I'll start the question by setting out my goals, because context can change every answer!
The majority of stuff I want to do would need the full travel of the table (200mmx200mm planned, might end up larger depending on parts availability) but would not need more than, say 30mm Ztravel (see example 1 in the picture - not to scale but you get the idea).
Occasionally I might want to work on something with very limited Ytravel but might need 120mm Ztravel (see example 2 in the picture).
I'm currently considering a fixed gantry machine where the X/Y is handled by the table, leaving the gantry to deal only with Z. The gantry itself can then be closer to the table and the motor would be supported all, or almost all the way, depending on how the work is held/size of endmills etc.
The vertical grey part represents the horizontal plate of the gantry itself, probably built along similar lines to the one in JAZZCNC's post here: http://www.mycncuk.com/forums/showth...ll=1#post23883 and Jonathan's post just above.
Would this setup (where X is handled by the table) work better than have the X as part of the gantry? I'm leaning towards seperate motor/spindle with belts, so more weight for the Z to handle. I was thinking this design would lend itself to added rigidity? I'm planning to deal with aluminium - mostly thin plate but occasionally larger chunks.
Compared to the other setups I've seen where the Z extends down much further below the gantry, is there an appreciable difference in having the Z travel set up so that as much of the motor is supported as possible?
As always, I appreciate your time, help and input!
As you've drawn it in 2. if the gantry moves to the right it knocks the red block over...oops. You would need the spindle further down, but then the Z-plate is longer adding to the flex. The better way to do it is to mount the rails to the plate the spindle fixes to, and the blocks to the gantry. Rails move up and down, blocks fixed. You'll find it mentioned in more detail in quite a few places on this forum.
You're in the same situation as me with regards to only occasionally needing more than 30mm of Z travel. Remember to add a bit for tool changing if you have not already.
Since my Z-axis has 400mm travel continuously operating it at maximum travel to do thin parts is just asking for trouble due to the large moment it applies to the gantry. I countered this by eliminating the sides of the gantry so that the Z-axis works below the level of the X-axis rails, and having the height of the bed adjustable so I can optimise it for different height parts. See it here:
Aside from (i) the limit in size of workpiece and (ii) the danger of the workpiece being knocked over when working with something taller (as in diagram 2), can you see any significant mechanical problems or disadvantages with running the Z axis in the way illustrated?
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