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Unread 05-10-2017, 01:21 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by mwhitaker View Post
Has anyone checked the "Wazer" desk top water jet?
It would make enough parts, of questionable quality, for one FRC robot if you had about a year to let it run.

It's completely worthless for FRC purposes. Unless you want a real expensive paperweight.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 01:27 PM
Andy A. Andy A. is offline
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by mwhitaker View Post
Has anyone used the Tomach?...that was the one I initially looked at
I own/operate a 1100 with Jamesch95. It's a great machine for what it costs, and scratches a couple feature itches for small businesses and schools.

For FRC use it's really important you understand the limitations of a small bed mill. The largest probably being the 18" of X travel. Making 'robot length' parts like side plates would be a very frustrating experience. The 9" of Y travel tends to be less of an issue. Also, you do pay a fair amount for 'upgrade' features like a power drawbar, tool changer, 4th axis, enclosure etc. The TTS holders are very inexpensive relative to VMC tool holders, and a great value for what they do, but it's still expensive coming from the world of just buying a set of r8 collets every decade.

In the positive, the machines are of very high quality. The Pathpilot control software and associated hardware is very well designed, user friendly and less quirky then the previous options. The motion control is stepper based, which is slower then servos and susceptible to lost motion, but adjusting gibs and accommodating for that is straight forward. Service and support is supposedly top notch but I've never had to rely on it over the past 6 years; the machine has been rock solid.

Would the 1100 be a good fit for a CNC based classroom? Absolutely. It's a great low cost, low risk, low overhead introduction to CNC millwork.

Would it be a good fit for an FRC team? Sort of. It's perfectly suited to making gearbox plates and other tight tolerance low volume jobs. Large sheet metal and extrusion based parts are more difficult.

If you've got the money/space, and the goal is making robots, I'd probably opt for a CNC router first. If that's taken care then an 1100 is a pretty safe next step.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 01:34 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by Andy A. View Post
I'll push back on this one. 95 leans very heavily on a plasma cutter, using to to make the majority of our sheet metal components in .100 and .050" aluminium. With the correct consumables, torch settings and speeds it produces 'good' cuts with no warping and requires just a few touches with a file to clean off the dross.

So CNC plasma can absolutely produce high quality aluminum parts in very little time and for (relatively) low cost. I suspect your table isn't a great example of the type, and that's maybe colored your opinion of all plasma tables negatively, which is a bummer. It's a neat tool.
A CNC plasma cutter definitely can work for FRC but when better options like CNC routers and mills are available for less than the cost of a plasma cutter it's just not worth the fuss. It also requires a bunch of additional pricey equipment to run (high CFM air compressor, fume extraction) in an average FRC environment.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 01:39 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

Seconded on the Tormach, I personally have a 770. It's a great machine for what it does at the price point. I looked pretty hard at used VMCs, but was worried about the weight on my 4" slab garage floor, and getting over my head in terms of repairs. The machine certainly has limitations, but was able to knock out some nice parts for our team.

Our workhorse though is the CNC Router, and I forsee it being the case for at least the next 3-4 years. So much so that I'm planning to get/make a 2nd router this fall. Looking forward to seeing Devin's thoughts on CNC routers and contributing to that discussion. My inclination was to go with a 4x4 pro series from CNC Router parts and upgrade to the Nema 34 electronics, but I'm interested to see what other folks like. It took a bit of TLC, a spindle upgrade, and hand feeding coolant to get our 4x8 pro with nema 23s cutting 5052 Al well... but we are able to cut at ~40IPM in 2 passes for 0.08" stock, which makes parts pretty quickly. We can also put a 3/16 jobber length drill bit in it, and have it make all of our rivet holes as well. The single biggest reason I'd vote CNC Router/Gantry over plasma though is just the ability to do work in Lexan... it really changed our robot designs.

Sure, it won't do "full 3D" in the same way a traditional CNC mill will, but we also just choose not to design around parts we can't make You can build a lot out of 2D parts and standoffs, or bent 2D sheet.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 01:58 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by Cory View Post
It would make enough parts, of questionable quality, for one FRC robot if you had about a year to let it run.
Cory, can you comment on the value of your CO2 laser cutter? Your 2016 design binder suggested it was useful in prototyping, but I'm having a hard time prioritizing something that can only cut < 1/4" plywood, and therefore has very little chance of making competition robot parts. OTOH, maybe I haven't opened my mind sufficiently to the possibilities.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 02:12 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by mman1506 View Post
A CNC plasma cutter definitely can work for FRC but when better options like CNC routers and mills are available for less than the cost of a plasma cutter it's just not worth the fuss. It also requires a bunch of additional pricey equipment to run (high CFM air compressor, fume extraction) in an average FRC environment.
Not sure what CNC plasma cutters you're looking at...

My experience has been that for a given build quality and work area that CNC plasma cutters are only slightly more expensive than CNC routers, the principle difference being the cost of the torch and power supply, minus the cost of the router spindle. Otherwise the machines are nearly identical (my CNC router is a converted CNC plasma table).

The required compressor for an appropriately sized torch is <$500 from Home Depot. Our PowerMax 85 power supply needs <7SCFM @ <90psi, nothing exotic. Then you have shop air and can get all sort of fun tools!

Fume extraction is important, but you'll need something similar with a router to collect chips. At the end of the day it's another <$1k overhead sort of installation that many shops have already, or can use for multiple pieces of equipment.

Plasma compared to Router:

Pro:
Super fast
Cut all conductive materials easily
Essentially no damage from crashing a head (torch disconnects with magnets, consumables don't take damage)
No cutting forces, so no material hold-down required

Con:
Worse accuracy (.008 vs .002 or .003)
Can't cut non-conductive material
Small kerf/dross to clean up

They're different, but one is not intrinsically better than the other.

But did I mention that plasma cutters were REALLY fast?! Even our moderately okay table does a nice job.

Cutting 1/4in 6061T6 @ 100IPM
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Unread 05-10-2017, 02:15 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by nuclearnerd View Post
Cory, can you comment on the value of your CO2 laser cutter? Your 2016 design binder suggested it was useful in prototyping, but I'm having a hard time prioritizing something that can only cut < 1/4" plywood, and therefore has very little chance of making competition robot parts. OTOH, maybe I haven't opened my mind sufficiently to the possibilities.
We got a significantly better (120W) CO2 laser this season. It will cut 3/4" plywood no problem. We cut 1/4" delrin and ABS all the time in one pass with great edge quality (have cut up to 1/2"). We also cut polycarbonate, up to 1/4", though the edge quality is garbage on clear polycarbonate of any thickness (smoked is pretty good edge quality 1/8" and under). Polycarb creates really nasty fumes which you must do a good job of exhausting or you will be in trouble.

It's basically invaluable. Makes prototyping a breeze, a ton of finished parts on the robot were cut with it, and we used it to cut a ton of field parts/jigs for welding field parts.

We don't know what we'd do without it at this point, though it has been a large investment and while it was presented to us as straightforward, fume extraction has been a nightmare for us so far.
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Last edited by Cory : 05-10-2017 at 02:21 PM.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 02:38 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by Cory View Post
It's basically invaluable. Makes prototyping a breeze, a ton of finished parts on the robot were cut with it, and we used it to cut a ton of field parts/jigs for welding field parts.

We don't know what we'd do without it at this point
I'll second this. We have had a laser for a long time (just got a new one) and it's incredibly useful. I would encourage you to buy one with a larger cutting area though. I definitely think it's worth the investment to be able to cut larger pieces.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 03:06 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by Thayer McCollum View Post
I'll second this. We have had a laser for a long time (just got a new one) and it's incredibly useful. I would encourage you to buy one with a larger cutting area though. I definitely think it's worth the investment to be able to cut larger pieces.
Ours is 49"x28" and we wish it was bigger.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 03:25 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by nuclearnerd View Post
OTOH, maybe I haven't opened my mind sufficiently to the possibilities.
Delrin. Sheet delrin is a material that doesn't see a lot of use in FRC because if all you have are traditional cutting tools, lexan or aluminum are almost always better and more robust choices. But as soon as the option of laser cutting is presented, and the unmatched speed and ease in which you can go from CAD to finished parts with effectively no CAM work in between, delrin begins to become a huge, huge part of your robots. We've done gearbox plates, spacers, bearing blocks, gussets, low-stress gearing, shooter hoods, cams, skid plates, and so much more from laser cut delrin. You have to understand the material's limitations, but with good engineering, there's nothing that matches it in speed from CAD->effective robot parts.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 03:34 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

We got a Velox CNC Router this year around week 4 of build season and it has been a very useful asset. We realized we needed to basically rebuild our drive train after HVR and we were able to machine 6 drive plates in ~9 hours over the course of 2 days.

Those were (6) 1/4" thick robot drive plates and it took us about 60 min in machining time per plate, with bearing holes, webbing, and ~50 rivet holes. We were hitting about 24 IPM with 0.1" pass depth in 6061. Definitely worth the $$$.

Something that worked out really well for us was using it to cut the sheet metal for our gear funnel, which we then bent on a cheap $80 Grizzly 'brake'. We produced ~8 of these over the course of the season with relative ease.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 04:27 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by troy_dietz View Post
A bit of a warning about the newest Makerbot from personal experience and what others have noted: they're not the best option for the price. Even with the new redesigned extruder, there are still jamming issues that require human input to correct. If you start a 12 hour print to go overnight, you might be greeted by just 20% of a part the next day.
Without a heated bed, you're limited to just PLA. (PETG might be possibly if you're lucky) There's also the whole "completely closed sourced with no user serviceable parts" thing, but that's a different issue entirely.

The previous generations of Replicators are excellent machines and I wouldn't hesitate purchasing one at a good price.

As noted, Stratasys machines are excellent, albeit a bit pricey. Of all the printers mentioned here, they will probably last the longest.

Edit: +1 for MarkForged. The consumables are very expensive compared to other FDM machines, but they practically invented printing with continuous composite materials.
I don't know about the newest Replicator+ printer, but I used a Replicator 2 5th gen for 4 years on my team, and it only ever worked good for the 1st year.

After that season, it was constantly jamming, having alignment errors, and even restarted a couple of times for an "update" in the middle of a print.
We went through 5 extruder modules, and it still can't even finish a shim.

/rant

Though I must say, the TAZ 4 I used always made quality prints, and it was easy to repair when something broke.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 04:49 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by FRCForever View Post
I don't know about the newest Replicator+ printer, but I used a Replicator 2 5th gen for 4 years on my team, and it only ever worked good for the 1st year.

After that season, it was constantly jamming, having alignment errors, and even restarted a couple of times for an "update" in the middle of a print.
We went through 5 extruder modules, and it still can't even finish a shim.

/rant

Though I must say, the TAZ 4 I used always made quality prints, and it was easy to repair when something broke.
We borrowed a MakerBot from our school last season. Every single print it jammed over and over and over. We had to watch it. We put a sticker on it that said "I need an adult."
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Unread 05-10-2017, 04:51 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by Cory View Post
Ours is 49"x28" and we wish it was bigger.
Holy crap that's HUGE! It's over 3x the cutting area of ours (18"x 24").
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Unread 05-10-2017, 05:05 PM
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Re: Recommendations for CNC shop equipment wish list?

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Originally Posted by RoboChair View Post
Look forward to a new thread by me all about CNC routers for FRC sometime between tonight and tomorrow night. It's going to be a very large wall of text.
Yes! Hopefully some of the reasoning there might persuade our school's shop director to let us cut metal on the new one we're getting next year. Right now it's a firm no regardless of machine (looking at Shopbot or Velox).
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