Some pieces of workshop equipment generate a sentimental attraction that is hard to break. One such piece of kit is my Burgess BK3 bandsaw which is ancient but has up to now worked reasonably well for my needs. I bought it on EBay from an owner in Lancashire and remember a nice day trip to collect it.
It is a very useful machine and gets pressed into use day in and day out. That is until the other day when the blade came off with a loud twang. On inspection the drive wheel had lost part of its blade outer retaining flange. It appeared to be very old brittle plastic and the damage was really to be expected given the vintage of the device.
After head scratching I designed a replacement edging strip in Fusion 360 which I 3D printed and glued in place. Fingers crossed that will give the machine a reprieve and extend its life.
In the course of looking for possible spares (no chance) I came across a reference to modifications to the BK3 in Model Engineer to improve the blade tracking and speed settings. (ME Vol 170 Issue 3944 and Vol 172 Issue 3962). The members of my local model engineering club came up trumps with copies of these articles for me.
The guide modification consisted of replacing the two stud guides with ball bearings. While the machine was in pieces it seemed like a good idea to implement this modification. The Fusion 360 3D model is shown below. The blade is sandwiched between the two ball races and these can be slid in and out and then be fixed in place with the cap head screws once the correct location is found to guide the blade.
I drew the replacement guide block assembly in Fusion 360 and milled it on the Tormach CNC from brass. The 1/2″ bearings came from BearingBoys.
All is now re-assembled and running really smoothly. The blade prefers to run in straight lines which is a revelation.
You know how I keep on going on about how solutions to problems are often solved by coming at them from different and often unconventional directions, by utilising and marrying available resources ? It was a philosophy that I encouraged in my team while running my business and it has carried over into my way of working in retirement. A recent job brought his home to me.
A client had a very old clock that had had a new barrel wheel made and fitted but the clock would not run for more than a few minutes. There appeared to be an incompatibility either between the modulus of the new wheel and its mating pinion or the shape of the original pinion did not match the shape of the new wheel.
If you spun the barrel wheel you could feel the resistance build up as the synchronisation between the two profiles drifted out. Adding extra weight to the barrel helped but did not solve the problem.
So what to do ?
The barrel wheel was serious engineering and I did not fancy making a new one. The existing mating pinion was a seven leaf format and its leaves were what you might call pear drop shaped rather than the expected profile. The pinion arbor had a 72 tooth wheel driving the next part of the clock train but we did have a spare one of these to hand from the minute dial.
Calculations from the geometry of the barrel wheel resulted in a modulus figure of 1.86. A rather large value and not one that conventional cutters are readily available for. The pinion was perhaps something that could be drawn in Fusion 360 and then made on my Tormach CNC PCNC440 milling machine. The only snag was that the profile needed on the pinion would likely be weird and the world’s supply of brass could diminish rapidly while getting the profile correct.
Using Gearwheel Designer I created what would be the expected profile for a 7 leaf pinion with a modulus of 1.86. This was exported as a DXF line drawing into Fusion 360. This outline was extruded in Fusion into a 3D design and a boss was added to mount the 72 tooth wheel.
The design was 3D printed on my Sindoh 3DWOX printer and was mounted on a 6mm silver steel arbor. I added a driving disc that interlocked with the printed pinion and the crossings on the wheel to drive the assembly. Surprise surprise it didn’t run but it did mirror the regular pattern of stiffness of the original pinion.
I now had the test bed for quickly making and testing different pinion profiles. There followed a number of hours watching the engagement progression of the profile of the pinion into the barrel wheel and then trying to conceive a profile for the pinion that might run.
Fusion 360 made this process so easy and round 10 printed test profiles later I had success with a clock that now ran. The driving weight on the barrel was around 11kg and it looked to be worthwhile wasting some brass making a ‘proper’ one.
I took the 3D design and produced CAM code in Fusion. This would cut the profile ‘on end’ using an adaptive first cut with a 4mm end mill followed by rest machining the remaining material with a 2mm end mill.
The resulting brass pinion was mounted on the arbor and the clock ran with a strong beat. As expected the brass pinion gave less surface to surface resistance than the 3D printed part and the barrel driving weight was now able to be reduced down to 6.25kg.
I ran my Microset Timer on the clock overnight and had a first off timing error of 5 minutes per day which was fixable with a pendulum tweak. The movement had an instability of a few seconds per day which was quite astonishing.
The conclusion of the experience is that at first glance this seemed like a conventional pinion cutting exercise …. but M1.86 cutters are not readily available. If a cutter could have been found at less than a King’s Ransom it is likely that the resulting conventional profile would have been wrong to match the barrel wheel.
The alternative route that was taken of Gearwheel Designer to Fusion to 3D print to Fusion CAM to CNC machining solved the problem albeit with a final weird profile. The purists and traditionalists will groan. There will be a gnashing of teeth and a pulling out of hair.
Does it really matter if the result is new life for what could have become a heap of scrap metal ?
A new idea for keeping PCB material flat while milling artworks
The vacuum plate mentioned elsewhere on my blog serves me well when milling printed circuit boards on the Tormach PCNC440. It keeps the PCB material flat and makes the cut widths repeatable when using V cutters.
Idle hands and brain during social distancing has produced a possible solution that might be of interest and stimulation to others. It consists of a circular pressure ring that sits around the spindle chuck and tool. There is a second ring that sits on the spindle body connected to the lower ring with rods which have coaxial springs pushing down on the lower ring. The magic is to use mini ball transfer units on the lower ring to press down on the PCB and glide friction free around the PCB as the cutter does its stuff. The assembly is held in place on the spindle with 3 gripping screws. The downward pressure is adjusted by 3 screws that press against the spindle mounting frame.
The prototype was made using 3D printed rings. There is an image below. Apologies for the yellow PLA but finding any PLA at a decent price is very difficult in the present circumstances.
The idea seems to work and has produced some good consistent quality PCB prints. It does have disadvantages in that you need to have a larger PCB blank to allow for the larger footprint of the pressure ring. It is probably only of practical use for PCB milling but then the problem of flatness is less critical in drilling the board and routing the profile.
It arrived today after nearly a month in transit due to the current lock down restrictions. On opening the package I was impressed with the quality of the engineering. It is a nice device. It uses the usual 3 pronged contact mechanism. Supplied with the probe is a tube of grease that helps protect the contact reliability. The interface cable has a 5 pin DIN that plugs into the Tormach expansion socket and the shank is a standard TTS compatible size.
I ran through the initial preparatory procedure and then loaded it into the Tormach 440 spindle. Pathpilot has a number of excellent set up routines to adjust the probe and make measurements. One of these, the Effective Tip Diameter is quite critical. All this went to plan and very quickly. Some initial probing gave repeatable and accurate results so first impressions are good.
I’ll give some updates as the probe gets pressed into service but my first impressions are good with repeatable accurate readings.
In the course of checking out the ITTP probe I needed a reference cross check on the various setup measurements. My Haimer Taster seemed a bit erratic and on inspection I discovered the axial shank holding bolt had worked lose. This meant a re-calibration of the eccentricity of the probe point would be needed.
The alignment process involves adjustment of four grub screws in the shank body. These tweak the ’tilt’ of the shank to get a concentric rotation of the probe ball point. As there are four screws I use two hex Allen keys to make the adjustments to each in line pair. This is quicker than with a single hex key being swapped from side to side. It is a bit like the process I use when centring a 4 jaw chuck. The adjustment is done against a dial gauge riding against the probe ball point. Once you get the knack this process doesn’t usually take too long using the two key method.
The frustration is that the Allen keys provided with the Haimer are a bit chocolate based and the ends chew up easily. The result is you tighten a grub screw and the hex key end twists and gets jammed into the hex socket in the grub screw. While trying to waggle the jammed key you mess up your carefully made adjustment. Aaaargh !
I ground back the worn end of the Allen keys to clean up the hex profile but they quickly degraded. In the end I took the grub screws out completely and replaced them with some M4 cap head bolts. Joyful !
Yes I know it doesn’t look pretty but it is now a real pleasure to make the adjustments with a couple of larger T wrenches. It is probably a criminal thing to do to such a lovely instrument but life is too short.
At last a 4th axis drive for the Tormach PCNC440 !
I have waited 4 years for this to be available and did not hesitate to put in my order to Tormach for one of the new MicroArc drives. Probably the best way to get a good idea of this product is to watch John Saunders’ video.
The MicroArc wasn’t a low cost buy and because 4th axis was not around when my 440 was originally shipped, I needed a fitting upgrade kit as part of the order. Having placed my order with Tormach it took exactly 7 days for DHL to arrive on my doorstep with the shipment. Quite amazing considering the difficult times we are experiencing at the moment.
It took me about one hour to fit the new stepper driver and additional wiring. As ever there were good clear instructions from Tormach. I switched on the 440, enabled the 4th axis in PathPilot and I could control the A axis from the PathPilot screen. Very impressed.
I watched John Saunders video on the MicroArc and how to do 4th axis programming in Fusion 360. I drew up a simple model in Fusion but could not get it to produce working GCode. I had some comms with John and he gave me some pointers. The model had a rotational repeat pattern but while I could run a single op code, if I tried to run the rotational pattern the post processor came up with an error message and would not output any code.
I thought at first it was because I was only using a Fusion hobbyist licence and that 4th axis maybe was not possible. A really helpful dialogue with Shannon McGarry at Fusion cleared up that issue so it must be something else.
After some experimenting I discovered that you have to set the axis of rotation in the post processor dialogue options list. All then worked fine.