Improving your older machines

For info:

Surplus Equipment

The Equipment Information Center has thousands of equipment listed...

Find Machine   |   By Manufacturer   |   By Dealers   |   Machine Info   |   Manufacturer Info   |   Sell Equipment

Improving your older machines

When production hours on your machine tool start to mount up, there comes a time you ask yourself 'Should I fix up this older machine?' or just purchase another one instead. Rebuilding or retrofitting previously manually operated machine tools provide features which can significantly improve the productivity of the machine and the quality of the work produced. If you choose to fix it up, there are alternatives available to repair older or worn down machine tools.


The objective in rebuilding is to get the machine back to its original performance specifications. It is the most commonly used and often the least expensive compared to remanufacturing and retrofitting. It also keeps the machine out of production for the least amount of time. Keep in mind when rebuilding your machine what you may expect from the rebuilder might not be up to your expectations. Every machine tool is not necessarily a candidate for rebuilding, some inexpensive import machines were designed as “throw-aways” from the beginning so they are not conducive to rebuilding. Sometimes restoring a machine to original specifications doesn’t help you compete against higher performance equipment and may not be a smart investment. Many machine tools may still be obsolete even after they are brought back to their original form because of the technological advances that have come out since they were new. Simple attachments can be installed to improve the machine’s performance, for example “bolt-on types” do not require hardly any engineering. Rebuilding your machine tool would be the correct choice if its not producing good parts because of component wear. However, purchasing another specialized machine tool may benefit you more than rebuilding because replacing those special tools can be difficult and expensive.


Retrofitting deals with upgrading the electronic expertise of a machine tool. With the recent rapid changes in technology, especially in electronics, a machine control can be obsolete even before the machine starts showing signs of wear. The retrofitting process renovates the whole electronic system of the machine, including the spindle motors and axis drives. If the machine is mechanically sound, then the retrofit is easily warranted by increased production. Also, replacing wear-prone mechanical components can reduce maintenance cost to your machine. Retrofitting is usually done on the shop floor, this way the machine is out of production for only a short period of time. The machine operators and maintenance personnel can get hands-on-training that will cut down production ramp-up time when the retrofit is finished. Before retrofitting, each movement of a machine element was always initiated or sustained by the manual intervention of the operator, but with CNC there is a shift in the extent of control from operator to machine.


Remanufacturing is the building of a new machine on an existing base. This transformation allows you to bring your old machine up to current performance specifications. Remanufacturers refurbish everything: belts, hoses, bearings and motors are all fixed or replaced. They also engineer the parts they’ve reworked to perform beyond what they did when they were new, this is where a remanufacturer deviates from a rebuilder. The reasons for remanufacturing instead of buying new may be compelling considering what your shop produces and what type of equipment you may need. On older machines the castings are more rigid and strong instead of the composite metals they use in new manufacturing machines. Reputable remanufacturers will warrant a remanufactured machine with a new machine tool warranty, just like a new machine tool manufacturer would offer you on a new machine.


Another important consideration are some possible risks that could be involved when refurbishing or retrofitting. A previously manual machine that has been the subject of a CNC retrofit has the mechanical hazards such as entanglement with rotating parts, contact with sharp tools, shearing, crushing and ejection. Unexpected movement and the risk of programming error or fault conditions in the control system may also present hazards. Risk assessment should be conducted when a machine is retrofitted to identify hazards present and initiate the necessary steps needed in order to fulfill legal requirements. Fixed and interlocked guards, which discourage access to the danger zone during operation, should be provided. Another consideration is the location of machine controls. For example, when a guard has been provided but there are difficulties in viewing the machines control panel, then the controls may need to be relocated where the obstruction no longer occurs.


Even though there may be limitations on how far a machine can be modified to perform beyond its original design parameters, rebuilding, retrofitting or remanufacturing a machine in good condition can be a cost-effective way to help increase your bottom line. The least expensive and least time consuming is rebuilding in getting your machine back to its original functioning capabilities. Going beyond fixing what’s broken is where remanufacturing focuses on making the machines components and capabilities better than they were before. Productivity advantages can be achieved from the get-go since training and maintenance take less time because the operators are already familiar with the new controls during a retrofit. Anything such as adding digital readouts to increasing axis capability can also be accomplished in a retrofit, which gives new life to older conventional machines.

This is one article in a series of    How to Buy Metalworking Equipment.   Each article showcases and explains a particular type of metalworking machine. They were originally published in the Metalworking Machinery Mailer published by the Tade Publishing Group.

Links to other articles in this series:

How to Buy Automatic Screw Machines   |   How to Buy a Press Brake   |   Understanding CNC Machining and their Controls   |   How to Buy Shears   |   How to Buy Saws   |   How to Buy a Horizontal Boring Mill   |   How to Buy a Hydraulic Press   |   How to Buy Shapers   |   How to Buy Low-Cost CNC   |   Improving your older machines   |   How to Buy Straight-Side and Mechanical Presses   |   How to Buy Drilling Machines   |   How to Buy a Vertical Boring Mill   |   How to Buy a Broaching Machine

Improving your older machines

Privacy   |   Copyright