We are looking in to what tools to get next for our machine shop. Right now, the bigger tools we have are a bandsaw, drill press, and compound miter saw. As far as hand tools go we have a full assortment of drills, impact drivers, socket sets, screwdrivers, etc. Based on what we already have, what would you recommend our next tool purchases are? Thanks in advance.
If you want a bigger tool for your next purchase, go for a belt/disc sander, lathe, or mill depending on the budget. For hand held tools I recommend (if you don’t have them already or don’t mind more inventory) a grinder, drill bit sharpener, metal files, reciprocating saw, clamps, rubber mallets, center punches, scratch awls, squares, and calipers.
Also, lots and LOTS of sharpies.
I would suggest the biggest lathe that your budget allows. Even a basic mini-lathe would allow you to machine custom drive shafts and spacers.
You should include a minimum set of tooling to get you started.
Cutting tools - Minimum of
AR & AL for 90° Edges and Faces
BR & BL for Turning edges
C for Flat side Turning
D for thread cutting
Tap & Drill Set for creating threaded center holes
If you don’t have them already -
I’d also recommend a cutter set for C-Clip and E clip groves. but you could add that later.
This year we fixed up an old bandsaw, and purchased a belt/disk sander combination. It seems like they revolutionized out fabrication abilities! We are pretty far from getting a lathe or mill, but I’d say our next step is a sheet metal brake. I also just purchased a step drill bit, and it is really nice to make clean and accurate holes.
I guess I’d recommend a sheet metal brake…
Seconding the “lathe or belt sander” recommendation. Honestly, I’d say get a belt sander before a lathe, in terms of overall utility, but both are high on the list.
Depends on what construction style you want to go after… The total effectiveness of a shop is not in the sum of the tools inside of it, but how those tools and the people work together to deliver a product, much like any design issue.
In no particular order:
Group 1: sheet metal/sheet plastic
CNC router/CNC Plasma
Sheet metal brake
Group 2: space-frame construction
Group 3: HOG IT OUTTA BILLET!
We have access to all of these, and some more, in our shop. We mostly wind up using a CNC plasma cutter, CNC mill (as a CNC router), brake, welder, and a little bit of lathe work.
We’re right down the road from Design Tech (at Burlingame High School), so if you want to stop by for inspiration based on what we’ve got in our lab we’re happy to have you.
That being said, disc sander, CNC mill, and table saw would be the next few mchines to get (in order of how much we use them).
We got a very old mill this past season. It is a small mill that fits on a cart and no digital readout. It has completely revolutionized how we make parts. It may be slow and the nicest but as somebody said above its how your team uses the tools and utilizes them. Our robot could not have been made this year without it.
In terms of new machines to get I would reccomend a table lathe or larger lathe if you have the money. Being able to make drive shafts and spacers is invaluable. Next I would get a good sander. After that I would say a mill of some sort. Ours only cost $2000 and that came with a large lathe and a large assortment of milling tools. Best of luck to you guys!
Some of the highest things on my list would be as follows.
Non-ferrous cutting blade for your chop saw and a good clamping and work stop rig
I would look at buying used machines, California has a lot of quality used machines around especially in the Bay Area. I would love the chance to talk with you in depth about your many options for machines and tools. Send me a PM if you are interested. The same goes for anyone else reading this thread, I’m always game for talking shop and sharing how we run ours.
This is a really good point. A CNC router is just a really expensive paperweight if nobody knows how to use it properly.
Ditto on the belt/disk sander recommendation. We got one this year and it has made a surprisingly large impact on our manufacturing process. Also, having a relatively cheap/small sheet metal brake (Like this one) has really changed the way we design. Our chassis this year wouldn’t have been possible without it.
If it is within your teams budget, I would highly recommend getting one of these
We use ours daily.
I’m glad you find utility in yours, but this design basically takes 3 individually crappy machines and mashes them up into one even crappier jack of trades machine.
If you’re planning out future additions, find the money to buy quality standalone machines.
I would just go for the best lathe you can afford with some basic tooling and a retaining ring groove tool. Good pair of calipers and dial indicator if you don’t already have them.
Could you provide an example of one of these? I’ve always just used chunks of 2-by-4 and C-clamps/bar clamps, if there’s a better solution I’d love to know about it.
A strong second from me
We have a micrometer stop on ours mounted on a rod, we can put it close to where it needs to go and adjust the 1/2-20 screw to fine tune.
We have 2 4" stroke pneumatic pistons mounted on either side(actuated via foot switch) to clamp parts, but any semi-permanently mounted clamp that is quick and easy to use would fulfill this part. The key is clamping as close to the blade as you can to let you cut small parts.
I will take a picture of our set-up if I remember this weekend, but I think our prototyping workshop vid on YouTube has it in the video.