Tormach PCNC 440 CNC Mill Review [2021]-Affordable

Tormach PCNC 440 CNC Mill Review [2021]-Affordable

Tormach PCNC 440 CNC Mill Review [2021]-Affordable

PCNC 440 is an entry-level professional CNC mill popular among small businesses and serious hobbyists.

This mill is priced at a level affordable for hobbyists while offering some serious steel cutting capabilities.

It is an entry-level industrial CNC mill with a sturdy build, industry-grade components, a high-power spindle, and many other features provided by Tormach.

This overall package makes the PCNC 440 popular among professionals starting up shop.

Tormach PCNC 440 CNC mill is available in four packages, the entry package, the starter package, the premium package, and the premium package with ATC.

I made a table to give you a quick overview of the PCNC 440 CNC mill packages.

FeatureEntry PackageStarter PackagePremium PackagePremium Package with ATC
Machine stand
Chip pan
Keyboard, monitor,
and mouse
CNC vise
Enclosure
ATC and power drawbar

Quick overview of PCNC 440 CNC mill packages

Tormach PCNC 440 review

In this review, I assess Tormach PCNC 440 on various parameters like size, build quality, linear motion components, material capability, controller, software, accessories, community, and customer support.

1. Size

The PCNC 440 has a footprint of 42” x 34” (including chip tray and emergency switch). Note that you need to keep its back and side area clear to easily access the electronics panel.

CNC mill stand for PCNC 440
CNC mill stand for PCNC 440

For the entry package of PCNC 440, you will need a solid machine stand to get optimum performance from this CNC mill, or you can consider the cast-iron stand that Tormach provides.

This stand has leveling feet that let you level the stand on uneven surfaces.

PCNC440 CNC mill gives you a cutting area of 10” x 6.25”, and it also offers a maximum Z-axis travel of 10 inches that is quite useful while milling thick stocks.

2. Chassis

Chassis of PCNC 440
Chassis of PCNC 440

The base and C-column of PCNC 440 are made of cast iron that provides stiffness to cut materials with high tensile strength.

PCNC 440 weighs around 600 lbs due to its solid cast iron construction that gives rigidity to dampen the vibrations while milling metals.

Lubrication system in PCNC 440
Lubrication system in PCNC 440

A sophisticated lubrication system with metal braided oil hoses is attached to the C-column of the PCNC 440 CNC mill. The oil hoses run on each axis to lubricate the ball screw for their optimum performance.

Workbed of PCNC 440
Workbed of PCNC 440

The workbed of PCNC has a metal guard plate at its front to protect limit switches and oil hoses from metal chips during CNC milling.

Additionally, the workbed has T-slot channels that let you mount additional hardware, like the 4th axis kit and vise.

If you buy the premium or premium package with ATC, you get an enclosure that prevents metal chips and debris from flying out while cutting.

If you want improved safety and chip control at your workspace, you may also buy the enclosure kit separately for PCNC 440 CNC mill.

3. Linear motion

Ball screw drive
Ball screw drive

Tormach PCNC 440 is a vertical CNC mill, so the workbed moves in X and Y axes and the spindle moves in Z-axis.

All axes of the PCNC 440 CNC mill use a ball screw drive for linear motion. Ball screw drive has no backlash therefore it provides better positional accuracy than other drive mechanisms.

Additionally, the ball screw drive has good load carrying capacity, which is helpful in heavy-duty CNC machining.

Linear motion of workbed is guided by dovetail guides because they provide good rigidity. In the PCNC 440, dovetails are made of PTFE, which is low friction material. Hence, it reduces dynamic friction.

Its slideway has hand-scraped gibs that are reliable and produce precise movement to make parts with high accuracy.

Accordion way covers in PCNC 440

The ball screw drive of Y and Z axes is covered by accordion way covers to protect the ball screw drive from metal chips produced during metal milling.

4. Material capability

Tormach PCNC 440 is an affordable CNC mill that can cut soft materials like wood, plastics and composites, and PCB boards.

Titanium milling in Tormach PCNC 440

With its sturdy build and heavy-duty spindle, it is also capable of cutting aluminum, steel, titanium, and strong alloys.

Tormach provides PathPilot CNC control software, which has a built-in calculator to provide recommended speeds and feeds required for milling different materials.

5. Controller and Electronics

Motors

Stepper motor in PCNC 440
Stepper motor in PCNC 440

All axes of PCNC 440 use NEMA 34 stepper motors to drive linear motion components. The motors are powerful enough to move the workbed as well as the heavy-duty spindle effortlessly.

Tormach uses the Leadshine MX3660 stepper driver to drive the stepper motors of PCNC 440. It is a DSP-based 3-axis driver and provides up to 1/64 microstepping smooth movement.

Limit switch

Limit switch in PCNC 440
Limit switch in PCNC 440

All axes of PCNC 440 are equipped with limit switches to detect boundaries. Hence they limit the travel of the workbed and spindle.

Controller

PathPilot Controller for PCNC 440
PathPilot Controller for PCNC 440

Tormach provides the PathPilot controller which is a mini PC with 80 GB in-built memory. The controller comes with pre-installed PathPilot, proprietary software from Tormach for motion control of all its CNC machines.

You can connect the keyboard, mouse, jog shuttle controller, and monitor to the mini PC via the has ports on it.

Tormach also provides a DB-25 communication cable to connect the PathPilot controller with PCNC 440.

USB M-Code io Interface Kit
USB M-Code i/o Interface Kit

If you want to integrate an external device, like a coolant system, you can connect it to the PathPilot controller using the USB M-code I/O interface kit.

This interface can switch on and off external devices using M-codes written in the program. You can connect up to four devices to its relay contact outputs.

Electronics box in PCNC 440
Electronics box in PCNC 440

The electronics panel is located at the back of the PCNC 440 CNC mill and houses the main power supply switch, stepper driver, EMI filter, wire connectors, relays, and BLDC motor driver of the spindle.

You will need a single-phase 115 V 15 A circuit to plug in the Tormach PCNC 440 CNC mill.

Emergency switch in PCNC 440
Emergency switch in PCNC 440

Additionally, the electric panel is connected with a wired emergency stop switch to stop the CNC machine in case of an emergency. You can keep this switch either on the table or mount it to the CNC enclosure for easy access.

6. Spindle

Spindle in PCNC 440
Spindle in PCNC 440

The spindle of PCNC 440 is powered by a ¾ hp brushless DC motor that can achieve speed up to 10,000 RPM. It has an R8 taper to hold the cutting tool and comes with a thread mill for tapping.

This DC motor use a Poly-V belt for power transmission to the spindle.

Two pulleys to vary spindle speed in PCNC 440
Two pulleys to vary spindle speed in PCNC 440

The shaft of the DC motor has two pulleys that carry the belt and offer you two-speed ranges. If you are working with high tensile strength materials, like steel, titanium, and strong alloys, you can set low RPM to get high torque.

For workpieces made of aluminum, plastic, and wood, you can take advantage of the high speed of the spindle to produce parts with good accuracy.

With this powerful spindle, you can achieve a maximum feed rate of 135 IPM in X and Y axes and up to 110 IPM on the Z-axis.

For tool holding, PCNC 440 CNC mill is equipped with the Tormach Tooling System (TTS). It consists of a power drawbar to pull the collet. In this way, it increases pressure on the tool holder to hold it against the spindle.

Automatic tool changer for PCNC 440
Automatic tool changer for PCNC 440

The premium package of Tormach PCNC 440 has an eight-tool automatic tool changer spindle. It uses two pneumatic cylinders to provide linear motion to the eight-station tool tray.

Air compressor for ATC
Air compressor for ATC

To use ATC with PCNC 440, you will need an air compressor to produce motion. Tormach offers California Air Tools 4610XC air compressor, which uses a 1 hp motor of a lifetime of more than 3,000 hours.

It is an ultra-quiet air compressor with a 4.6-gallon steel air tank.

Tormach ATC requires air pressure between 90 and 120 psi for its optimum performance. The 4610XC fits here because it can deliver air with a maximum pressure of 120 psi.

Alternatively, you can consider other air compressors to produce the required air pressure for ATC.

I suggest you use an air lubricator oil filter with an air-compressor to extend the lifespan of Tormach ATC.

7. Software

PathPilot Software
PathPilot Software

PathPilot controller of Tormach PCNC 440 has pre-installed PathPilot software for CNC mill motion control. It uses intuitive conversational programming to create project designs without the need for CAD/CAM software.

Conversational programming is ideal for on-site machining programming. If you enter any parameter incorrectly, it will instantly spot and display the error, which can be hard to spot in traditional G-code programming.

Its built-in Dropbox support lets you synchronize and transfer program files through different PCs.

PathPilot software can also be easily interfaced with other CAD/CAM software, like Autodesk and Inkscape.

Additionally, Tormach provides a 30-days trial version of SprutCAM software. It is a CAD plus CAM software, which lets you import a 3D model for designing. You can also utilize its integrated CAD feature to create project designs.

One of the advantages of using SprutCAM is that it considers the CNC machine's model during the toolpath calculation. Hence, it is useful and lets you view the reachability of the surfaces after machining.

Once you design/import the CAD model, this software provides you with the toolpath without setting any parameters. If you are not satisfied with its toolpath calculation, you can adjust the parameters to get the desired toolpath.

SprutCAM software
SprutCAM software

SprutCAM has a broad spectrum of 3-axis toolpaths to help you in roughing, like face milling, pocketing and hole machining. It also has toolpaths for rest machining like pencil and corners cleanup, and finishing, like 2D contour, 3D contour, 3D helical, and many more.

You can use SprutCAM software on computers running Windows OS.

PathPilotHUB web interface
PathPilotHUB web interface

Tormach also offers PathPilot HUB that is a cloud-based, PathPilot simulator. It let you work on project design if you are away from your PCNC 440. Once you are done with programming, you can run it in its simulator instead of going to the CNC mill.

If you are satisfied with your G-Code in the simulator, you can download it from PathPilot HUB and upload it to the PathPilot controller later.

8. Accessories

4th axis kit

4th axis kit
4th axis kit

Tormach offers the microARC 4 high-precision 4th axis kit in a compact footprint. It has a 3-jaw chuck to mount the workpiece and provide A-axis rotation.

PCNC440 supports four-axis continuous machining. Hence, it can simultaneously rotate and cut the material to let you make angled features and complex arcs, like the profile of cam lobes and helixes.

The 4th axis kit is made of a light aluminum body and weighs around 38 lbs. Therefore, you can install it on your own.

You need to install the 4th axis motor on the workbed using T-slot nuts that ships with the kit.

The 4th axis kit is powered by NEMA 34 stepper motor with harmonic drive, which is nearly backlash-free. Tormach provides the Baolong SD9 stepper driver for motor control, which has a maximum current rating of 9.8A.

It is a bipolar stepper driver and has step and CW & CCW direction control modes.

The driver is available as a separate accessory, and you need to install the SD9 stepper driver inside the electronics panel of the PCNC 440 CNC mill.

Coolant system

A coolant system in a CNC mill is an essential accessory to lubricate its cutting tool and workpiece for improved cut quality.

Tormach offers two different types of coolant systems, from which you can choose according to your requirements.

FogBuster coolant system
FogBuster coolant system

If you are a hobbyist or running a small shop, you can consider the FogBuster coolant system. It has a transparent reservoir with a steel bracket to hold it.

You can mount this system on a wall. The bracket also has a magnetic surface to let you easily mount the reservoir on the CNC enclosure. Hence, it requires less space.

FogBuster requires high-pressure air to spray the coolant on the head of the cutting tool and the workpiece. You can use a 4610XC air compressor to produce recommended air pressure of 90 psi for optimum performance.

It creates a spatter effect, so the coolant does not evaporate in the air and protect you from health hazards.

Flood coolant kit
Flood coolant kit

If you need a coolant system for heavy-duty CNC machining, I suggest the flood coolant system offered by Tormach. It comes with a coolant tank, coolant pump, and connection pipes.

It has a Loc-line nozzle that can be repositioned easily to the head of the cutting tool. While milling, this nozzle pours an enormous amount of coolant on the workpiece. This coolant flood also flushes chips and swarf from the material surface.

This keeps the cutting tools lubricated and cool ensuring good performance and long tool life.

You can use DuraKut 9000B mist coolant with FogBuster. It is a nonhazardous cutting fluid because it does not contain chlorine, silicones, or sulfur.

This coolant is ideal for all types of metal milling, broaching, grinding, sawing, turning, and tapping applications. You can also use this coolant with a flood coolant system as well.

You can also consider QualiChem XTREME CUT 251C, which is a semi-synthetic coolant. It has good heat-transfer properties and protects the workpiece against rust. Hence, you can use it if you do lots of aluminum and steel machining.

Computer stand

Computer stand
Computer stand

Tormach provides a neatly designed computer stand with two mounts attached to a metal rod. The mount can support the PathPilot controller, keyboard, jog shuttle, monitor, and mouse.

It has a fully adjustable steel arm that supports the metal rod vertically. The arm needs to be mounted on the machine stand.

Enclosure

Full-enclosure for PCNC 440
Full-enclosure for PCNC 440

An enclosure is a great accessory because it protects you and the workplace from debris and harmful contamination. It also restricts access to the cutting zone and keeps chips and coolant inside during CNC machining.

Tormach offers an enclosure for the PCNC 440 CNC mill. It has a metal construction with a powder-coated finish, which provides durability to it.

It also has polycarbonate doors and side windows to let you view the cutting process. The doors are equipped with switches that pause the running G-Code and reduce the spindle RPM to 1,000.

Measurement and offset tools

To produce parts with reliable accuracy, your CNC mill needs to know the exact length of the cutting tool and the stock position on the workbed.

To fulfill this, Tormach offers different measurement and offset tools that let you make parts with precise cuts.

Edge finder
Edge finder

An edge finder is an economic tool to precisely locate workpieces on a workbed. Its shank needs to be put in the spindle collet, and you need to spin it at low RPM, typically under 1,000 RPM.

The spinning of its lower section produces wobble until it is away from the edge of the workpiece. Once it brushes against an edge, the wobbling gets reduced, and the lower section rotates in line with the shank.

In this way, it finds the edges of the workpieces. However, with this tool, you can detect edges only in the X and Y direction. For Z-axis edges, you will need a separate measurement tool.

In my opinion, if you are a hobbyist or run a small business, an edge finder is a good tool with accuracy within 0.1mm. If you are on high-volume work, the Haimer 3D sensor will do this task quickly and with more accuracy.

Haimer 3D sensor
Haimer 3D sensor

Apart from the three-axis edge finder, it can also check surface flatness and straightness, measure angle features, and find the center of the bore.

The probes of the Haimer 3D sensor are pre-calibrated, so there is no need to calculate probe offset. It can be put into the tool holder of the spindle.

Tormach indicator tool
Tormach indicator tool

You need to adjust concentricity relative to the spindle axis using an indicator tool. Once you identify the runout, you need to adjust its set screws to correct it.

Haimer 3D sense has a dial display with two-needle hands to indicate the zero-position of the spindle. Although it partially automates the process of finding zero, you still need to jog the spindle for measurement manually.

Passive probe
Passive probe

If you are concerned about the time spent nudging your machine around to find zero, I suggest the Tormach probe for measurement.

This probe adds automation and efficiency to the measurement process. It is because the probe communicates directly with PathPilot software to find edges and corners with reliable accuracy.

PathPilot software has probing routines, which are fast and accurate so that parts come out with the correct values every time you do CNC machining.

Power drawbar

Power Drawbar for PCNC 440
Power Drawbar

If your project demands various cutting tools and you are tired of manually changing the cutting tool repeatedly, you can consider the power drawbar upgrade offered by Tormach. It saves your time and effort and increases productivity.

The power drawbar unit has a pneumatic cylinder that tightens the drawbar using compressed air to secure the cutting tool in the TTS collet. It has a push-button system to control the operation of the power drawbar.

Instead of fully secured down, this assembly is slightly floating. It is because this arrangement put all force on the drawbar and not on the spindle bearings.

You will need around 90 psi air pressure to operate the power drawbar unit. You can consider the 4610XC air compressor offered by Tormach to produce the required air pressure.

You can change tools with the press of a button rather than wrestling with wrenches.

Workholding

Tormach CNC vise
Tormach CNC vise

Tormach offers 4 inch CNC vise, which is compact and has the clamping power of a machinist vise. It is made of cast iron, which provides rigidity to it.

It Includes a bridge clamp set to mount another CNC vise on its side with the jaws facing sideways.

Visw jaws with Mitte-Bite clamps
Visw jaws with Mitte-Bite clamps

Tormach vise has replaceable jaw plates. So, if you want to hold flame cut parts, castings, and parts with a negative draft for finishing, you can consider VersaGrip vise jaws that use Mitee-Bite clamps for difficult work holding.

9. Assembly

PCNC 440 on a pallet
PCNC 440 on a pallet

PCNC 440 ships pre-assembled on a pallet. If you choose any option except entry-package, you get panels that need to be assembled separately to make the PCNC 440 stand.

For premium and premium with the ATC package, you get panels for CNC mill enclosures that need to be assembled separately. The panels come in powder coating to provide a high-quality finish to stand and enclosure.

Once the stand is ready, you will need an engine hoist to lift the PCNC 440 onto the stand.

I have noticed that the eye-hook at the top of PCNC 440 has a 3/4 inch inner diameter, which is relatively small to be used with the hook of the engine hoist to lift the CNC mill.

I recommend using a slightly large clevis to connect the eye-hook from the engine hoist.

You need to apply rust preventive oil to the workbed and metal components to remove packing grease and protect them against rust.

Tormach provides good assembly resources to assemble PCNC 440 with enclosure and stand within 4-5 hours.

10. Community

Tormach is a well-known brand and has a large user base. But they don't have an active online forum, which is quite disappointing.

You may find active Facebook groups where users share their project ideas and success stories. Tormach also has an official YouTube channel, which is a great place to stay updated with machining tips from experts.

The Tormach blog includes various posts on CNC machine learning, woodworking, prototyping, and other helpful topics.

11. Customer support

Tormach is a Waunakee-based CNC machine manufacturing company, and they offer free shipping within the US.

With PCNC 440 CNC mill, you get a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects and workmanship. You can purchase an extended warranty plan from Tormach to get an additional 12 months warranty.

Tormach also offers US-based excellent customer support that you can avail through phone or email.

12. Final thoughts

Tormach PCNC 440 is a well-built professional CNC mill that lets you mill steel at an affordable price.

It is powerful enough to mill whatever you want, whether it is hard plastic, wood, or even titanium.

It's quite rigid and heavy enough to give the tolerance and finish you need for prototyping and small business needs.

The passive probe is one of my favorite features because it is a time saver and automates the process of stock measurement and tool offset. With this, you can complete the measurement process in around two minutes.

Another thing that I like most is the PathPilot software and Tormach has done a great job in software development.

It is a custom-made software and lets you make accurate parts even when you have no experience with CNC programming.

Overall, Tormach PCNC 440 is a great starter mill for serious hobbyists and businesses looking to make money.

PCNC 440 CNC Mill Alternatives

While the PCNC 440 is a good choice for a benchtop CNC mill, there are other options you can consider as well.

Options include CNC mills made by converting manual milling machines such as the Precision Matthews PM-728VT.

I discuss those options here- Best Benchtop CNC Mills [2021].

If you are willing to wait a bit for your job to complete, mills like Sherline and Taig can also do the job for you.

Another option is to convert a manual mill to CNC mill using a DIY conversion kit.

If you want much more power, Tormach's 1100M CNC Mill is also something to look at.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I need to purchase machine stand sperately to install full-enclosure in my PCNC 440?

Absolutely not! You can place PCNC on a stand that should be rigid enough to handle the weight of heavy-duty CNC machining and place the enclosure over it. I suggest you should purchase a chip pan as it provides good liquid management while using flood coolant.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

DIY Profile
John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

Thanks for signing up.
Some error occured. Please try again.

Comments

Add Your Comment