Does anyone know any good sources in the US to purchase CNC Router vacuum tables? We are looking for something around the size of 24"x24" / 24"x36" and under $1000.
We have a Camaster made in Georgia. Don’t know the price, can’t confirm every part is US, but a very good vacuum CNC router table.
Cammasters are north of $10 grand without a vacuum table. Worth the investment if you can afford it. I would be surprised if you can find a vacuum table in your price range. The vacuum pump alone is expensive. I would be happy to be wrong.
I see, we will look into some other options. Thank for the help!
Also, not asked but for others stumbling upon this thread: A Vacuum table holds things down, but there are limitations: You almost always must make a template of holes and grooves to match what you’re machining (because leaks mean poor hold-down): It’s not like a vise that can hold most anything in just a few seconds. And, difficult cuts like aluminum need exceptional holding power, which is not a strength of a vacuum table. Bottom line: Do your research.
Assuming that you are using a spoilboard over the vacuum plenum, it’s pretty easy to use screws or double-sided tape to attach small pieces of material that do not have sufficient surface area to generate enough hold-down force with vacuum. For cases where you are cutting out of larger pieces of material, the ease of simply positioning the material and turning on the vacuum is compelling.
It’s certainly possible to have good productivity with slot clamping or use of tape or screws on a fixed spoilboard, but a vacuum table bumps up the productivity with little downside other than the cost.
I have used a 24x24 vacuum board I made myself using just a shop vac for suction. Worked well for thin aluminum and copper. I can give you more details if you want.
That sounds amazing! I think that would be a much more cost effective solution, can you please send provide more details? Thank you.
So the way you construct it is to take 2 or 3 squares of 3/4" MDF or particle board and glue them into a stack after machining some slots. Bottom layer can be plain. Middle layer gets an airway milled into it for suction, size it about 2 inches or so for the shop vac. This leads into a grid of grooves cut about 1/2" into the sheet spaced 1 inch apart(you could space it further however) leaving little islands all over the sheet. Top layer get holes drilled at the grid intersections of between 1/16" and 1/8" hole size and a hole sided for the hose of your shop vac that lines up with the mid layer. You can drill more holes over the internal grooves if desired and you can also mill grooves into the top to improve suction force. Anything that increases the area of space under your sheet that has “open air” will improve the overall suction, to a point.
We made our own 4x4 vacuum table. We don’t really use the vacuum part anymore.
All you do is take 2 pieces of MDF, cut channels in one, drill a bunch of holes in the other, and glue them together (and use the vacuum to help squeeze them together
The problem is that the vacuum seal doesn’t work well if you drill a lot of holes or do a lot of lightening in your parts.
My recommendation is to get some MDF, cut it to your table size, and just screw your parts to the table.
Our process for routing parts on the router is this:
- Drill bend line holes
- Drill rivet holes
- Screw some drywall screws in the parts (one on each corner / some in the middle) to help secure it and prevent it from moving
- Cut internal geometry
- Cut external geometry.
Honestly, it is a lot easier to go without a vacuum table. Trust me
Thanks everyone for the helpful suggestions. We usually use tap magic when we machine aluminum, so we are not able to use MDF which would get wet after every session. Would it be possible to replace the MDF with aluminum?
1678 uses WD-40 for our routers in aluminum and our sacrifice material is particle board similar to MDF, oil will slowly degrade the glue that binds the particles but it does not in fact make it swell like water does. As long as you aren’t going wild with the oil you should be able to make it last at least a season.
I expect that creating vacuum with a shop vac and using a table with drilled holes to deliver vacuum is going to result in frustration which leads to the advice given by some to avoid a vacuum table. An effective vacuum table uses an actual vacuum pump that generates at least 10 in Hg vacuum at high air flow or may even generate over 20 in Hg vacuum. These systems pull vacuum through MDF. Drilled holes are not needed. The hold-down power of a vacuum table with a vacuum pump is impressive.
For cutting aluminum, you might want to consider a lubricant like Maglube with a SDS signal word of “warning” rather than something like Tap Magic with a SDS signal word of “danger”. Also, delivering lubricant with a mister is compatible with a MDF spoilboard. My current spoilboard has been in use for 5 years with about 75% of the cutting workload being aluminum with mist lubricant. It’s about half the original thickness after several resurfacing cycles, but still perfectly usable.
The one I made for work seemed to do just fine with thin sheet. It really excels at keeping small parts down.
We use WD-40. We bought a Sure Shot sprayer https://www.amazon.com/Sure-Shot-Powder-Sprayer-SUR-1000B/dp/B000HZONXI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=sure+shot+sprayer&qid=1643139101&sr=8-1, filled it up with WD-40, and pressurize it and spray the material with small coat of WD-40. This prevents the chips from sticking (especially 5052 or the mystery aluminum that we got donated)
As for the MDF, that will absorb some, but as @RoboChair said, not a lot. Most operations with sheet metal is cutting all the way through anyways, z-height accuracy is not super important (which swelling would change)
I know of teams that use a mister (Here is the very popular FogBuster, but it’s expensive and you could get away with cheaper solutions https://fogbuster.com/fogbuster-products/)
Do you place a solid MDF spoil board directly on top of this, having the suction go through the solid piece? Or put sheet metal directly on the layer with holes and resurface/replace the top layer as needed?
I’ve been using tape or wax to hold roughly 3/4" irregular shaped pieces of .040 aluminum and it is time consuming. There is also this product from datum that I was considering as a top sacrificial layer: Vacuum Cards - DATRON CNC Milling Tools
Wondering if you have any thoughts or guidance.
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