National Acme Musical

In December 2004, a stage version of Mary Poppins debuted in London, based on the story’s original books from the ‘30s and the Disney film from 1964 which I and several generations of kids cherished growing up. Some might say producing a live remake of the story is just an easy unoriginal way to make a buck. I say it’s taking a great product that’s become somewhat neglected and making it appreciated again in today’s world. In a way it’s similar to taking a 1960 Acme and refitting it with the accoutrements of 2010 CNC controls.

In September we are going to see some major auctions with dozens of 3/4” RA8, 1 1/4” RB8 and 1 5/8” RBN8 Acmes. These have always been the primo sizes of this genre of multi-spindle screw machines but never have so many poured into an already saturated marketplace. These machines from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are still perfect for high-volume automotive work, but in an 8-10 million unit market downshift, the supply chain is soggy with capacity. This could change quickly if we reach 11 million in 2010 and 12 million in 2011, which may happen with a rejuvenated GM.
I would not be surprised if the Acme rebuilders like Champion, Doverspike, Detroit Automatic and Jem begin to see a significant bump later this year. The beefy Acme design, now 60 years old, is still viable because spare parts are readily available from the Detroit dealers. Companies like Sieb & Meyer produce sophisticated controls which turn the rebuilt National Acmes into serious hybrids, much cheaper than new European machines.
Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke as the happy chimney sweep was a Disney classic. The old movie converts beautifully to a stage musical. Still, an old chimney is probably much easier to clean than a 40-year-old Acme out of Saginaw Steering.

Question: Would you buy an Acme converted to a CNC? Why or why not?

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One thought on “National Acme Musical

  1. Ben Guthrie

    We own and operate 70 or so screw machines in our captive shop. They are Acme, Davenport and B & S. We’ve purchased 9 complete rebuilds in the last 4 years, two of which are CNC conversions. Key Machine did a 1-5/8RB8 with (2) 2-axis slides, direct drive speed control. We’ve used it for turning, drilling and threading a variety of long medium-alloy steel parts. Their Acme rebuild is great; the CNC operator interface and signal paths have had some failures, but the conversion concept is solid. AMT Machine Systems and NNT did a rebuild and Servocam turret slide conversion on a #2 Ultramatic / Lipe barfeeder combo, and it’s brilliant. We have to carefully consider our potential need for multiple 2nd-end operations, or for 3rd-axis live tool work, when we invest like this.


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