I’d like to retract my comments on using old CNC machinery as 3D build envelope .

And also I’d like to apologize for my condescending attitude which has changed drastically

these last few months. I would also like to thank the people who have responded to my post with such graciousness. Since this post I have 3D printer am going through a learning curve related to the functionality capabilities and limitations of this additive technology. I went to my working carrier when CNC machines were just beginning to make a contribution to the manufacturing sector of our economy. I know there are thousands of old machines sitting on shops not being used, it is a sad day watching manufacturing jobs leave this country. All the people that used to run these old CNC machines and contribute to the economy now sit around and drink coffee at the senior center golf course restaurants and take care of the cats at home; it’s a sad day in America. It’s fantasy thinking these old dogs could make a contribution again in today’s economy.

Cheers, I think I’ll go make myself another cup of coffee, and pet the cat.

Warren in Woodburn, OR


Look man, sorry to burst your bubble, please don’t take this the wrong way, but the energy bill for a CNC machine would be more a year than several 3D printers. Also a CNC machine is not the correct route because it is a system that is designed to be extremely rigid and on older CNC machines the motion control may not be capable of the rapid accelerations needed to ensure the material being deposited is uniform. There are companies that make units that go into the spindle that are an add on for a CNC machine but the applications are limited and it can be costly. Machine tools weight several tons to overcome the force of cutting metal. Several tons of metal is not needed to lay down a bead of plastic.

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As someone who used to sell & fix 3d printers (Stratasys), laser-cutters (Universal) and small CNC machines (Roland, most notably, but also others), along with other fun industrial toys, I’m with @Justin_Small on this.

The motion systems are not suited to the kinds of motion involved—and in the era of seeking ever more efficient ways to use the energy we have and source more and more of it from renewable sources—driving those tons of metal around to 3d print isn’t the best use for them. Especially considering much of the tired industrial stock you’re talking about have sub-optimal (read: sometimes pathetically awful) control interfaces that may not even have enough memory to handle the sheer quantity of moves 3d printers make in a typical job. You’d need to retrofit the machines with tons of electronics upgrades, which would differ depending on the drives and interfaces in question… so it’d be a logistical nightmare to support all the different motion system specifications, each with their own hysteresis curves, inertia per-axis, etc… to account for…

I’m with you about ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ but I’d rather see all of those older machines recycled into raw materials and systems components for new machines around new electronics and more efficient machine designs that make the best use of energy for their application.

While probably similarly idealistic and naive a suggestion, I would argue that we should replace a fair portion of our raw-materials discovery and exploitation activity, where we literally move mountains to extract fractional portions of raw materials we want, with efforts to “re-mine” our waste streams where the proportion of useful material will be MUCH higher than what we pull from the ground. This has the added advantage of the materials already having the bulk of the undesirable elements removed (arsenic, lead, etc… from mining efforts are a huge problem, as are cadmium and many other heavy metals).

The challenge worth solving would be to come up with effective and efficient smaller-scale, widely distributed material processing efforts, whereas most materials processing is highly centralized and depends on extremely extensive distribution networks which were built on the assumption that it’s cheaper to move things than to replicate processing capacity—as cheap energy gets harder to come by transporting trash in bulk to centralized facilities is not a realistic or desirable option, so it’s more helpful to bring processing to the places where all the waste has already accumulated.

Therefore I would suggest a more appropriate battle-cry for what to do with all those machines would be “clear the shop floor and send them on to a future life as something else”.

Warren, if you’re looking to be directed to some people for investment or contribution purposes, I would recommend looking into groups working on closing the waste-loop if your focus in on resolving wasteful under-utilization of resources, or you could always focus on supporting the designers of objects made by the new methods and machines, to support their continued improvement and adoption.

I’d be happy to CNC-cut or 3d-print something cool for you any time!