To all of the teams out there especially the new ones and ones that don’t have access to CNC equipment or to precision milling equipment. Your propblem can be answered with this resource, and some money…
These guys take a 2D cad file and the material you send them, set it on a waterjet cutting table with accuracy of at least .005" and cut your parts out and ship them back in incredible time all for a fair price. For fair I mean it is probably less than machining time. Battlebots have started using them like crazy partly because the waterject easily cuts materials like titanium and steel. I like them because they can cut very accurate parts very quickly and get them back to you.
So this year, if you want a gearbox but you are not confident in your machining use this resource
WaterJet cutting is available in most major cities these days. Check out a local machine shop directory, or even the phone book. I drive right past a place that does it on my way home from work.
Be sure to explain your project to whoever you take your work to. First, you might get a “cut” rate. (yes that was deliberate)
Second,you might pick up a new sponsor or better yet mentor. As I recall that’s how Team 60 and Laron Engineering got together. It is also kind of how we picked up J & F Machine as a sponsor, except we got together before the season started, not while we were trying to build a bot.
Now is not too soon to be making this sort of contact. Talk to them now so they know who you are later. Find out what file formats they can work with and learn how to create them. IGES is probably the primary one they use, but they might be able to read Inventor or ACAD models directly. It wouldn’t hurt to do a practice file transfer now so you are not struggling with stupid stuff like that during crunch time.
If it turns out you don’t need their services this year, what have you lost? If nothing else, you’ve done a little PR and learned about a new technology. But you may have gained a new sponsor or at least a friend.
This also applies to other technology such as EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining), a handy way to make custom gears and sprockets.
If there is a Machine Shop or Job Shop show in your area, be sure and have someone from you team attend and talk to local suppliers and get information on them. I do, even if it is deep in the off-season.