This write up is not for the purists with years of experience but is an explanation of how I thought through how to machine something over size that would not fit into my Tormach PCNC440 milling footprint as a single operation. Hopefully it might help others to grasp the process.
The challenge began when a local turret clock expert came to me and asked if I could machine a new Hour and Minute Hand for a clock he was working on. The Hour Hand was around 14” long and the Minute Hand some 18” long.
Here is the Fusion 360 view of the minute Hand.
Clearly these lengths were way outside the 440 table X movement (10”) so a plan was needed. There then followed a lot of staring into the distance at mealtimes and also at bedtime accompanied by vocal “hmmm”s as I tried to mentally visualise what was needed. This idiosyncrasy is something my wife has come to terms with over the years…..
My conclusion from this mental preparation was that I needed to be able to accurately step the stock across the tooling table and then take two or three bites at the profile machining.
What follows would almost certainly benefit from a video but sadly I am not set up for this.
Click the link below to download the PDF document.
I am slowly building up to being able to cut wheels on the Tormach PCNC440 with two possible methods.
The first is using Gearwheel Designer which is mentioned elsewhere on my blog.
The second route is more conventional using a PP Thornton or similar cycloidal tooth cutter and a dividing device on a rotary table. This later method is how wheels are traditionally cut in a lathe and there is a lot of information available on this.
In order to use the cycloidal cutters I need some form of arbor to mount the cutter in the Tormach spindle. I could simply turn a piece of steel bar to suit and mount this in a ER collet in the spindle. The downside of this simple approach is that every time the arbor was fitted into a collet the cutter would be at a different height from the table. I really wanted something a bit more repeatable as the centre line of the rotary table will always be the same so why not the cutter centering.
When I ordered the Tormach PCNC440 I also ordered the Tormach small rotary saw arbor (which to date I have never used). Pondering this last night I sketched up an adapter in Fusion 360 to allow an involute cutter to be fastened to the end of the saw arbor.
This is shown below. It is made from a piece of 19mm AF hexagonal steel bar with the hexagonal flats going to be used as a tightening it in place in the Tormach arbor. My Myford Super 7 when used with a 3 jaw self centering chuck is not bad on concentricity but for really accurate centering I swap the chuck for a collet face plate instead. This job was going to need both.
First operation was to turn the hex bar end that would screw into the arbor. This was done in the lathe chuck. It was a simple turn to a diameter and drill and tap the end with M6 to match the arbor mounting. The only pain was the arbor has a slightly protruding lip so I had to undercut the mounting face for this. Rather than trying to be clever I did it by hand using a graver.
While the hex stock was still in the lathe I roughly turned down the other end of the adapter to the primary diameter and slightly oversize for the cycloidal cutter bore diameter and then cut off the stock so far.
It would be important to get the cutter mounting running as square as possible so I swapped the lathe chuck for the collet plate and mounted the arbor end of the adapter in the collet. I carefully turned the shoulder for the cycloidal cutter diameter and then reduced the remaining length ready to cut a M6 thread.
Here are a couple of images of the finished adapter.
I am pleased to say the idea went almost to plan and it runs very true in the Tormach spindle.
I was a bit over enthusiastic with the graver but this is of no consequence.
With hindsight the shank between the cutter and the hex section ought to be longer as this will restrict the diameter of the wheel that can be cut before the blank catches the hex section peaks.
One step closer to trying this method. The next experiment is to work on a sub routine in GCode to move the cutter back and forth while cutting and with the ability to easily program the number of cuts.
This is nothing magic but worth a mention. Being fundamentally lazy I don’t like to assemble and solder electronic multi-way connectors. There is never enough room to work on the contacts and the cables never lay up how you would like them to. This could have course be a function of my eyesight ..
I am currently working on boxing and installing the Tormach USB Expansion Board which has a USB connector interface. I wanted the cable to pass through some form of gland into the box but didn’t want to cut a standard USB cable and remake the connector at one end of the other.
After some head scratching I came up with the following simple cable gland/cable grip. It is nothing revolutionary but made life easy and the parts only took 20 minutes to design in Fusion 360 and then 3D print on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
It has two identical semicircular halves that hold the cable and there is a ring that pushes over these on the outside of the box. A small flange holds these in place on the inside of the box. The hole in the box and the ring inside diameter are both 16mm to allow the USB connector largest dimension to pass through. This is also one of the standard cut rings on a cone cut hole drill which makes cutting the hole in the box very straightforward.
Not rocket science but you never know it might come in useful and the dimensions can be tweaked to suit other cables and connectors. Similar or related subjects : –
You will also have read about my preoccupation with trying to hold the PCB material flat to avoid variations in milling depth.
I have got it to a reasonably repeatable process using mechanical clamping but you know when a perfectionist starts something it has to be as good as possible …. step forward the Vacuum Clamping Table.
The thinking for this followed on from the Rosebud Grate experiments on my live steam locomotive. The grate consisted of a matrix of larger holes on the underside of the grate leading to a small bore hole on the top side of the grate. The theory as I understand it was that the reduction in size creates a Venturi type effect and boosts the air stream into the fire. I wondered therefore if I reversed the air flow i.e. sucked the air from the large hole into the small hole whether this would be beneficial in providing a boost of the suction. It is a bit tenuous I must admit and I can’t point to lots of science to back this up, but certainly worth a play.
First stop was Fusion 360 and a two part plate was designed. This consisted of a top and bottom part. The bottom part is 15mm cast aluminium with a milled trough and the top plate is 10mm cast aluminium with 6.8mm holes (no science – this is tapping size for M8 that was already in a Tormach collet) on the top side that reduce down to 1.3mm holes (ditto also already in a collet) as breakthrough holes on the bottom surface. Around the edges are M6 screw holes to clamp the two plates together and also M8 mounting holes to fasten the plate to the tooling plate on the Tormach. I didn’t quite think the suction connection fully. After I had worked out the total area of the 1.3mm holes I realised that to accommodate this I needed a 16mm diameter hole for the air inlet. This was not going to be possible to mount on the 25mm overall edge of the plate. The solution was to 3D print a connecting pipe and mount this on the top surface. This adapts to the vacuum cleaner pipe being used as the suction source. The 3D printed adapter did not provide a good seal to the top plate so I had to fit a rubber gasket on it. The parts were all put together as shown below.
To my amazement it seems to work !
There does not seem to be leakage on the joint between the two plates and the vacuum pipe adapter with the rubber gasket seems to seal alright. If I put a large piece of PCB material over all the holes it is very difficult to move it. Single sided board is naturally bowed in the manufacturing lamination process and I can see it visibly jump flat when I turn on the vacuum. If the PCB is smaller than the total area of suction holes it does not seem to matter about covering over the ‘non-used’ holes to maintain the grip.
Proof will be when I try to run a board.
The milling process will not have major sideways pressure as the depth of milling is quite small so it should be fine. Clearly I can’t go drilling the component mounting holes in the PCB material with this holding technique but I can spot drill them to say 1mm depth and then finish them by hand having got a guide hole to start me off.
But all this will have to wait as the X axis limit switch has come apart on the Tormach and a spare has been ordered and is on its way.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I have got involved with the local church clock which is a Cooke of York movement. I have been working with a fellow engineer in the village to try to bring the clock to time and we are slowly getting there. Our last major breakthrough was finding the fly was lose on the gravity escapement arbor. Since tightening the fly the clock has been much more reliable.
There is a weight tray on the pendulum which has an assortment of coins in it where someone historically has been fine tuning the pendulum swing. Because the clock has been running fast by a few seconds per day we have been slowly removing the coins one by one to bring it closer to time. I think it is now at a point where we need to monitor it long term with the Microset.
Bryan offers an upgrade to the Microset that allows a temperature sensor to be added to the recorded information. There will almost certainly be temperature changes in the clock tower so it seemed like a good idea to upgrade with the temperature option. This was ordered and duly arrived from Bryan and is now fitted. There is also an upgrade to allow the Microset to record data into internal storage in the Microset rather than depending on having a PC connected. I would be more comfortable leaving just the Microset in the church pendulum cupboard rather than my portable PC so I also ordered this upgrade.
It took me about an hour to do both upgrades on the Microset. The memory upgrade involves a chip change inside the device and the temperature monitor needs an additional 3.5mm jack socket fitting and wiring to accept the new temperature sensor. Neither is a difficult task but clearly need to be done carefully so as not to do any damage to the Microset. Bryan’s instructions are well written and illustrated.
Since the upgrade I have been running the Microset on the bench with a Smith’s clock movement. (It is actually the one I stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt on my ‘Clocks 1’ course at the BHI). The new Microset facilities seem to work well and as expected.
A New Sensor Needed – 1st Attempt
To implement measurements on the church clock the supplied optical sensor as shown in the picture above is not totally ideal. It has a very narrow gap between the transmit light source and the receiver detector diode which on a turret clock is not easy to use.
It is possible to get round this my fitting a cocktail stick or similar to the pendulum bob and using this to break the beam but it is a bit messy. I had picked up a bag of laser diodes and detectors at a local ‘ham’ radio junk sale and I decided these might form the basis of a new sensor which might be more useful to a large pendulum assembly. Bryan is a really helpful guy and although he does offer a larger laser sensor he was more than happy to help me with the required electronic interface to the Microset. The one proviso is that the amount of current drained from the Microset 5V power supply must be kept below 30mA.
I set to and made the most elegant and over engineered solution for my laser sensor. This is shown below. The black mountings were designed in Fusion 360 and 3D printed on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
The spacing between the emitter and detector is adjustable by sliding the transmitter along the steel rods. The power to the laser is also carried down the steel rods. A small DTC transistor provides the interface to the Microset and the 5V supply provided by the Microset is dropped via two diodes to power the laser. It works really well ….. but … when I went round to the church to install it I realised I should have checked one or two things first. The rating nut at the bottom end of the pendulum (used to make course adjustments to the pendulum length) was almost touching the floor of the pendulum cupboard. My wonderfully elegant laser detector would not fit under the pendulum to monitor the swing. A serious re-think was needed. The gap was so narrow that at best I will only be able to get a piece of 16 SWG aluminium sheet or PCB underneath the rating nut.
A New Sensor Needed – 2nd Attempt
I did say I had a bag of laser diodes and detectors so a new version would be possible and I could then save the posh one for more public facing activity.
As mentioned above I decided to use PCB as the base board. This is shown below.
This has the advantage that I can use the copper surface to mill tracking into it to aid the wiring. The downside is that it is quite flexible and therefore possibly not stable enough to keep the laser aligned with the detector diode. To resolve this I soldered strips of nickel silver (could have been more PCB) either side of the centre line as shown but leaving a gap for the pendulum swing.
I designed a common holder for the laser and detector diode in Fusion 360 and 3D printed two of these on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
The finished detector assembly still had a tendency to flex so I stuck some old pieces of credit card on the lower surface, one at each end before the mount and a large piece in the middle. This seemed to cure the problem without adding significantly to the base thickness.
When plugged into the Microset all seemed to work well. Here is a typical PC display of the Microset data.
I now need to get it installed in the church tower.