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  1. #1
    Hello Everyone!

    My name is Jake, i am a fabricator only just getting into the world of CNC! a brief background on myself:

    Time served fabricator with experience in the Agricultural/Heavy Plant/Motorsport industries, having also worked in a foundry as a maintenance engineer.
    ive most recently worked at Prodrive/Aston Martin Racing building Vantage GTE/3/4 race cars, primarily installing the roll cages and doing the shell prep + the space frames for the BRX Dakar racers.

    That has led me to want to build myself a CNC Plasma tube notcher as i run my own business designing/fabricating/installing roll cages amongst other motorsport fabrications. Naturally ive been doing some research and there seems to be plenty of information out there but not so much in the UK when it comes to this type of machine. i have experience using Bendtech & Fusion 360 but im by no means a CAD/CAM Wizard...

    i plan on building a machine around 3m long with as much X Axis travel as possible, in which it will be a 3 jaw chuck driven rotationally. and then a plasma torch in the Z Axis that moves to suit tube diameter.

    i have a few questions that have sprouted since researching if anyone could be so kind to help with!

    Mach3 the best software in this application?
    Rack & Pinion over ball screw?
    What spec stepper motor is advised? Nema34?
    HF Or non HF start plasma cutters?
    Good suppliers for parts in the UK?

    Any help would be massively appreciated!

  2. #2
    Clive S's Avatar
    Lives in Marple   Stockport, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 11 Hours Ago Forum Superstar, has done so much to help others, they deserve a medal. Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 3,323. Received thanks 619 times, giving thanks to others 74 times. Made a monetary donation to the upkeep of the community. Is a beta tester for Machinists Network features. Referred 1 members to the community.
    I hate to say this but I would go over to the linuxcnc forum and look at QTplasmaC forum.

    And use Linuxcnc with a a Mesa 7i96s with a Mesa THC10 for torch height controller
    ..Clive
    The more you know, The better you know, How little you know

  3. #3
    UCCNC has a plasma software.
    Unkown to me what it is like though. Have a good read of the forum over on the cncdrive website. Their controllers are available in the UK.

    I looked at Mesa for a cnc but the ones I wanted I couldn't get without paying silly money tariffs.

    Didn't want a basic step/dir I/O card (looked like all you could get back then over here), may as well have just got a pport pc for what you got.
    UK has got even worse in terms of product availability (and overpricing) in the last 4 years.
    Majority of my mill electronics are from Aliexpress with the exception of my controller section.

  4. #4
    Somewhere on here I have posted about my knurling wizard that engraves knurls on cylinders using a 4th axis on a conventional mill. Not directly relevant to what you ask but while I was researching this I came across a couple of special-purpose machines built for milling things like candy-cane on wood. So just a rotary axis and a long X axis, no Y axis though I guess they needed a Z (up and down). A google search may turn up these again.

    As someone said, Mach3 probably best avoided as it no longer has support (yet you still have to pay for a license!). Other solutions have been mentioned above, though depending on the amount of home-brew you're prepared to do you could even use something like GRBL which is free.

    Would you aim to pass the tube through the "headstock" or use something like a travelling steady to support the free end near where you are cutting?

    This company:

    https://cnc4you.co.uk/

    are based in Milton Keynes and seem pretty good for components, I've certainly bought motion controllers from them. They make their own machines so can probably give you advice on what to use.

    For a 3m Z axis (on a lathe type machine Z is the work rotation axis) ball screws would be a bit pricey I think and you probably don't need that degree of precision, so rack and pinion or even chain drive would be OK. Chain drive used for example on the "Maslow" large format router. I can imagine a long length of rack could be expensive and prone to getting bent in transit, but roller chain is cheap as chips. The Maslow drives the chain with sprockets on cheap DC geared motors that have encoders, so really a servo drive.

    Where are you based in the UK? I'm not far from Haverhill Suffolk which has a number of firms making autosport fabrications.

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