Haimer Taster and vacuum table retrospective thoughts

Today while in the workshop running a CNC metalwork job and then following this with running a quick PCB artwork, the following came to mind.

These days since I bought the ITTP Hallmark probe I rarely use my Haimer Taster to do my referencing.  It still has its uses but less and less so.   A good example is when remounting the CNC vice on the tooling table. I use the Haimer to give me a running check on the vice jaw axis tracking.  Beyond that the ITTP in conjunction with PathPilot probing routines meet all my referencing needs to a level of accuracy that suits.

The other thing that stuck me is how automated my process for milling printed circuit board prototypes has become.   Fusion 360 Electrical module becomes more familiar to me with each passing project. It exports my PCB designs as Gerber files to import into FlatCAM.   After a few clicks in FlatCAM I have a GCode file for drilling and routing.   The PCB blank is gripped on my small vacuum table ready for milling and the ITTP probe references the spindle.   My recent use of kitchen anti-slip material as the sacrificial layer between PCB and vacuum table top surface has made the grip on the vacuum table so much easier to achieve.  The overall PCB process, whether single or double sided, has become quick, easy and repeatable.   Once the board is milled I can get a reasonable looking tinned finish using a hand soldering iron and copious amounts of flux.

Techniques almost subconsciously evolve and sometimes you need to step back and see how far you have come along the road.  The alternative view might be that this ‘lazy man’ has just become even more lazy.

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How to square up a scrap piece of stock ready for machining

Can’t Remember How to Square Up Material Stock ready for CNC ?

I sometimes have to dig deep in the odds and ends heap of rough bits of materials to use on a project.  This results in having to square up the find so it can be easily programmed into Fusion CAM.   I always have to scratch my head on the process which is well documented by Tom Lipton and This Old Tony among others.  What I needed was something to pin on the wall to remind me. 

The result of this frustration is a write up and a graphic which you may find useful.  Here is a screenshot and the link below it provides both this document and the write up in a ZIP file.

Squaring Stock 

Hope that helps and if it isn’t well explained let me know and if it was useful also let me know.

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Adapter plate for a Tormach microARC to mount a Xin Dian centralising vice

I’ve made mention in another post of the arrival of the Tormach microARC to use on my Tormach PCNC440 CNC milling machine.   The microARC provides a 4th axis facility.

To date I have used this with the supplied chuck but there have been a couple of instances where a vice style stock mounting would have been useful.  I am indebted to David Loomes for bringing the Xin Dian centralising vice to my attention. 

Xin Dian centralising machine vice
The Xin Dian centralising machine vice

This is available from various sources on the Internet and at a delivered price of less than GBP100.   It is a lovely little vice.   It is supplied with an industry standard backing plate which is held in place with four M6 cap head screws.  The supplied backing plate is not suitable for mounting on the microARC .

A 3D model of the microARC is available as a Fusion file and this with some careful measurement allowed me to model a mounting plate for the Xin Dian to fit onto the microARC face.

As a secondary activity I edited the Fusion file to provide a simple sub-mounting plate for the Xin Dian vice on my PCNC440 tooling plate.

Details of both these mounting plates are contained in the PDF link below.

xin dian vice mounting plates

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Milling vice stop for non grooved vice jaws

Another Job Ticked Off

There are a number of lower cost CNC milling vices (vises) available on the market that do not have jaw geometry with grooves for tooling fixtures and vice stops.   Admittedly their jaws could be machined to add this facility but many of these vices have hardened jaws which presents more of a problem.

My CNC vice came from the UK supplier ARCeurotrade and is from their ARC Versatile SG Iron Milling Vices range.   I have the 100mm wide jaw version and the jaws are  just over 11mm (7/16″) thick.

I have a simple plate that acts as a stop  that is flush with the end of the jaws.  This makes use of existing holes in the vice body but often I need to have a stop internal to the jaw footprint.  Juggling then results with all manner of Heath Robinson solutions.

My design is simple and clamps onto the thickness of the jaws.   

There are two M3 clamping screws and there is enough adjustment on these to allow a parallel to also be gripped should it be needed.

CNC vice stop showing clamping onto the vice jaw and also when used with a parallel
CNC vice stop showing clamping onto the vice jaw and also when used with a parallel

I allowed for two positions for the stop rod and the rod is held with a grub screw in each.   There is a central burr clearance neck on the rod so the grub screw does not damage the surface of the rod and make removal difficult.  Clearly the rod could be simplified to have just a single fixed position.

The rod can have rounded ends or it can have ball bearings glued into a cavity on each end of the rod.   The ball bearings would give a higher resilience to damage.

So nothing really complicated or rocket science with just an hour or so of workshop pleasure.   The size can be adjusted to suit your vice jaws and the material can be whatever is in the junk box.

Here is a link to the 2D drawings that were created in Fusion 360.

CNC vice stop Drawing v3

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Enclosure finally added to my Tormach PCNC440

Reduction in Sparkly Bits around the House

When I bought my Tormach PCNC440 in 2016 I included the enclosure kit in my order.   On receipt I thought that fitting the enclosure would dominate the size of the workshop so I never got round to fitting it.   It has sat in its shipping box since then.  I have consequently shared quite a bit of my swarf (chips) with long suffering family.

After a recent (particularly heavy) CNC run I had a serious covering of swarf in the machine tray and because I had no enclosure round the mill, I had quite a lot distributed further afield (i.e. into the house).   Domestic peace was becoming an issue. Time to do something about it. 

Out came the enclosure kit, cobwebs dusted off and around three hours later I had the enclosure fitted.  I have to say it looks good and does not overpower the workshop as I thought it would.   My wife is impressed and says it looks a more professional machine and ‘if you had it why didn’t you fit it before now’ ? 

My Tormach PCNC440 with its enclosure fitted
The picture above shows the enclosure mounted on my PCNC440 with the monitor in the original position before fitting the extension arm to the ISO bracket. The keyboard tray uses a domestic drawer rail mounted on the top of the standard Tormach cabinet. My recently fitted dual fogbuster system and my Hall Effect based tool height setter (yellow top) are visible.

The fitting did however create some follow up problems.   

My control monitor had up to now been mounted on the side of the 440 on a standard ISO TV mount.  With the enclosure fitted this meant it was ’round the side’ and difficult to get to.   I debated a new long reach ISO but they are expensive.  Plan B was to make something. I rummaged around in my aluminium stock and with the help of Fusion 360 came up with a seriously overengineered extension arm to add to the existing ISO mount. This would allow the monitor to move forward to be in reach at the front of the mill. 

ISO bracket extension on Tormach PCNC440
My seriously over engineered extension bracket to move the ISO mounting of the monitor more to the front of the 440

This bracket became the first CNC job to run after fitting the enclosure.   I am pleased to say it was the cleanest my workshop floor had ever been after running a job.

Having fitted the new bracket and mounted the monitor, all the cables needed extending.  Fortunately I had had the foresight on my original order to include the extension cable kit.   As a result I only had to extend the power supply lead from the monitor 12V ‘brick’ supply.

The second issue was where to mount my ITTP probe as this had formerly mounted on the side of the 440.   With help of some more Fusion design I modelled a corner mount that picked up on the enclosure fastenings.

After that first heavy machining run I noticed for the first time the slight smell of the mist coolant when opening the enclosure doors.   Before the enclosure was fitted the smell must have dispersed into the general workshop air.   With the enclosure fitted the air was concentrated inside the mill and I only got the smell when sticking my head inside.  While it had never been a problem (as far as I can tell …) I thought I should do something about it.

Sometime ago I installed a ceiling extract duct in the workshop.   This vents to the outside world via a custom roof tile. Normally the system sits with a flared cowling (made from a cut down flower pot) on the ceiling entry duct.  The system normally acts as a background trickle extract.   The cunning plan in the design was to use various pipe components to provide bayonet style connection pins (Nylon screws) to allow extension trunking to be used.   A bit like a BNC RF connector if this is familiar to you.   This would allow me to use an add-on length of expanding flexi trunking to bring the extract nearer to any heavy fumy activity such as welding or oil bath hardening.

With the use of further scrap odds and ends of aluminium, I mounted a pair of support bars across the top of the new 440 enclosure. These would fix the ducting over the enclosure during heaving CNC sessions.   Not a total solution but certainly one that will reduce the general smell of XtremeCut 250C when I stick my head in the enclosure.

Workshop extract system
Extract system showing ceiling mounting intake, trunking adapter and mounting on my Tormach PCNC440.  Note the two Nylon screw protrusions are for a bench mounting clamp when used for welding extraction etc and now used on this new use of the system on the mill.

A good day’s activity with all the issues addressed and domestic bliss hopefully restored.

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