Recommendations: CNC machine for very precise plastic work - Page 2
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  1. #21
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    You may want to look into a machine made to mill graphite electrodes. They are fast, and since high speed hard milling has put a lot of edm sinkers out of work, there may be plenty of good ones for sale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DethloffMfg View Post
    It would make no sense for me to have done this just for money alone, but I could no longer deal with my parts that ‘will be done in 2 weeks’ taking 7-8 weeks to complete and to be coming in the door out of spec. There are time, space and money requirements to own a machine.
    This is very much the crux of the matter that folks often do not understand. The ability to go from idea to finished part in a few hours is an absolute game-changer. It gets even better when you already have the setup and tools and CAD/CAM file sitting right there and can make an unlimited number of tweaks in a few hours to dial stuff in perfectly.

    Folks like to just point to ProtoMold and say "Doing that 10x a month is way cheaper than owning a CNC!" and they are flat out wrong because once you have the ability in-house, you won't be doing 10 prototypes a month, you'll actually be doing 50-100. No, you won't be doing 50-100 different parts, but you'll run through 10-15 iterations on every part you want to make until it is significantly evolved from that CAD model you would have first fired off to ProtoMold. You wind up with way higher overall quality, component fit, and general aesthetic sensibility.

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  4. #23
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    I machine tons of prototype plastic parts (and prototypes of other molded, forged, extruded, vacuformed, stamped, formed...). You are going to run into many features that are very difficult to machine, but easy to mold. Get used to it. Get very comfortable with exotic surfacing, but keep in mind if it take multi-axis machining, it is probably going to take multi-axis tooling in production (slides etc).

    I haven't drank the Brother Kool-Aid... been tempted a time or two, but the Haas machining centers have done me fine. I have four of them that run protos and short run production. There are much better machines out there, but if I were you, I would buy a simple 3 axis Haas Mini-Mill for ~$30k. You don't need much of a machine, and a simple 3 axis with a tool changer will be plenty sufficient for what you are doing. When you are done, you can sell it for about $30k. Sure 6k spindle is a limitation, and the feeds and speeds are doggy, but they sure are a great value proposition.

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    What are these parts? Can you show us a picture or drawing or tell us what they are? How many sides need machining? Any weird features? Any true 5-axis craziness? Are they super simple? Lots of holes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DethloffMfg View Post
    What are these parts? Can you show us a picture or drawing or tell us what they are? How many sides need machining? Any weird features? Any true 5-axis craziness? Are they super simple? Lots of holes?
    He could show you but then he'd have to kill you! Top secret and all...

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    Any CNC is going to cut it, just make sure you have sharp tools.

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    I don't see the machine needed here as nearly as important as the cleverness and experience of the machinist. Based on the OP's experience level he might do well to farm his parts out.

    We did quite a number of smallish plastic prototypes where initial volumes didn't justify injection molds. With some parts we used a combination of machining and fabricating (if gluable materials by putting together assemblies that would have required 5 axis to build from solids). I didn't have 3D printing then, now if the material is printable complicated contours can be printed and the close tolerance areas machined after printing.

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  11. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by DethloffMfg View Post
    What are these parts? Can you show us a picture or drawing or tell us what they are? How many sides need machining? Any weird features? Any true 5-axis craziness? Are they super simple? Lots of holes?
    They're cases for small wearable gizmos and scientific instruments. Imagine something like the plastic parts that form the case of a Fitbit or a Voyager headset and you'd have it. I'll post a few examples if folks are interested but in general - thin curved walls, good surface finish on the outside, a few ribs / alignment pins / screw bosses for components on the inside. I'll post a couple of examples if folks are interested.

    Re: 5 axis - I don't think there's much of that; there are a couple of places where I'd need an undercut, but mostly the shape can be machined straightforwardly on 3axis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkoenig View Post
    Put simply; a Brother Speedio punches well above its price class in regards to machine accuracy, repeatability, speed, and reliability. This is the reason so many of us on here have them.
    Thanks - good advice!

    Would you recommend older Brother machines? I did a quick look-see and used Speedios are hard to find and still pretty expensive; but tons of older machines from TC-221, TC22A to TC-S2A/B/C/D.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkoenig View Post
    The ability to go from idea to finished part in a few hours is an absolute game-changer. It gets even better when you already have the setup and tools and CAD/CAM file sitting right there and can make an unlimited number of tweaks in a few hours to dial stuff in perfectly.

    Folks like to just point to ProtoMold and say "Doing that 10x a month is way cheaper than owning a CNC!" and they are flat out wrong because once you have the ability in-house, you won't be doing 10 prototypes a month, you'll actually be doing 50-100. No, you won't be doing 50-100 different parts, but you'll run through 10-15 iterations on every part you want to make until it is significantly evolved from that CAD model you would have first fired off to ProtoMold. You wind up with way higher overall quality, component fit, and general aesthetic sensibility.
    Exactly this! That's pretty much what I was thinking, just couldn't explain it as well.

    I do have 3D printing (not very useful for parts with features this small); I also have a few good shops next door that do precise 3D printing and machining for prototypes. It's not the same as having it in house though; the speed and ability to iterate would be fantastic.

    For example: been working on a design since Jan that I want to send off to Protomold - still not ready, because I'm trying to get it really close in CAD before I get a mold. If I had something like this, I'd have made dozens of iterations as actual physical parts, and done both fit/assembly tests and mechanical tests on them...

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    Look into resin printing. I've had parts made on a Form 2 through 3DHubs that came out great with two day turn around. Features down to .015".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_I View Post
    Thanks - good advice!

    Would you recommend older Brother machines? I did a quick look-see and used Speedios are hard to find and still pretty expensive; but tons of older machines from TC-221, TC22A to TC-S2A/B/C/D.
    The older Brothers are excellent machines if you can find them. C/D are more desirable since they are newer and have the later control, but you most likely wouldn't have issues with an A/B either. If you are going to be surfacing, you'll just want to make sure you have external drip feeding capability (which might be and issue on the A). There are workarounds from what I've read, but it just depends on how much leg work you want to do. Ideally, probably worth paying a bit more for a machine that can hit the ground running and do what you want. They are mechanically very similar to the new Speedios and in parts from 10-100, it probably won't matter a huge amount (compared to the money saved). But it would be a trade off between having a new machine/warranty/etc. But you can still easily get parts for them from Yamazen.

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  17. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_I View Post
    Would you recommend older Brother machines? I did a quick look-see and used Speedios are hard to find and still pretty expensive; but tons of older machines from TC-221, TC22A to TC-S2A/B/C/D.
    I couldn't tell you the first thing about older Brothers. I barely know how to turn on a Speedio!

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkoenig View Post
    I couldn't tell you the first thing about older Brothers. I barely know how to turn on a Speedio!
    Might help to take that cover off the power switch

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    You spend a lot of time and $ to find out plastic can easily be machined to tenths or less. Today. But part may be a different size tomorrow depending on which way the wind blows. Temp and humidity. Or drilling a hole with the wrong helix angle drill makes the hole oversize. WTF? Depending on feed rate. Slow it down to watch and hole is on spec. Part science, part Voo Doo.


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