The Unimat System (review)
Unimat Website, Click <here>
The Unimat is a modular system of components which can be arranged to create workshop machinery like a drill press, lathe, jigsaw and much more.You can also configure the components in alternative ways to give you more options when working on pieces.
There is the Basic/Classic system which is suitable for light work. There is also the Metal Line series which is much better in construction (quality) and accuracy. It is also possible to add CNC parts and a controller to make it even more funky however the costs begin to add up. I have a few Metal Line pieces and I'm slowly upgrading each main unit to Metal Line as they do make a big difference.
Costs can be spread out and you can be selective with what bits you get. For what it can do, it beats the cost of buying each style of machine separately.
Instructions are ok, and it's good to keep them handy. The illustrations can really help work out how to configure the pieces.
Features include (Classic box kit):
Drilling/ Milling machine
Over some time I've bought additionally:
ML longitudinal slide
ML Cross slide
Gear milling head
Metal collets Milling table with attachment
Variable speed transformer
12V distributional connection
Precision chuck as well as a ML chuck
The Unimat is small, which is great for miniature modellers like me. It's managed to fit on my desk without problem unlike other machinery where you need dedicated space. This thing is actually portable.
The concept is great, the numerous possibilities for setups is also good. However knowing if things are perfectly 90 degrees and dead centre is often a challenge and can become extremely frustrating. There are ways to help get parts to square up properly and accessories such as stabilizing plates can be added to help reinforce components. Things like set-squares (tri-squares) and digital calipers are good tools to have to help confirm accuracy. The most time consuming part is setting up the Unimat for the job you want to do. But that's the same as with most industrial equipment.
It's not very powerful (it's not industrial equipment) and can have trouble with tough materials. But it still has some pow and handles softer materials well. The Powerdrive motor has more pow than the motor unit that comes with the classic kit. A variable speed transformer is also handy to have so that you can control the speed of the motor unit.
The slides have limited travel, so moving objects along can only go short distances. Trying to work on larger pieces can become difficult.
The joining blocks are adequate but are not the best at securing things together (they're a bit short). It's very easy to over tighten and wear out the screw heads. Over tightening is quite a problem with the Unimat. Parts clamped together can still move about when the Unimat is in use and you won't notice as your attention will be focused on the work piece. Where possible, it's best to use as many fixtures in as many places as you can. Buying extra spare fixtures is handy.
I've been using the Unimat especially for the Cryostasis
project I'm doing.
Caution & care must be taken to avoid injury and damage. This can happen especially as you get to know the Unimat system. I've already damaged parts, some by accident others by simply over-tightening bolts ensuring they're locked together tightly.
Be careful that the power cable for the motor unit is not in the way of the motot's belt. It has a cover you can add, but it covers the gears and belt which makes changing them along with the chuck hassle.
You must concentrate and work in a precise manner.
Here are some pics of the components:
This the joining block. The kit comes with a bunch of these. It also comes with other fixtures such as the screw and small threaded plate. Extras/spares are good to make securing things much better and the screw heads can wear out through usage.
The motor unit. Adding chucks and other bits is pretty straight forward. When unscrewing attachments, hold onto the gear belt to stop it rotating. Try not to tug or put tension on the belt. A stop/lock pin would have been be a good feature to include.
Gear ratios can be achieved by swapping belts and gears around and by using a countershaft unit.
The 3 Jaw chuck is pretty cool. It has a spare set of jaws and the jaws can be flipped round to grasp larger work pieces. The jaws are small, so you need to make sure the work piece is secure before using it.
This is the Tailstop. I damaged this by over tightening the allen screw.
This is the Long Slide. It's best to secure this using 2 joining blocks. I upgraded to the Metal Line slide which is much longer (200mm).
This is the vice. It's a bit annoying that there isn't a split pin or something to hold the handle in place. So to open the jaws, you have to unscrew the bolt and then push it in to slide the jaw open. You can get 2 of these and mirror them to give yourself a wider vice.
This is the smaller Slide. The kit comes with 2 of these and I damaged one. The red handle wore around the split ring which holds it on. I've also glued the nuts at the end as they tend to pop out.
I got a Metal Line version of one of these and it's much better.
These are HSS bits for lathe. The kit comes with 1 general bit (shorter). I bought an additional 5 (longer) which give different styles of cuts.
These are clamps. Used for holding things like HSS bits or work pieces. They're made from plastic which isn't so good as you can see that some of them have started to split from being over tightened.
If you're serious about making small things with some degree of precision, then the Unimat is a great tool. However if you want to roughly get things done then something like a dremel might suit you better. But it's like one of those things that once you get into the practice of using it, you won't want to go back. I would recommend having a budget for the Unimat as getting additional components really do make things easier and allows you to do far more than just with the box kit on its own.
Feel free to ask for any tips & advice especially if you have a Unimat system!