Cutting Shapes Out Of Sheet Metal?
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    Default Cutting Shapes Out Of Sheet Metal?

    Hi all,
    New to the forums here hoping to get a little advice. I make jewellery and looking for a more efficient way to cut shapes out of sheet metal. I'm using pancake dies and disc cutters right now but I'm very limited to the shapes I can make and the amount of time and labour that goes into punching shapes out by hand is wearing a bit thin. I've been looking at videos online of laser cutters and similar equipment in action and something like that looks like it would be ideal. I don't mind making a substantial investment but I don't see the majority of these machines being practical for use in the home. I've looked at smaller hobbyist level units but they seem to be designed for use with plastics, paper etc. and not metal. Can anyone make any suggestions to a unit that is capable of cutting metal while still being practical for home use? Or any other suggestions for cutting shapes out of sheet metal would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cadefoster84 View Post
    Hi all,
    New to the forums here hoping to get a little advice. I make jewellery and looking for a more efficient way to cut shapes out of sheet metal. I'm using pancake dies and disc cutters right now but I'm very limited to the shapes I can make and the amount of time and labour that goes into punching shapes out by hand is wearing a bit thin. I've been looking at videos online of laser cutters and similar equipment in action and something like that looks like it would be ideal. I don't mind making a substantial investment but I don't see the majority of these machines being practical for use in the home. I've looked at smaller hobbyist level units but they seem to be designed for use with plastics, paper etc. and not metal. Can anyone make any suggestions to a unit that is capable of cutting metal while still being practical for home use? Or any other suggestions for cutting shapes out of sheet metal would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    you'll need to draw whatever you want on CAD first for any method you've listed.

    Are you ready/capable to doo this ?

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    Water jet would be a better bet. In general, its slower than laser so more expensive, but that wouldn't matter for small jewelry items. Its advantage, while the same accuracy, is there no HAZ (heat affected zone) and it can cut just about any material. Most outsource laser or waterjet cutting, having a machine is a large capital investment. It only makes sense if your production is high enough to keep it busy ...otherwise I'd start calling around.

    What's a substantial investment, hundreds of thousands? What volume do you do? A challenge will if its just the odd little part now and again no one will be that interested.

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    A small cnc mill with a vacuum bed would work and be a minimal footprint.

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    A quick Google search for a personal waterjet came up with Omax ($24000) and Wazer ($7500). Omax has a good reputation. I've never heard of Wazer. If you buy one, be aware that operating costs are high because of consumables and maintenance.

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    What types of metal and what thickness are you looking to cut?

    I own two smaller laser cutting machines, one has a 4'x 4' bed and the other is a welder that is a 2' x 2' table. The smaller is also made in a cutting machine version as well.. it's roughly 4' front to back and 6' wide and 6' tall and runs on about 30 amps of 240v single phase AC.

    The fiber laser is what you generally need for laser cutting metal. And that can be expensive.

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    Thanks for all the replies so far. I'm liking the idea of a small cnc mill over a larger much more expensive laser cutter. I cut mostly aluminum, max .080 thick, and copper and brass .050 thick. how well do you think and cnc mill would fair with that type of material?

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    It is not up to the mill, it will be up to your clamping devices and jigs that matters

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcoehlo View Post
    A quick Google search for a personal waterjet came up with Omax ($24000) and Wazer ($7500). Omax has a good reputation. I've never heard of Wazer. If you buy one, be aware that operating costs are high because of consumables and maintenance.
    FWIW,
    I got a quote for a waterjet cut part from Alro recently. It was a 3/8" thick piece roughly 2" x 6" cut from A-36 HR plate. They wanted $26.00 EACH! We have had them cut similar parts on a laser for around $5.00 each.

    There's a reason they charge more.......

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    The Omax Protomax (the personal waterject mentioned above) may be a good option. PM member Kustomizer has one and uses it for what looks like jewelry work. See his posts in this thread OMAX -PROTOMAX Personal Waterjet

    I would lean away from the milling machine unless you have someone who is familiar with running them. I think the learning curve for setting them up and programming them is higher than for other machines. I have worked with several non-machining people who had machining needs, and they just had me come up with the tooling and programs for their machines. This works if you make the same thing a bunch, but if you're doing lots of different things, you want something you can program yourself

    For example, for a luthier I work with, I did the setup and programming to rough out some violin bodies. He has a written set of instructions he can follow, and he gets a good part out of it. The upside for him is that he doesn't have to learn machining, the downside is if he wants to make a new violin, he can't program it himself. When a customer wanted a copy of Guarneri's Cannon (Paganini's violin), I scanned the outline from Guarneri's catalogue raisonne and programmed the mill to make it.

    Also, if you're not already using CAD/CAM for your designs, the 2D cutout programs (for laser/plasma/waterjet) tend to be easier to use and some are designed to be easy to use for artists.

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    Thanks for all the great suggestions, i'm learning a lot. I'm just starting to learn about different machining methods, I honestly had no idea how much some of this equipment costs. Since I would be using this at a hobbyist level, I would like to keep the price to around $5000 if possible. I was just doing a little more research and came across this milling machine, it's designed for pcb circuit boards but I don't see why it shouldn't work to cut out basic shapes. I realize I would have to brush up on my cad skills however.

    Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine Advanced Bundle — Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine

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    Quote Originally Posted by cadefoster84 View Post
    Thanks for all the great suggestions, i'm learning a lot. I'm just starting to learn about different machining methods, I honestly had no idea how much some of this equipment costs. Since I would be using this at a hobbyist level, I would like to keep the price to around $5000 if possible. I was just doing a little more research and came across this milling machine, it's designed for pcb circuit boards but I don't see why it shouldn't work to cut out basic shapes. I realize I would have to brush up on my cad skills however.

    Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine Advanced Bundle — Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine
    I would suggest you doing the hard part of drawing the artwork, and then sending it out for waterjet/laser

    BTW if your gonna go with the benchtop mill, you need to slide over to cnc-zone dot com (need to fix, as linky not allowed)

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    I just discovered and used these folks for a couple of projects: Laser-cut metal parts Shipped Fast | Instant Quotes

    VERY pleased with their prices, quality and delivery. You provide the CAD files.

    Mike

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    [QUOTE=DanielG;3519529]The Omax Protomax (the personal waterject mentioned above) may be a good option. PM member Kustomizer has one and uses it for what looks like jewelry work. See his posts in this thread OMAX -PROTOMAX Personal Waterjet

    I bought mine to cut mirror glass for automotive aftermarket mirrors and it is great for that. I have made a few jewelry type things just for fun and it will cut profile shapes out of just about any material like the necklace charm I made from Abalone and stainless steel small parts often land in the bottom of the tank and are hard to fins even though I am 6'8" with ape arms I am clear to my armpits to find them.
    img_4321.jpg
    I like a VMC for jewelry type things and typically use a simple flat fixture with a frame screwed down over the top of my material to hold it in place while I work on it then simply cut all but about .0005 in depth when I cut the profile. Now this is as I ass-u-me you are making small quantities.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dsc_0100.jpg  

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    Just to throw the process there for consideration, maybe look into a wire edm. If your parts are smallish one could work well. They have very high accuracy, exert no pressure at all on the part as it's cut and can do very intricate shapes. I've never used one, but did support one where I worked. Setting one up to cut a part is similar to plasma, laser, water jet as it's just a 2d operation. They are slow though and new quite a bit more than your target of 5 grand. But there are used machines out there, some small enough to fit in a corner out of the way. And under that budget of 5 grand.

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    One thing to be aware of is that you can't cut brass with a laser.

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    Really? Cut mirror finish copper like butter with 1000 watt fiber laser. Why would brass be different? Cut with nitrogen too.
    Real issue with cutting small parts is tabbing them or onion skinning. You need them to stay connected to the skeleton. Tabbing works with water jet or laser, onion skin with mill process. Still need to finish off tabs or skin.
    Your budget is a mill process and a small vac chuck would work maybe. Double stick tape can work really well, so can embedding onto a spoil plate with hard wax. Speeds and feeds will get you there. Down cut spiral cutters will be your friend. Complete the part and a bit of heat gun to free the completed part.

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    The jewelry people I have met that have fiber laser cutting capability say they check out their programs on brass first before they move to gold, platinum or silver. They told me that brass is a little cheaper place to make a mistake. The fiber laser systems they use are not your general purpose 4' x 8' sheet metal shop variety.


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