The PD 400/CNC is a precision lathe from PROXXON MICROMOT, a German-based company, that primarily manufactures precision power tools including other precision machines like lathes and milling machines.
PROXXON MICROMOT offers two varieties of precision lathes in the 400 series.
One is the manual version, PD 400 and the other is a CNC version, PD 400/CNC.
With this lathe, you can accurately turn, face, and perform other operations like taper turning and thread cutting.
With a wide range of accessories from PROXXON, it can be an all-rounder CNC lathe that can mill, drill and perform slot cutting.
Integrating the movements with a CNC and properly engineered mechanics provides you with a product that has a good finish and details.
Proxxon PD 400 CNC Review
I reviewed this Proxxon lathe for its build, capability, quality, speed, ease of use, community, and customer support among many others.
The 400 in the PD 400 represents the center-to-center distance of the lathe in millimeters which is around 15 3/4 inches. That means the maximum length of the stock you can turn is 15 3/4 inches.
The PD 400/CNC has a swing of 3.34”, i.e., the maximum diameter of the workpiece that you can work on.
It has a footprint of 35.4” x 15.8” x 11.8” with a weight of 100 lbs and it is a mini precision lathe from PROXXON which allows you to place it on your desk.
The control unit has a footprint of 17.71" x x10.62" x 2.36", but you can keep it under the table if you wish to save table space.
However, the base of your desk should be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the machine.
The PROXXON PD 400 can machine a wide range of materials, including soft materials and hard metals.
In hard metals, you can machine various ferrous metals like steel and non-ferrous metals like brass, aluminum, copper, and zinc with good speed.
For instance, you can set your cutting speed to 219 ft/min for turning a mild steel workpiece of 6" diameter, and 680 ft/min for turning an aluminum workpiece of 6" diameter.
Regarding the feed rates, there’s a simple rule of thumb, for turning harder metals the feed rates must be kept low while for soft materials the feed rates must be kept high.
If you are working with hard metals like mild steel, tool steel, brass, and aluminum, for a roughing cut, you can keep the feed rates anywhere between 0.005 IPR to 0.020 IPR.
For a better surface finish, you can go for an additional finishing cut, for that, keeping the feed rates between 0.002 IPR to 0.004 IPR will yield decent results.
Regarding soft materials, you can also work with plastics on the PD 400/CNC. For people who work with PET, I would suggest you keep your cutting speed between 980 f/min to 1300 ft/min and feed between 0.008 mils/rev to 0.015 mils/rev.
For ABS users, maintaining a cutting speed of 650 ft/min to 1640 ft/min with a feed of 0.008 mils/rev to 0.020 mils/rev will be ideal to get your job done.
Chassis/Frame of PD 400/CNC
The bed of the lathe is made of cast iron which dampens most of the vibrations and makes it easier to machine under high loads.
The machine has a rotating tailstock of die-cast aluminum. Due to the rotating feature, it will provide you with a smoother turning experience for long workpieces.
The rear part of the headstock is provided with a hinged door that lets you access the drive unit.
You are provided with a three-jaw universal chuck of diameter 3.93” with the machine, which can hold most of your cylindrical and hexagonal workpieces.
Depending on your requirements, you can also use other chucks. The only thing you need to make sure of is to match your spindle threads with the threads provided on your chuck.
In case of a mismatch, you may need appropriate inserts and adapters to fix your chuck at the spindle.
The tool post has two halves that can be joined to form a single unit. In each half, you can mount a single cutting tool.
You have the flexibility to use a single half with one cutting tool or both halves with two cutting tools simultaneously during your machining.
But, only a single tool remains engaged with the workpiece during turning. However, you can make a quick tool change by simply turning the tool post clockwise or counterclockwise.
Regarding the bed carriage, it is strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant as it is made up of die-cast zinc.
On top of the carriage, you have the steel compound rest which is swiveled by a stepper motor, it lets you achieve better accuracy while working with taper-cutting operations.
The linear motion in the PD 400/CNC is provided by a 1.8A micro-step stepper motor each at the X and Z-axis. These motors are controlled by the CNC control unit.
If you want to cut manually like a traditional lathe, it is also possible. The control buttons present on the control unit let you do it.
The motion of the X and Z-axes are aided by recirculating ball spindles. These recirculating ball spindles minimize backlash to a great extent.
Moreover, with added double roller bearings to support the X and Z axes spindles, it absorbs the radial and axial loads to a great extent.
The recirculating ball spindle of the X-axis has an inclination of 0.07” and provides a travel distance of 2.75”, while for the Z-axis the inclination is 0.15” and provides a travel distance of 11.81”.
The main spindle of the PD 400/CNC is powered by a 0.74 hp (0.55 KW) condenser motor via a belt drive system.
Support to the main spindle is provided by two tapered roller bearings which help in better radial load absorptions.
A maximum of six spindle speeds, 80 RPM, 160 RPM, 330 RPM, 660 RPM, 1400 RPM, and 2800 RPM can be achieved by the belt drive system.
These spindle speeds are achievable with a two-stage selectable switch that controls the belt positionings.
I think having a gear drive system would have been a good upgrade from PROXXON.
The machine has an in-built mains supply circuit that requires a power supply of 220-240 V AC with a frequency of 50-60 Hz.
Controller and Electronics
The PD 400/CNC has a CNC control unit is powered by a microprocessor which is housed inside the headstock periphery. The control unit operates the stepper motors and the main spindle drive.
Outside of the control unit, you are provided with two output relays. You can use them for connecting additional accessories like a lamp, a cooling unit, or a signal display.
The CNC control unit interfaces with the workstation (desktop PC or a laptop) through a RS 232 data communication cable which is included with your machine.
PROXXON provides you with a WINDOWS compatible NCCAD software that lets you design the geometry which you want to create on your lathe.
Currently, PROXXON doesn’t offer you MAC-compatible software. You need to have the Windows operating system installed to run your machine at the optimum level.
PROXXON doesn't provide a PC or a laptop with your package, nor do they provide any options while placing your order for the machine.
You need to spend a bit extra if you don't have a WINDOWS compatible PC or a laptop.
However, it doesn’t mean you need a powerful computer to operate the software.
All you need is a Pentium processor with a clock speed of 400 MHz, a decent graphics card with 40 MB of RAM, and 40 MB of hard disc space.
Any PC or laptop will easily meet these basic system requirements.
The software is provided on a CD, so you also need to make sure your computer has a functional CD drive.
Additionally, if you own a laptop, you may need to buy a USB converter for your RS 232 communication cable, as most of the newer versions of laptops come without a RS 232 communication port.
The software provided, is well compatible with different versions of WINDOWS like WINDOWS 98, WINDOWS 2000, WINDOWS XP, WINDOWS VISTA, WINDOWS 7, and WINDOWS 10
The code generated by the software which controls your machine is as per the DIN/ISO 66025 standards, i.e., a set of G-codes.
The software also assists you with CNC simulation, which lets you recognize and diagnose faults in your design. This will save you time and workpiece.
Rotary encoder for thread cutting
This device has a rotating head that you can attach to your machine's main spindle, or to your drive pulleys. The metallic bracket present on the device helps you to fix this device using suitable bolts and nuts.
This device has an encoder feedback system, which communicates with the machine regarding the speeds and feeds during thread cutting operation.
The NCCAD software provided with your machine has a pre-programmed algorithm for this device. In case of any mismatch of speeds and feeds, the data is quickly communicated with the machine and the machine adjusts it automatically.
You can use this device to cut M1 to M42 standard external threads.
4-Jaw self-centering chuck
The jaws of this chuck are independently adjustable, which means with a single Allen wrench you can control the motion of the jaws.
This 4-jaw self-centering chuck allows you to firmly hold square and hexagonal workpieces.
Collet chuck with collets
The collet attachment and the collets come packed in a wooden box. This accessory lets you hold your round workpieces firmly with concentric accuracy of 0.02 mm.
This package includes a total of nine collets of 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm, 6 mm, 8 mm, 10 mm, and 12 mm along with a soft collet that lets you make your custom size.
Round die holder
This tool allows you to cut external threads. You are provided with a 10 mm diameter die holder which you can easily slide into your tailstock barrel.
With a set of six thread cutting dies provided in your package, you can cut M3, M4, M5, M6, M8, and M10 standard threads.
You have to fix the right die in the die holder depending on the size of the thread you need.
You will be provided with all these items in a wooden box with a slidable lid.
Cobalt HSS cutting tool
The tools come inside a 10 mm x 10 mm x 80 mm wooden box along with a slidable lid.
In the package, you are provided with a roughing tool, a parting tool, a finishing tool, and two cutting tools.
With higher cobalt content, these tools are superior to normal HSS tools. These tools have higher heat resistance which makes them ideal for machining at high-temperature conditions.
Three-piece thread cutting set
PROXXON provides you with three toolsets in the package for external thread cutting, internal thread cutting, and general cutting.
The internal and external thread-cutting tools are meant for cutting 600 metric threads. The tools come packaged inside a 10 mm x 10 mm x 80 mm wooden box with a sliding lid.
Tungsten insert cutters
The package includes three tools, one for roughing cut, one for longitudinal cut, and the other for boring 90 mm long bars having diameters of 12 mm. The tools are 90 mm long having tungsten inserts angled at 550.
Additionally, the package includes three hex screws through which you can secure the inserts on the tool.
To do that, you can use the T-handle hex key set containing eight keys, which is also included in your package.
All the items come packed in a square 10 mm x 10 mm box.
Three-piece center drill set
These HSS drill bits come in three sizes, 5/64”, 3/32”, and 1/8" with a helix angle of 600.
Tools made of HSS are known to have properties like high heat resistance and high impact strength. These drills can easily pierce through-hardened steel.
HSS boring toolset
These cutters are capable of cutting 600 metric internal threads and 550 Whitworth internal threads. The tools have a shank diameter of 15/64” and a length of 3 3/16”.
With these tools, you can bore shafts of diameter, 3/64”, 7/64”, and 5/32”.
These tools need a special 9 mm x 9 mm tool holder to hold them securely. This tool holder can be easily mounted on the tool post of your lathe and is a part of the package.
The PD 400/CNC comes pre-assembled inside a rectangular box that looks quite neat and good. You can simply pull the machine out of the box and place it on your desk.
Fix the chuck on the main spindle, mount the tool post on the compound rest, and slide in the tailstock spindle into the tailstock barrel and there! your machine is almost ready.
Connect the controller to the computer using the RS232 cable provided, install the software and you can start turning in under an hour.
The complete process can be done without any assistance. However, you are provided with an instruction manual that you can refer to in case you need any information.
PROXXON has a large community of users including, DIY hobbyists and small business owners from almost every part of the globe.
This can be seen from its presence on different social media platforms with a large number of followers from different countries.
PROXXON remains the first choice among users when asked about mini lathes due to the flexibility of size ranges they provide, along with machining accuracy and precision.
PROXXON has a decent presence in stores both inside and outside Germany. PROXXON provides you with products that are inspected and tested multiple times.
PROXXON has a wide number of dealers present in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and South Africa. They also have retailers in the US and Canada as well.
Should you have any queries or you want to request a spare part, you can simply do that by filling out the online forms provided by PROXXON on their website.
Overall, the PROXXON PD 400/CNC is a fine small CNC lathe and gives you the capability to turn workpieces with CNC precision on your desktop.
Regarding performance, this German mini machine is highly rated among its users and remains highly popular in Europe.
The machine produces enough torque which lets you machine most ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
It is a well-built machine with good rigidity that is suitable for hobbyists and small businesses for making good-quality parts and prototypes.
Proxxon PD 400 CNC Alternatives
If Proxxon PD 400 CNC fails to fulfill your requirements, you have other choices to look at.
Two natural choices are the Sherline CNC lathe and the Taig CNC lathe.
Beyond that, you have the Tormach 8L CNC lathe and Grizzly G0884 CNC lathe.
I talk in detail about all those choices here- Best Small CNC Lathes .
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is the Proxxon PD 400 a good mini lathe for making models in engineering, like making small steam engines?
Yes, the Proxxon PD 400 is a good choice for making small parts. There are a number of accessories available for this mini CNC which you can integrate to your machine as well.