Help selecting a 3-in-1 sheet metal machine

Hi all -
I apologize for posting this on-topic query - I am a bit reluctant to interrupt the random streams of political babbling that seem to
monopolize the rec.craft.metalworking group...
Anyhow, we recently acquired a rather nice Chicago 24" box and pan brake and the acquisition has engendered a desire to do more with sheet metal.
We're (as always) limited on floor space and would like to add the capacity to shear and maybe roll form sheet metal parts. The original plan was to use the plasma cutter for 'shearing' but now we're thinking about getting one of the '3-in-1' shear/brake/roller combinations - and maybe re-selling the Chicago brake (that's a big maybe)
Comparing the 30" machines we find on the net, the Enco 30" claims 20 gauge capacity, the Grizzly 22 gauge, the Jet 20 gauge and the <shudder> Harbor Freight says 20 gauge.
Is it possible that all of these come from the same production line in India or China and going with the cheapest will give us exactly the same machine with a different paint job, or is one superior to the others? Is there another alternative in the same price range that we should be looking at?
Also, to do boxes with neat corners we're thinking about getting a hand notcher like the Enco or Jet... or maybe spending a little more for a 'nibbler' for our ironworker and giving us the capacity to notch much heavier material for structural stuff in addition to the sheet metal pieces. Any thoughts?
Also, this has now become time sensitive as Enco has a 20% off 'cyber Monday' sale on the 26th (tomorrow) and if theirs is any better than the HF one it would be worth pursuing...
Thanks in advance
Carla
Too bad that all the people who know how to run this country are busy driving taxis and cutting hair. - George Burns
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They may or may not come from the same group of factories, but from what I have seen Grizzly does an order of magnitude better quality control than Harbor Freight. I have not purchased any heavy metal working equipment from Enco or Jet. I do have a Jet 220V commercial radial arm saw, and given what it cost I was very disappointed in their QC.
At one time my cousin was doing QC for an specialty market importer. They were high end, and they rejected about 30% of all small parts and 20% of all equipment.
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    I'm *glad* to see more actual metalworking content. I recently reconfigured my killfile (filtering) to see how many were actually being killed, and it is amazing (and rather depressing). (It also lets me catch some which are killed which I would actually want to read -- my filters are rather aggressive~.)

    What is the maximum gauge that one will handle? I've got an old DiAcro which will handle up to 16 ga mild steel, and somewhat thicker aluminum.

    I don't know the Chicago, but what I have heard about the 3-in-1 ones is that they are *all* over-rated, and will break easily if used even close to their official rating.

    It sounds to me as though Grizzly is being a little more honest about the capacity.

    Unless there are better bearings in some of them, I suspect that they are pretty much the same tool

    Not in 3-in-1 machines as far as I know.
    Perhaps get individual machines, and weld up a stand to support them one above the other. You can look at old machines.

    I got a used (and unbranded) corner notcher (also 16 ga capacity) and I *did* weld up a stand for that, because there was not enough room on the bench where the 24" DiAcro shear was mounted. Since I was not sure about the quality of the welds I could produce (I was still learning) I over-designed it, and designed it with the notching shear set back on the stand so I could use it without bolting it to the floor. There is enough room inside the frame so I mounted a spot welder in there to save some space.

    I think that there is no difference to be expected in the various machines -- though perhaps better support from someone like Grizzly.
    Personally, I have been focusing mostly on used DiAcro machines as better construction and better bearings (needle roller bearings in the brake and the shear IIRC.
    Is 20 gauge strong enough for what you want to make now? How about what you will want to make in the future?
    Good Luck,         DoN.
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wrote:

I cant speak for Grizzley..but Jet has so far..been pretty honest about their presses and brakes.
Gunner
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On Sun, 25 Nov 2012 11:30:33 -0800, Carla Fong wrote:

Dunno about which 3-in-1 machine to buy, but I _do_ know that the bending brake on a 3-in-1 machine is miles away from being as capable as a box break.
For starters, you can't make boxes on it -- you can only bend angles in flat sheets, there's no way to make a bend hard up against another bend as you do to make a box.
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My 3-in-1 has multiple male die plates that can be rearranged to fit inside the box. Custom ones aren't difficult to make from 1/4" steel.
When I had both a finger brake and a 3-in-1 to compare I didn't see much difference between the jobs they could do, though the finger brake was much nicer to use. It would bend at a pencil line while the 3-in-1 pretty much required the back gauge to locate a bend. I was bending heatsinks and support brackets and needed versatility more than exact dimensional accuracy.
The female die on the 3-in-1 scratches the metal being dragged over it. Padding or polishing the die helps.
jsw
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Tim Wescott wrote:

? The 3-in-1 machines have movable bend fingers in various sizes that you can remove, rearrange, or gap as needed. I have the HF 3-in-1 and while I don't do a lot of sheet metal work, it has done what I've asked it to do.
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wrote:

I have a little luggable HF 12" one (no longer sold) and have been able to bend prototype aluminum boxes with flanges. They're pretty handy to have around, but I've never tried to tax the capacity- 1.5mm or so aluminum is about the thickest. They're nice for shearing PCBs and other insulating material too. It helps to take them apart and clean them and adjust the blade alignment, which may have shifted on the boat etc. from Anhui province. Mine had some Chinese newspaper shims.
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On Mon, 26 Nov 2012 07:28:17 -0600, Pete C. wrote:

Thanks for the correction, Pete, Jim.
The 3-in-1 machine that I have experience with had a solid male die that extended the whole length of the machine, and (IIRC) was not easily removable.
Making one in sections would certainly make the machine far more suitable for making boxes &c.
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For all intents and purposes these are all the same machines with minor variations in fit and finish.
The shear is very fiddly to get adjusted right but once you do it runs pretty well. The true capacities are all the same the same and less than they state. Once set up, they will reliably shear 24g steel and up to 20g nonferrous, full length, They will cut thicker stock in shorter lengths, close to the frame. Mine will cut through 16g brass of less than 6" long cut. Order a box of decent 6mm x12mm and 8mm x 20mm at the same time, you will need them.
Paul K. Dickman
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Thanks to all the respondents.
We now know that most of these probably are of the same parentage...
We evaluated our mechanical requirements and space available and figured the 30" machine would be overkill ...
Baileigh Industrial seems to be the only company offering a machine smaller than 30" - they have a little 12 incher for about $400 (they are very proud of their iron - and their reputation) that will be a good entry point for us - and we can always up-size later to a wider machine if needed...
So, we ordered the 12 inch version and will give a report to the group after receiving it and playing for a while.
Thanks again for all the input... it was very helpful.
Carla
On 11/25/2012 11:30 AM, Carla Fong wrote:

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On Mon, 26 Nov 2012 09:28:28 -0800, Carla Fong

FWIW, aside from obvious labeling and painting-to-suit-the-customer it's common for the basic designs to be the same in China, but produced in different factories, with different tooling and different quality control. I don't know how this situation came about, some day I'll bother to find out.

Design looks identical to the one I have.. which was $169 including shipping, 12 or so years ago, back when the USD bought a lot more Yuan and other things. Last time I looked, everything was around what you said, depending on shipping.
You'll probably want to get the cosmoline stuff off it, but mine worked perfectly out of its little crate.
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On Mon, 26 Nov 2012 13:13:42 -0500, Spehro Pefhany wrote:

I think that they don't just shamelessly copy from US designs -- they shamelessly copy from _anyone_.
(Actually, I think that the whole concept of "copyright", which was pretty much invented wholesale in northern Europe at the advent of the printing press, just never made it to the far east).
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wrote:

To have shame, you have to believe you've done something wrong.
Sharing designs is not inherently wrong.
We don't castigate fastener makers for making screws that are similar to other other maker's fasteners, in fact we expect them to conform to ANSI, ASME, JIS, ISO or whatever dimensions etc. unless there is a good reason to deviate. It's in the nature of capitalism to want to commodify all inputs to the process and make the outputs unique and/or single-sourced- so there's always going to be a kind of trade-off depending on what companies and people can get the government to do to intervene in what would otherwise be a free-for-all.

Knowledge has belonged to the commons for much longer, and generally excluding it is a temporary thing (patents, for example) upon which it reverts to its natural state. Copyright is a bit of an anomaly- lasting many generations..according to the Wiki page Jefferson wanted to grant only brief protection. But Disney and such like have a lot of money to lobby with, hence the Mickey Mouse Protection Act:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act
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On Mon, 26 Nov 2012 09:28:28 -0800
<snip>

<snip>
A bit late I'm afraid...
http://www.grizzly.com/products/12-Sheet-Metal-Machine/T21320
If nothing else, Grizzly usually has a nice manual and parts list you can download.
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    It looks pretty nice for a small capacity machine, and well documented.
    But I find the warnings somewhat excessive, including the one on the first inside page which warns about possible electrocution -- from a manually powered tool. :-) (Second paragraph, PDF page 2.)
    Enjoy,         DoN.
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wrote:

Maybe somebody stuck an extension cord in theirs.
Pete Keillor
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Darn, missed that one completely and it's about $100 cheaper... and someone recommended Grizzly earlier, too!
Oh well...
Carla
"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both." ~ Franois-Ren de Chateaubriand
On 11/26/2012 12:05 PM, Leon Fisk wrote:

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On Tue, 27 Nov 2012 13:12:46 -0800 (PST), Too_Many_Tools

Yup, very good stuff. Heavy and built to last (and, AFAIK, no multipurpose machines, so individual machines for each function).
While looking the Chinese 3-in-1 machines are functional, compact, and can get the job done.
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On Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:04:39 -0800 (PST), jon_banquer

For me, it works flawlessly. But I'm not cutting/bending thick steel all day, only cheesy aluminum and PCB materials (which have fiberglass which would dull a nice blade about as fast) once in a while to do prototypes and such like. Anything more would be a poor use of capital and floor space.
It's also an advantage to have something that is much cheaper and can be lifted by one person. It's also an advantage to have a machine now, not months from now, that costs less than the freight to move an old-iron production machine.
I do have a nice Diacro #2 punch that I bought from one of the fellows on RCM and it works very well, but it was not without hassles to shop for it and get it set up and working smoothly.
This one: http://www.diacro.com/documents/current-models/No2-PUNCH.pdf
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