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Two or three axis DRO

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Clay Jones25/02/2021 18:30:16
37 forum posts
1 photos

Hi all

Apologies if this has been answered before but I’m awaiting the new Mill from Warco and I’ve been told that my DRO is on back order. My question is that I was advised the 2 axis will be fine due to a readout on the quill. Just watching a video from Ades workshop and he has fitted a three axis to his mill. Still time to change my order at this stage if I have made a mistake and would be keen to hear the benefits or not as the case may be.

Many thanks


Andrew Johnston25/02/2021 18:49:11
6283 forum posts
677 photos

I've got a 2-axis DRO on my Bridgeport, but nothing on the knee or quill. I find 2-axis fine; I've never missed a 3rd DRO axis.


SillyOldDuffer25/02/2021 18:59:10
7574 forum posts
1681 photos

The mill probably comes with a dro on the quill, in which case a 2-axis dro is all that's needed. But it's convenient to have all three displays in the same place if money is no object. Being a cheapskate I've not bothered!


Steviegtr25/02/2021 19:08:14
2244 forum posts
311 photos

On the Tom Senior which has a movable knee i have the 3 axis.

Would not be without it. I think its a case of if you only have 2 then you make do with it. Today i have been milling mild steel & was moving the knee up in 0.5mm increments. If i was fitting a new setup it would be a definate.

However as said above if your knee is fixed then. It wouldn't matter as much. Especially if there is one on the Quill as standard.


JasonB25/02/2021 19:39:02
21468 forum posts
2455 photos
1 articles

I suppose a lot depends on how much the height of what you are working on varies and whether you might need to raise the head yo change tooling. Also whether you want the loss of rigidity as the quill is extended. There are also a few functions on a DRO that won't work with just two axis but they are unlikely to be used that much.

Myself I started with a 3-axis display and just scales on X&Y but soon added the Z scale and would not want to go back.

not done it yet25/02/2021 19:41:57
6350 forum posts
20 photos

I’ve have 4 dro readouts on one of my mills. The normal 3 axis (in one unit) is probably better (cheaper/ axis) than a separate third one, as a later add-on.

4 on mine because it has a quill and knee. I usually use the knee, not the quill, if possible (apart from multiple drillings to depth). The quill readout is a stand-alone reader, so separate to the main unit.

All that said, nearly all the ‘extras’ from a comprehensive dro are for the horizontal plane - bolt circles etc. I most certainly don’t use my dro to its full capacity - by a huge amount. Some may know if they use the z axis for any complex cutting, but I don’t.

The other mill has a cheaper 3 axis readout (It does not have a quill). Not as precise as the other unit but does all I really need most of the time (the readings can ’wander’ by 0.02mm on occasions).

I have a Warco 2 axis readout on my lathe. This one (single axis one shown?):


Perfectly adequate for my use and very stable readings, but only to two decimal places (and less absolute accuracy, of course). I prefer the full readout, with all the bells and whistles, for the mill.

Your choice. £20 quid extra for that third axis on the readout is likely cheaper than adding a third later (all asuming the new stock is the same price🙂 ).

I believe there are now some readouts that can combine two different scales on the same axis (quill + knee on a mill or long travel + tailstock for a lathe) - but not from Warco.

Bill Phinn25/02/2021 20:33:22
576 forum posts
86 photos

You can certainly get away with only two, but I'd go for all three if I had my time over again.

I bought my Warco WM18 with a 2 axis (saving about £180 over the 3-axis) but I felt the need for a Z axis DRO at a later date, for most of the reasons mentioned by Jason.

This meant I faced a choice between buying an additional glass scale and a new display [rendering the 2-axis display redundant] at a cost of nearly £300 or just buying a standalone DRO with remote display for around £50.

I chose the latter, but the labour involved in upending the garage to fit the Z axis scale meant I really should have just gone for the 3 axis originally.

There is, however, one slight advantage in choosing the type of DRO I've got on my Z axis: it holds an absolute reading even when powered off, unlike the DRO supplied with the mill.This can be an advantage if you move the head when everything is powered off but want to get back to a previous position infallibly.

Edited By Bill Phinn on 25/02/2021 20:33:34

Roger Best25/02/2021 20:38:49
306 forum posts
36 photos

I bought the 3-axis DRO for mine, anticipating that I would fit a Z at some time.

The quill is a short throw device and if you ever move the head in the middle of a set-up you have lost the accuracy, especially if you are an amateur who does not own fag papers.

I see that they can also do rotary encoders, so I may be able to get my turntable fixed up on the DRO. That would be a project and a half.

Clay Jones25/02/2021 21:07:15
37 forum posts
1 photos

Super helpful many thanks all, think I’ll future proof and get a three just in case.

duncan webster25/02/2021 21:09:36
3527 forum posts
63 photos

Like Jason I started with a 3 axis display but only x & y scales. then when a bit more money became available I bought the Z scale. Wouldn't go back, but you haven't told us which model mill you are buying. If it is a round column one then the picture changes.

Stuart Bridger25/02/2021 21:27:45
531 forum posts
29 photos

I started with a 2 axis console and X and Y scales on my Warco VMC. I did miss the ability to set depth. When the console failed I replaced it with a 3 axis unit. Eventually i fitted the z scale on the knee. This made a lot of difference. Ideally I I would like to put a scale on the quill with a summing unit to complete the setup.

Clay Jones25/02/2021 21:40:41
37 forum posts
1 photos

Hi Duncan, it’s a WM16B

ChrisH25/02/2021 22:30:57
1003 forum posts
30 photos

I also started with a 3 axis display on the mill but only scales on the X and Y, but soon added the Z when the opportuntity arose, and wouldn't be without it.

I believe at one time Warco said one couldn't fit a scale on their round column mills, but I managed to fit one on mine - where there's a will there's a way!!


duncan webster25/02/2021 22:32:00
3527 forum posts
63 photos

Well I'd go for 3 axes, then if you move the head up and down you have readout of that as well

Clive Foster25/02/2021 22:44:58
2838 forum posts
103 photos

+1 for Duncans advice to go for three axes on the x-y-z slide ways to use in conjunction with the separate quiil readout.

That's what I have on my Bridgeport. 3 glass scales on X-y-z and a BW Electronics pull wire sensor on the quiil. It's great.

Do verify that the DRO box stores its last position on power down and that it has a decent supply of offset memory positions. Mine stores up to 99 which is a bit excessive but creative use of the positon storage can save a lot of head scratching and potential errors during set up and machining. My no 1 memory is permanently set to zero at the mid traverse positions. I'd have saved a metric boatload of effort over the 15 or so years I've had my Sino DRO box if I'd made a serious effort to explore the ways in which the position storage could be used to make life easier.


Edited By Clive Foster on 25/02/2021 22:45:32

duncan webster25/02/2021 22:49:55
3527 forum posts
63 photos

Mine is supposed to have something like the feature that Clive refers to, but I can't understand the Chinglish instructions, so I finish up writing positions down on a sketch

Ady126/02/2021 07:05:47
4755 forum posts
715 photos

I would say that you will never regret getting it but you may regret not getting it

herbert punter26/02/2021 09:08:51
128 forum posts
1 photos

I have fitted three axis glass scale dros to my Warco WM18,

Thw Z axis is a bit trickier than the other two and I’m not sure that Warco offer that option on this mill

I didn’t like the quill dro that was factory fitted, I’m sure many people get on alright with it so maybe it’s me.


Paul M26/02/2021 10:16:21
69 forum posts
4 photos

Had a Warco WM16 mll for a while with X and Y DRO fitted. Never really found any problems with Z axis settings as there is a basic quill DRO factory fitted. I assume any DRO fitted will not be on the fine feed of the mill if it is a WM14/16 etc. I have rigged up a DTI a few times where I needed to ensure accuracy but found the quill DRO was as good. I suppose the answer is - if you can afford it you may as well have the extra DRO on the Z axis. It is probably fitted to the headstock so settings will be from the Z axis hand wheel and not the fine feed on the quill.

Maybe Herbert can answer how he gets on with the Z axis DRO.

Gary Wooding26/02/2021 10:56:05
873 forum posts
227 photos

My Centec has a knee and a VH with a quill. When I decided to fit a DRO I initially opted on a 2-axis system 'cos the 3-axis was too expensive. Friends at the ME club were adamant that I should pay the extra for the 3rd axis. They were right. The Z-axis on the knee gets used much more than I expected - certainly not as much as X and Y, but a great deal nonetheless. I've also fitted a stand-alone DRO on the quill, which I use when drilling or tapping to a depth.

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