Tormach PCNC 440

The new Tormach PCNC 440 — a personal CNC mill that further ‘democratizes’ manufacturing.

Tormach today introduced its most compact milling machine ever, a unit that takes up as much space as the average table saw.

If that sounds small, it is. The PCNC 440, the latest entry in Tormach’s line of personal CNC mills, is a 450-pound unit that occupies a footprint of just 40″× 32″×42″. By way of comparison, consider the PCNC 1100, Tormach’s first personal CNC, which weighed 1,500 pounds with dimensions of 56″× 45″×60″.

Tormach Inc.“We’ve been working to try and package our technology in ways that would make it more accessible to users, whether they’re Makers or bootstrap entrepreneurs, educators, or inventors,” says Tormach’s product marketing manager, Andrew Grevstad. He adds the unit was “perfect for anybody that wants to do real cutting, but doesn’t have a lot of space.”

Tormach Inc., which is an employee-owned engineering company based in Waunakee, Wisconsin, has been around for 12 years and makes a variety of small mills, lathes, and grinders.

Tormach will be showcasing the new PCNC 440 on Sept. 26 and 27 at its World Maker Faire New York exhibit in Zone 3 of the Maker Pavilion at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York.

Garage-friendly ‘Home Depot machine’

When Tormach’s engineers began working on the project three years ago, the new CNC mill was internally referred to as the “Home Depot machine” — the idea being that the unit would be affordable and small enough to put into your garage. Nobody of right mind would have attempted that with earlier CNC milling machines, although Grevstad did recall one customer who installed his unit in a New York City high-rise.

“The machine was relatively small within the context of the industrial world but still a substantial bit of machinery,” he says. “I still don’t know how he got it up there.”

But the changes in the CNC mills are part of a familiar story as advances in technology have helped to democratize the use of high-tech tools everywhere, including the Maker Movement.

“I think there’s a lot of commonality between what you see here and what happened to personal computers,” said Grevstad, who noted how computers enjoyed widespread popularity as they became smaller, faster, and more affordable.

“At one time, you only saw computers in university labs or at big corporations,” he said. “Now you’re seeing the same trend with CNC machines.”[youtube]

The Specs

With a starting list price of $4,950, preorders for the PCNC 440 begin September 28. The units will start shipping in November.

Tormach’s newest CNC mill features a spindle speed of 300 to 10,000rpm and a maximum feed rate of 135ipm. With its rigid, cast-iron construction, the PCNC 440 is designed for metal cutting and capable of achieving machine-shop precision.

You can use the PCNC 440 to cut into any material from plastics and aluminum to harder metals, like steel and titanium. It has many of the same capabilities as big industrial machines that weigh 10 to 20 times as much, according to Grevstad.

The PCNC 440 is also powered by PathPilot, Tormach’s exclusive, approachable, and professional-level machine-control system that easily interfaces with all popular CAD/CAM systems. PathPilot also includes onboard conversational programming that can create CNC programs at the machine without the need for CAD/CAM or other digital design tools.

The Home-Based Factory

Andrew Grevstad and Tormach CNC mill

Tormach’s Grevstad: ‘Fantastic you can find tools like this and not talk to a bank.’

“I’ve been in the world of professional manufacturing for the last 15 years and the change is incredible. The first time that I saw a 3D printer, it cost $100,000,” Grevstad says.

“When I go to Maker Faires now and see all the opportunities that people have to use all these design tools and their accessibility, it’s just amazing,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine any of this when I started. It’s fantastic that you can actually find tools like this and not have to first talk to a bank. When affordable tools exist, you get to see what’s possible. And that’s what we’re trying to help make happen.”

In the world of personal fabrication, Grevstad says things are rapidly coming together at the same time to deliver to Makers many of the same manufacturing capabilities once only found in machines used in factories.

“It’s a really cool time to see what all these inventions and tools are enabling,” he said.