Cutting fiberglass panels

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vadimred13
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Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by vadimred13 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:32 pm

Pardon my ignorance, but what is your preferred method of cutting fiberglass? I'm trying to DIY a module using a blank panel from Synthrotek and I'm trying to figure out how to cut some slots in the panel. Would a CNC router be the best way of going about it?

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BARD
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by BARD » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:03 pm

By fiberglass you just mean PCB blank panel, right?
CNC would be the best, but it's not so feasible. If you have one, you won't need blank panel ;)

I use hand drill and small file on my prototypes in a hurry as I don't have CNC, but with such low prices I almost always order ready-made panels from PCB prototype factory.

vadimred13
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by vadimred13 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:26 pm

BARD wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:03 pm
By fiberglass you just mean PCB blank panel, right?
I mean blank panels (not PCB), exactly the same Synthrotek ones that I linked. I'm not sure if a file would work (maybe?). I'm trying to cut a vertical slot from top to bottom, about 1/4" width

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EATyourGUITAR
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:42 pm

Dremel cutting wheel. Put it in a vise. Wear a full face mask. Don't breath it in. Also, don't use fiberglass panels for drilling diy. Use metal for your health. I use fiberglass panels when I order them like that with slots done at the factory. Anyone can design PCB panels with free software. It might be easier to learn PCB design. Or do it in front panel designer. Use doepfer blanks. There must be a better way. Try ponoko acrylic.
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soup
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by soup » Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:23 pm

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:42 pm
There must be a better way. Try ponoko acrylic.
:agree:

Fiberglass is crazy toxic, you don't want to cut it yourself. Use a laser cutter at a local maker space (are they even open these days?) Or have ponoko or a similar service cut it for you. Ponoko has been getting a little more expensive for doing one-offs, they now have setup fees etc, but I've had them cut quite a few panels for me which typically cost $10-15 apiece.

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Blairio
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by Blairio » Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:51 pm

soup wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:23 pm
EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:42 pm
There must be a better way. Try ponoko acrylic.
:agree:

Fiberglass is crazy toxic, you don't want to cut it yourself. Use a laser cutter at a local maker space (are they even open these days?) Or have ponoko or a similar service cut it for you. Ponoko has been getting a little more expensive for doing one-offs, they now have setup fees etc, but I've had them cut quite a few panels for me which typically cost $10-15 apiece.
Yup, fibreglass is pretty evil to work with unless you have a proper mask and ventilation.

Dremels are great though. With a bit of patience, you can cut, grind, polish or drill enough for most small projects.

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Flounderguts
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by Flounderguts » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:17 pm

Here's a tip for cutting fiberglass: put masking tape over the cut, both sides. It helps to prevent chipping on the gelcoat surface, and it also helps hold dust down. Packing tape works, too...not as well, but it's easy to see markings through it. Actually, the thinner the tape is, the better it works!

Keep your dremel speeds down, or the friction will start burning the glue matrix in the panel...styrene monomers burning are awful. Dremel has a little stainless saw blade attachment for wood that will do far better than the abrasive disks for this.
dremel disk.jpg
I have found that the oscillating saw multitools work very well for this as well, and are very easy to control. Attaching the panel to a bit of wood wasteboard will help for cutting with either tool. Take your time, cut inside the lines, and use a small fine handfile or a flat bit of wood wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper to slowly come to the line you've drawn.

One of the issues with cutting slots is that part of them is usually exposed (if you're using a fader pot) unlike drilled holes which are cunningly hidden by knobs! It's worth doing it well :guinness:
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vadimred13
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Re: Cutting fiberglass panels

Post by vadimred13 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:43 pm

Awesome, thanks for the suggestions all!

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