The Values of Modernizing an Older Machine Tool

The values of modernizing an older machine tool -  - Machine Tools Research, Inc.

Machine tools of our generation’s past have one thing in common, CAST IRON. The advantages to using this material is its stiffness, machinability and its vibration dampening characteristics. Generally speaking, replacing an older machine with a new one isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. Some of the benefits of modernizing an existing machine tool are:

  • Cost of new vs updating existing.
  • Down time. Building a new machine takes time, not to mention foundation work and cost.
  • The existing machine has already proven to handle the work for all those years, so there’s less concern of performance longevity.

MTR has a wealth of knowledge and experience of the industry, with a proven track record of rebuilding and retrofitting machine tool equipment, providing newer control options, such as Fanuc, Siemens and Heidenhain to name a few. Electrically retrofitting older machinery with newer technology is often better in terms of safety and reliability. The inclusion of E-stop circuits, variable frequency drives, compact relays and I/O racks and ladder logic greatly increases machine safety and supplies commercially available parts to replace the outdated circuitry on your vintage machines cabinetry. Rebuilding these machines to serve a new life in a new industry is not an impossible task.

Some of our more common upgrades include:

  • Lathe – Centerline height increase, to allow greater swing capacity.
  • Carriage/saddle drive – Twin pinion anti-backlash drive systems.
  • Closed loop, Scale to motor feedback for greater positioning accuracy and scale resolution.
  • Addition of Ways – linear guide rails.
  • Lubrication systems – progressive manifold (Trabon).
  • Anti-friction systems (hydrostatic).
  • Producing motor adaptors for a CNC retrofit.

A machine with old and outdated controls can be retrofitted with a new CNC or PLC control allowing the machine to be serviceable and reliable for years. Each project is handled similarly. We strive to document the process of disassembly, and inspection of each component and mechanism. Which will then be reviewed thoroughly by our team and customer if they choose. During our disassembly phase we will look for issues that may show up in the future to ensure it is corrected before going back into service. We are Machine Tool Builders! This is a very hands-on profession, some of our refinishing methods include the use of:

  • Hand & power scraping
  • Piano wire to record straightness (electric micrometer and microscope options)
  • Water levels
  • Electronic levels
  • FARO laser tracker
  • Renishaw laser interferometer

We have decades of experience within MTR, and we collaborate within the company to expand on current machine tool building methods and implement new ideas to provide our customers with the best practices and technology. Our customers’ success is our success.

Machine Tools Research, Inc.


Collaboration between:

  • Mackenzie Parker – Application Sales Engineer & Employee Owner
  • Andy Hrabko – Mechanical Technician & Employee Owner