Our team recently received a gift to help outfit our shop with a mill. We have been hoping to get a CNC mill/manual mill/mill and lathe combo because we have nothing of the sort right now, other than a Carvey (which is great for prototyping small plastic parts but I wouldn’t use for anything aluminum). After going back and forth with options based on budget we were planning on going with the Smithy 1340 Mill Lathe combo.
Does anyone have any experience with this particular machine or other Smithy products? It seems like the most bang for the buck at the price point we are working with and we found a few videos of people who converted it to a full CNC, so that is an option down the line.
Any input would be greatly appreciated!
I have no experience with that particular machine or supplier.
But if your primary intention is to get a mill, I would advise against getting a combo machine. Combo mill/lathes tend to be really bad at mill operations and only okay at lathe operations. Your effective milling area will be much smaller and much less rigid than a dedicated milling machine. You will be limited in what tooling will be viable on your combo mill.
CNC conversions are also more of a hobbyist thing. If you want the CNC conversion to be your engineering project, go for it! If you dont want as much headache, I would suggest purchasing a machine that is delivered as CNC.
I’ve used these type of machines (not this specific brand or even size). My experience is that they are a perfectly fine lathe and a sub-par mill that isn’t very good. There’s just simply not enough steel to provide stiffness/mass damping.
Thanks for the input. I agree, anything that does more than one thing tends to do both poorly. That said, this one came onto our radar after talking to a CNC service technician that recommended looking into it. Given his decades of experience I figured it must at least hold up well over time, which is a good start for any machine.
Given the price we figure it certainly won’t compare with the milling capabilities of a Series 1 Bridgeport, for example, but it would address a whole bunch of our needs. We have been back and forth about other options, like the Tormach PCNC, but we haven’t really come across any milling machines in this price range that would be big enough to work on frame components. The lathe was really just a bonus, but something that we were already looking into anyway.
I don’t presume to know how precise other teams’ work is but we are moving into a new shop and have never had access to a mill at all, so anything would be a huge upgrade. I just don’t want to make a mistake and get something that will break or has serious known problems or overlook an alternative that can get us comparable function in the same ballpark for price. Between the machine and tooling we need to stay under $10k.
My concern was with the mill. The whole head swivels out of the way so that you can get better access to the material but I figured that means the milling head can’t possibly be that stiff. Again, it will surely be better than holding a dremel by hand!
Here is the benchtop mill that my team purchased last season. We’ve only used it a handful of times so far, but it’s worked well for those limited applications. https://www.precisionmatthews.com/shop/pm-25mv/
If you’re looking predominantly for CNC capability, consider CNC gantry Mills (aka CNC routers). There are a number of threads on CD regarding these. The Omio X8 is affordably priced and a popular option.
We had a this exact combo, I would say you can accomplish as much with a drill press and good layout. As for a lathe I would look at a small Enco bench type.
10K is a lot. I fully agree with what Sean listed above.
What kind of space do you have for machine use/storage?
Ive never heard a good thing about those smithy’s, from ppl who actually owned it. seen one taken out back and hauled off as a boat anchor tho.
and having worked with benchtop mills that use grub/set screw gibs, they just dont work. at minimum a Rong fu/Jet/Grizzly with a tapered gib for a benchtop mill/drill, even if it has a round spindle column.
the difference of a lathe using the same type gib is the loading is only in one direction. mills need to maintain rigidity in both and it just doesnt work with any satisfying result.
316 got a Smithy combo mill/lathe donated almost 20 years ago and in my 13 years we have used the mill 3 times. The mill is pretty bad but the lathe is ok. I agree with others to get two separate small machines.
Even though it’s not great, our little Smithy is the first machine I ever used and was what inspired me to pursue machining as a career.
I would recommend against a combo machine. I’ve got no idea what kind of space you are working with, but for 10k you can pick up a used manual knee mill and a decent benchtop lathe.
You don’t need a very big lathe for FRC. The low end precision matthews should do just about everything you need in house and is reasonably priced.
For a mill it’s ideal to have enough travel to get your frame rails done in a single setup. (So about ~30" of travel.) Therefore a used knee mill like a bridgeport is probably the best option for getting something at a reasonable price that will get the job done. I would highly recommend getting a mill that has a DRO or purchase a DRO kit and install it yourself.
If you decide not go go for a combo, I would highly recommend an Omio CNC. Our team got one this past year and we have been using it for almost all of our milling operations. We have also been able to pocket all of our tube stock using a tube-jig that we bought from Ozzy boards. Our team personally bought the Omio X8 - 2200L.
I have used similar machines and will echo the experiences that @ThaddeusMaximus has had. They are mediocre lathes and poor mills.
A DIY CNC conversion is a fun project but it is a project not a tool, your team will forever have to fiddle tweek and tune the conversion to keep it running well.
For FRC a small lathe, like a Grizzly G0602 or Precision Matthews PM-1022, and an Omio X8 would probably be perfect for your team.
If you are looking at the G0602, I’d recommend the DRO upgrade version G0602Z instead: https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-10-x-22-Benchtop-Metal-Lathe-with-DRO/G0602Z
It’s way easier for students to use, and you’ll end up with a lot fewer scrap parts in the art bin. Beyond that, I agree completely with the Omio X8 + separate mid size lathe from Grizzly or similar suppliers as being way more useful for FRC than a single combo machine.
An alternate option would be to look for a decent quality used Bridgeport or similar clone knee mill combined with the same separate mid-size lathe. However in this case, just accept that this Bridgeport mill will always be a manual machine unless your favorite hobby is Googling error codes and buying random replacement parts on Aliexpress.
We have 3 Smithy machines in our school shop we have used for ten years now. We are shopping for individual machines. The Smithy is lucky to have backlash as small as 40 thousandths and none of the motions are smooth. The tailstocks won’t hold center, tool posts don’t keep position with a tool change, and they can’t machine a very big piece of material. The lathe is okay (just okay), the mill is really bad.
Buying nice tooling made them tolerable, but probably only for this season.
We just moved into a new workshop, about 1000 sq.ft. We have room for big equipment but I’d prefer to have things more compact if possible. For example, we have been using a Carvey, which is great, and thought about getting an x-Carve but it is a lot of square footage to give up. I think that is one of the reasons we were leaning towards a mill over a CNC router.
Thank you all for all the great feedback. For those of you that have recommended the Omio, how does it handle aluminum? I was afraid of going with a CNC router and having to endlessly replace broken bits. I figured a mill that could handle steel would go through aluminum like butter.
How does everyone feel about CNC vs manual? I agree that converting a manual machine to CNC is more of a project than an upgrade but I like the idea of being about to quickly manually fabricate a part rather than having to run the the computer every time we need a custom bracket. In that regard a used BridgePort would be great but I’d be subject to whatever happens to be available. We have a brand new shop with all new equipment and vendors on call for any service that may be needed. I’d imagine a lot of used equipment comes as-is with the expectation that you’d figure out any problems that arise.
As a whole it seems like there is not a lot of support for the Smithy option. I think we could probably swing the Omio, PM-25, and Grizzly Lathe instead and have a bit of everything. Does anyone have any other recommendations? I’d hate to miss out on an opportunity to get a really good machine and instead pick up three pretty good ones but it seems like I’d need to double or triple my budget to step up a level.
cnc mills can be used “manually” pretty easily". we have been using a 770, and I like it so far. Generally, the longer a piece, the less important being within a thousandth is, so depending on what your frame is like, it might not be super necessary to have a giant mill.
Also, if you want some lath abilities, the Tormach rapid turn spindle on a tormach mill could be pretty good. For our lathe, we use a small bench top model from grizzly.
Does the Omio allow you to manually control the x,y, and z movements at all? I can see arrow buttons on the machine but I wasn’t sure if that is what they are for.
Also, (Sorry for all the questions!) for teams that custom build frames, does the Omio give you problems being limited to a 30 inch work area? I assume you can have material hang off the bed but if you needed to adjust it I imagine there is no chance of getting it perfectly lined up again.