Reviving A Free 1990s Millport CNC Vertical Mill

When faced with the offer of free machining equipment, there is no realistic way to say ‘no’. This is how [Anthony Kouttron]’s brother [Thomas] got to pick up a large 1990s-era CNC machine as a new companion for his growing collection of such equipment. The trickiest part of the move to the new location was getting the machine to fit through the barn doors, requiring some impromptu disassembly of the Z-axis assembly, which required the use of an engine crane and some fine adjustments with the reinstallation. With that [Thomas] and [Anthony] got to gawk at their new prize in its new home.

This Millport vertical mill is effectively a Taiwanese clone of the Bridgeport vertical mill design, though using an imported servo control system from Anilam. The most exciting part about a CNC machine like this is usually the electronics, especially for a well-used machine. Fortunately the AT-style PC and expansion cards looked to be in decent condition, and the mill’s CRT-based controller popped up the AMI BIOS screen before booting into the Anilam S1100 CNC software on top of MS-DOS, all running off a 1 MB Flash card.

Which is not to say that there weren’t some issues to be fixed. The Dallas DS12887 real-time clock/NVRAM module on the mainboard was of course dead. After replacing it, the BIOS finally remembered the right boot and input settings, so that the CNC machine’s own controls could be used instead of an external keyboard. This just left figuring out the Anilam controls, or so they thought, as a range of new errors popped up about X-lag and the Distribution Board. This had [Anthony] do a deep-dive into the electronics cabinets to clean metal chips and repair broken parts and floating pins. After this and a replacement Anilam Encoder this Millport vertical mill was finally ready to be put back into service.

25 thoughts on “Reviving A Free 1990s Millport CNC Vertical Mill

    1. Neat. My fall-back was to switch to linuxCNC if the controller was completely toast or if the servos had failed, to look at some clearpath servo system. Luckily, I was able to find troubleshooting information and some schematics and get the CNC back up and running :D

      1. If you haven’t already…

        Check those DC motors brushes _and_ their holders. I once ran an old Milltronic of similar construction and age. Was great machine, but I was amazed it ran when I inspected the brushes on the easy motor. It wasn’t so much the brushes themselves. It was the old original plastic brush holders. The part the brushes slide in. The high voltage had been arcing for _decades_. The plastic was almost gone. A previous user had bodged in some sort of epoxy fix, but it was now also EDMed away. By the time I looked the brush was worn sideways. I made a new holder and installed new brushes. Weird thing, machine had been running fine. Not a hiccup. Old driver boards were beasts.

        Make sure you give the caps time to discharge.
        I still saw arcs between the brushes and housing when the machine was powered down for minutes. You could smell the ozone when it ran.

        Free is a great price for that machine.
        Have you moved full range on the table w a dial indicator on it yet?

        1. Good point! I’ll check that out. I can visualize that happening. Considering this machine was run with the cabinet doors open, I can only imagine the state of the brushes. I’m really glad I replaced the bleed capacitor as that is one chunky boy. I usually wait and discharge it for good measure. I’m pretty sure my brother has taken a dial indicator to the table already and it was within his expectations, so she’s a keeper. Thanks for the input!

          1. Often the groves in the commutator of the motors are clogged with carbon dust. Made worse by any oil/cutting fluid that gets inside the motor. This causes lots oF arcing and ultimately failure of the motor.
            Clean out with a hacksaw blade ground thin. And polish the commutator with fine emery paper.

          2. You can likely network that machine.

            Just need an ISA ethernet card and Lanmanager DOS network client. Really really cheap?…w a serial port. (Serial cable might cost more than card and Cat5.)

            IIRC Only tricky things were enabling old style authentication on the ‘server’ and keeping the whole security nightmare airgapped from internet.
            That said, I’m old, I ran computers in the DOS days. Easy for me to say ‘LanManager DOS network client’. Just Google. (‘Net Use’ still hides in your windows PC.)

            In the end it meant that the CAD computer was in the DMZ. Just as practical matter. Otherwise still sneakernetting files.
            At the time, I didn’t bother with dual networking the machine. Gave me an excuse to cut a few machines off from the net. ‘Workers’ used phones to watch cat vids after that. Less work for me!

    2. I’ve used a lot of centroid stuff and I can say they make awesome stuff. Well worth your time looking into what they have for this machine. Glad to see you got some good iron there and glad to see HAD pick up on something like this rather than them commenting he should chuck it because it isn’t run off the network interface or usb c

      1. I looked over the centroid kit and it looks pretty complete. I’m glad that exists as an option because I’d hate to have to piece together something from scratch and create another project, when I just wanted a working CNC.
        I was planning on chucking the CNC when I found out it was not compatible with GPIB. Just kidding :D

    3. I kept thinking why bother just Centroid retrofit it! My mori sl1h lathe retrofit does not disappoint. I need to scrap the mach 4 on my mill and go Centroid one of these days… Glad he got it going but a modern control and memory makes an old machine perform much better!

    4. I love working with your equipment, and have in a couple of industries (Envelope manufacturing, and composites manufacturing). I cannot wait to get time to install one of your Acorn controllers on my new to me sharp 3 axis knee mill. I may even document the process for Hackaday . GREAT PRODUCTS for home and industry. I also love the fact that software like Vcarve pro has post processors available out of the box ! ! !

    1. Haha. Thanks! The control unit / DRO is definitely a vibe. The articulating arm is beefier than a majority of the TV swing wall mounts I’ve seen in the past few years. I have to admit, I’m going to miss using the floppy drive once the floppy emulator usb adapter arrives.

  1. The most exciting part of a machine like this would be how far the mechanics of the machine is worn out. Electronics and even motors are not very difficult to replace. Even the dovetails can be re-scraped, but that requires more expertise and a lot more patience to do properly.

    So in the end, the most exciting part is probably that a big chunk of cast iron has found a better home then the scrapyard. Congratulations!

  2. I converted my Supermax ( Bridgeport clone) with an Anilam 3000 to Linux cnc, it was a big job, at least for me still have the old controller laying around taking up space…. On mine I found one of the grub screws on the DC motors had backed out causing what I thought was just backlash. If your machine is anything like mine I’d pull those covers and check your grub screws. Because the speed and direction drives compensate for a spinning gear on a shaft it isn’t obvious you have a problem until your shaft is toast….

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