNC sentiment is the suggestion that those who take advantage of the technology are just button pushers.
A “button pusher” is someone who loads material and hits the green button after the real machinist has set up and programmed the machine.
In my opinion, what makes a machinist a good machinist is their creativity with setups, being comfortable/knowledgeable with a wide range of tooling, and being able to repeatably hold accurate tolerances.
Turning a dial does not take an astounding amount of skill, much like pushing a button. It’s how you get to the point where you’re able to turn the dial, or the result that comes out of the machine after the button has been pushed, that matters.

I would not be able to do what I do without CNC. Or perhaps I should say that i wouldn’t be able to do it as efficiently. The last batch of 50 injectors that I made were completed in roughly 3 weeks, which includes machining the bodies from solid material, all the internals, and the nuts and connections. I even made extras of everything! I would love to see that accomplished on manual equipment.

Recently I did a quick custom job of making O scale Cooke style steam and sand domes. 25 of each. Took 2 days for the 50 total parts. Had time to take care of other things while the machine was running, and was still home in time for dinner.

Those who have seen the custom Allen 10 wheeler rods I made (steel, fully fluted both sides, each rod unique due to R/L) might be interested to know that those took 4 days to complete from start to finish including all the programming.

There is a huge value to the old manual equipment. I still use my manual lathe nearly every day. And for the record, my first batch of 15 injectors were made entirely on the manual lathe. Cones and all. Didn’t even have a chucker, just turned dials. And after that I decided I never wanted to do that again given the quantities I was hoping to run. So CNC came to the rescue.

I don’t like to share my wax molds, but in light of the recent conversation, I’ll share just a few pictures. Last month I made all the molds for the 2.5” scale Monitor injectors in 1 week. Some of them took longer to design than to machine, but it was much faster than making rubber molds from RP parts or traditional patterns, and I think they came out quite nice as well.

Machining takes experience and skill. Doesn’t matter if you’re turning leadscrews by hand or deciding on a computer how you want the machine to turn the leadscrews for you. We can all learn from eachother.
5F16CCB3-9E6C-41A0-960A-1133B8E07D87.jpeg
6EA01B42-2447-4CBD-BBE9-A111FFF8C801.jpeg

RET
Posts: 747
Joined: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:36 am
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by RET » Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:08 am

Hi,

CNC doesn't really need defending, but it does open up a whole new world. Things that can be very difficult or impossible to do with conventional machines are easy with CNC. Even writing "G" code isn't hard until you get into the really complex stuff.

CNC doesn't replace conventional machining, but it adds a whole new dimension to what you can do and in a lot of cases do easily. As an early example, I needed to make a couple of fish Belly coupling rods with the "belly" having a 6" radius. That is doable with conventional machining, but it requires special setups. With CNC, you just tell the program what you want, and it does it! Another of my early projects was to make the expansion links for "Dart" from oil hardening tool steel. The Fish Belly coupling rods were also for that project.

As Bruce says, there are many routes to CNC. I started off with the little Sherline CNC mill as a "Turnkey" package. I used it for about 7 or 8 years and then I made my own larger and heavier machine with proper ball screws etc. on all 3 axes. It was expensive to do, but it is turning out to be a great machine, a great investment and a big improvement to what I could do with the little Sherline machine, but the little Sherline got me started.

Go to a machine tool show, visit someone who has CNC, look it up on the internet, whatever you wish, then decide for yourself if its for you. It seems that the new "Acorn" software is well worth looking at. I can tell you one thing, commercial CNC machines will really open your eyes; the speeds and feeds are out of this world!

Just my view of the elephant.

Richard Trounce.

User avatar
NP317
Posts: 1386
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:57 pm
Location: Northern Oregon

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by NP317 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:43 am

I've used CNC lathes and mills in two different shops I've worked in.
I would love to have them in my home shop.
Cost is the determining factor for me. Above my retired pay grade.
~RN

BClemens
Posts: 355
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:04 pm

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by BClemens » Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:50 am

I don't see how a present day machine shop cannot get along without both CNC and 'manual' machines. Although CNC machines can be used as a manual machine but certainly not vise-versa. The versatility of a CNC lathe is 10fold over a manual one basically because of the ability to make minute adjustments to something like a thread pitch or an angle to be made where the manual machine must be mechanically set-up and adjusted for the desired outcome. But; ya still need both machines....

I operate a Mazak machining center with tool changer and massive flood coolant system. I use it for one-off fixtures and similar (non production) projects for set-ups in the EBW machine - a CNC welding machine in a vacuum chamber. Sort-of stuck in CAM CNC work.

At home - yes - I own and operate both CNC and Manual machines in my home shop. I'm still in awe of CNC machines but also in someone who can work a manual machine doing repetitious parts. That is something I could not ever do. Hello CNC machine!
BC

User avatar
Trainman4602
Posts: 3362
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:26 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Trainman4602 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:46 pm

OH well just what I expected. I just wanted to breath some life into this forum it has been boring lately.

As far as used CNC Bruce you take a real chance when it come to old electronics. Before I went to the manual Hardinge I bought a use CNC lathe with old technological. It ran in the shop from where I was buying it but moving it hundreds of miles something change. I finally had to basically give it away and I got the Hardinge. In ten minutes from setting it up off the truck I was making parts.

Anthony How much did your machine cost with tooling? Your mold. I made the same sort of mold with 3D reverse printing works great that is the mold I use for the Starter valves. I have made epoxy molds works fine in fact I got the idea from Barry years ago He use aluminum filled devcon. A rubber mold when properly made will work well as well.

Don't get me wrong I like CNC but I can do it just as easy and I don't think it is just pushing a button.
ALLWAYS OPERATING MY TRAIN IN A SAFE MANNER USING AUTOMATIC AIR BRAKES

AnthonyDuarte
Posts: 196
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:46 am
Location: Mountain View, CA
Contact:

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by AnthonyDuarte » Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:14 pm

I would prefer not to discuss specific financial aspects of my business in a public forum.

I decided to invest in a piece of equipment that was more than capable of producing aerospace or medical device components in the event that making only live steam parts wasn’t producing sufficient income. This would be out of reach for someone looking to CNC for a hobby, but now with Tormach and similar brands, there are very decent entry level CNC machines available that are more than adequate for building locomotives.

The main point I wanted to make was that being proficient with CNC equipment requires no less skill than manual machining.

Mike Walsh
Posts: 599
Joined: Sun May 06, 2007 10:14 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Mike Walsh » Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:18 pm

Trainman4602 wrote:
Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:46 pm
OH well just what I expected. I just wanted to breath some life into this forum it has been boring lately.

As far as used CNC Bruce you take a real chance when it come to old electronics. Before I went to the manual Hardinge I bought a use CNC lathe with old technological. It ran in the shop from where I was buying it but moving it hundreds of miles something change. I finally had to basically give it away and I got the Hardinge. In ten minutes from setting it up off the truck I was making parts.

Anthony How much did your machine cost with tooling? Your mold. I made the same sort of mold with 3D reverse printing works great that is the mold I use for the Starter valves. I have made epoxy molds works fine in fact I got the idea from Barry years ago He use aluminum filled devcon. A rubber mold when properly made will work well as well.

Don't get me wrong I like CNC but I can do it just as easy and I don't think it is just pushing a button.

FYI... 3D Printing is a form of CNC :)

User avatar
Trainman4602
Posts: 3362
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:26 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Trainman4602 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:50 pm

Will you guys come off of it I like the technology. Just lay off OK.
ALLWAYS OPERATING MY TRAIN IN A SAFE MANNER USING AUTOMATIC AIR BRAKES

Harold_V
Posts: 17091
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2002 11:02 pm
Location: Onalaska, WA USA

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Harold_V » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:00 pm

AnthonyDuarte wrote:
Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:14 pm
The main point I wanted to make was that being proficient with CNC equipment requires no less skill than manual machining.
Different skill sets, although each having advantages in promoting the other.

I spent my entire machining career operating manual machines, and used nothing more than dials and indicators. Never have used a DRO, even to this day. I produced a lot of one off type items, including critical tooling, used in making guidance systems for defense. That's not to slight the occasional production job, where parts were made in, to me, large numbers. Never did anything with counts in the thousands, but I ran several jobs with hundreds of identical items. Some of them complex, requiring multiple operations, so parts got handled a huge number of times.

The skill level I achieved over those 26 years went a long ways towards making the learning curve for operating a CNC mill much easier. I already had an understanding of speeds and feeds, and a good feel for where to start making choices when setting up the machine. My real reward was in standing back and watching the machine do the difficult tasks that were once accomplished only by my hands.

Do I think a seasoned CNC operator can operate manual machines? Frankly, no, I don't. In fact, one who has never had to do so would most likely be lost, but the knowledge and experience gained on CNC should make the task of learning to do so of benefit. Repetition would be required to do so reliably. That skill can not be achieved by reading, and precious few individuals have it without "paying the dues".

There's room for both schools of thought. There's room for both skill sets. There's even need for both of them, depending on circumstances at hand.

One thing is for sure, though. If one, today, hopes to compete with production shops, doing so on manual machines isn't likely to be successful, and the more demanding the part (close tolerance and great finishes), the less likely one would be successful. Man simply can not compete with a machine that doesn't take a smoke break, doesn't stop to scratch its butt, to chat with a fellow machine, and has no need to stop to take measurements. That wasn't true if you go back far enough in time. I competed with them regularly and never hurt for work. I expect that would not be true today.

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

User avatar
Trainman4602
Posts: 3362
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:26 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Trainman4602 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:13 pm

Why not talk about the pros and cons of both. I thought of buying a Tormach lathe but they don't have a bar feed system. this would be more of a positive posting then to crucify me over it.

Anthony I didn't expect you to revile the cost, but my years of experience tells my what the cost is. You no dough have "live tooling. The is one of the most important features of these machine. Also the ability to cut several different pitch threads.

The following is not directed to any individual on this thread.

I can do that on the Hardinge with a little effort.I can cut tapers cut taper threads and contours as well.
When designing a product I always consider how it will be made what thread and so on. I use a standard thread not some odd ball pitch. I recently discovered this while working on the check valves. Some of the spanner nut threads were .480-40. Where would a customer get a tap to re chase the buggered up thread while at Train Mountain. I get all specialty taps and dies from Victor Machine in New York. I just recently purchased a 11/16 -40 tap and die from that at a reasonable price.
ALLWAYS OPERATING MY TRAIN IN A SAFE MANNER USING AUTOMATIC AIR BRAKES

User avatar
Trainman4602
Posts: 3362
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:26 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Live Steam CNC Defender

Post by Trainman4602 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:34 pm

Not unlike CNC tooling I keep a turning tool , facing tool ( sometimes I use the turning tool to face) several ER collet holders set up and a few blank stations for taping or threading with a die. I have the automatic threading attachment set up with a 40 pitch thread follower. It usually takes me about a half an hour to set the stops and tool positions on the DIAL. These lathes are accurate to .0005 tolerance that plenty good enough for any live steam work more than that your building space ships.

Tomorrow I will be setting up to make valve bonnets. I will do the video. You will be amazed how quickly I can turn out these parts. I just love turning dials. It give me a sense of feeling and connection with the machine and the parts that are hand crafted. You don't get this on a CNC lathe.

Here is an older video of making a similar part.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTrKBhy0rog
Last edited by Trainman4602 on Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.
ALLWAYS OPERATING MY TRAIN IN A SAFE MANNER USING AUTOMATIC AIR BRAKES

Post Reply