An Open Letter on Taig CNC
I am considering offering steppers and a controller for the Taig CNC Mill in my The Hobbyist Machine Store. A concern I have is there will certainly be some customers who will require more support and understanding about using CNC than I can personally provide as an available live resource. I simply don’t have the time as sole proprietor.
A customer with no CNC experience could be unaware of what is required to be fully successful in CNC machining. It may appear that when purchasing a complete system, it’s just “plug_and_play” with CNC operation from that point on.
This assumption could be made because there are some factory built very high cost single purpose small CNC systems (such as for dental and jewelry use) where this is almost true. But with the Taig mill there is a very large learning curve and endless options and variables to understand and consider when setting up an omnibus hobby machine.
It’s this endless selection of options and variables that makes hobby CNC and CAM so versatile for any user’s needs.
Many vocational high schools and Jr. Colleges offer full time students and night courses on introductory CNC machine operation. I have been contacted by a few in years past who looked at the Taig CNC Mill as good low cost training machine. They can afford multiple small machines and reduce the wait time compared to students running their programs on a large and expensive VMC. I highly recommend anyone just getting started with CNC to seek this structured training with whatever machine is used for the course.
As a Taig Tools dealer and a long time CNC user, I have a complete understanding of what the Taig mill can and cannot do. There are machining tasks that are perfectly suited to the power and the limitations of micro size machine tools. I use my personal Taig CNC mill with absolutely no unsolvable problems with what I wish to accomplish. Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone.
I have larger manual machines that I use for the heavier machining when I need to do bigger jobs. The only mill that I have that is CNC controlled is the Taig Micro-Mill. Please note the term is “Micro Mill”. Micro is defined as “very small” and in electronics it means “one of a million equal parts” as in Micro Farad “µf”. I do have a larger size CNC machine that is actually an overhead router and uses the Taig CNC mill head.
Let that put some perspective on what I am trying to impress here, I am writing about excellent quality but small, light duty machine tools. Don’t pay any heed when Taig talks about “hogging out an eight inch”. Hogging out is not a precision milling term and a 1/8 inch isn’t all that big. It is a fun brute force “shop talk” term and usually a bit exaggerated. With a Taig, a 1/8” cut can easily be done with the right machining “finesse”. I do it all the time.
There is just not enough profit dollars in a small $2000 <> $3000 CNC system to include free on-call hand holding (training) to get a system running and to provide live support to each and every skill level that may purchase a complete system. That seems like a lot of money but it only covers the hardware.
The time to train on CNC with a micro-mill is exactly the same as on a $15,000+ professional mill. Students don’t learn faster on small machines so training on CNC doesn’t scale with machine cost.
To sell the hardware with multiple dealers trying to meet the competitive street price for the hardware alone, service and start up support would have to be an extra cost option. Would anyone make the additional say, $1000+ investment? Maybe a few customers who understand business profit requirements, where nothing is ever really free to anyone, and adding training/support time equals money. As I said, as a small low volume dealer I don’t have the necessary bandwidth to provide even extra cost training and support. I would have to add a support person.
So what is a typical customer expected to do? Peruse the very professionally built Tormach site and see how a professional CNC only business operation with higher priced product manages active training and support. It is a very big deal. If I was a newbie at CNC machining and had $10K plus to spend on a machine and a way to return a profit using it, I would be a Tormach customer, not a Taig customer. This group provides great training to get started in hobbyist level CNC. Look at the truly professional quality of their website.
Also take a look at ShopBot Tools and their emphasis on active training (right hand column) and peruse the web pages and check the prices. They are in a similar market and pricing position as Tormach.
Now, take a look at ANY Taig dealer website, including THMS.
It should be apparent that Taig Tools itself, who certainly makes a great product, is not trying to compete with the two premium manufacturers I mentioned, including Internet marketing and structured product training ability. It just isn’t in the Taig Tool budget and business plan to be a premium priced, great looking marketers and support customers with active training. The fact is it really wasn’t necessary 40 years ago. Adding CNC has changed the game as customer CNC support is more complex.
Small personalized hobby class dealers like THMS have to cope and make the following statement:
“What I must make perfectly clear to my customers is what I am selling is a micro CNC machine and/or a control system, for enthusiasts who are willing to assemble, experiment, and learn; or already know how to operate and program a CNC milling system. There are forums and blogs (including mine) that provide 3rd party written training and support information.”
My intent is to eventually provide as much static how-to support information that I can gather and post in a linked CNC support web page. Yes, it’s yet another website, but I am skilled at making them functional and professionally good looking.