CNCs for aluminum panel work

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devinw1
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CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:22 pm

I like the idea of making aluminum panel PROTOTYPES (Not trying to go into production) Any recommendations? I bought a little cheapie 3018 router from Amazon and it works oooookay for soft stuff but pretty unsuitable for aluminum.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by cloudscapes » Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:33 pm

Shapeko are well regarded, though I haven't used them.
https://shop.carbide3d.com/collections/ ... 4088580157
Spendy though.

The cheap CNCs that are everywhere on amazon/aliexpress/etc with the hobby grade motors are not worth your time for metals.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by jochem » Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:07 am

You could build you own cnc mill, using a motor/controller kit and aluminium extrusion profiles for the frame. Or get a local welder to make the frame.
I sometimes use a laser cutting service, where you can upload a drawing and have it the object shipped. The cost is very exceptable.
For reference you could check out their site: www.247tailorsteel.com/en.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:32 am

cloudscapes wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:33 pm
Shapeko are well regarded, though I haven't used them.
https://shop.carbide3d.com/collections/ ... 4088580157
Spendy though.

The cheap CNCs that are everywhere on amazon/aliexpress/etc with the hobby grade motors are not worth your time for metals.
Yeah the Shapekos have come up on my radar a lot too. They look pretty good. The smaller one (which is more than big enough to do a variety of synth format panels) is about $1200 which isnt really horrible i suppose.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:34 am

jochem wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:07 am
You could build you own cnc mill, using a motor/controller kit and aluminium extrusion profiles for the frame. Or get a local welder to make the frame.
I sometimes use a laser cutting service, where you can upload a drawing and have it the object shipped. The cost is very exceptable.
For reference you could check out their site: www.247tailorsteel.com/en.
Hehe..yeah. being a trained mechanical engineer by trade, the thought has crossed my mind certainly, but on the other hand I don't want this to become an epic saga of a project that ends up costing more than just buying something decent. On the other hand, I don't want to waste money and time on machines that don't do what I need. Definitely a lot to think about.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by julian » Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:24 am

I would imagine you could get some sort of results with most machines?

You pay for accuracy and speed, and, realistically, to get either of those at "professional" levels you need to spend the sort of money that you then need to recoup by going commercial, but for hobby use, a cheap machine with a skilled operator (which you would grow into) would probably still produce results.

But...

For personal use there are probably cheaper and simpler paths to the same goal. A cheap machine, with time and skill, will, in sure produce hobby level parts, but then a drill press and some blanks would also. It's if you enjoy the journey, or just want the goal.

I got into CNC about two decades ago as I could never get the factory looking finish I wanted using the methods availible to me at the time. My costing spiralled out of control (things were a lot less availible back then) so was forced to start trading to recoup financially.

One thing leads to another and I now have things like this knocking about....
17097352_10154282016536512_6588614338785691219_o.jpg

It just depends how far you want to go. A drill press and some blanks will do the same as a very cheap machine bit with less effort and expense, but (depending on your position) less interest also!
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For stocked euro / buchla / midibox see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?post_type=product

For custom cnc engraved panels see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?page_id=21

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:47 am

search for
MPCNC DIY. you will need a 3D printer to build parts for the CNC. but don't worry you can get a kit for $200 so you can build the 3D printer.
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by revtor » Thu Jun 25, 2020 7:43 am

These days there are a lot of options in terms of parts and specs for a CNC router.

For synth panel size up to rack panels you could get an aluminum CnC frame kit, a stepper motor kit (motors, driver, power supply), and a decent spindle motor kit for under a grand. May have to wait a month for parts to ship from China.
Lots of us suppliers for parts kits etc.

Cutting aluminum clean is more about a decent spindle and correct speeds, feeds and tooling. For small bits needed to do precise work (panel lettering etc, the spindle becomes more important. The smaller bits reward higher spindle speeds and less runout (wobble) will give you finer cuts. Fortunately, smaller bits don’t necessitate as much machine rigidity, so the aluminum frame kits will work fine, and are fun to build really nice and add a few fun mods along the way.
You’d then do some test runs on scrap material based on manufacturer specs. Tweak to determine actual settings where your machine cuts best.

You were probably set for software since you have been using a smaller machine already


Have fun. I built mine in 07 and it’s been rurinning well ever since.
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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:19 am

To be fair, I did actually finish a whole panel with the little SainSmart machine I got. It actually didn't look bad, but the problem is dimensionally it is pretty awful. Standard module height is 128.5mm and my part came out 129.4. Almost 1mm off! It's like the whole part is scaled about 7% in height and 5% in width. Very weird. I'm wondering if the cutting forces were making it skip steps or something.

I have been reading a lot about using different bits and adjusting the speeds/feeds. Apparently single flute router bits made for aluminum work pretty well on little router machines because they clear chips very well.

Overall, I just feel like there is a pretty low ceiling with any machine with acme lead screws and plastic blocks holding the linear guides (as in my SainSmart machine). I've done a lot of manual machining on Bridgeports and such in the past and also some real CNC stuff and have learned that RIGIDITY IS HUGE. The fact that I can push on, and deflect the Z head on my machine by quite a bit with my hand is not comforting :-/. Of course, you gotta pay for rigidity usually in dollars and weight!

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:25 am

julian wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:24 am
One thing leads to another and I now have things like this knocking about....

17097352_10154282016536512_6588614338785691219_o.jpg
LOL. Yeah, the wife is DEFINITELY gonna notice if I haul something like that into my shop! :hmm: :hihi:

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by jimfowler » Thu Jun 25, 2020 2:04 pm

https://millrightcnc.com/product/millri ... it-bundle/

I bought and built this but have had to make a number of modifications to get what I want out of it.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by julian » Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:24 pm

devinw1 wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:19 am
-Of course, you gotta pay for rigidity usually in dollars and weight!
And weight is an oddity with moving parts, as the heavier the object, the greater the inertia, and the shallower your acceleration / deceleration curves need to be for any given drive unit.

But...

The whole regidity thing, whilst to be considered, won't make a whole load of difference when you're pushing a 2mm cutter through a job. You could have the whole thing made of a lump of cast iron, but your weak link will be that 2mm of brittle tungsten spinning at the end. You're never going to be able to put enough force on that to bend much of the machine.

You can't have things flopping about, but build it too heavy, just thinking it will be "better" and you've added so much mass / inertia that your acceleration curves are poor and you can't even get that weak link of a cutter into position any time soon.
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For stocked euro / buchla / midibox see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?post_type=product

For custom cnc engraved panels see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?page_id=21

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:10 am

julian wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:24 pm
devinw1 wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:19 am
-Of course, you gotta pay for rigidity usually in dollars and weight!
And weight is an oddity with moving parts, as the heavier the object, the greater the inertia, and the shallower your acceleration / deceleration curves need to be for any given drive unit.

But...

The whole regidity thing, whilst to be considered, won't make a whole load of difference when you're pushing a 2mm cutter through a job. You could have the whole thing made of a lump of cast iron, but your weak link will be that 2mm of brittle tungsten spinning at the end. You're never going to be able to put enough force on that to bend much of the machine.

You can't have things flopping about, but build it too heavy, just thinking it will be "better" and you've added so much mass / inertia that your acceleration curves are poor and you can't even get that weak link of a cutter into position any time soon.
Right, but ususally CNC makers take care of the rigidity aspect by making castings which do end up weighing a bunch.You also get the advantage of mass damping and lowering the frequency of modal vibrations.

Agree that the weak link is a little tool, but I disagree that a small tool (say your 2mm example) couldn't provide enough force to vibrate a light, crappy and loose milling head. Especially axially. This could be enough of a deflection to cause the tool to jump a little and then BOINK it snaps off. You definitely need a highly rigid setup with low backlash to use those little single point high speed engraving tools (in metal anyway).

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by revtor » Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:21 am

Rigid and tight yes. But at this scale, rigid and tight doesn’t have to be massive and heavy.

If you go through a build, post the updates here!!

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by jimfowler » Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:36 pm

also: I use and like Fusion 360. It's either free or really cheap depending on what you need.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:43 pm

Just get a bench model drill press. A real drill press. Add an X-Y table to it if you think you must. But honestly, a center punch, combination square, brass mallet, and some layout skills will get you VERY VERY far.
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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by DSC » Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:25 pm

If you will spring to get the CNC machine, then you might want to project going the whole way.
I mean if you start cutting up some fancy smancy panels then you will want to finish them by powdercoating
them and screen printing them too!
Little gif of my process.

Image

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by nateflanigan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:46 am

Wow, DSC so you do all that in house?

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by DSC » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:36 am

nateflanigan wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:46 am
Wow, DSC so you do all that in house?
Yes. Sometimes all you need to do is blast the original panel and powdercoat and screenprint it.
Like this e370 panel. I didn't like the original metalphoto panel.

Image

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by julian » Sat Jun 27, 2020 2:18 pm

DSC wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:36 am
I didn't like the original metalphoto panel.
That's interesting, as, often, traditional print is "looked down on" and metal photo is considered the pinnacle of panel marking.

Its curious that you bothered to go from one to the other.
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For stocked euro / buchla / midibox see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?post_type=product

For custom cnc engraved panels see - http://thebeast.co.uk/?page_id=21

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by DSC » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:45 pm

julian wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 2:18 pm

That's interesting, as, often, traditional print is "looked down on" and metal photo is considered the pinnacle of panel marking.

Its curious that you bothered to go from one to the other.
I really wanted it to match everything else :tu:

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by KSS » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:22 am

julian wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 2:18 pm
That's interesting, as, often, traditional print is "looked down on" and metal photo is considered the pinnacle of panel marking.

Its curious that you bothered to go from one to the other.
Not at all hard to understand. Metalphoto has its downside. It's the pinnacle for durability. Readability in some lighting is an entirely different thing. The lack of physically raised elements -or depressed as with engraving- and the sealed flat 'honeycomb' cellular nature of the anodic layer conspire to make metalphoto sometimes quite hard to read.

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by revtor » Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:37 am

“Cellular” nature of aluminum? I’m thinking of my metalphoto panels and those markings are as crisp as can be. I’d think a silkscreen to be more “cellular”

Awesome setup DSC!
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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by devinw1 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:10 pm

DSC, that's awesome. What machine are you cutting with?

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Re: CNCs for aluminum panel work

Post by DSC » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:31 pm

devinw1 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:10 pm
DSC, that's awesome. What machine are you cutting with?
Warning! Large post!!!!

I have two CNC Routers.
A large one and a small one.

Why would you need two? Why not just get a big one?

Tolerances!

My large machine is DIY and the tolerances are +/- .060" over a 48" x 46" bed.
This is fine for larger pieces, but not great for smaller eurorack panels.
That being said, I did not build this machine for eurorack panels! I wanted to be able to fabricate all sorts of ideas. The large machine has a 7" throat. Which basically allows you just over 3" in actual material thickness, allowing for a 3" bit in the router.


Here is an example of a small project that illustrates how all the equipment works in unison.
A little portable eurorack cable holder.

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The base and steel poles are from Ikea. (Their torchiere lamp)

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First you need to think about the design and the material you plan to use.

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Once you have your .dxf, you can move onto creating G-code to drip feed into your CNC router. Here you can make speed changes as well as determine how you plan to layout your material for optimum usage.

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These were made using standard 5052 .060 aluminum sheet. I can cut thicker gauge aluminum, but I don’t cut aluminum sheet any thicker than .125 inches. Any thicker, you should use an actual mill, IMHO.

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Using the Mach 3 control program allows easy setup of your CNC machines. I use a 25 pin switch box to switch between the large and small CNC routers.

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After cutting I glass bead blast the whole surface. This prepares the surface for powder coat and helps to remove any rough edges, that can potentially ruin the powdercoat finish.

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After the first round of blasting is done I move to the manual press brake and ‘brake’ the edges.

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After running the holder through another round of media blasting it’s off to powder coating. I modified a standard oven rack so I could fit this into a standard oven and it also allows me to rotate the part so I can evenly apply the powder. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Final QC check and ready to ship!

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You can create your own custom projects using all sorts of media, from aluminum and poly-carbonates, to exotic hardwoods and phenolics!
Here are a few more that I made with this larger CNC router.

I took a very broken Korg MS-10 and made this super mono eurosynth.

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Working on my own version of the MN bus. Mine goes vertical and there is a small cable connecting both sides. They can be run together or separately as the main jacks are normalled.

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Special ventilation notches were cut into both the top and bottom for ventilation. Sometimes at gigs with all of the lights these boxes seem to heat up quick, so I had to do something about that. 2 - 4Amp power supplies are built in so no ugly wall warts. The power supplies are located right next to the vents.

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20lbs dry weight. 38 - 40lbs filled with modules. Heavy, but still portable. One inch solid aluminum rod for the handle gives confidence when carrying this around.

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Large heavy duty cowhide leather bag has room for ALL cables. You would not need to carry a separate bag for cables. This was another must have.

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I will put together more info on the smaller CNC in a little bit, but I thought I would start with the larger one to show the benefits of having a larger machine. If you can justify the budget, GO FOR IT!!!!

And for those interested in more details about screenprinting, read through this entire thread! I post pics of my process.
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=110091&hilit=screenprinting

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