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DIY CNC milling/labelling of steel panels
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY  
Author DIY CNC milling/labelling of steel panels

aladan

(I am repurposing this thread for updates to my steel panel CNC attempts - please refer to the updates below starting around October 2012...)


Original text:

I recently picked up a small, cheap CNC machine (30cm x 40cm gantry, $1150) and today I hooked it up and started getting it going. The first test I ran (to learn the software) was to strap a felt-tipped pen onto the head and use it to draw on a piece of paper, which left me wondering if it would be possible to use that same technique to simply draw labels and markings onto a panel in the same way, using a paint pen. I found some paint pens online that look like they're almost small enough (0.8mm) and that claim to be "permanent". I also found some that aren't paint-based but are smaller still at 0.5mm.

Has anyone tried this? Is 0.8mm going to be fine enough for text and lines?


webb

Haven't tried it but it's doable. Planning on doing your own pcbs? If so you will never go back to anything else.


aladan

webb wrote:
Haven't tried it but it's doable. Planning on doing your own pcbs? If so you will never go back to anything else.


Definitely - and thanks go to marvkaye for the encouragement. I was hesitant about spending the money on a CNC machine at first, but knowing someone else had been successful (with the same model) convinced me It's peanut butter jelly time!

OT: Is there an export option on PCB layout software packages that produces the files with the milling instructions automatically, as opposed to the normal ones that you send off to PCB houses with the resist pattern? I presume so but I'm a newbie to PCB layout software - haven't even got one yet. The last time I did a PCB layout was pre-internet and there was a dalo pen involved woah


Willzyx

Thats a gerat idea!

I think I have seen this be used before - http://www.sharpie.com/enUS/Pages/oil-based-paint-marker.aspx


mOBiTh

which cnc did you buy?

the roland ones look interesting


Moog$FooL$

i'd like to hear more & see more about this.
thanx for the thread.
please keep us posted on your progress.

thumbs up


meatcliff

you could use fiber tip plotter pens and then (since i believe they're mostly or all water based) laminate or put a clear coat on the panel to protect it.
http://www.westnc.com/hp-plotter-pens.html#fiber

or if you can easily mount a full sized pen, use a metal specific dye marker like the dykem dye pens... http://www.supplyhero.com/Industrial-Marking-Pens.1339.1.htm

although if youre getting into this level of machining, you could just have the machine engrave the text then either fill it with the oil stick method a few people here like, or coat the panel with something like dykem dye and then buff it off the frontpanel, leaving the engraved parts dyed... i did this with an old stainless ruler i was cleaning up and wanted to make the engravings more legible.


webb

aladan wrote:

OT: Is there an export option on PCB layout software packages that produces the files with the milling instructions automatically, as opposed to the normal ones that you send off to PCB houses with the resist pattern? I presume so but I'm a newbie to PCB layout software - haven't even got one yet. The last time I did a PCB layout was pre-internet and there was a dalo pen involved woah


Depends on what you plan on using for making your pcbs. If you are using Eagle I can write up a basic how-to on producing gcode. My setup I can mill the boards and drill them too! Mostly I don't bother drilling I just let my milling bit tap the holes so I could revisit it later with the dremel.

I also created a method of using front panel designer to do a panel layout and through a series of steps produce gcode that you can use to mill the panels.


aladan

Update: thank you everyone for your helpful comments and suggestions.

I obtained a suitable-looking 0.7mm felt-tipped pen which uses ink rather than paint, but apparently the ink is the same stuff used in graffiti spray cans. It's a little wide for thin panel markings, but acceptable if you're not fussy. However it doesn't write well on my panels which have a pitted painted surface because (being ink) it runs into the pits.



A reasonable number of people have expressed an interest in hearing how the CNC machine goes, particularly for PCB and panel production; I might hi-jack this thread for that purpose.

Cheers,
A.


aladan

I am now milling 1mm steel panels at 6mm/sec 20,000RPM with a 1.8mm carbide end mill. I've done about half a dozen panels with varying degrees of success (problems always due to operator error.)

I am gradually pushing the feed rate a little faster as I go to see where the limit is. I think I should be able to safely get to 8mm/sec or maybe even 10mm/sec, but we'll see.

Here's a short video:



And some pictures:







Cheers,
A.


revtor

Use the CNC to peck drill the centers of the panel holes. Use a 1/16 or 2mm or so drill bit. Then drill them out using a drill press and a step-drill bit. It will save you about 4 hours per panel. And the huge headache.

The CNC is for the engraving!! of the panels and the PCB's. And is definitely for drilling all of the PCB holes!!! One of my favorites is using silver anodized alum and engraving the text and then using alum blackening fluid to make the legends black.. works great. easy fast.

Vectric makes some of the best jack of all trades CAM software out there. $$$, but really good.

My US suppliers:
precisebits.com bitsbits.com johnson plastics for stock. Have fun!!!

~Steve


EATyourGUITAR

why not just make a DIY CNC 2 axis drill press instead of a mill? its only 3 different drill sizes. as long as you can find a way to change bits without moving the product or the carriage, you should be able to do it right?


wallyp

Try getting some coolant on there. It will make your bits last longer (a lot!) and give you a better finish. Even compressor air can help keep it cool(er).

What control software are you using? Check Mach out if you havent already. Massive forum of like minded people.


bpcmusic

I've decided to give this a whirl. I'm 3D printing the parts for this thing as I write this:

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:724999

Total expected cost should be around $400.

It is going to take me a little while to get it all together, but I will post details of my successes and failures here.

Thanks for inspiring me with this thread!

b


aladan

Hey guys,
I've long-since given up on this (milling steel panels on a low-end consumer machine) - far too low on the effort-for-reward ratio. Aluminium all the way!
But happy to see others persisting thumbs up
Cheers,
A.


diablojoy

so are you milling aluminium panels ?


wallyp

Must.pay.more.attention.to.post.dates.


revtor

re-wiring my CNC this weekend..

Remember gents, regarding synth panels: CNC for engraving, drill press for making holes!

for PCB's the CNC is great.

I am thinking of upgrading my trim router spindle to a true brushless spindle& VFD combo. Would take not noise level down 900000% and have 1/4 the runout. For about $100 more. Worth it in my book!

Don't even think of using a dremel as a spindle.

~Steve

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