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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Secret Weapon Revealed Part II: The Machine

So here are the basic list of features. See the slideshow at the bottom of this post for closeups of the machine.

  • maximum 4 feet by 4 feet cutting area (larger can be cut with a bit of cutting file trickery)
  • high speed lead screws give linear motion up to 300 inches per minute
  • hardened steel bearings ride on rails of steel angle stock
  • spindle is a Porter Cable 7518 3.25 hp variable speed router
  • stepper motors that drive the lead screws are of the high torque variety
  • Gecko G540 motor controller running at 48VDC.
  • a Dell Inspiron laptop (inherited) drives the table using Mach3 software
  • the table has mechanical (rail clamp system from Rockler) as well as vacuum hold down (made from PVC pipe, ultra light mdf and a shop vac)
  • a special dust shoe (made by the machine itself), clamped to the router, around the cutting bit   connected to a 4 inch dust collection hose sucks up the chips and dust during cutting (note, the dust collection system was already in place for a couple years)
  • The router and vacuum table are switched by software.

Since the machine has been up and running, it has played some role in pretty much every boat construction project since. Whether it is cutting parts, templates jigs, etc. Some samples are

  • Shop cabinets. All pieces, shelf holes, hinge holes, doors were cut with the machine. This was the first project where I got to know the ins and outs. The cabinets did not come out perfect, but I learned a lot about calibrating the machine and using different style bits.
  • Dive tank and propane tank locker. The upper and lower pieces of the tank assemblies, cut from Coosa board, where cut using the machine. This made the building of the assemblies quite easy.
  • Templates and jigs. The machine was used to cut plywood jigs to help spot and cut the openings in the deck of the boat for the dive tanks, propane tanks and cockpit coaming compartments.
  • Anchor bow roller assemblies were mocked up with pieces cut from plywood. All cut from the original CAD designs of course.
  • Deck hardware backing plates, cut from 1/4" aluminum plate. This machine can cut it, albeit VERY SLOWLY.
  • General cutting operations. Like when you need to cut that odd size hole where you have no appropriate hole saw
This machine is certainly not "production quality", it can't be run 24/7, lead screws need frequent lubrication and bearings need to be tightened often. But for the price and for this boat project, it is a perfect fit.

Next, Secret Weapon Revealed Part III: Reality and Building the Boat

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