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Advice on DROs for a mill

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Paul H 130/12/2016 08:50:01
37 forum posts

I am looking at buying a DRO for my mill, a SPG 2217-30 (about the same size as a Warco WM18). As I am doing a lot of workshop upgrading the budget is not vast and it will have to be a 2 axis package. I have been looking at the systems from Machine DRO, their own M-DRO packages and those from Easson. I don't want to buy direct from China as I would appreciate a British supplier with someone to call if I have a problem.

I interested in members advice on reliability and useability. I am I being an idiot just going for a 2 axis system? I do have the LCD depth gauge on the quill.

Are there other reasonably priced systems I should look at.



Stuart Bridger30/12/2016 09:01:00
538 forum posts
29 photos


Take a look at this thread


I installed a LCD depth gauge on the quill, when I had teh two axis Easson unit, but when buying the new console, I bought a 3 axis one, with thie thought that I may upgrade in the future.


fizzy30/12/2016 09:04:03
1843 forum posts
120 photos

My budget would only stretch to glass rails and from china, the whole package being under £180 for 2 axis. Whilst there were no instructions I can honestly say that I cannot fault it now that it is set up.

pgk pgk30/12/2016 11:28:16
2563 forum posts
293 photos

Even if the budget won't stretch to 3-axis it may well be worth owning the 3-axis encoder display if budget will stretch. My mill came with 2-axis and I do wish it had the third... it'd be easy to add it later if the display can take it.

not done it yet30/12/2016 12:12:51
6809 forum posts
20 photos

I have a dro that will do far more than I will ever likely understand, let alone use! However if it was a two axis, I doubt it would have cost so much less (apart from the scale) ... and not easily upgraded.

My others are simply readouts, not calculator for PCD, curves, etc. If you only need it for centring and hole positioning, what accuracy do you really require? One of mine indicates to 0.01mm, but is only accurate to 0.05mm. Close enough for purpose on that machine, I think.

Paul H 130/12/2016 13:34:36
37 forum posts

Thanks Stuart for the link. The comments there make fascinating reading. I have the impression that perhaps the Easson display has the edge on the M-DRO for its capabilities, Am I correct? Obviously the LCD version is perhaps a game changer (and budget buster).

I would like to get 0.01mm accuracy (~1/2 thou).

For those that have it, how useful do you find the third axis?

Clive Hartland30/12/2016 14:47:37
2820 forum posts
40 photos

First off you can forget all about backlash, just use the readouts to get position. The MDro's are fine and work very well and the read out display has all functions you will ever need.

You need to get one of the contact spindles to set zero and then re-set the displays as you need. You will not look backl once fitted.


MW30/12/2016 14:51:39
2051 forum posts
51 photos

Arc Euro do a great one that I've used for a couple of years now, I grant you it wasn't cheap but I've put that through the mill (pun intended) and it's probably full of swarf in places yet it's still going well. It's better to rotate the scales upside down so that it prevents the ingress of swarf, although you will have to redesign how you install it slightly.

I think the unit was around 300 and each scale was about 80-100 pounds a piece.

Michael W

Edited By Michael-w on 30/12/2016 14:53:17

Ajohnw30/12/2016 16:46:34
3631 forum posts
160 photos

I sometimes have the wish for dro but manage fine without. I get the impression that magnetic scales are getting more popular and also have an interest in one that can be found by googling Yuiry's Toys.

The neatest one I have seen for relatively easy tidy installation is one by Newall. The price though - ouch. I got the impression that Renishaw might do something similar at some point but no signs of it last time I looked.



Graham Williams 530/12/2016 17:03:05
98 forum posts
9 photos
Have a look at ems-i over Leicester way. Just fitted a magnetic tape system to my Tom Senior, real helpful guys
John Rudd30/12/2016 17:06:20
1450 forum posts
12 photos
Posted by Michael-w on 30/12/2016 14:51:39:

Arc Euro do a great one, I grant you it wasn't cheap

Michael W

I have two of the Arceurotrade dro' on my 626 mill and the second in my 11 x 27 lathe.....

Mounting was fairly straightforward.....well worth the money....

Usual disclaimer......just a satisfied customer...

NJH30/12/2016 17:12:10
2314 forum posts
139 photos

Santa ( in the guise of my wife) left me a DRO for the lathe. Came from ARC and looks the business.

In recent years I have abandoned the workshop during the winter but, as soon as the festivities are over, I will put some gentle heating on and establish a better temperature. Maybe hire a dehumidifier too to to ensure all is good and dry.


duncan webster30/12/2016 17:15:24
3984 forum posts
65 photos

I've got 2 axis MDro on my mill, but as advised by several above bought 3 axis display to allow for future expansion. This is becoming more pressing as I find myself using metric more and more, and mixing with imperial Z axis is asking for errors (none yet, famous last words)

Gary Wooding30/12/2016 18:26:34
983 forum posts
254 photos

When I decided to fit DRO to my mill I originally chose 2-axis, but friends at the club were unanimous in the view that I'd regret not getting 3-axis. I succumbed and spent the extra for the 3rd axis - they were right. The 3rd axis is appreciated long after the cost is forgotten. Go for it, you will NOT regret it.

Paul Lousick30/12/2016 21:15:20
2043 forum posts
722 photos

I have an Easson DRO and would reccommend them. Would also suggest that you get a 3-axis display, even if you only get 2 scales first, allowing you to add another later.

Originally fitted to my Sieg SX3 mill on the X and Y axis slide and on the Z-column slide. I have recently sold my SX3 and Santa brought me an RF-45 mill and will fit the DRO to it. (The glass scales are long enough for the new mill).

All of the DRO installations which I have seen for the RF-45 have the Z-axis scale attached to the column of the mill but I intend to attach it to the quill slide as I have found that this is more important. (The SX3 was already fitted with a digital scale on the quill and is more accurate for adjusting depth of cut than lowerring the mill head on the column).


Stuart Bridger31/12/2016 09:04:03
538 forum posts
29 photos

Worth noting that M-DRO do an axis summing box. I certainly will be looking at this when I upgrade to a 3rd axis. This means you can have a scale on the column and the quill and combine the readings to a single Z display. Obviously it is extra cost with an additional scale and the cost of the summing unit. Does anyone have any experience of this?

As for consoles in general, I suspect for most it is the 80/20 rule in that 80% of the time you are using 20% of the functionality. I think I have used the PCD function on mine once. Most of the time it is centering and general positioning. I just have to dig out the manual to remember the advanced functionality. While the graphical display of the LCD Easson would make use of such functions easier, if they are needed. Conversely if you are using the advanced finctionality regulalry you wil soon get to know them without needing the graphical hints. Very difficult to justify the extra cost of the LCD unit IMHO.

Douglas Johnston31/12/2016 09:22:35
767 forum posts
34 photos

When I bought my DRO for the mill a few years ago I was also going to buy a 2 axis display, but since the 3 axis one was not much more expensive I opted for that and am very pleased I did.

I fitted the X and Y axes with glass scales from M-DRO and they have been flawless ever since. After a while I fitted a magnetic one micron resolution scale to the Z axis and that too has been superb. I am quite a fan of the magnetic scales since they can often be fitted more neatly than the glass scales


Paul H 131/12/2016 14:54:05
37 forum posts

I must say Santa has been very generous with some members this year! Paul, I had no idea of what an RF45 looked like so I had to do some googling. A very solid piece of kit I must say. What I did notice though is it seems to be a rather popular machine for home cnc conversion, (yes I know I am going off topic).

I have had a good look at suggestions offered here for other DRO suppliers and they seem to be more expensive overall than Machine DROs M-DRO and Easson systems. Taking on board the opinions of having at least 3rd axis display available for expansion, I have been doing some comparisons and it is a hefty leap from just 2 axis to 3 axis. However for saying that the leap from 3 axis with LED display to the Easson ES-12 colour LCD display as currently advertised is £120, not that vaster sum for a lot more ease of use. As someone who rather likes a proper display this unit starts to become very interesting. I had a look at the videos and it certainly makes PCDs much easier. A lot of food for thought.

As home workshops (mine particularly) are often not insulated and minimal heating if at all, how are members DRO systems standing up to winter conditions and how many years have you owned them? What electronics problems have been experienced?


Andrew Johnston31/12/2016 15:17:06
6601 forum posts
701 photos
Posted by Paul H 1 on 31/12/2016 14:54:05:

As home workshops (mine particularly) are often not insulated and minimal heating if at all, how are members DRO systems standing up to winter conditions and how many years have you owned them? What electronics problems have been experienced?

I've run my vertical mill DRO for the best part of 15 years in a minimally heated garage. I've only had two hiccups. First the system got itself into an odd operating mode. Discussion with the manufacturer revealed a hidden key on the front panel that allowed one to reset the system parameters. This issue was almost certainly caused by an iffy incoming mains supply, with power spikes to match. Although my local feeder is underground the feeds to the village are overhead. Every time we have a thunderstorm we have a flickering lights, or worse a power cut.

The second issue was a flickering X-axis display, after some years, which then went away, only to reappear as a total failure. Entirely my fault, as my installation with tiewraps had damaged the outer sheath of the sensor cable, and eventually broken the wires. embarrassed

I run a 2-axis system, and don't miss the 3rd axis. But I have a knee mill which has a reasonably accurate dial on the knee. If I need better than a few thou in depth I use a micrometer.

So basically I've had no intrinsic problems with the DRO electronics. The catch is that I have a Newall DRO, designed for industrial use with full flood coolant, and priced to match. But I wanted a system that is accurate and reliable. In metric it reads to 0.005mm but came with calibration charts showing a scale accuracy of better than 0.01mm. If you can't trust the accuracy of a DRO then it's about as useful as a chocolate teapot, and not as tasty.


Raymond Anderson31/12/2016 15:33:17
785 forum posts
152 photos

Don't know a thing about the lets say "less costly " brands, as my 2 lathes and 2 mills are all Newall. all Newall's are built to last. My oldest one is getting on for 16 years old now and never missed a beat. The downside is as Andrew points out, they are very spendy. I have heard a lot of good things about some of the less costly makes, ie Easson Also you could look at Goodwin Technology they have quite a few systems. Once you have got used to a DRO you would never want to return to looking at the machine dials and thinking about backlash. They are a great addition to a manual machine.

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