Lathe Four Jaw Chuck Laser Light Centring Aid

What on earth is this weird creation ? ……..

4 jaw chuck laser centring device

One of my favourite additions to the workshop has been a laser centring tool for use on my Tormach PCNC milling machine.   The tool consists of a low cost laser diode mounted on a 3D printed disc and with a 19mm steel shaft.   The tool is held in the Tormach spindle power drawbar.   The laser is angled inwards towards the spindle axis at approximately 20 degrees.   The 3D print has facilities for a battery supply and ON/OFF switch such that when the laser disc is pulled into the power tool bar collet it switches on the diode.

In use, as the spindle is raised or lowered, the rotating diode creates a circle of light on the milling table which can be used to locate and centre the spindle on features of the item being machined.   This might be to locate the centre of a hole or the centre of a block depending on need.

A full write up of the mill related item is available here.

I recently had the need to use my four jaw centring chuck on my Myford lathe.   Usually I duck and dive to avoid having to use the 4 jaw as I find it frustrating to set up.  This recent bout of frustration lead me to wonder if I could adapt my laser centring tool for use on the lathe such that it would give me a guide ring of light to show where the material was sitting relative to chuck centre.

On the milling version the laser rotates and the job stays fixed.   On a lathe version this would be similar.  The chuck would be stationary and the laser would rotate in the tailstock.

The full write up can be downloaded here. and the Fusion 360 file is here lathe_centring_device v4

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Machining a job that is outside a milling machine’s table travel using Fusion 360

Introduction

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.

clock minute hand milled in three steps

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.

Milling an oversize object

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Clock Wheel Cutting Adaptation of a Tormach Saw Mandrel

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.

Tormach TTS saw collet with my adapter and a typical clock wheel cutter
Assembled cutter on Tormach TTS collet

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.

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A Lazy Cable Clamp using 3D Printing

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.

The component parts (two halves and the retaining ring)
Inside view of the gland showing the retaining shoulder on the two halves
Outside view of the cable gland showing the retaining ring

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 : –

A Mini Vacuum Clamping Table for PCB Engraving

You know only too well how I keep on going on about FlatCam and milling printed circuit boards on the Tormach PCNC440.

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.

Finished vacuum plate on test in the bench vice
Close up view of the 6.8mm blind holes leading to 1.3mm through holes

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.

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