Frequently asked questions

General FAQs

Are the mill and lathe controls the same?
Very similar. If you can operate either machine fitted with ProtoTRAK it will only take a few moments to familiarise your self with the other type.

Do you need a CAM system to program ProtoTRAK?
No! However, ProtoTRAK will accept programs created on CAD/CAM for sophisticated 3D jobs.

How are programmes transferred on the Siemens and ProtoTRAK controls?
Although the Siemens control is equipped with a RS232 Port, it also comes with a much superior Ethernet Port. RS232 is now considered old fashioned, slow and not particularly reliable. Programmes can be transferred to and from the ProtoTRAK via a floppy disk, a USB thumb drive or an Ethernet Port.

How do I know XYZ machines are built to a standard I can rely on?
Most of XYZ’s machines come from one supplier with whom we have done business for over 23 years. Our business represents about 90 percent of their production so they have tailored their quality and standards to levels expected by European engineers. Our parent company, Southwestern Industries, and we are actively engaged in the design, specification and quality of the machines imported from Taiwan. All machines are fitted with European bearings, hand scraped to ensure the highest degree of accuracy, ball bar tested and laser calibrated. Our best confirmation of this system is that we have sold over 7500 machines since we introduced them in 1984 and most have been sold as repeat orders and are producing good parts today.

How long will XYZ support me with ProtoTRAK spares?
XYZ carries full spares for every one of the 15,000 ProtoTRAKs ever sold in Europe. We believe our customers bought their ProtoTRAK to enhance their productivity over the full life of the product. And we are committed to support them all the way.

How much extra output can I expect from a mill or lathe fitted with ProtoTRAK?
It depends on the type of work you’re doing. But research from the 7000+ UK users suggests you can double or treble your output, even more on complex parts.

I get a lot of repeat work, can I save my programs so that I don’t have to write them again?
Yes, either on the machine’s floppy disk, flash memory hard drive or on a computer.

Is ProtoTRAK more productive than other CNC controls?
For one-offs and small batch production, the answer is a resounding YES!

Is there enough memory in the Siemens control to run large programmes? How about the ProtoTRAK?
The Siemens 828D control that we use as a standard fit to our machines has 3.7Mb of internal storage for programs, but the control also has a front mounted compact flash card slot which will take cards up to 8Gb capacity. There is also a USB port for taking a USB stick and finally the control has Ethernet connection for connecting by cable or wirelessly to a PC or server. These external storage devices can be used as the primary storage and programs can be written on these media’s directly.

The Siemens 840 Control that we fit to larger and faster machines such as the VMC 1060 HS has an internal flash memory allowing 4Gb of program storage as well as the external devices such as USB port and Ethernet connection.

The ProtoTRAK control that we fit to our mills and lathes have 4 USB slots for program storage.

All the control systems that we fit can run large Cam generated programs from the storage devices that are fitted so even 3D type work can be produced with confidence on XYZ machine Tools.

Why are some other Mini Mills on the market cheaper than yours?
Because they are of lower specification. The Mini Mill 560 has 560mm x 400mm x 500mm travel on X, Y and Z. It has an 8,000 rpm spindle, more power, a 12 station tool changer, heavier weight and a much better and easier to use control. Even though we call it a Mini Mill, it compares very favorably to our competitors’ smaller VMC products.

Why do you only use Siemens controls on your VMC and TC machines?
The Siemens control fits perfectly with the XYZ philosophy of “easy to use” programming systems.  The ProtoTRAK is the easiest to use possible CNC in the market but is tailored to non-production applications.  The Shop Mill and ShopTurn features of the Siemens control apply many of these “easy to use” ideas to machining and turning centers and their production applications.  Transitioning between these controls will be comfortable and natural.  Neither control requires G Code or off-line CAD/CAM programming unless you want them and then they are happy to accommodate your choice.

Our Nationwide team of Service Engineers understand the ProtoTRAK and Siemens Systems, and they are supported by a 9000 square foot stores, offering spares from stock.

Why does XYZ use Box Ways on their VMC range?
Our standard range of VMCs use Induction Hardened Box Ways and Turcite coated anti-friction slide ways.  This design offers the maximum rigidity and vibration absorption – far exceeding what is possible for machines using linear bearing slides.  Machines using these linear slides are fine for light work but subcontract shops and companies who machine a wide variety of materials (from aluminum, to iron, to stainless) need a machine that will perform all their work.  Linear way machines are cheaper to produce and can have faster rapids and acceleration but we think these advantages are far outweighed by the superior cutting performance of box way machines.

We do fit THK high precision linear bearing slides on our 1060 HS machine that is designed for light cutting at high speed – a proper application for this technology.

Why should I pay more for your machine than your competitor’s?
We think that what is important is to help you lower your overall cost. One element of that cost is the price of the machine but it’s not the only one. We believe that the higher level of support and performance that you will receive from XYZ Machine Tools can significantly reduce your overall cost. Just a few ways are:

  • Better and more efficient training from one of our six applications engineers. This means that you are making parts and writing invoices faster.
  • Highly qualified sales engineers who understand your business. This means you get the right machine for your work that produces those invoices.
  • Better and quicker service form one of our eleven service engineers. And quicker part availability from our 9000 square foot stores. This means your machines run more and you write more invoices.
  • Rugged machines (see Q & A on box ways) and industry standard controls that hold their value through the years. This means that when you sell your machine its resale invoice will be higher.
  • The reliability of dealing with a steady, well respected company who has earned its business honestly and through its performance. You may not be writing any invoices if your machine is supported by a weak or Johnny-come-lately company that disappears.

Will I need training to use ProtoTRAK?
Not very much! If you can use a centre lathe or mill fitted with DRO then you should be producing parts confidently within hours.


Technical FAQs

The new Guardmaster Safety Relay (MSR127R) has completely different terminals to the old one (MSR6R/T) fitted to my machine; how do I wire up the new one?
In 2016, we updated the old MSR6R/T, Guardmaster Safety relay with the more modern equivalent MSR127R.  The function of the new safety relay is essentially identical to the old relay, but it has different terminal labels.  To assist you in fitting the new relay, please refer to Technical Bulletin 001, which provides a cross-reference table between the MSR6R/T and MSR127R terminals.  Do not forget the wire link between terminals S52 and S11.


Networking SM Controls: Why can’t I access files and folders on my SM Control from other computers on my network?
The operating system of the SM Control is not configured to allow sharing of files and folders on the Control, across the network. This is to minimise read/write activity on the system disk and so maximise the life of the compact flash.

You can, however, access shared files and folders on other computers from the SM Control. So, this does allow you, for example, to:
• Backup programmes, written on the SM Control, to another computer, or
• Open programmes, in the SM Control, written using the PT4 OFFLINE package on (say) a desktop computer.

What does ProtoTrak Critical Error 9232 or Windows Low Disk Space warning mean?
Critical Error 9232 means there is not enough free disk space on your control pendant to create temporary files used by the ProtoTrak control system. Similarly, the Windows Operating System flags up the Low Disk Space warning because there is less than about 1MB of free disk space.

These errors occur with early SX pendants, which have only 256MB of internal disk space (computer modules 24030-5, revisions B to J). All later revisions have a minimum of 512MB of disk space and so should never see these issues.

You may have such a computer module and never seen these errors until recently. Due to product improvements and enhancements, the latest software is larger than previous versions; leaving less free disk space. So if you have either upgraded software yourself, or purchased a Service Exchange pendant (which has the latest software installed), you may now be seeing these messages.

The Windows message usually appears at boot up. This message can be safely ignored. The ProtoTrak system does not need much free disk space to function correctly. Other than G-Code files (see next section) it only creates small files such as tool tables, configuration files and error logs.

Critical error 9232 is most common when STARTing a programme RUN. When you press START, the control generates a G-CODE file, from the ProtoTrak .PT4 programme, which is used by the motion control system to execute your programme. For complex programmes, this G-Code file can be larger than the disk space left on the early controls. Because the G-Code file could not be created, you may also see the related Critical Error 7207 (no part programme to run).

The solution to this problem is very simple. Although classed as a Critical Error, the error is not due to any fault in the machine; simply that there is not enough disk space.

If you insert a USB memory stick BEFORE starting the programme run, the control automatically writes the G-Code file to the USB stick (in preference to the internal disk drive). Providing the USB stick has at least 1MB of free space, the G-Code file will be created and programme RUN can continue as desired.

Note, if you remove the USB memory stick whilst the programme is running, you will see Critical Error 9231 (IO Error). This is because the motion control system accesses the G-Code file during programme RUN. If the USB stick is removed, the G-Code file is no longer available.

So, if you see Critical Error 9232: plug a USB stick into the control before pressing RUN and leave it there until the RUN is over.

What are the implications of fitting a larger chuck or faceplate to my Proturn lathe? XYZ offer a number of chuck and faceplate options which are larger than the standard chuck fitment.   If you are considering fitting a larger chuck/faceplate, there are a number of important issue to consider.

  1. Installation: The Chuck or faceplate must physically fit onto the machine (probably with the gap removed).  XYZ only sell chucks and faceplates which we know physically fit the machine.
  2. Chuck Guard:  The standard chuck guard will probably have to be removed to fit the larger device.  The lathe must not be used without a chuck guard fitted; so XYZ will sell you a replacement guard suitable for use with the larger chuck/faceplate which must be fitted in place of the original chuck guard.
  3. Max RPM:  Chucks/faceplates larger than the standard fitment may have a maximum permissible speed which is less than the maximum RPM capability of the machine.  Please ensure you enter the chuck/faceplate rated speed into the ProtoTrak control before running the spindle (MAX RPM must be entered on control boot up at CHECK SYSTEM and can also be entered at any time from the DRO menu).  Also, you must further restrict the maximum RPM to take into account any workpiece imbalance.  The maximum permissible speed is stated in the chuck manufacturer’s literature and, for self centring chucks, is also marked on the outside of the chuck.
  4. Spindle Drive:  A larger chuck or faceplate will almost certainly mean a bigger load (inertia) for the spindle to drive.  The standard spindle drive configuration is set up to handle work pieces and chucks as detailed below:
Lathe Max chuck considered “Standard” Max workpiece Size
SLX 1630 250mm See graphs

Remember, for safety reasons, steadies must be used on long lengths!


SLX 355 250mm
SLX 425 400mm
SLX 555 500mm

Maximum work piece size that you regularly machine, should fall below the following curves.  This data is for solid, steel bar at realistic surface speeds.  If your are machining tubes and/or less dense materials, such as aluminium, then the Length/radius constraints can be relaxed.  Please contact XYZ for advice if you have any concerns.

aThese figures apply to turning in Z only, so that the maximum RPM of large (diameter) workpieces is restricted by realistic surface cutting speeds.  When cutting in X (e.g. facing off or faceplate work), the effects of driving the spindle in a Constant Surface Speed mode, may mean there is a need to adapt the spindle drive parameters.

 If you are working with very large workpieces and using CSS, please contact XYZ for advice.


Why does XYZ mandate the vision panels in guards to be replaced after a few years?

All of our guard, vision panels are made from polycarbonate (in some cases, laminated with glass). Polycarbonate is a very tough, transparent material (hence why it is used for the viewing windows in machine guards), but unfortunately, its impact resistance is affected by exposure to cutting fluids. The effect is quite significant; exposure to cutting fluids will reduce the impact resistance of polycarbonate by around 50% in just 3 years (see for example ISO 23125 or HSE Engineering Information Sheet no 33).

Each machine requires a level of impact resistance depending on the type and characteristics (e.g. maximum spindle speed) of the machine. For lathes, the risk is from ejected chuck jaws or from slender workpieces flying into the guards (either at parting off or from uncontrolled breakages) – these are very energetic threats that the guard (including the vision panel ) must deal with. For mills, the risk is from broken tools or workpieces coming out of fixturing.

When new, all the vision panels have a margin over the minimum impact resistance requirement, however at some point in its life, the reduction in strength will render the windows ineffective against the likely impact threats. Before this happens, the vision panel must be replaced. Hence why we must limit the service life of the vision panels and mandate their regular replacement to ensure continued, safe use of the machine.

But what about the glass/polycarbonate laminated windows? How does this affect the life of the panel?

In the case of the laminated vision panels, most of the impact strength is still provided by the polycarbonate; the glass is there for two, main reasons:

  1. To provide a surface, facing the cutting zone, which is more resistant to scratching from swarf (particularly important for VMCs and turning centres), and
  2. To reduce the exposure of the polycarbonate to cutting fluid.

The glass laminate on the inside (and anti-scratch coating on the outside) does reduce exposure to cutting fluids and so does reduce the loss in impact resistance; helping to maintain an adequate level of performance longer. However, it is not possible to guarantee, 100%, that:

  1. The window seal completely eliminates ingress of coolant into contact with the edges of the polycarbonate (this would require a more sophisticated sealing arrangement and pressure testing of the installation).
  2. The antiscratch coating is not compromised possibly allowing coolant to come into contact with the polycarbonate from the outside.

For these reasons, we must assume that exposure to coolant will eventually occur, degradation of the polycarbonate will start and the vison panel will need to be replaced.

So, what is the overall effect of these factors on the life of the vision panels?

Plain polycarbonate vision panels have the shortest life (but are also the lowest cost). This applies to machines such as bed mills, turret mills and 2-OP. These vision panels have a service life of 3 years.

The use of laminated glass/polycarbonate vision panels does increase the service life, but only where the impact resistance requirement is modest, as in the case of the VMCs. So, for machines such as LPM, HD VMC and LR VMC ranges, the service life is 6 years..

For lathes and turning centres, the impact resistance requirement is very demanding and the margin over requirement when new is less than for the VMCs. For this reason, the life of the laminated vision panels on lathes and turning centres is less than for the VMCs. The service life is 3 years.

When you purchase replacement panels for your machines, you will be supplied with a new life sticker with the appropriate replacement date. Please ensure this is attached to the machine or the replacement date noted in your maintenance schedule for the machine.

Please also note the following factors affecting vision panel life:

  • Vision panels should be inspected regularly and replaced if there is any mechanical damage or cracking visible; regardless of the remaining service life.
  • Strong solvents and/or abrasives should not be used to clean the vison panels as this can have a negative effect on the strength (and so life) of the panels. Soap or household detergent in warm water is recommended for general cleaning using clean cloths or sponges only – dry the panels afterwards with a clean cloth. More stubborn marks can be removed with ethyl alcohol or white spirits, used sparingly. Make sure all traces of the solvent are removed after the cleaning is finished.

I have just bought a service exchange pendant/computer module and you have removed the floppy disk drives.  How do I use the programmes stored on my old floppy disk drives?

Floppy disk drives and floppy disks are no longer available from XYZ.   If you have recently purchased a Service Exchange Pendant/Computer Module, then XYZ will have replaced the floppy disk drives with USB emulators.

For PT3 (AGE/MX/LX), the computer module has been fitted with USB floppy emulators in place of the system and programme storage (if applicable) floppy disk drives. 

The system disk emulator is supplied with a USB System Disk.  Do not remove this USB stick or use for any other purpose; leave it in the computer module. 

The programme storage disk emulator is also supplied with a USB disk; containing a number of sample programmes.  You can use this drive to store your own programmes as well.  Should you require additional storage for your programmes, you can purchase as many of these USB drives as you need and swap them over as and when required.   Please order XYZ part number 17040 from our Webshop. 

These USB sticks are specially configured (to 1.44MB) to work with the USB emulators; off-the-shelf USB sticks will not work.  To transfer your existing programmes onto the new USB drive,  insert your old floppy disk and new USB parts programme drive into any Windows desktop/laptop PC and copy over using the normal file copying tools.  If your PC does not have a floppy disk drive, then please purchase an external floppy drive with USB interface (e.g. XYZ part number 245) 

For EDGE, the pendant has been fitted with a USB floppy emulator in place of the combined system/programme storage floppy disk drive.  If you had your own programmes on the old floppy disk, please remove them from the disk and save to a PC before sending the old pendant back to XYZ.  If you have not done this, please contact XYZ and we will attempt to recover the programmes for you.

To put your programmes onto the new USB “Floppy”, follow the instructions for copying programmes to the PT3 programme storage disk.  Be careful not to delete or change any system files on the USB “floppy” drive as it will then not work and you will have to buy a new system USB drive. 

For PT4 (SM/VM/VL), the control pendant has been fitted with a USB floppy emulator in place of the programme storage floppy disk drive. 

The programme storage disk emulator is supplied with a USB disk, which is actually the same USB drive as the programme storage disk for PT3.  Again, should you require additional storage for your programmes, please order XYZ part number 17040 from our WebShop.  Again, follow the instructions for PT3 to copy over any programmes from existing floppy disk drives to the USB programme drive.

Should you wish to reload the ProtoTrak software, please download the software from our website and extract the files onto a spare programme storage USB (you will have to delete the example programmes to free up enough space for the software update).  Insert the USB stick into the programme “floppy” and update using Service codes 316 and 317 as normal. 

For PT5 Pendants originally fitted with a floppy disk drive (SWI part numbers 24000-2 and 24000-4, XYZ part numbers 9257, 9208), the control pendant has been fitted with a USB floppy emulator in place of the programme storage floppy disk drive. 

The programme storage disk emulator is supplied with a USB disk, which is actually the same USB drive as the programme storage disk for PT3.  Again, should you require additional storage for your programmes, please order XYZ part number 17040 from our WebShop.  Again, follow the instructions for PT3 to copy over any programmes from existing floppy disk drives to the USB programme drive. 

You can also copy programmes onto an ordinary USB drive and use one of the two USB ports originally fitted to these pendants.  This has the advantage of more storage than just 1.44MB.  

Should you wish to reload the ProtoTrak software, please download the software from our website and extract the files onto an ordinary USB stick, then follow the instructions on our website.  Do not use the USB floppy to update software – the software is too large to fit on the 1.44MB, USB “floppy disk”.

Can I replace the Floppy disk drives on my old ProtoTRAK control with a USB version?

Yes,  XYZ now offers USB floppy emulators to replace the system disk and/or programme storage drives of the following controls:

MX2                 (Combined System/programme storage disk only)

MX3                 (System disk and programme storage disk)

AGE2/3            (System disk and programme storage disk)

EDGE               (Combined System/programme storage disk only)

VM/VL/SM      (Programme storage disk only)

SMX/SLX          (early controls with programme storage floppy disk drive). 

For MX and AGE controls, it is reasonably straightforward for customers to fit the USB floppy emulators, in place of the original floppy drives, themselves. However, there a couple of problems you may encounter:

  • The connector position on the emulators is slightly different to the original floppy drives, so you may find that the ribbon cable is not long enough to connect between an original floppy drive and a new emulator. For this reason, we strongly recommend you replace both system and programme storage drives together.
  • Some MX2 systems may not boot with the emulators fitted. If you encounter this problem, then you will have no choice but to order a service exchange computer module (which will come with an emulator fitted).  Unfortunately, there is no way to tell in advance if you will have bootup problems, so, we strongly recommend you invest in a service exchange computer module rather than trying to install an emulator yourself.

Alternatively, customers can purchase a service exchange computer module with the USB drives already fitted and tested.  For the other controls, the conversion process requires dismantling the control pendant and XYZ would strongly recommend customers purchase a service exchange pendant.

There is one USB, floppy drive emulator (XYZ part number 17039) which can be used in any control originally fitted with a floppy disk drive. Please ensure the jumper is set correctly:

Also observe how the cables are connected (system drive is at the end of the cable):

There is also only one parts programme USB drive (XYZ part number 17040) which can be used in any control (except MX2 and EDGE).  You can purchase as many of these USB drives as you require to store all of your programmes.  These USB sticks are specially configured (to 1.44MB) to work with the USB emulators; off-the-shelf USB sticks will not work.  To transfer your programmes onto the new programme USB drive, insert your old programme floppy disk (or MX2/EDGE system disk) and the new USB parts programme drive into any Windows desktop/laptop PC and copy over using the normal file copying tools.  If your PC does not have a floppy disk drive, then please purchase an external floppy drive with USB interface (e.g. XYZ part number 245). 

If copying your programmes onto a new MX2/EDGE combined system/programme disk, be careful not to delete or change any system files on the USB “floppy” drive as it will then not work and you will have to buy a new USB System disk. 

There are a number of different System USB disks; and the correct one must be purchased to match the control type.  Please search on our Webshop for the following part numbers:

  • LX2 System Disk:         17019
  • LX3 System Disk:         17020
  • MX2 System Disk:       17021
  • MX3 System Disk:       17022
  • AGE2 System Disk:      17023
  • AGE3 System Disk:      17024
  • EDGE System Disk:      17025

How do I work out the energy usage of my XYZ Machine?

We are often asked about the energy usage of our machines.  This information may be required by a power supply company or when applying for certain grants.   The exact energy usage depends on the type of the machine (especially the size), how often and how hard you work the machine.  But a reasonable estimate can be had as follows:


  1. Find out the full load current rating of the machine in amps (this can be found on the machine rating plate).  We always quote current per phase.  Let’s call this “FLA”
  2. All our machines are 415V, 3 -phase and so the equivalent, maximum power consumption (in kW) is approximately:

3.The machines will rarely, if ever, draw maximum power and certainly not for any appreciable period of time (which will impact the energy consumption).  For typical machining of regular engineering materials it is safe to assume that the average, continuous power consumption is 30 to 40 per cent of the maximum power; let’s say 35%.  So typical power consumption is approximately (simplifying √3 x 415/1000 to 0.72):

4. Also, machines do not spend all their time cutting.  Some of the time the machine is idle.  By idle we mean the machine is being used for any operation which does not involve significant spindle and axes running, such as programming, job setup, tool loading, or is simply sitting idle.  Idle power consumption varies from machine to machine.  Manual machines may be less than 100Watts (0.1kW); a large CNC machine as much as 1kW.  If you want a compromise value, use 0.5kW; if you want to overestimate power consumption (or have a large machine) use 1kW.

5. Now, power is energy used per unit of time, so to convert from power consumption to energy used we need to know how long the machine is cutting and how long it is idle.  You should use values that reflect the type of machine you have and the way you use it.  If you don’t yet know this, we would suggest the following for an 8 hour shift:

a. Toolroom (ProtoTrak) machines: 4 hours cutting, 4 hours idle.

b. Machining/Turning Centres:        6 hours cutting, 2 hours idle.

6. With this information, we can estimate the energy usage as follows:

7. Then, the total Energy Consumption is given by:

Let’s do an example based on the following assumption:

  • Machine: RMX3500 (FLA = 22A)
  • Idle power consumption = 0.5kW
  • Usage: 4 hours cutting, 4 hours idle (per 8 hour shift).

Q. Do you have any information about mist extraction or other ways of handling the health risks from coolant?

A. There are real risks to the machine operator’s health from exposure to coolant (metal Working Fluids) so it is important to understand and manage the risks carefully.  This subject is quite involved for an FAQ, so we have produced a separate information sheet which you can download here


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