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Thread: What CNC machine would work best?

  1. #1

    What CNC machine would work best?

    I use 6061 and 6063 aluminum 24" x 24" sheets, 4" x 48" flats, and 1" x 1" x 1/8" channels 12" in length; no wood.

    I currently use a bandsaw because it's cheap and relatively easy. I dislike the bandsaw because of the tool marks it leaves behind, the inconsistency of myself feeding material through (crooked cuts), and the time it takes for my manual labor.

    I am cutting simple plates from the sheets and flats then drilling 1/4" holes through the plates. I would like a machine that's all-in-one. Right now I take the aluminum, trace my patterns with a Sharpie, run them through the bandsaw, run each plate against a vertical sanding belt to remove burrs, center punch the holes for the drill press to find, then manually drill each hole with a bench top press from Craftsman.

    Many, many steps involved that I want to simplify as far as time it takes from start to finish, as well as improve the appearance of tool marks and straight cuts.

    In my college days, I took one machine shop class where I learned basic G-code. I have since lost all knowledge of it, but from what I remember, it wasn't difficult.

    I work out of my garage, so size is somewhat an issue. I work with 24" x 24" sheets because that's the biggest size I can use/hold on my table top bandsaw. I could go bigger if I had a machine that could handle it.

    I'm looking to spend anywhere between $3-$8,000 if I can eliminate many of the above steps/processes.

    I'm very new to this, so any feedback is appreciated.

    I'm located on the out skirts of Cleveland, Ohio.

    Thanks,
    Bryan

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    For cutting aluminum

    There is a fellow over at CAMheads.org User ID Unabiker. He cuts aluminum all day long and into the night. He could probably help you out with the specs that you would need based on what you want to do. He has a website unabiker.com as well. You can probably just email him through there.

    Guy
    Thinking outside the box is one thing, being able to accomplish what you think of, is another.

    Software Rhino 3.0 & 4.0, Corel 12, Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, Parts Wizard, Visual Mill 5.0 & 6.0, Rhino CAM/Art, Claytools, Microsoft Word, Notepad.
    Access to Hardware CAMaster 510 ATC w/4th Axis 8' Lathe, Kitako 10 Spindle CNC 4th Axis Carving Machine, Polhemus FastScan and LDI Surveyor 3500 Laser Scanners, Sensable Haptics.

  3. #3

    CNC machine work best?

    Bryan and Guy,

    Would a water jet type cutter work better than a CNC machine for this? Not sure what the cost would be but........... just a thought.

    By the way Guy, really like your "sign off" salutation about thinking outside the box and being able to accomplish same. Where did you get that?

    Dave Garcia
    The Wood Block, Ltd

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Garcia View Post
    Bryan and Guy,

    Would a water jet type cutter work better than a CNC machine for this? Not sure what the cost would be but........... just a thought.

    By the way Guy, really like your "sign off" salutation about thinking outside the box and being able to accomplish same. Where did you get that?

    Dave Garcia
    The Wood Block, Ltd
    It came about as sarcasm toward another person and is now directed at anyone that stands around and says things like "We need to be thinking outside the box."

    The original person was always going on with power quotes like that. One day he claimed to be a genius when it came to thinking outside of the box because of a great idea that he had. When I asked him how he was going to implement his idea, he did not have an answer.
    After about 2 minutes of silence, I looked at him and said,
    "Thinking outside the box is one thing, being able to accomplish what you think of, is another... " and with that, I turned my back and walked away from him. The other employees around us busted out laughing.

    Tact has never been something that I have had much luck in. My mother tried to teach me tact, I have read about, I seen it being used by other people. I have even tried it once or twice, but alas, it never caught on! (A similar statement was made by a fellow named Will on Big Brother. He was referring to compassion.) Big Brother fans of the CBS show may remember.

    Anyhow... I dropped the expletive when I started using it for my signature on the CNC forums that I am on when someone questioned my original signature of,

    "Keep American Woodworking Strong, Boycott Chinese Imports." I am sure if I kept using that one, the Chinese Government would try to blame me for their current economic woes, so I ditched it and changed it to my current form of sarcasm.

    The rest is history.

    As for water jet. I know it would work, but I think in this fellows case, it would be cost prohibitive.

    A good CNC that has 2 spindles, one for cutting and one for drilling will do the trick for him. Should be able to find a good used one on eBay or something like that. I do not cut aluminum enough to know what exactly is needed, so I figured that Unabiker would be the best help for this question.

    Guy
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 09-11-2010 at 10:51 PM.
    Thinking outside the box is one thing, being able to accomplish what you think of, is another.

    Software Rhino 3.0 & 4.0, Corel 12, Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, Parts Wizard, Visual Mill 5.0 & 6.0, Rhino CAM/Art, Claytools, Microsoft Word, Notepad.
    Access to Hardware CAMaster 510 ATC w/4th Axis 8' Lathe, Kitako 10 Spindle CNC 4th Axis Carving Machine, Polhemus FastScan and LDI Surveyor 3500 Laser Scanners, Sensable Haptics.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mathews View Post
    "Thinking outside the box is one thing, being able to accomplish what you think of, is another... "
    Guy
    the second part also need think-out-of-the-box solution.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 09-11-2010 at 10:51 PM.

  6. #6

    Outside the box......

    Guy,

    Very "interesting" explanation. Thanks.

    Regardless of the supposed sarcasm, I still like the statement! Makes perfectly good sense to this pea sized brain!

    And totally agree with your take on the water jet for this particular project.

    Dave Garcia
    The Wood Block, Ltd

  7. #7
    To you guys who recommend a waterjet, do you have any particular company in mind?

    And while I may not work with wood, if I did get a CNC router, I'm sure my brother-in-law would use it with wood whenever he could.

    Wouldn't a waterjet limit the use of the machine to this regard?

  8. #8
    watterjets do not want to pocket real well, yet i have heard of some tellented granite people with them, they also cost $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ over a cnc

    here are the machines that were used at our aspire meeting this weekend, any of them would do this job with out fail

    jim
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    Hi James,

    I saw your other replies to my thread on CAMheads, thanks.

    From a financial standpoint and without knowing a lot, I'm guessing a waterjet would cost too much as well as take up more room than necessary.

    According to Joey, CAMaster's smallest table is 28" x 40" for $8500. Not only is the price on the high side for what I'd like to spend, but I just think it's too much machine for what I really need.

    Anyone know of any upcoming tradeshows exhibiting CNC's? Being from Cleveland, OH, I'd travel out to Chicago/Pittsburgh to catch a show.

    Bryan

  10. #10
    well thanks for looking!! these fellows (CAMaster) have been first class with all my cnc endevors so i am a bit partial to em, there certainly are no flies on the value of the machines. good luck in your search and keep us posted!! actually we had an aspire software users group meeting in my shop this weekend, the range of machines was from joes cnc machines to muliticams and biesse's wit quite a few camasters and shopbots in between. you can accomplish some pretty good results with some pretty small machines and yet you can make some difficult to correct mistakers with the wrong cnc purchase as well, with all i had in front of me when i was new at this (software and learning curve) the last thing i wanted was to worry about the machine, i also saw the camheads post and joeys quote was lower for the machine he offered. that machine is in my shop and will be put back on the floor at mann tool today it is one heck of a small industrial machine at that price

    thanks for looking!! these fellows (CAMaster) have been first class with all my cnc endevors so i am a bit partial to em, there certainly are no flies on the value of the machines. good luck in your search and keep us posted!!

    jim
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by james mcgrew; 10-05-2009 at 8:40 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Location
    Southern California and China
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    look at CNCZone

    Hi, look at what is being done on the CNCZone with bolt-together tables made from 8020 aluminum extrusions. With a Gecko G540 electronics kit you could build a table for the low end of your cost range. Since you would want two spindles, that is the real issue in your design. I'm not sure woodworking routers would process aluminum well on a production basis. One of your spindles would be a drill (maybe). Since this is for a special purpose, maybe you could use plunge cutting endmills of the size needed for your hols to cut your profiles also. Then, no tool changes and no second spindle.

    -James
    Liberty CNC / Sherline / Mach3 / SheetCAM / CorelDraw V12, X3 and X4 / EZ Smart System / DragonCNC / DXFTool

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by James Leonard View Post
    Hi, look at what is being done on the CNCZone with bolt-together tables made from 8020 aluminum extrusions. With a Gecko G540 electronics kit you could build a table for the low end of your cost range. Since you would want two spindles, that is the real issue in your design. I'm not sure woodworking routers would process aluminum well on a production basis. One of your spindles would be a drill (maybe). Since this is for a special purpose, maybe you could use plunge cutting endmills of the size needed for your hols to cut your profiles also. Then, no tool changes and no second spindle.

    -James
    All holes are 1/4" in diameter. Seems as if I use the same tool to cut out plates, there would be a lot of scrap.

    Would it be possible to have one spindle, drill the holes and once they are complete, change tools and go over the sheet cutting out the profiles? That's how I pictured it to work.

    As far as "production basis", I'm not quite there yet. If it saved me considerable time by removing the bandsaw, vertical sanding belt, center punching, and the drill press, I wouldn't need to use the machine on a daily basis. I may use it for an hour or two everyday. The time saved from other manual processes can be spent with my wife...if she read this, she'd love that

    I also don't want to limit myself completely. While I may only use it for aluminum, my brother-in-law may use it for woodworking...I'd at least like to leave that option open.

    Cost certainly is an issue, as with everything else, but I also don't want to fall into the category "You get what you pay for"

  13. #13
    yes my first machine had one spindle and all i had to do was change bits and reset my z0 each time, it is not a difficult process. oh and the wife well i got that one too!!

    jim

  14. I can certainly appreciate the desire for a CNC, but for the tasks described, it is definitely WAY overkill. A few well made jigs will go a long way in producing clean cuts and reducing production time. I just finished making a drill press jig for a buddy to drill 6 holes in 3/8" aluminium and steel. It holds all four pieces of his assembly together so he can drill all the pieces at once and ensure the holes all line up. Whereas before he was having to mark, punch, and drill 12 holes with a cordless drill.

    CNC's are great machines at producing complex shapes or one-off items. They can also be slower and more expensive at automating simpler tasks. I'd be interested in looking at your plans or parts to have a better idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Another option to consider is a hydraulic punch/press and metal shear.

    Rob

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Slaughterbeck View Post
    I can certainly appreciate the desire for a CNC, but for the tasks described, it is definitely WAY overkill. A few well made jigs will go a long way in producing clean cuts and reducing production time. I just finished making a drill press jig for a buddy to drill 6 holes in 3/8" aluminium and steel. It holds all four pieces of his assembly together so he can drill all the pieces at once and ensure the holes all line up. Whereas before he was having to mark, punch, and drill 12 holes with a cordless drill.

    CNC's are great machines at producing complex shapes or one-off items. They can also be slower and more expensive at automating simpler tasks. I'd be interested in looking at your plans or parts to have a better idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Another option to consider is a hydraulic punch/press and metal shear.

    Rob
    I produce approximately 70 different sizes of plates, and the number of different plates grow monthly with the continual addition of new product. Some plates are more popular than others and thus not every 24" x 24" sheet is cut into all the same plates. With my current bandsaw and the size of the sheets, a jig isn't possible.

    A jig would work with the drill press; however, that process is the least of my concerns. The tolerances on the 1/4" diameter holes are large enough for a little variation and being 1/8" thick, it doesn't take much to drill through.

    I began thinking about a CNC because I believe a CNC could possibly eliminate all my current manual labor:
    1. I will no longer have to trace outlines of my plates on the aluminum using a marker.
    2. I will no longer have to hold and balance the aluminum on the small bandsaw table while feeding it through the bandsaw. 80% of the time I'm straight, the other 20% I get a little crooked. Having crooked cuts doesn't ruin the product, but it loses it's visual appeal.
    3. I absolutely hate bandsaw tooth marks.
    4. I will no longer need to de-burr the plates against the sanding belt that the bandsaw created. Some of my plates have a radius so I cut them as best I can on the bandsaw and then use the sanding belt to "round" them out...not always perfect.
    5. I will no longer need to center punch the plates.
    6. I will no longer need to drill the plates with a drill press.

    With a CNC (and my little knowledge of it), I believe I can create the program, load the proper tool and aluminum, and watch it go to town. I would imagine the CNC machine would make the processes quicker, but even if its slightly slower, I'll know plate 1 will be identical to plate 1000 and not look "home made". In addition, while the CNC is doing the work, I can work on other business related tasks, therefore being able to spend more time with my wife in the end.

    Thanks Rob, you definitely made me think about the entire process and I really think this would be good for me. I could always outsource my work, but after awhile, the money I spent on that could have been used to purchase my own machine. Business is picking up, since 2006 business has grown 300% and the only thing holding me back from continually growing is the lack of time I have because I spend most of it on manual labor.

    I will continue to do my research and listen to all the feedback I receive before taking the plunge. I want to make sure I make the right decision the first time around.

    Thanks again,
    Bryan

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