CNC Plasma Cutting When You Have No Space

Tmate

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While we would all like to have the space in our shop for a 4' x 8' or larger CNC plasma table, exhaust system, etc., many of us do not. Still, we should not deny ourselves such a fabulous, time saving process just because we don't have the ideal location for it.

I solved this problem years ago with a 2' x 2' table I could roll out of my garage in a couple of minutes to cut a shape. Besides eliminating the normal space requirements, this also solves the dilemma of how to deal with plasma dust. Get 8 to 10 feet or so outside and the problem goes away. I was doing prototype work out of my home at that time, and the parts for virtually every bracket I needed could be cut on this small machine. When the business grew and we moved to a commercial facility, the CNC electronics and motors were simply transferred to a larger table.

I'm retired now, and recently built a similar 2' x 2' machine. This one I keep outside under my deck under a vinyl fire pit cover. The compressor and plasma cutter are just inside the basement door, 10 feet away. It takes 5 minutes to hook up the cables and mount the torch. In the winter I remove the gantry and gear racks and bring them inside. There is no reason it couldn't remain intact and used in the winter. I just don't choose to do so.

The first picture shows the initial machine that was on casters and rolled out of my garage. The second is my current machine.

If anyone is interested, I can post photos of some of the parts and shapes cut with this little machine, none of which are for sale.
 

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JimDawson

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Nice build! We would be very interested in seeing all of the details. :) And your parts.

What are you using for a torch height control?
 

Tmate

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Not withstanding all the hype one hears about the need for a height control, they don't work well on this sized machine. I have one, but took it off. Their main advantages are greater consumables longevity and ability to handle large warped plates, diamond plate, etc. On a low production machine of this size, consumables life is a non issue, as is plate warpage. I use a rack and pinion torch holder. The height control sits on a shelf.

Below is the current machine with an arc voltage height control.

I'll post some more pictures shortly.
 

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Tmate

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Here are a few photos of shapes cut with the 2' x 2' machine. None were done with the height control.
 

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Papa Charlie

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Did you build you own unit or purchase?
I would love to have a unit that size. What do you recommend for a starter?
Thanks
Patrick
 

Tmate

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I built it. The table build is simplicity itself. I would be happy to share the specifics if there is interest. The CNC electronics & software are a separate matter. There are dozens of sources for that in all price ranges. You don't need a torch height control, which is a big savings.
 

Papa Charlie

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I for one would be interested in all the information. I have very little knowledge of the CNC side of it. So any and everything you are willing to share would be greatly appreciated.
Patrick
 

Aukai

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I'm digging the gasser :encourage:
I have a Certiflat plasma table, and a Miller 45 XP, but the CNC stuff looks to be in the 2K range?
 
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Tmate

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I am using a Hypertherm 45XP plasma cutter with a machine torch, a Speedaire (10.7 cfm @ 90psi) compressor, and FlashcutCNC electronics and driver software, and a Bugo torch holder. I use CorelDraw to draw the shapes and create the dxf files used by the driver software.

I have been using Flashcut for years, and have no idea what their entry level pricing might be now. Their software is great. Other possibilities include Torchmate, cncrouterparts.com, Microkinetics, CNC Router Source, and a number of others. Some will want to sell you the table along with the electronics. You are looking for a retrofit kit. It's much cheaper to build a superior table of this size yourself. A great source for CNC information is cnczone.com.

My recommendation is to build your own table while you learn what is available in the way of CNC controls that meets your requirements and budget. The table includes everything right down to and including the mounting brackets for standard Nema 23 stepper motors. Whatever electronics package you buy will include the motors and everything beyond. In other words, no matter whose electronics you buy their Nema 23 motors will bolt right up. The number of parts you have to fabricate yourself are minimal, as the table uses off-the-shelf components wherever possible.

I took pictures during my latest build, and still have the files around here somewhere. I also have a list of all the components, where I got them, and in most cases the part numbers. II'll try to dig that stuff up if anyone is interested.

You will probably have something like $3K involved by the time you are through, but it is well worth it. There is absolutely no way to reasonably do the same kinds of operations with machine tools. A bracket that would take an hour to cut out with a hand torch and grind the edges takes about 30 seconds or so with CNC plasma.
 

brino

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I would be happy to share the specifics if there is interest.

I'll try to dig that stuff up if anyone is interested.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
Yes, please!

I am nearing the end of cutting about 40 brackets with plasma by hand.
Speed makes such a difference in kerf width I am having to grind/sand the edges to clean-up.
Very slow going.

Any wisdom that you can share is greatly appreciated.

-brino
 
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