Xalky's cnc plasma table build log.

xalky

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This project started when I bought a multipurpose Tig/stick/plasma chicom machine. I won't get into the brand because I don't have too many good things to say about it. I went onto some web sites and saw that a few people had built cnc tables for thier plasma cutters and thought to myself "hey, I can do that". So here are some photos of the build, some of the trials as i went along, and hopefully you guys will see me finish it as it is not finished yet, but getting real close.

I designed this thing on graph paper, no fancy Solidworks here. :p My philosophy is Kiss, "keep it simple stupid". You' will see this. If I can buy a part for $10 that'll do the job, I'm not gonna spend 5 hrs making it on my lathe or Bridgeport.

I designed this to be able to have a max sheet capacity of 4'x4'6". It had to be Light weight, easily movable and dismantleable. It had to cut as well as the offerings from the table manufacturers in the $10,000 range and I also wanted it to double as a light router machine. And now it seems that 3D modeling is well within reach for the home machinist. For those of you that don't know what 3d modeling is. Its those machines that extrude a plastic compound in thin sheets to form a computer generated 3d part out of plastic.
So here's some pictures of the Build.
This is a mockup of one of the gantry ends. The Gantry is made up almost entirely of aluminum to keep the weight down for rapid acceleration speeds, which is vital for cutting thin sheet material:
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This is a picture of one of the Gantry ends welded and machined and partially assembled. That was my first time Tig welding aluminum. :
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This is a picture of one end of the Gantry attached to the Beam:
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Overall picture of the same:
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A couple of side views:
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jumps4

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that looks good
what type of drive will it be and steppers or servos?
what are you planning for the cutting support surface?
what software?
steve
 
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xalky

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Here's a picture of the table beginning to take shape. Notice the legs are bolted together for easy storage or moving to a new location. The Gantry slides right off the rails. The table dismantles into 4 sections.
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Here's a photo of the floating torch head so that the machine can find the z location of the plate. This table will have Torch Height Control (THC). The table can find the height of the plate or sheet at various intervals and account for sheet warpage etc... and still maintain optimum torch height for best cut quality.
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This table uses timing belts for movement and it also uses 4 to1 belt drive reduction so that table movement is at approx 1" travel per revolution of steppers. This ratio seems to be about optimum for plasma cutting in general for best torque usage and acceleration characteristics. At least that's what I've been told by many smarter than myself. The idler bearings are just roller skate bearings. The Bearings for the Gear reduction mechs are Pillow block bearings minus the pillow blocks. The belt guides are just Fender washers drilled out and spaced off the bearings.

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Here's an overall picture of the table as it sits right now:
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I'm using the CandCNC Bladerunner drive kit which includes THC in the Package. I did a lot of research on this part of the build. Bar none, these guys offer the best value, and knowledge, and tech support for a plasma table setup.
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Here's the front view of the control cabinet:
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Here's a view of the back of the cabinet. I had to cut out the back to fit the Dell workstation Tower computer. Then i made a sort of Faraday cage out of insect screening for the back to divert the plasma electronic noise away from the electronics. The cabinet, and computer are all grounded to a seperate ground rod pounded into my garage floor.

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xalky

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that looks good
what type of drive will it be and steppers or servos?
what are you planning for the cutting support surface?
what software?
steve
It's steppers driven by timing belts.
The CandCNC controls use mach3 and Sheetcam. They include all the macros for torch height control in the package. Shetcam is an easy to use software thet takes DXF files and translates them to Mach3 but also it's designed specifically for plasma cutting so it's easy to set tool paths,Kerf widths, lead ins and lead outs for plasma.
 

xalky

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So this is pretty much where I'm at now. The chicom plasma machine was wreaking havoc with HF noise. I blew several boards in the control panel because of that machine. CandCNC was gracious and stumped as to why that machine kept blowing boards out. To make a long frustrating story short. I bought a Hypertherm Powermax85 plasma machine with the machine torch. Tom over at CandCNC actually bought my new/old chicom machine to run tests and find out what the hell the problem was. The preliminary verdict is that the chicom multipurpose machine used the same HF start as the tig portion of that machine which could interrupt satelite communications within a 1 mile radius... exaggerating a little but you get my point. The hypertherm is miles ahead of the chicom. It uses blowback start and has a cnc connection on the back which CandCNCs hardware and software macros integrate into. A fault anywhere along the line can be seen on the mach screen. A fault on the controller will shut down the hypertherm.

My second set of new boards just came in yesterday so I'll be plugging those in and setting up the controls for the Hypertherm. This is the reason why I highly recommend CandCNC, they helped me out tremendously and they guarantee thier stuff for 2 yrs. I would have been out a lot of cash for replacement boards.
 

jumps4

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you have a well thought out project going
cant wait to see sparks
earlier you mentioned thin material have you seen the factory thin sheet machines using water misters to keep the material wet. it doesnt effect the plasma but greatly reduces deformation and sparks.
i found it searching for 'cutting sheet metal" in youtube "they are fast"
steve
 

xalky

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you have a well thought out project going
cant wait to see sparks
earlier you mentioned thin material have you seen the factory thin sheet machines using water misters to keep the material wet. it doesnt effect the plasma but greatly reduces deformation and sparks.
i found it searching for 'cutting sheet metal" in youtube "they are fast"
steve
I did actually. There is some debate as to consumable life with water. I haven't gotten that far yet. Right now I'm gearing up to make this a downdraft table to keep the air in the shop breathable. The downdraft setup I'm gonna be doing is also gonna be extremely simple and fairly cheap to implement and , in keeping with the theme, easy to take apart and put away.

Many plasma table builders are using a water table for dust and fume control, and some are using a combination of both. I like the mist idea and as I continue this build, It would be fairly easy to setup on my machine even with the downdraft. So that very well maybe in the future for this table. And it'd be easy to take apart.;) Do you have a link for the water mister video?

The reason why I'm stressing the "easy to take apart"and "Light weight" theme is that Real Estate is extremely valuable in my 2 car garage as, I suspect, it is probably for most hobby guys.

This table is fast, no sparks yet but I've put it through a few dry runs already. I suspect it will cut the thinnest of sheet metal with nice sharp corners, thats what the acceleration is for, nice sharp corners on thin material. Acceleration becomes less important as the material gets thicker. The Hypertherm I have will be able to pierce up to 3/4" material with the torch height control once it's dialed in.
 

jumps4

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here is a machine that is fast
steve
[video]http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjQ4NTI3NDg4.html[/video]
 

jumps4

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it runs good and fast
the toothed ribbon makes it really quiet
steve
 

jumps4

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i'm going to have my friend that is building a table read this about the rf and shielding i dont think he knows i didnt either
time to make some sparks is upon you.
steve
 

xalky

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i'm going to have my friend that is building a table read this about the rf and shielding i dont think he knows i didnt either
time to make some sparks is upon you.
steve
I have several good links about shielding and grounding for him to read. I got lucky that CandCNC guaranteed all my stuff and I was careful to ground and shield to excess. But if he built his electronics from scratch he shouldn't take any chances.

Here's what Tom over at CandCNC has found so far;
I have been redeemed; Yes Tom has confirmed that it was the 256PI. Here's what he wrote:


Well before we can figure out the use of the CNC connector we need to get past
the fact that as soon as we fire the torch every piece of electronics in the
room crashes! i guess it is good I don't wear a pacemaker because I would
probably be dead now.

Our nest step is to see if we can isolate the noise source (yes we know it's the
Longevity!) and figure out how and what to shield against it. Since we were
not even electrically connected to the torch except though the AC it either has
to be through that OR through the air (RFI) All I can say is ....wow. I am
totally surprised that unit could pass any FCC noise ratings for industrial
equipment.

i wanted this unit for this very reason. It is probably the nosiest unit we can
find even including the old TD StalPaks and MAX200 machines!

The HV saart machines (ESAB is one) have other problems. They use a spark
generator (Capacitor Discharge) of several kilovolts to start the arc and any
spark or arc has noise not to mention possible arcing on anything connected to
it. The RAV-01 was designed to handle CD start units after earlier designs came
back fried.


Heres what I wrote back:

Thats great news LOL...So I'm not totally insane. I'm laughing so hard over here
That my wife just came to ask me whats so damn funny! Phew, you have no idea
what a relief it is to me. I swear to Almighty God that machine gave me a case
of PTSD, yes... post traumatic stress disorder. It screwed me up so bad that I'm
reluctant to fire my Hypertherm, even though you guys are telling me it will be
fine. I'm paranoid as hell, like a combat vet on the 4th of July... no
joke..even though I'm laughing.I think i need therapy!


Yes my friends, it's official. Now to get a therapist that specializes in plasma cutting psychotherapy. Any reccomendations?icon_surprised.gifeek

Ooops...I guess i let the cat out of the bag about which machine was giving me grief!


icon_surprised.gif
 
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jumps4

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i would have been in a total panic lol
so bad they wanted the unit, i'm sure it does not meet fcc requirements
i emailed that to my friend with the url to you thread
steve
 
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Nelson

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Xalky, absolutely wonderful writeup! Top notch!!

Thank you!!


Nelson
 

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Looks good Xalky, but you're disqualified for the project $10! on the Grounds that I'm Jealous of the room you have and the tooling. In other-words it's just not fair you have more than me :) :) :lmao::lmao::lmao:
 

xalky

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Looks good Xalky, but you're disqualified for the project $10! on the Grounds that I'm Jealous of the room you have and the tooling. In other-words it's just not fair you have more than me :) :) :lmao::lmao::lmao:
LOL.... I've been sneezing out $10 bills lately with this build, one in my direction aint gonna make much difference one way or the other. :p What you see is about 30yrs worth of accumulation in my shop. Most of the large hardware has been acquired this year though. The child support payments ended October of last year so I have a whole other mortgage payment to spend on goodies that I've been longing for for 16 yrs. I paid my dues, now its time to have a little fun. The shop is really my retirement plan, or so I hope. I've been self employed most of my adult life so there is no pension plan for me. :( Farting around in the shop and making a few bucks is most likely gonna be my retirement future. ;)

I find it funny that you think I have a lot of room. It's just a 2 car detached garage packed to the gills with stuff. I feel jealous when I see some of these guys with 40x40 play areas. My dream is really to buy or to build a 40x50 steel building with tall cielings and a car lift so i can work on my vehicles or maybe build myself a hot rod. We can all dream.:drool:
 

rickard

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LOL.... I've been sneezing out $10 bills lately with this build, one in my direction aint gonna make much difference one way or the other. :p What you see is about 30yrs worth of accumulation in my shop. Most of the large hardware has been acquired this year though. The child support payments ended October of last year so I have a whole other mortgage payment to spend on goodies that I've been longing for for 16 yrs. I paid my dues, now its time to have a little fun. The shop is really my retirement plan, or so I hope. I've been self employed most of my adult life so there is no pension plan for me. :( Farting around in the shop and making a few bucks is most likely gonna be my retirement future. ;)

I find it funny that you think I have a lot of room. It's just a 2 car detached garage packed to the gills with stuff. I feel jealous when I see some of these guys with 40x40 play areas. My dream is really to buy or to build a 40x50 steel building with tall cielings and a car lift so i can work on my vehicles or maybe build myself a hot rod. We can all dream.:drool:
Man I feel you pain :) I too Have been Hemorrhaging Money on my car. With all due respect, but if you want to Kavetch about space my shop is one room of my 2 room 418 sq foot prison cell, that also does double duty as my art studio. I retired Unexpectedly in 2004 with no retirement plan :) Ohh did I mentioned my Neighbors, The Krazy @$$ Lady on one side calls the Office and complains if god forbid she can hear my Dremel, and Drunky the Clown on the other side that thinks my Tool box is his. so Yea You got it good :)
 

Rbeckett

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Xalky,
Might want to look into making the torch a little less solidly mounted. If you get a torch strike or a part tips up, it is ugly what it will do to your consumables. My Torchmate has this issue and I really wish I had bought the AVTHC to eliminate that issue entirely. Something break away will definately save you some money and some greif...Ask me how I know. Heh heh heh, at 37 bucks a pop for machine torch tip sets.
Bob
 

xalky

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Yeah, thats in the plans. Just trying to get her running right now.

I've got other more pressing issues.
The plasma table computer crashed and its barely limping along. I have no idea what happened to it. What would normally take 5 seconds to do now takes 10 mins. I'm getting all kinds of "program not responding" messages. Not sure if the data got corrupted or if its a memory problem. But it's pretty much any program, which leads me to believe its a hardware issue. Unbelievable....​
 

Rbeckett

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Darn, that just sucks. If everything is slow it may be a virus too. I had a virus called "Trojan" and it was a real PITA to completely get removed. Every time I removed it, it would clone itself in a new file location. Once I found it's root code I killed it with malice and malevolence. Cant understand why some one would write a program to deliberately mess up anothers computer. It's just plain rude and uneccessary. Hope it gets better and you get your system back up and running. Don't forget them pics too, I'm hooked on CNC plasma in the worst way too. I got my ready to assemble as a bolt together directly from Torchmate in 2005 or 2006 and it has been a monster with a Hypertherm PM1000 G3 and a 25 foot machine torch. Just need to finish the darn Z column asap, after I doze out the shop to make running room again... Been a year or two since I saw the concrete I poured for the floor.....

Bob
 

Rbeckett

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The child support payments ended October of last year so I have a whole other mortgage payment to spend on goodies that I've been longing for for 16 yrs. I paid my dues, now its time to have a little fun.

I find it funny that you think I have a lot of room. It's just a 2 car detached garage packed to the gills with stuff. I feel jealous when I see some of these guys with 40x40 play areas. My dream is really to buy or to build a 40x50 steel building with tall cielings and a car lift so i can work on my vehicles or maybe build myself a hot rod. We can all dream.:drool:
My shop is only 20X20 with a slab out in front to do the car lift and suspension work on along with the big fabricating when I have a project that won't fit through my 6 foot wide barn doors. Have fun, and use what ya got, it's what makes it so much fun to accomplish a lot with a relatively little.
Bobber!!!
 

xalky

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You know. That's a good point. It could be a virus. The only way it would have gotten in is thru a thumb drive that I plugged into it last night that I used to load a cut file onto the machine. That's when my problems started. The cnc computer is not normally hooked up to the internet nor does it have anti_viruss on it. Thanks for the heads up. Now I gotta scan the thumb drive to see if its contaminated. There were other files on the thumb drive but that drive had been parked away in a drawer for at least a year .I Just grabbed it to load a file onto it . The file donor computer has av software so it probably didn't get infected. Its a place to start.


Upon a scan of the thumb drive, it seems that the thumb drive is clean. I'm just gonna try a fresh install of xp and mach3 on the cnc computer to see if that fixes it. It's not too bad really when you think about it, theres not much on that cnc computer. I'm trying a windows xp repair first from the xp boot disk. If that doesn't work then I'll just do a fresh install. I never backed it up yet because it really hasn't done much yet. Once setup and configured again I'll backup the whole thing onto an external HD. What a drag man :rolleyes::rolleyes:

I'm just thinking out loud here. the machine posts up fine up until i get to the welcome screen with the user name icon on it. Once i click on the user icon to get to desktop screen it screeches to a grinding halt....slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww like so slow it aint worth waiting. I'm thinking windows got corrupted somehow. It could still be remnants of the dreaded chicom plasma HF noise demons haunting me. which is what may have corrupted the files. That Chicom blew out a power supply on my last cnc computer, so this is not out of the realm of possibility.

The fresh windows install seems to be loading at a decent clip, lets see what happens.
 
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jumps4

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just another thought about the change in speed
i was having a problem with one of mine and didnt locate the problem until i went into bios setup and found my processor was over temp. the fan and cone that cools the processor heat sink had broken it's seal to the chip and was not cooling the processor enough. if you dont find a virus you might check there.
steve
 

xalky

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I did a new windows install repair and it seems to be running tip top now except I can't connect to windows update. So I might have to do it over as a new install . I tried a few of the remedies to cure the problem but none of them worked. I really think the old chicom plasma corrupted the data on the hard drive. I'm just gonna start from scratch and reformat the hd. I wrote down all my settings for the steppers now, after I got it back running again. That was the reason why I did a repair rather than a fresh install. Now that I have the settings there's no reason not to do a fresh install.
 

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Alright. I'm back in business. The PC is back up n running.

I'm a complete novice when it comes to using Sheetcam and Mach3... a kindergarten baby! :eek: So it might be a few days before I can fire up this torch and actually cut something worth looking at. :thinking:
 

Rbeckett

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Yeah, I have to stand over my machine and adjust the torch height manually and that means I can't do anything beside cutting when it is acting up. I finally found that 14 Ga doesn't react wuite so strongly to the Plasma stream heat and allows me to make less adjustments to the torch height during a long cut series, I try to cut up a whole 4X8 sheet when I push the start buttib. That makes finding an item much easier and much less difficult to locate than an axle. Have fun and glad your machine is acting about right again. Good luck!!!!
Wheelchair Bob
 

xalky

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Yeah, I have to stand over my machine and adjust the torch height manually and that means I can't do anything beside cutting when it is acting up. I finally found that 14 Ga doesn't react wuite so strongly to the Plasma stream heat and allows me to make less adjustments to the torch height during a long cut series, I try to cut up a whole 4X8 sheet when I push the start buttib. That makes finding an item much easier and much less difficult to locate than an axle. Have fun and glad your machine is acting about right again. Good luck!!!!
Wheelchair Bob
This machine has torch height control which is great but its more tedious for initial setup. I'd be cutting already if it didn't have it. It'll be worth the effort once it's set up. I have some people helping me out online , they clarified a lot of things for me already. My problem right now is that I'm itching to get this thing fired up and I just don't have the time. It'll be Thursday night before I can get back into the garage to play with it.
 

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I'm making sparks and I cut out a simple square a few times. No videos yet because I'm trying to get the THC dialed in. But it's pretty damn exciting. The first few cuts were with no THC. I have an 85 amp machine and it came with 85 amp tips which is presenting a problem when cutting 16 guage with the THC on. The material is too thin for the 85 amp tip and the THC to work in tandem. I have a scrap piece of 3/16 sheet that I'm gonna try and cut with THC and the 85 amp tips. I need to order some smaller tips for the Hypertherm to be able to cut this thinner sheet with THC.

I've been doing a whole lotta reading on Sheetcam and was finally able to get something going.

The obstacles I've had to overcome to get to this point have been just huge. The learning curve is very steep....and right now I need to focus on getting more proficient at sheetcam and CAD. The issue I have is, staying on this thing . When I walk away for a few days, it feels like I forgot 1/2 of what I learned. My wife is getting ****** at me because I've been in the garage every spare moment. I need huge blocks of time to get anything done otherwise its 3 steps forward and 2 steps backward. This will not be in vain...I promise you that.a2guns.gif

a2guns.gif
 

jumps4

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at least now it is a learning curve and adjustments not boards frying
you'll get it 3 axis mill was hard at first then it clicked for me.
i'm still slow at it and the 4th axis is coming slow but when i run the gcode its right now and i can find mistakes reading the code.
good luck
steve
 
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