AjaxCNC mill retrofit questions

I've recently acquired a Bridgeport Boss 8, pictured here:
http://gallery.donniebarnes.com/cnc-mill
The drive motors and encoder plate information is here:
http://www.donniebarnes.com/~djb/mill-info.txt
I've got the original PC that the machine used, but have no desire to even try to get it working as it's circa 1985 stuff. The machine has Contraves motors as well as Contraves drive units (NC 400). I've done some basic research on retrofitting it myself using a PC running EMC. I believe that can be done, and I believe I have the skills to do it. That said, I'd rather spend my time learning actual machining on my mini-mill and mini-lathe since I have pretty much zero in the way of machining skills (I do have some good books). So in searching for possible other retrofit options, the one that sticks out is the AjaxCNC kit.
Anyone have any experience putting one of those on this particular (or very similar) mill? No, I'm not looking for installation help...I'm quite certain if I bought the kit I could get it going. I'm curious about what you thought of what you got with the kit and how well it works.
For background info on my skills, I have been soldering since I was about 8 years old. I have a degree in Computer Engineering and am *very* familiar with Linux and PCs in general. I am handy with machinery (ie. I can do basic car repair stuff) and I race cars, so some of why I want to learn machining is to be able to make and repair race car parts.
The important parts of the mill seem to be in good shape and I was told when I bought it that it was running the last time it was hooked up, but who really knows. I'm told all the motors *are* likely fine, but that if anything is bad it could be the encoders and/or electronic drives. The beauty of the Ajax kit is that it retains the motors but you can update to higher resolution encoders and it doesn't use the NC 400 drive units.
Anyway, any input on this is welcome. I am on the EMC users mailing list and if I decide to go further down that route I'll post there about specifics of doing this myself. Oh, I have the kit on order from http://www.stirlingsteele.com to upgrade my mini-mill and mini-lathe to CNC using a PC running EMC. I do plan to continue doing stuff mostly by hand until I'm comfortable with that before I dive into CNC whole hog, but the nice part of that kit is that it retains all manual controls, too. So with the mini stuff I will have a basic understanding of how EMC should work on something.
--Donnie
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Donnie Barnes http://www.donniebarnes.com 879. V.

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Donnie, You sound like you are at about the same degree of experience with this as I am...absolutely none. LOL I bought a mini-lathe this summer and I just brought my mini-mill home on Thursday, but it is still boxed up on the front porch. I'm trying to get my basement rearranged to make room for it. I'm looking to build some military models in 1/8 scale. I am currently working on a M146 trailer. It is being documented here:
www.angelfire.com/sd2/82crewcab/index.html
I'm going to build another trailer after this one and then I might start on a HEMMT (a huge 8-wheel drive truck).
Eventually I want to convert mine over to CNC too. But that will be much later.
Got anything build yet with your mill and lathe?
Mike
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On Sat, 19 Nov, mj wrote:

I cut a "J" in a piece of aluminum. Does that count? :-)
I've only had mine setup a few days, too. I'm not so much into modeling, personally...one of my goals is to make my own CNC wire bender (sort of a very small tube bender, if you will...just want to be able to make reproducable bends on something like 3/16" steel rod). I'm sure it'll take a while before I get to that point, though.
--Donnie
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Donnie Barnes http://www.donniebarnes.com 879. V.

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Donnie Barnes wrote:

is that small table common to the boss 8?
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On Sat, 19 Nov, erik litchy wrote:

No idea. In fact, I'm not positive it is a Boss 8, I'm just told it is. Anyone know how to confirm that? Stamped on the front is "R2E3 - 442" and R2E3 is on that tag on the rear.
--Donnie
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Donnie Barnes http://www.donniebarnes.com 879. V.

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    Hmm ... could you do me a favor, please? Could you get a closer photo of the Y-axis motor drive and belt housing? I've been retrofitting an older BOSS-3 with servo motors instead of the steppers which it originally used, and I believe that the belt housing and motor mount would need to angle to the right to clear the knee casting. (At least it was necessary to do that with my castings, which have a recess for the much shorter and fatter stepper motor but too shallow for the servo motor.
    Thanks,         DoN.
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On 19 Nov 2005 15:55:52 GMT, Donnie Barnes
Greetings Donnie, I have done a retrofit with the Ajax stuff. It works well. There were a couple problems with their documentation, and a couple times I was not able to get an answer about some specific workings of the control. I really needed to talk to one of their engineers. If I was to do it again today Ajax would still be my choice. It is NOT a plug and play solution. Beacuse each machine is different it really can't be. So the instructions are fairly general. But if you have a basic understanding of electricity you should be able to do it in about 80 hours. A good source for encoders is US Digital. Cheaper than Ajax. If you want to talk on the phone e-mail me and I'll send you my number or send me your number. Did the Boss 8 machines use servos? I know the earlier ones used steppers. Cheers, Eric

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On Sat, 19 Nov, Eric R Snow wrote:

Wow. 80 hours? What part of it takes so long?

DC Servos...and pretty decent ones, from what I can tell.
Thanks for the voice call offer...if it gets to that point I may take you up on it. :-)
--Donnie
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Donnie Barnes http://www.donniebarnes.com 879. V.

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On 19 Nov 2005 22:25:36 GMT, Donnie Barnes

Donnie, Two things added to the time stated. One, I didn't want to say you could do it in 40 and then it takes you 50. If I say 80 then you are pleased you were so fast. Secone, my hands don't work like they used to so things involving manual dexterity take me longer. ERS
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On 19 Nov 2005 15:55:52 GMT, Donnie Barnes

Looks like our R2E3 BOSS 8 which has recently given up the ghost.
I would like to do a retrofit on ours but our school system would rather tell us why we can't buy a new machine for many $$$$$$$$ instead of spending $$$ on a retrofit.
I may be able to get the machine declared scrap and claim if for myself then retro it out of my pocket. But that could lead to a problem if I keep it in the school shop. I will have to see what happens. It seems a shame that a machine with the flaking still clearly visible on the ways is sitting unused because of dead electronics.
Don, on Monday I can take pictures of our machine's Y axis motor mount and post if for you. Probably in the Dropbox.
Errol Groff
Instructor, Machine Tool Department
H.H. Ellis Technical High School 643 Upper Maple Street Danielson, CT 06239
New England Model Engineering Society www.neme-s.org
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On Sun, 20 Nov, Errol Groff wrote:

This has education system tags on it and was in a school shop, too.
Hey, perhaps the electronics on mine could save yours for a while longer? I'm certainly willing to try to keep stuff in good shape and could ship it all to you once I remove it if you're interested. I'm in NC. Where are you?

Sounds typical.

Well, I don't know what state my electronics are in, but I'd be willing to ship you what I have once I get it ripped apart.

I've made a note to do this, but if you get to it first, have at it. I probably can't do it before Monday, either.
--Donnie
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Donnie Barnes http://www.donniebarnes.com 879. V.

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    [ ... ]

    Sigh!
    Is it possible that you can get it declared a training exercise, having the kids work on the retrofit? They might go for that more readily than an outright plan to retrofit for continued use.

    Agreed.
    Thanks!
    Good luck,         DoN.
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I believe that there is a very nice, very clean Syzouka knee mill, with a Bandit/Dynapath control on it, available in Monrovia, California, that a guy could get really really really cheap. Like..maybe haul it away cheap.
But you will have to move it out of the shop yourself..or pay a rigger to do it...which is what Id personally do if I had the room for it.
Built about along the lnes of a Gorton 1-22...or Index..which means its like a Bridgeport Boss in size and wieght.
Email me for info..and remember me at Christmas.
Gunner
"Pax Americana is a philosophy. Hardly an empire. Making sure other people play nice and dont kill each other (and us) off in job lots is hardly empire building, particularly when you give them self determination under "play nice" rules.
Think of it as having your older brother knock the shit out of you for torturing the cat." Gunner
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On 19 Nov 2005 15:55:52 GMT, Donnie Barnes

As promised photos of the Y axis motors on our BOSS 8 machine have been posted to the Dropbox http://metalworking.com/DropBox /
This was about 4:45 EST today and haven't shown up yet in the listing when I checked.
The file names are Bridgeport_Knee_Motors 1,2,3,4 and 5
There is a short txt message with the photos with the same name.
BTW Tomorrow is my favorite day of the school year. The end of our three day exploratory phase. YEAAAAAAA. Every three days another group fo freshmen who are starting at absolute zero. 19 years of this. Maybe I need a change pace but who else would pay me so much.
Errol Groff
Instructor, Machine Tool Department
H.H. Ellis Technical High School 643 Upper Maple Street Danielson, CT 06239
New England Model Engineering Society www.neme-s.org
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Donnie Barnes wrote:

You can interface this with my PPMC board set, using the existing servo amps and power supply. Or, use my PWM servo amps and Universal PWM controller. See http://pico-systems.com/motion.html for more info on these products.
All of the above mentioned hardware is supported by EMC.
Jon
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    [ ... ]

    Interesting -- and I've bookmarked it. But the one thing which I don't see supported for servo motors of the Bridgeport size is tach feedback. The PWM would be a nice power saving replacement for the old op-amp based analog servo amplifiers, but I can't believe that really slow speeds (e.g. a very shallow angle) could be quite as smooth using the encoder for speed feedback.

    That is helpful, indeed.
    Thanks,         DoN.
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On Mon, 21 Nov 2005 16:42:03 -0600, Jon Elson

Jon..you do controllers for retrofits?
Ball park..how much would a complete package cost for say..a Boss system? Servo or steppers.
Ive several customers with machines that are collecting dust....
Gunner
"The importance of morality is that people behave themselves even if nobody's watching. There are not enough cops and laws to replace personal morality as a means to produce a civilized society. Indeed, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Unfortunately, too many of us see police, laws and the criminal justice system as society's first line of defense." --Walter Williams
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