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  1. #1
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    Machine recommendation needed

    Hello,

    I manufacture effect pedals for harmonica players that are housed in small cast aluminum enclosures. I currently drill holes for the controls, lights and switches using a drill press; but I am considering upgrading to a CNC machine. My products have holes on the top and the sides but if I could get a machine to do just the holes in the top of the enclosure that would be fine.

    My products can be seen at LONE WOLF BLUES COMPANY

    Where do I start? What type of machine should I look for?

    Any advice is apreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Tickfawriver

  2. #2
    I got your email but I'll answer here if that's ok.
    You don't have to go into the expense of cnc just to drill holes.
    I would make some drilling jigs instead, we used lots of them at work.
    For your parts it looks like you could get away with a simple plate with either a pocket the part would fit into for location or using pins to keep it located.
    Bet you could use mdf and get lots of use out of it or aluminum for the long term.
    Get some drill bushings the sizes you need, there are many styles to choose from.
    DRILL-JIG BUSHINGS :: Midwest Tool & Supply Co.
    A safer way would be to use Destaco style toggle clamps to secure the part in the jig.
    Surplus Center
    I'm sure you've seen the Kreg jigs for woodworking, same principle.
    Kreg Jigs
    I picture a base to sit your part into, then a plate with the pocket to locate off the perimeter of your part with the drill bushings installed mounted on the horizontal toggle arm.
    Put in part, clamp down and drill away.
    The same jig could also have bushings to locate the side holes too.
    Hoss
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  3. #3
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    Nice product, Tick. If Charlie Musselwhite likes it, it must be good! Your holes seem like something a Taig mill could do, although your main problem will be supporting the boxes while you work on them. The 4th axis might make it easier to do the sides as well as the top in a single operation. As Hoss points out, there are other ways to approach this that would be cheaper, but I could see all your various-sized holes being done with a single endmill in a single setup, which would save some time and hassle.

    Andrew Werby
    www.computersculpture.com

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the input.

    The idea of a CNC seemed good so I am trying to educate myself and see if it is feasable, it may be more than what I need to get into. The Taig micro mill looks interesting and may be affordable, what would be involved in using it to drill the holes on top of my pedals? The smallest is 1/8" up to 7/8".

    I take care of the side holes using a jig and this works very well.

    The drill busings will be the option that I go with if no machine setup makes sence for my application and MDF does work good for my jigs.

    Just thinking... Is there a setup for a drill press where the product is positioned automically then you can drill the hole manually and then the product is repositioned for the next hole?

    Thanks for the compliment on my pedals, it has been a lot of fun starting the business and meeting all of the musicians. It is really cool to know that someone like Charlie Musslewhite is performing and using an effect pedal that I made.

    Tickfawriver

  5. #5
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    The nice thing about making various-sized holes with a CNC mill is that you don't have to change the bit for each one. Instead, you send the tool in a circular path to make any holes larger than its diameter. Usually, the process involves making the design in a CAD program, transferring that to a CAM program which writes a file in G-code, and then sending that to the CNC control program that operates your machine (Mach3, if it's a Taig). If this is all you're doing with the mill, though, it would be most cost-effective to hire someone with the appropriate software to write your code for you rather than purchasing the software yourself. A person who's good at G-code could also code a simple project like this by hand. If your boxes are cast metal rather than sheet, they won't need a lot of support; you just have to figure out a way to hold them securely but in such a way that they can be replaced quickly and re-secured while staying in the same place.

    The semi-automated drill press you describe could be built, I suppose, but I don't know of any companies making something like that currently, and it wouldn't have any particular advantages over a fully automatic machine except for providing more exercise for the operator.

    Andrew Werby
    www.computersculpture.com

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tickfawriver View Post
    Thanks for the input.

    The idea of a CNC seemed good so I am trying to educate myself and see if it is feasable, it may be more than what I need to get into.
    CNC can be feasible, since this is extremely light work for a CNC justifying it solely for the three holes you seem to need may very well be a problem. Hoss mentioned fixturing but that isn't exactly cheap to do either if you want it done well. I'm assuming you are a very small operation here that doesn't have the machinery to do your own fixturing. Having a fixture done in a machine shop could end up being rather expensive. Here I'm thinking a fixture that allows you to drill all three wholes on one drill press.

    There is a possible middle ground, I'm assuming aluminum boxes here but this should be viable with other materials. I'd suggest simply buying three drill presses set up with simple fixturing for each of the three hole to be drilled. You just walk the box from machine to machine. This takes care handling different drill bit sizes if needed and makes for rather simple DIY fixtures. This is viable because drill presses suitable for drilling aluminum like this are dirt cheap. It does involve a lot of room though.

    If you are looking at a long term program here a CNC mill "MIGHT" be a better path to follow but there are a lot of considerations.
    The Taig micro mill looks interesting and may be affordable, what would be involved in using it to drill the holes on top of my pedals? The smallest is 1/8" up to 7/8".
    The Taig might be a bit on the light side depending on exactly what you want to accomplish and how big those boxes are. As for drilling the holes there are two common ways to do that on a CNC. One is to simply drill the holes with a drill bit. The other is to pocket the holes with an end mill. That is the CNC helically mills out a hole the size you need with an end mill that is smaller than the hole in question. The other issue is tool cHanges, you might be able to get away with one end mill doing all hole locations but it is likely you will be better off with a tool change or two.
    I take care of the side holes using a jig and this works very well.
    It should for smaller holes.

    To do this well on a CNC you will still need to do some jig and fixture work. What I would try to get you to visualize is a jig or fixture that has two positions, one to mount the box vertically and one horizontally. This assuming of course that you only need access to two surfaces. The operating sequence would be something like this: box A would be mounted horizontally machined and then mounted vertically while box B is put in the horizontal position. A whole lot of boxes could then be shifted through the machine rather quickly on a minimal of fixturing. A more expensive option would be a rotary axis that rotates the box under CNC control.
    The drill busings will be the option that I go with if no machine setup makes sence for my application and MDF does work good for my jigs.
    Apparently you are machining without lubricant/coolant. This is less than ideal on a CNC machine. Even in a drill press fixture hard tooling that doesn't dissolve when wet might improve your results as you can slosh a bit of coolant/lube in the drill bit. If you are managing with MDF right now you have only UP to go from here.
    Just thinking... Is there a setup for a drill press where the product is positioned automically then you can drill the hole manually and then the product is repositioned for the next hole?
    At one time this was likely common. I know that from the pre CNC days I've seen many highly modified manual mills of similar concept. These days though CNC is most likely a cheaper solution than a one off fixture custom built for you.

    Depending upon the accuracy required you might be able to build yourself a suitable fixture that moves the box in an XY plane. If I understand your need here all you really need to do is to repeatedly drill three holes on the front surface with reasonable repeatability. That might be something that can be done rather crudely with locating pins and levers. One approach would be to get an XY slide assembly, yank out the lead screws and add some levers and locating hardware.
    Thanks for the compliment on my pedals, it has been a lot of fun starting the business and meeting all of the musicians. It is really cool to know that someone like Charlie Musslewhite is performing and using an effect pedal that I made.

    Tickfawriver
    I could just imagine.


    Some comments:

    1. This isn't one of those clear cut cases where CNC makes sense.
    2. We you haven't discussed volumes here which can have an impact on which way you go. It also impact which type of CNC machine to buy.
    3. The Taig might be a bad investment depending upon a number of factors. The primary issue in my mind is that it doesn't have an R8 collet or other spindle taper supporting quick tool changes Of course you may not need those tool changes, this is where experience will help you choose a machine.
    4. If you have employees consider OSHA requirements. This may mean moving up to a fully enclosed machine which then puts you in another price category.
    5. CNC processes run best with a bit of lube/coolant, even if they don't they spit material all over the place. It is a bit different that your experience with a drill press.
    6. You might want to consider larger hardware such as Tormach Personal CNC (PCNC) | Small CNC Machines or Web. There are other vendors of course but these are affordable examples. Yes affordable is relative, but these sorts of solutions would give you more versatile machines.
    7. A CNC machine might make more sense if you could leverage the machine to do more than drill holes for you. One possibility would be to have the CNC engrave serial numbers for you. Other possibilities include the date manufactured, logos or other goodies.
    8. Another way to leverage a CNC machine over drilling holes is to do custom engraving for customers. The base example here would be engraving the owners name and address.
    9. The use of CNC normally requires support software also known as CAD/CAM. The task you have here is so simple though that you might get away with hand coded GCode. That is the drilling of holes isn't rocket science though learning GCode does take some time. The point is one way or another you have to invest time in learning software. That includes the controller for the machine.
    10. Don't let base prices fool you. You will have to invest in equipment to support that CNC machine.


    I'm not trying to discourage you with those ten items above. CNC might be the right choice, but you really need to go into it with open eyes. Further in my opinion you need to do more than drill holes to justify the investment. Consider viewing some of the Knife Making Tuesdays videos on YouTube for a perspective on implementing a CNC effort.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Tickfawriver View Post
    Thanks for the input.



    I take care of the side holes using a jig and this works very well.

    The drill busings will be the option that I go with if no machine setup makes sence for my application and MDF does work good for my jigs.
    Yeah since you are already using mdf for your jigs adding the drill bushings would be cheap and simple and give you more longevity. They last for thousands of uses.
    There is a lot to learn with cnc and it will be months and at least a few thousand dollars to get to the point of being able to crank out your parts.
    I'd suggest you read through some of the info below for perspective.
    Hoss

    Hope you will find some of the following useful.
    The first job you need to tackle is to READ, a lot. Be patient.
    There is so much to learn and it's going to take some time to absorb it all.
    It takes years, literally, to become a good machinist. Don't get frustrated
    if something seems difficult, it'll come to you eventually. Hobby CNC requires
    you to become familiar with machining, designing, electrical, programming and
    computer skills to name a few. Oh, and get ready to spend a lot of money too.
    You don't have to spend it all upfront to get started, you'll have years to add
    to your shop. You can though, make your money back and then some if you make
    something with your mill that customers want.

    New to Machining in General?

    Don't know what chip load or climb milling are? You'll need to start with the basics.
    Take a class at your local VoTech or Community College if you can, the experience will be invaluable. Nothing like learning by doing.
    If classes aren't possible, start by watching all ten MIT Machine Shop videos. They will give you a great overview of many of the machines
    used in a typical shop and how to safely use them.
    MIT TechTV ? Machine Shop 1
    Little Machine Shop has a great selection of books and videos to help as well.
    Basic Machining Reference Handbook
    Basic Machining Reference Handbook - LittleMachineShop.com
    Machine Shop Basics
    Machine Shop Basics - LittleMachineShop.com
    Machine Shop Essentials: Questions & Answers
    Machine Shop Essentials: Questions & Answers - LittleMachineShop.com
    You can also rent DVD's from Smartflix.com that cover milling, turning CNC and other subjects.
    SmartFlix, the Web's Biggest How-To DVD Rental Store

    New to CNC?

    CNC is cool but it's not magic. YOU have to know how to machine a part before you can tell the software how to do it.
    Refer to Bob Warfields CNC Dictionary to get a leg up before attempting to jump into CNC.
    CNC Cookbook: Dictionary
    Learn what G-Code is and what each code does. CAM software (Computer Aided Manufacturing) will make life easier but
    you still must learn the codes so that you can edit or write your programs.
    The CNC Programming Handbook, Third Edition by Peter Smid is a great comprehensive guide.
    CNC Programming Handbook, Third Edition: Peter Smid: 9780831133474: Amazon.com: Books
    CNCInformation.com has an e-course you can sign up for free to learn the basics of CNC.
    Learn CNC, gcode, G-Code, G code Files in our E-mail Course
    As mentioned, CAM software is very beneficial, almost mandatory for some parts.
    CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) is used to design your part and usually outputs a full scale dxf file that most CAM programs can use to
    generate a toolpath (g-code) to machine your part. Some software is packaged as CAD/CAM and can do it all at once.
    There are MANY to choose from that range from FREE to tens of thousands of dollars.
    Hobbyist don't need the capabilities of the high end programs. I have links to several programs that I've tried that are either free or
    very reasonable at less than $1000, some very fine programs are only a few hundred.
    I'd suggest you download and try them all, most are free to Try before you Buy.
    It's important to pick a program that makes sense to YOU and not force yourself into using something that others find appealing.
    Install the program and run though a couple of the tutorials that are either included with the software or available for download from their site.
    Links
    Once you find something you like, you can get help, tips or samples from forums on Yahoo.com or CNCZone.com
    CAD software forum
    http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumd...prune=-1&f=404
    CAM software forum
    http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumd...ysprune=-1&f=5

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Tickfawriver View Post
    Thanks for the input.



    I take care of the side holes using a jig and this works very well.

    The drill busings will be the option that I go with if no machine setup makes sence for my application and MDF does work good for my jigs.
    Yeah since you are already using mdf for your jigs adding the drill bushings would be cheap and simple and give you more longevity. They last for thousands of uses.
    There is a lot to learn with cnc and it will be months and at least a few thousand dollars to get to the point of being able to crank out your parts.
    I'd suggest you read through some of the info below for perspective.
    Hoss

    Hope you will find some of the following useful.
    The first job you need to tackle is to READ, a lot. Be patient.
    There is so much to learn and it's going to take some time to absorb it all.
    It takes years, literally, to become a good machinist. Don't get frustrated
    if something seems difficult, it'll come to you eventually. Hobby CNC requires
    you to become familiar with machining, designing, electrical, programming and
    computer skills to name a few. Oh, and get ready to spend a lot of money too.
    You don't have to spend it all upfront to get started, you'll have years to add
    to your shop. You can though, make your money back and then some if you make
    something with your mill that customers want.

    New to Machining in General?

    Don't know what chip load or climb milling are? You'll need to start with the basics.
    Take a class at your local VoTech or Community College if you can, the experience will be invaluable. Nothing like learning by doing.
    If classes aren't possible, start by watching all ten MIT Machine Shop videos. They will give you a great overview of many of the machines
    used in a typical shop and how to safely use them.
    http://techtv.mit.edu/genres/24-how-to/videos/142-machine-shop-1
    Little Machine Shop has a great selection of books and videos to help as well.
    Basic Machining Reference Handbook
    http://www.littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=1735&category=993665105
    Machine Shop Basics
    http://www.littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=3129&category=993665105
    Machine Shop Essentials: Questions & Answers
    http://www.littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=2465&category=993665105
    You can also rent DVD's from Smartflix.com that cover milling, turning CNC and other subjects.
    http://smartflix.com/store/category/115/Metalworking

    New to CNC?

    CNC is cool but it's not magic. YOU have to know how to machine a part before you can tell the software how to do it.
    Refer to Bob Warfields CNC Dictionary to get a leg up before attempting to jump into CNC.
    http://www.cnccookbook.com/CCDictionary.htm
    Learn what G-Code is and what each code does. CAM software (Computer Aided Manufacturing) will make life easier but
    you still must learn the codes so that you can edit or write your programs.
    The CNC Programming Handbook, Third Edition by Peter Smid is a great comprehensive guide.
    http://www.amazon.com/Programming-Handbook-Third-Peter-Smid/dp/0831133473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235881817&sr=1-1
    CNCInformation.com has an e-course you can sign up for free to learn the basics of CNC.
    http://www.cncinformation.com/SP1.htm
    As mentioned, CAM software is very beneficial, almost mandatory for some parts.
    CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) is used to design your part and usually outputs a full scale dxf file that most CAM programs can use to
    generate a toolpath (g-code) to machine your part. Some software is packaged as CAD/CAM and can do it all at once.
    There are MANY to choose from that range from FREE to tens of thousands of dollars.
    Hobbyist don't need the capabilities of the high end programs. I have links to several programs that I've tried that are either free or
    very reasonable at less than $1000, some very fine programs are only a few hundred.
    I'd suggest you download and try them all, most are free to Try before you Buy.
    It's important to pick a program that makes sense to YOU and not force yourself into using something that others find appealing.
    Install the program and run though a couple of the tutorials that are either included with the software or available for download from their site.
    http://www.hossmachine.info/links.html
    Once you find something you like, you can get help, tips or samples from forums on Yahoo.com or CNCZone.com
    CAD software forum
    http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&daysprune=-1&f=404
    CAM software forum
    http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&daysprune=-1&f=5
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  8. #8
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    While working all night a few things came to mind.

    Never forget the focus of your business. In this case I'd have to say that is electronics for the music industry. Trying to bite off too much CNC technology all at once can take focus off your core business. In other words don't underestimate the time it takes to get up to speed and bring up a feasible CNC project.

    Investing in CNC to drill a few holes might not pay off all that well, at least not at the volumes I'm imagining here. The reality is drill presses are dime a dozen and this application requires nothing special in the way of drill presses. You could very well line up five drill presses, with fixturing for each hole to be drilled and still be far below the start up costs of one CNC machine. That would include simple hard fixturing with no MDF.

    Possibly one of the best reasons to invest in a CNC machine isn't to simply drill holes though a good machine can do that. It is the ability to do new things that really makes a CNC mill worth considering. I mentioned previously things that could be added to current products such as custom engravings, that is one thing that might be of value. However the big deal here from my perspective is the flexibility a CNC could afford you to design new products. A big time example is Apples milling of laptop chassises out of aluminum. In other words an entirely new approach to the way the industry use to do things. Sure you would use that same mill to produce existing product but I really see the ability to do "R&D" to be a significant justification for a CNC mill. Think of the capability as expanding your freedom to create.

    Now that freedom to create doesn't come without a cost to you. Ramping up to the point of being able to truly leverage the suite of tools takes some time. That suite being CAD/CAM software, GCode, the CNC controller and general machining technology. Hoss covered this with his usual thoroughness above. Consider also investigating what companies like Tormach offer training and orientation wise.

  9. #9
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    Now I know, thanks...

    Now I know the path that will be best for me.

    CNC is very interesting to me and the possibility of using the equipment for existing products and or providing custom enclosures for customers who build their own effect pedals was a motivator. My enclosures have 7 to 9 holes on top and use 4 different drill bits and with sales that are aproaching 2000 units per year I thought that CNC was the answer, or at least one that I should consider.

    With the information that you all have so generously provided I believe that this new venture would be too costly and the learning curve too steep.

    I think that it will be best for me to make a boxes out of MDF that my enclosure will fit inside and use drill bushings as guides. If I find that I need to make the process more efficient I will add a drill press or two.

    This has been very informative, you guys are great

    If any of you guys ever need a harmonica effect pedal, I will make you a good deal. LOL

    Tickfawriver

  10. #10
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    2000 a year? If it was me, I would be looking to automate the process. Just my opinion and also love autmated prodjects. Looks to me that most could be done with simple drill code or circular pocketing. You would still have to come up with a holding method to simplify the rotation to the different sides. Not sure your mechanic ability, but still plenty of $4000-5000 cnc options available.

  11. #11
    Multiple drills is good, we had banks of them, sometimes I would put a few people in a row assembly line style to speed things up.
    We also had turret drill presses with 6 chucks that rotate to the next bit semi automatically.
    I looked on ebay but most used ones still go for over a grand.
    Burgmaster Turret Drill | eBay
    Don't know the number or sizes you have to drill but if you have a couple/few 1/4" or smaller then these quick change bits could be a little quicker than using a keyless chuck for everything.
    Quick Change Chucks & Accessories, Drilling Accessories, Power Tool Accessories - McFeely's
    Just some thoughts.
    Hoss
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  12. #12
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    vertcnc - The learning curve would be the hard part for me right now, I work at an oil refinery besides the effect pedal business. I do plan to retire from the refinery in 3 years and will re-evaluate things again; who knows, sales may be such that I will not have a choice. : )

    If and when the time comes what machine would you recommend.

    hoss2006 - Those quick change chucks are great, I am ordering some right now.

    You guys know about options I never heard of, thanks for sharing.

    Tickfawriver

  13. #13
    They have them at Sears and Lowes etc. if you just want to go get some.
    Hoss
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tickfawriver View Post
    Now I know the path that will be best for me.

    CNC is very interesting to me and the possibility of using the equipment for existing products and or providing custom enclosures for customers who build their own effect pedals was a motivator.
    That can still be part of your plans.
    My enclosures have 7 to 9 holes on top and use 4 different drill bits and with sales that are aproaching 2000 units per year I thought that CNC was the answer, or at least one that I should consider.
    When it comes right down to it 2000 a year isn't a lot but isn't trivial either especially is a quarter of your orders come in one month.

    It is interesting to with respect to the number of holes as I thought the total was lower than that. There is another possibility here and that is a drill press head with multiple spindles. Again these are something that use to be common but have lost out to CNC. If you can pick up such a drill press or head at an auction or otherwise discounted it might be a good choice. You do run into issues of how tightly you can locate the individual spindles. You might be able to get such a head to cut the number of drilling operations in half or so. Such a unit though would likely put you into cheap CNC range if purchased new with a suitable drill press. Here are some examples: Bant-A-Matic Series Pneumatic Self Feed Drills, Zagar Multiple Spindle Drill Heads, Production Hole Making and Work Holding, Used Steinel Multi - Spindle Drill Presses- Sterling Machinery, Hypneumat | Products for Industrial Automation | Precision Machined Components | Franklin, WI, Multi-Spindle Drill Heads for Drilling and Tapping, Pneumatic Press, Multi-Spindle Heads, Hydro Speed Regulator, Self-Feeding Drilling Heads, Servo Tapping Machine and frankly this is just getting started there is an endless variety of multi spindle arraignments to be had. There are also many types of horizontal boring machines used in wood working that may be adaptable. None of this stuff is cheap retail but if you manage to pick up such hardware at an auction it may do the trick for one setup.

    That is just one way to skin a cat here. The problem is the industrial solutions get expensive fast, back in the day I worked on some secondary operation equipment that used pneumatic drill spindles that actually would work nicely for a project like this. An example drill: Bant-A-Matic Series Pneumatic Self Feed Drills. The problem is you really don't have the volume to even think about these new due to the other stuff you have to build around the spindles.

    So you are back to drill presses or a cheap CNC machine.
    With the information that you all have so generously provided I believe that this new venture would be too costly and the learning curve too steep.
    I really hope that we didn't scare you off to the idea of CNC. That would be too bad really. However realizing the investment in $$$ and time🕔🕔 is important. In the long run I do believe a CNC machine could be an asset to your business.
    I think that it will be best for me to make a boxes out of MDF that my enclosure will fit inside and use drill bushings as guides. If I find that I need to make the process more efficient I will add a drill press or two.
    Except for the MDF this makes good sense for now. The only reason I don't like MDF is that it means no lube/coolant. Drill presses suitable for this sort of work and volumn are dime a dozen and are so cheap you can bolt fixtures directly to the tables or machine the tabels as needed.

    In any even I'd like to suggest going with aluminum for fixturing, for this application you should be able to come up with something that is suitable with hand tools. This would allow you to splash some coolant/lube on the drill bit. With a little bit of effort you should be able to arraigne sliding fixtures to locate multiple holes quickly.
    This has been very informative, you guys are great

    If any of you guys ever need a harmonica effect pedal, I will make you a good deal. LOL

    Tickfawriver
    If I had any talent whatsoever ever I might take you up on the offer. Sadly I suspect that that will never happen.


    ------------

    A couple of notes here.

    I was under the impression that at best you had four holes per side to drill. The more holes to be put into a side the greater the effectiveness of automation.

    From what I can see on your web site you have a large number of similar products, if you can develop you product so that one or more sides all have the same drill pattern that makes fixturing much easier. It can make things like multi spindle drill heads more effective as it you can set up one drill press to do one side for every product.

    Learning CNC does take time and in your case you want to ramp up slowly without undue expense. To that end, if you have a spare computer lying about, you can download and install LinuxCNC. LinuxCNC can even be installed with an emulator if you want. The thing is it will give you some exposure to GCode and CNC controls. I believe Mach has a demo mode too. Going this route will get your feet wet so to speak and along with the online sources Hoss listed will get you well on your way to understanding the technology and what it can do for you.

    While you are doing the above keep an eye 👀 on the industry. Good low end CNC solutions are becoming more commonly available from a number of different sources. If nothing else a good CNC system would allow you to build really nice jigs and fixtures for your drill presses.

    Your best bet is to try to score a used multi spindle drill press head to allow setup for one side. It would have to be an adjustable head though. The goal being here to shorten the time it takes to do the repetive but identical work.

    Now given everything said so far you might have good reason to consider CNC for the faces of your product if there is enough variation from one product to the next. This is where CNC could be very useful to you as the drill pattern, via an NC program, can be loaded at run time for a specific product that you wish to bore holes for. The more the drill patterns vary for one product to the next the more sense CNC makes. After all individual drill presses, floor space and fixtures add up over time cost wise.

    I mentioned horizontal boring machines above that are common in wood working circles. Given the right head it may be feasable to DIY such a machine. With a lever and a couple of clamps you could get some really interesting low cost results. Examples: Homemade horizontal boring machine, Shopsmith Mark 7 - Horizontal Boring Machine, Woodworker.com: Woodtek174 Horizontal Boring Machines Provide Smooth Chatter Free Performance, Set - Woodtek 2 Hole Boring Machine and others.

    In the end there are a lot of options between a CNC'ed solution and a drill press doing one hole at a time. You might need to think outside the vertical drill press box, consider used equipment or DIY equipment.

    Finally don't give up on CNC, it might not be right for the moment (which is debatable) but it might be sooner than you think. I almost feel bad that I scared you off of CNC, I hope not as it could give you the flexibility needed to deliver unique or custom products. I just don't see it as the economical soltution for punching holes in aluminum boxes unless you can leverage the flexibility of CNC across multiple products.

  15. #15
    I wouldn't suggest the multiple spindle heads, they all spin at the same time and the risk of accidents to you and your parts are too high IMO. We used them for drilling or tapping multiple same sized holes at the same time, one machine did 8 at once but the parts were clamped in fixtures run automatically so the operator was hands free and safe. Plus with the expense of this equipment you may as well get a little cnc machine.
    Hoss
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  16. #16
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    Finally don't give up on CNC, it might not be right for the moment (which is debatable) but it might be sooner than you think. I almost feel bad that I scared you off of CNC, I hope not as it could give you the flexibility needed to deliver unique or custom products. I just don't see it as the economical soltution for punching holes in aluminum boxes unless you can leverage the flexibility of CNC across multiple products.
    Don't worry, I ain't scared... LOL
    I will keep it as an option. Currently my products vary in hole placement and this is because I never expected things to grow to the point where I would have 9 different pedals, I will be working to lessen the differences in the coming year to make things a little easier. Sales have been increasing every year so in a couple more years CNC may turn from an option to a necessity and I will certainly look to dream up new products or variations that allow me to take full advantage of my equipment.

    Tickfawriver

  17. #17
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    I am leaning towards what Hoss has said. If you are using 4 different drills then a couple of more drill presses sounds like the order with jigs made up for each one. CNC is fun, its neat to watch the machine do its stuff. But like Hoss said you need to know how to machine the part and then the learning curve on the software can sometimes be madness.

    On second note, I think what you are doing the Taig would be alright, think I would set it up to center drill all your holes and then take the part to the different drill presses to finish drilling.

    And then now that I think about it a press might be the way to go, just punch out all the holes in one shot!!!

  18. #18
    If people balked at the cost of aluminum drill jigs with clamps I suggested earlier you couldn't afford the die sets I made on a regular basis for punching out parts.
    They require much more precision to manufacture properly and a press to use them.
    Not to mention the need for a surface grinder if you want to resharpen them yourself.
    Hoss

    On another note about using oil to lube the bits with the mdf jigs, I would use a graphite dry lube applied to the bits and bushings.
    http://www.blastercorporation.com/Gr...-Dry-Lube.html

    or a dry film lube
    http://www.rz-50.com/wood.htm
    http://www.hossmachine.info - Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here. - Roy Batty -- http://www.g0704.com - http://www.bf20.com - http://www.g0602.com

  19. #19
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    They can be unnerving.

    You do have a reasonable concern here but the danger can be mitigated.

    This brings up an interesting question, is this a one man operation or are their employees involved. The problem of course with employees is that OSHA then becomes a factor. So if the original poster has or expects to have employees he should take care to make sure any machine installation meets current OSHA requirements. This can often mean trivial guarding or it could mean more complex approaches. Also many of the low cost CNC machines become a problem due to their open nature.

    Quote Originally Posted by hoss2006 View Post
    I wouldn't suggest the multiple spindle heads, they all spin at the same time and the risk of accidents to you and your parts are too high IMO. We used them for drilling or tapping multiple same sized holes at the same time, one machine did 8 at once but the parts were clamped in fixtures run automatically so the operator was hands free and safe. Plus with the expense of this equipment you may as well get a little cnc machine.
    Hoss
    Yeah this stuff get expensive real fast. However I've seen bargains on used equipment at auction from time to time.

    Also along the lines of used equipment you might turn up a used horizontal boring machine marketed to the wood working community that might be able to handle boring the sides of the cases. These would be far safer. The only problem would be arraignment of the spindles which might not work out for his current designs.

    Interestingly I would think one of his first uses for that CNC machine ought to be jig and fixture making.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tickfawriver View Post
    Don't worry, I ain't scared... LOL
    I will keep it as an option.
    It becomes an issue of the business being able to afford the equipment. Also who says that the CNC has to go straight into production? It could be used for R&D or tool making. For example you could put it to use initially making fixtures and jigs. This would allow you to ramp up your CNC skills before putting the machine to work on production pieces. If you take a different view you may be under less pressure to make it pay off in production before your skills are there.
    Currently my products vary in hole placement and this is because I never expected things to grow to the point where I would have 9 different pedals,
    Sounds like good material for a success story article someplace.
    I will be working to lessen the differences in the coming year to make things a little easier.
    Experience is an awesome teacher.

    You might want to consider something like this, try to keep side hole patterns the same and use CNC to do face holes as CNC is easy to adapt to different hole patterns. In the end it really doesn't matter where the holes are as long as you have the right program loaded.

    It should be noted that we are talking about a cheap CNC solution here, there is also the reality of four axis machines which could do the face and both sides in one setup. More expensive but probably something you would want to do if sales really sky rocket.
    Sales have been increasing every year so in a couple more years CNC may turn from an option to a necessity and I will certainly look to dream up new products or variations that allow me to take full advantage of my equipment.

    Tickfawriver
    Its great to hear these success stories.

    As for CNC you really need to start to prepare now, because volumes can ramp rapidly and there is a real learning curve. Well normally a real learning curve, in your case what you are doing is pretty trivial, that is drilling holes.

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