View Full Version : [Question(s)] Solidworks Robot Design : Now want to Get the Parts Cut - Manufactured

12-06-2013, 01:16 PM
Hello Everyone!

I have designed a few 3D parts in Solidworks. I want to get the designed fabricated on Aluminium. So I am looking for some good pointers to CNC Machine or where I could get the parts . I do not want to build CNC machine as I want to focus mostly on Design and Manufacturing of the Parts.

Any comments or suggestions on the Manufacturing of the parts would be helpful. My total budget for the CNC machine is around $1000.

Thank You

12-07-2013, 02:50 PM
By CNC machine, do you mean a mill, a lathe, a water jet cutter, a sheet metal punch, or what? Let's assume you mean a mill, which is the most common kind of CNC parts-making machine.

If a usable CNC mill could be made or purchased for $1,000, that would be a fantastic thing for the world! Home manufacturing would take a giant step forward.
As it is, the forces and tolerances required for cutting metal into parts require somewhat more costly equipment than that. One of the better small-and-cheap options I know of are getting a "mini mill" and then doing a "CNC conversion." The rigidity may not be great, but it'll perhaps work OK for smaller parts in aluminum which don't need hundredths-of-a-millimeter tolerance. eBay is another good place to look, but this kind of equipment doesn't actually lose a lot in value, because it has to be built very rigidly and thus lasts for a long while, and the freight charges of thousand-pound machines (like a Bridgeport knee mill) are typically significant.

The mini mills from China go for $600 and up (check places like Harbor Freight for the cheap stuff) although you will then need tables, workholding, cutting bits, and the aforementioned CNC conversion. Real CNC cutting also uses flood cooling, which is a pump, nozzle, and tank system. (Many mini mills may not be made for funneling flood coolant back to a reservoir; check this ahead of time!)
A small, complete CNC mill might be the CNC mill from LittleMachineShop: http://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=3501&category=1387807683
Finally, a mini mill is "mini" -- if the dimension of your parts are larger than a few inches, you may not be able to physically make it.

But it doesn't stop there! The mini mills, and most affordable "real" mills, are not set up to do other than recti-linear cuts in a single work-holding orientation. Thus, if your parts have curved sections, you will need some kind of attachment to allow for that. For a simple circular cut-out, a circular table can be used (several hundred just by itself, if it's manual); for a 4D or even 5D mill you will pay $20k or up.

This is of course assuming you know how to effectively use a mill and do work holding. If you also need to learn how to do that, you'll have to add some costs for the stuff you break until you're at the point where you can use it well.

You say nothing about the size, thickness, complexity, or load requirements of your parts. Without knowing more, I don't know exactly what to recommend, but I'd suggest looking into the following options:

- If engineering plastic would be OK, rather than aluminum, then export to STL files and let Shapeways print them.
- If the parts are sheet metal and/or cut out of flat stock, and you can do your own bending and tapping, then try a water jet cutter place like Big Blue Saw.
- If the parts really require aluminum, and are not just flat/sheet metal, then find a machine shop that is willing to make them for you, and get a cost estimate from them. You might want to check more than one, and you might need to go off-shore (which means harder to communicate and longer wait times.)
- If you have to do it yourself, then find a workshop that rents time on existing machines, and gives classes, and take the necessary classes to learn metalworking/machining and CNC. That's the path I took -- took me 6 months to get to the point where at least I don't break my tooling on a normal day, and my parts come out the way I draw them. The workshop I go to ( http://www.techshop.ws ) also has a nice medium-size 4D CNC mill: http://www.tormach.com/product_pcnc_1100.html


03-18-2014, 01:27 PM
Awesome! Thank you for your reply. I am looking to get Thin Aluminium Sheets to Be Cut. I have been looking for ways to build own Milling Machine.

I really appreciate your long reply and in depth information. I really mean it.

Thank you

03-20-2014, 03:43 PM
Glad you're making progress! With two years of experience, yesterday I got my zero wrong, hit the vise jaw, and blew my 1/2 inch end mill... It's a fun hobby. I can see why it takes 10 years of every-day attention to become a master machinist! :-)

03-21-2014, 02:20 AM
You might like the shapeoko2. As for plating there are also these aluminuim flat panels pressed together with wood. They come in a lot of colors.

The aluminium panels are called "Sandwich Panel": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandwich_panel
The shapeoko 2 CNC mill: https://www.inventables.com/technologies/desktop-cnc-mill-kit-shapeoko-2

*Edit, url links.