View Full Version : Simple Aluminum Fabrication/Machine Shop

06-04-2012, 06:36 PM
I need to locate a machine shop to fabricate a prototype out of .04 aluminum sheet. I have already bent the metal into the shape I need but need help with 1" square holes and 5mm round holes to be punched out in various locations. I have tried drilling, nibblers, jig saws, etc, but can't get the clean cut I want. Can anyone suggest a shop located in the Chicago, IL area that has reasonable turn around time and cost?


06-04-2012, 07:24 PM
Can't help you directly, but have you considered waterjetting the material and then bending it?

06-05-2012, 01:03 PM
It turns out that punching really square holes is very hard! You're better off if you can accept a small corner radius (1/32" radius?)
At that point, you may be able to route the holes on something like a ShopBot, or mill it on a CNC mill. A water jet can cut it, too, but that sounds like overkill for .04 aluminum sheet (that's really thin!) If you're into overkill, you can also find shops with kilowatt-range laser cutters that can do this.
No matter what, first bending the sheet, and then trying to make holes, is the wrong way around. You absolutely want to first do the holes/cutting, and then bend it.

06-06-2012, 09:47 AM
My main concern is that since this is a low volume operation I am looking at $300+ for most options. I agree that waterjetting would do what I want however the aluminum is already bent. A Shopbot or CNC mill would be ideal but I am looking at $$$ for that option as well.

I found a solution for .04 aluminum sheet cuts with a Dremel and the 1 1/2" Cutoff Wheel Kit at $15. The cutting wheel cuts straight freehand. It takes me about 5 minutes to cut each hole so my problem is solved. Thanks again for all the suggestions.

06-06-2012, 11:15 AM
Sometimes, you just have to write off a failed experiment, and buy new materials. I'm happy for you that it worked out this time!
I also recommend you find a maker space of some sort (fablab, techshop, etc) -- for a monthly membership fee, they usually make available tools like CNC mills, laser cutters, waterjets, etc for DIY.
Btw: $300 sounds quite reasonable for someone to manufacture what you're suggesting. It's not a surprise that it costs money to have other people do work to your specifications ;-)

06-06-2012, 01:18 PM
Check rapidsheetmetal.com

I've worked with them extensively, single quantity prototypes are going to be expensive anywhere you go, but in terms of quality and a shop that specializes in low-quantity prototypes, this place is amazing.

Tell 'em Andrew from Trossen Robotics sent you.

06-06-2012, 05:42 PM
There's a robot on their demo loop on the front page. Is that yours?
Anyway, I'm collecting good references for possible future use, and this seems like one of them. Thanks for sharing!

06-07-2012, 10:20 AM
That would be a previous version of Giger, yes. From v2 on 80% of his frame components were manufactured by them.

They're good people all around, and I can't talk up enough the level of quality they produce.