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  1. #1
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    List of 'Friendly' CNC Machine shops.

    I would like to get this machined and make 10 or so for my friends. We will use them as bar lights and headlamps for caving. It is modeled with Regina's and XML's Tip of the head to Troutie's excellent design and aesthetic.

    Has anyone had a particularly good experience using a machine shop for this kind of work? Local shops around DC mainly do expen$ive rapid prototype work for gov't contractors. You would think they were alchemists or at least huffing lead with their prices.





    BTW, I had some stuff custom machined out of carbon fiber sheet at BFcarbon.com with Chris and http://www.rc-carbon.com/ through Sergey. Great price and great craftsmanship! if you should need some carbon stuff done.

    PS if you think this would be prohibitively expensive (over 100 or so per) I was thinking about slicing into 4mm pieces to laser cut and then bolt together with Arctic Alumina. Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by duncanish
    PS if you think this would be prohibitively expensive (over 100 or so per) I was thinking about slicing into 4mm pieces to laser cut and then bolt together with Arctic Alumina. Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Chris
    Might be a dumb question but aren't caving lights usually quite low powered? Wouldn't a single XPG be plenty of light? If so you can likely ditch the fins and just use an extrusion.
    DIY LED Bike Lights:
    A few Dynamo builds and some Small battery lights

  3. #3
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    @Znomit,
    You can get away with low power in a cave light (I hope to adjust the H6Flex for low power modes.) But we typically hike in...if we are in UT we do some canyoneering / aid climbing/ obligatory porcupine rim run / or back east night kayak fishing in the ocean. You know, one waterproof light to rule them all.. I want to make a pretty versatile / powerful light for this batch. Photons, can never get enough'em.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by duncanish
    Photons, can never get enough'em.

    Design looks pretty good then!
    DIY LED Bike Lights:
    A few Dynamo builds and some Small battery lights

  5. #5
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    Ok, this may be a bit off on a tangent but if you want to make 10 or 11 lights and about $100 is getting to the top end of your price point, have you considered buying a mill?

    You guys are lucky state side and can pick up a reasonable sized mill that would do those housing for around $600,

    Grizzly

    http://www.sherline.com/5000pg.htm$650 Sherline

    Ok, you'll still have to buy tools but you'll get a step clamp set for $60

    Good quality end mills for about $15 from the UK I'm sure you could probably find cheaper state side.

    All of this and it would leave you change from $1000

    If you can't be bothered looking for bits and pieces there is this Sherline Package for under $1000

    Yeah, it's going to be slow and by the time you break a few end mills you might not come out under the $1000 but you'll still have the tooling for the next round of lights you want to set out to make.

    Just a thought

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by emu26
    Ok, this may be a bit off on a tangent but if you want to make 10 or 11 lights and about $100 is getting to the top end of your price point, have you considered buying a mill?

    You guys are lucky state side and can pick up a reasonable sized mill that would do those housing for around $600,

    Grizzly

    http://www.sherline.com/5000pg.htm$650 Sherline

    Ok, you'll still have to buy tools but you'll get a step clamp set for $60

    Good quality end mills for about $15 from the UK I'm sure you could probably find cheaper state side.

    All of this and it would leave you change from $1000

    If you can't be bothered looking for bits and pieces there is this Sherline Package for under $1000

    Yeah, it's going to be slow and by the time you break a few end mills you might not come out under the $1000 but you'll still have the tooling for the next round of lights you want to set out to make.

    Just a thought
    And once you've made the first one, you'll now how to make the 2nd one quicker.
    Then you'll have a process in your head, which you can use to make a load at one time..

  7. #7
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    it's a valid question !
    and looks like catch22.
    suggestions for the long run, it's true.
    but it takes, more then just a machine.

    let's step up to the plate, anybody out there ?

  8. #8
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    Dont know what its like that side of the pond but over here in the UK there are quite a few small engineering co`s who will do small runs of stuff
    I suggest poking around your locality and pay a visit to one or two and ask
    forget emailing them they dont reply .
    from my experience that is what I did the first one I went too was not interested but he did give me the contact no of a couple who might be .

    second one I went too helped me out and has now become a friend .

    The biggest cost is setup and the first one off the machine .

  9. #9
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    Cant agree more with Troutie, I emailed a load of companies and the 1 off was a rip off. It was cheaper to just buy whatever you wanted off the shelf.
    However hit 40+ items and the price is quiet attractive, as Troutie says it's setting the machine up for the first one that your paying for. Any that are machined after that are a breeze for the CNC.
    Question is how many can you get rid of..?

    Hence why i now have my own mill..

  10. #10
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    Thanks so much for your responses. I would love a mill but I have no place to put it and very little time to become proficient at yet another thing. I really appreciate the links for the mill and the suggestions to walk into to some machine shops for quotes. I haven't found a good one but have met with a few in person.

    What a great community! Thanks for your all your wisdom. There are few places on the internet where I cam put out a newbish question and not get trolled into oblivion. Gentlemen and scholars, I will keep you posted when I find a good machine shop stateside.

    Just a thought: Maybe we could start a poll to vote on a single successful design and then have them milled in larger quantities. I'm sure 50 somebodies would want a great looking housing (not mine necessarily) something like the flexibility of the Mauri light idea on hoffman electronics.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by duncanish
    I'm sure 50 somebodies would want a great looking housing (not mine necessarily) something like the flexibility of the Mauri light idea on hoffman electronics.
    Duncan, I don't think you'll get many people lining up to pay money for the light that would be emitted from the opening of one of these

    But the Marwi lights that el sells are great housings.

    Don't use size as an excuse for not buying a mill

    Sieg SX 0
    Proxxon MF70
    both under $480US, small enough to be used in the spare room and stored in the linen cupboard behind those ratty towels but still big enough to turn out a dual light head, all be it slowly.

    Actually if you've got a mate in Germany that can stuff things in the mail for you the Proxxon can be had for under $340 US That includes basic step clamps and a few end mills, you'd still need more tools though and it can be cnc'd at a later date with some 230 stepper motors and I believe free software

    Good luck with your search for a friendly, helpful cnc shop. Just a thought, ask your local bike shops. They might know someone that is bike friendly

  12. #12
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    Duncan,

    I run a small prototype shop and would be interested in helping you get these built. Years ago I went the route that Emu mentioned and put together a small shop with a Grizzly manual mill. One item that he fails to mention that you'll need is a digital readout so that you know where you are in XYZ. It's impossible to do that just with the handwheels on those cheap (but useable) mills.

    I've since upgraded considerably and have been running a Tormach Series II machine with a 4th axis for several years now. I've also got a Grizzly G0602 10" lathe. I'm not a machine shop so much as I am a prototype shop and therefore my interests lie in helping people get their ideas out of their head and into reality, not doing production runs. So small jobs like this are exactly the kind of work I'm looking for.

    For the record, I'm not just some guy trolling MTBR looking for work, I'm a mountain biker and have been for 25 years. I'm one of the people that created EarthRiders in Kansas City.

    I can't see all the sides of your part so it's tough to give you an accurate quote but it looks like $100 each might be a reasonable price for a run of those. I'd have to take a closer look at your drawings though. If you're interested send me a PM and we can exchange contact info so you can send me a drawing file offline.

    Sean Cairns

  13. #13
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    You can crank those out pretty fast on a cnc, even a small one. Most of your money would be paying for setup time. If it were me doing it on my mill, I'd cut the pieces into 13" blocks and do nested runs. Then you could just slices the pieces on the band saw and finish up the left and right sides. Your picture makes the total length look to be about 3" or slightly smaller.

  14. #14
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    unless it's an CNC, won't be cutting any circles,..
    those starter mill's , always look tempting,
    but with two hand-cranks, you won't be cutting any circular features,
    like an O-ring Groove...
    then the Lathe, that's why most of the little lights, are round.
    those are hand machined.
    The other thing, that most , so called CNC shops, even if they say prototype,
    have just big old machines. So a lots of setup time.
    It would make sense, to use 4-5 Axis machine, with tool changer, to cut the whole thing in one setup. And most MTB guys, including myself, have no idea, how to design something, that , actually can be machined...

  15. #15
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    The part looks like a 6 sided job plus an end cap on the right hand side and what I would assume to be a clear plastic lens on the front. So it's actually three parts.

    The cooling fins can't be milled from the front or back because of the squared profile in the bottom of them. You could round out the bottoms of the cooling fin slots but I'm guessing the scale is small enough that you still wouldn't want to have to try to machine a slot that deep from the front. It would actually be faster to machine that surface independently.

    I'm assuming that the right side has a significantly sized cavity to hold electronics and that a lid needs to be manufactured to close it off. I also assume that an o-ring will need to be fitted somehow to make a watertight seal.

    Additionally the clear lens on the front I assume will need some sort of o-ring to seal it off. Snuging the lens down using just the 4 holes around the corners will not create a good seal. I'd add at least two more holes and would probably suggest an aluminum rim around the lens to add rigidity.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rschultz101
    unless it's an CNC, won't be cutting any circles,..
    those starter mill's , always look tempting,
    but with two hand-cranks, you won't be cutting any circular features,
    like an O-ring Groove...
    then the Lathe, that's why most of the little lights, are round.
    those are hand machined.
    The other thing, that most , so called CNC shops, even if they say prototype,
    have just big old machines. So a lots of setup time.
    It would make sense, to use 4-5 Axis machine, with tool changer, to cut the whole thing in one setup. And most MTB guys, including myself, have no idea, how to design something, that , actually can be machined...
    A 4 axis machine is overkill on this part, I can't even think of what you would do with a 5th axis on this part, you'd spend a $1000 just programming it. Even if you did one part at a time on the 4th axis you would still have to break it down and do a second and third operation.

    The cooling fins are non-precise features so it wouldn't be necessary to create jig to mill those two sides, just drop them in the vise and rip out the fins.

    I assure you, I know how to help him design this part so that it can be machined and help him engineer it so that he's happy with the final product.

    Round features are possible on a manual mill, you need a rotary table to do it and a whole lot of setup time.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rschultz101
    unless it's an CNC, won't be cutting any circles,..
    those starter mill's , always look tempting,
    but with two hand-cranks, you won't be cutting any circular features,
    like an O-ring Groove...
    Add a rotary table to a manual mill and you can cut lots of circular shapes. A few people on this forum are doing that. Add a small cross slide table to the top of the rotary and then you can really do complex work. It's easier on a CNC though and that's why complex manual milling is a dying art.

    This thread (post 14) has a link to a page that describes how to use a cross slide rotary table to do complex profiles and a link to a picture of that type of table...

    36-21.5-33

  18. #18
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    Here is a pic of nested run setup in cad instead cam. A tormach 1100 could do each side in under 20 min easy and may actually be able to squeeze out 5 per run with it's X travel. The lens and side cover I'm assuming would be done in a sheet with work tabs. That way you could do them all in one run.



  19. #19
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    Stoked to see all these responses. I'll start work on a modified design for ease of machinability. Thanks for the suggestions about 4 bolts on the lexan not being enough. I'll post the files I'm working in as well. I use Solidworks but can persuaded to post any compatible format if you are interested like stp or dxf.

    Any other suggestions to make it easy to mill?
    -Round concavities for the fins, If it's an easier setup this way I'm in = the surface area and convection losses are negligible. Although the squared edges look good.
    -Remove the chamfer on the endcap for now. I could remove all chamfers and then make a jig for those if it would help to reduce cost.

    @Earthrider I will send you the next revision with drawings this evening to see what you think.


    -Chris
    Last edited by duncanish; 04-26-2011 at 12:38 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by EarthRider
    Additionally the clear lens on the front I assume will need some sort of o-ring to seal it off. Snuging the lens down using just the 4 holes around the corners will not create a good seal. I'd add at least two more holes and would probably suggest an aluminum rim around the lens to add rigidity.
    Could you expand on this? I don't see how flex is going to be an issue when the lens is only about 2" long or less.

  21. #21
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    that is a very sweet looking design and very minimal I like it
    But if you are wanting to push the maximum 3 amps to the leds then in my opinion it needs more cooling area .

    You also dont seem to have any mounting points

    What are you doing about switch and cable /power entry

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by troutie-mtb
    that is a very sweet looking design and very minimal I like it
    But if you are wanting to push the maximum 3 amps to the leds then in my opinion it needs more cooling area .

    You also dont seem to have any mounting points

    What are you doing about switch and cable /power entry

    Maybe this design would work better with 2 xpg's?

  23. #23
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    what can you do with a 4-5 Axis CNC ?
    a lot more, even stuff you need a lathe.
    to the point, where programming is minimal, or non.
    gets translated to machine code, without spending much time,
    to break it down, program it, and also make provisions for multiple,
    clamping, measuring and tool changes,... what makes the 1up very expensive.
    with it you can do multiple surfaces in one wash.
    Take a look at the shell / housing of the new macbooks .
    0 setup, 0 Babysitting. yeah those CNC's have multi axis, multi tool changes, and build in measuring, including auto loading of material; and take more power, than your house.
    What's interesting, is that they went the machine / CNC route , instead of die casting.
    All other laptop, etc, end up with a die-cast housing, for volume. but very inflexible for changes , and huge setup costs. Plus secondary operations.
    One more point, very important, is availability.
    All that fancy 4-5 axis automated stuff is done overseas.
    So , in the US, leaves, a lot of manual setup, programming etc, what drives the price,
    sky-high, and availability down.
    Dream, Idea:
    some day, we could have a Kuka 7-axis Robot, with tool changes.
    1 with a waterjet, to cut you Alu block in 3D
    2 with a laser , to even cut threads inside, polish, anodize, harden,
    3 shopvac, to not make a mess
    upload your file, bring your own material, and have it done, while you go to the bathroom at home-depot. Including in choice of color and barcode label.

    oops rambling again.

    Quote Originally Posted by EarthRider
    A 4 axis machine is overkill on this part, I can't even think of what you would do with a 5th axis on this part, you'd spend a $1000 just programming it. Even if you did one part at a time on the 4th axis you would still have to break it down and do a second and third operation.

    The cooling fins are non-precise features so it wouldn't be necessary to create jig to mill those two sides, just drop them in the vise and rip out the fins.

    I assure you, I know how to help him design this part so that it can be machined and help him engineer it so that he's happy with the final product.

    Round features are possible on a manual mill, you need a rotary table to do it and a whole lot of setup time.

  24. #24
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    Have you ever thought about using something that resembles more of a sentence instead of a thought fragment?

  25. #25
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    Thought it was a poem ;-)

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