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  1. #1
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    Welded steel frame router build

    Hi all,

    I'm documenting my build on my website Barber Precision but I thought I'd also have a build thread here so I can get feedback or ask questions.

    I've built a CNC plasma cutter before which turned out really good but I feel a router capable of machining aluminium will be more useful for the sort of projects I plan on doing.

    I've been working on the design on and off for some time and finally got it to the stage where I'm happy to begin construction.



    Before anyone mentions it, the gantry IS going to have back stays which go to the plates at the rear of the machine - I just haven't put them in the model yet. The Z axis setup is also slightly modified from this as-well. I'll get a snapshot of the changes tomorrow.

    Many of the design choices revolve around ease of manufacture with the tools I have available, and budget constraints (round rail vs profile rail). I've designed the machine to be easily upgradeable to profile rails at a later date, and to have the surfaces on which the rails are mounted easily machined/ground perfectly flat at the same time.

    The main frame is 100 x 100 x 3 tubing with 50x10 flatbar welded where the rails go, again so they can be machined flat at a later date if necessary and to provide material to tap threads.



    The main gantry piece is 200 x 100 x 6 RHS with a 250 x 10 flatbar welded onto the front face. This will allow easy mounting of any sort of rail, and the 10-16mm material will be plenty for holding strong threads.





    I stitch welded the flatbar onto the RHS to minimise warping - I believe it will be fine, but if there are any issues it's a simple matter to fully weld the piece on.

    The end caps are welded on



    And then the legs were attached.







    So far I have about 2 hours work in the gantry and it still needs holes drilled and tapped for the linear rails. Once that's done I can attach the feet and start putting together the y/z axis. I might make the base frame last because it's all going to be pretty heavy once it's all put together. I'd estimate the gantry weighs about 50kg already!

    Currently the Y and Z axis pieces are going to be 10mm aluminium plate because that's what i have available. I'll put stiffener plates on either side and possibly in the middle to gain some rigidity, but if I end up upgrading to profile rails I'll go with 16mm or 20mm if I can get it.

    Any and all feedback on the design is welcome. If I haven't made it yet I'm happy to modify the design if anyone can spot anything that could be improved!

  2. #2
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of the build!

  3. #3
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Wow, you are off to a nice start!

    One suggestion, when you weld flanges on to the gantry supporting tubes make them big enough for the mounting screws and provide room for some jack screws. This will allow you to square up the Y axis with the X axis to a high degree of precision, this especially if you don't have access to a machine shop to machine the feet square. Once you have the machine squared up to your satisfaction you can epoxy grout the gap. Frankly it isn't uncommon to see this approach used on professional installations.

    Other suggests are:
    1. Drill some holes in your steel facing plates and plug weld them to the beam.
    2. The steel beams could use some internal gussets to prevent going trapezoidal, your end plates will likely take care of most of that but an internal plate in the center might be in order. (obviously late with this suggestion so don't worry too much about it.)
    3. Try to scare up profile rails for that gantry! The reason here is that you have a really nice start here and as such might as well finish it off. Done right the gantry will remain the same through multiple machine revisions.


    In any event looks like you have a well thought out design, leveraging the material at hand.

  4. #4
    Community Moderator ger21's Avatar
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    All that heavy steel will be wasted by using the round linear rails. They just aren't nearly rigid enough for an aluminum cutting machine.
    Gerry

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  5. #5
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard View Post
    Wow, you are off to a nice start!

    One suggestion, when you weld flanges on to the gantry supporting tubes make them big enough for the mounting screws and provide room for some jack screws. This will allow you to square up the Y axis with the X axis to a high degree of precision, this especially if you don't have access to a machine shop to machine the feet square. Once you have the machine squared up to your satisfaction you can epoxy grout the gap. Frankly it isn't uncommon to see this approach used on professional installations.

    Other suggests are:
    1. Drill some holes in your steel facing plates and plug weld them to the beam.
    2. The steel beams could use some internal gussets to prevent going trapezoidal, your end plates will likely take care of most of that but an internal plate in the center might be in order. (obviously late with this suggestion so don't worry too much about it.)
    3. Try to scare up profile rails for that gantry! The reason here is that you have a really nice start here and as such might as well finish it off. Done right the gantry will remain the same through multiple machine revisions.


    In any event looks like you have a well thought out design, leveraging the material at hand.
    Thanks mate, what I might do is drill through the gantry in a few places and weld some round bar in, triangulating the square section. I've got an idea to stiffen up the base where the gantry attaches to the base which should work well.

    Very good idea about the jack screws. I was going to use shims but that seems like a much better idea and should be quicker to get the machine adjusted properly.

    As far as the profile rail goes I completely agree, but it's ~ $2,000 extra (the rail + having the gantry/base machined, or self levelling epoxy) that I don't currently have and I've got the round rail left over from a previous project. Once I have the machine up and running and can prove to myself that I can use it to make usable / sellable parts then I'll look at upgrading.

    Quote Originally Posted by ger21
    All that heavy steel will be wasted by using the round linear rails. They just aren't nearly rigid enough for an aluminum cutting machine.
    I've seen videos of round rail machines cutting aluminium and they were much less substantial than this one. Perhaps not as heavy cuts and not as quickly as if I had profile rail but it will get me started. I can then use the machine to make the conversion parts at a later date

    After work today I'll be fabricating the main structure of the base.

  6. #6
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    A bit better view of the proposed Z axis




  7. #7
    Community Moderator ger21's Avatar
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Why is the Z axis so tall?
    Gerry

    UCCNC 2017 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2017.html

    Mach3 2010 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2010.html

    JointCAM - CNC Dovetails & Box Joints
    http://www.g-forcecnc.com/jointcam.html

    (Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ger21 View Post
    Why is the Z axis so tall?
    So I can machine things that are that tall, or put a vice/4th axis on the table

  9. #9
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Got the 100x100x3 cut to length for most of the main base pieces, I also capped all the ends for rigidity.

    Tomorrow I'll grind all the welds down where necessary and weld the base together. Hopefully I can get the flatbar rail mounts welded on as well







    This is going to be one HEAVY bit of kit for a router with 700x800x250 travel. I hope when it has profile rails it will be a very capable machine.

    The round rails I'll be running initially are 20mm diameter all round.

  10. #10
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    20 mm round rail isn't very heavy at all for a router this size. While i can understand going cheap initially just understand that this will be a weak point in your machine. I understand using what you have on hand so im not dismissing the round rails just that those rails might not give you the results that you need or want.

    The idea behind doing just the gantry with profile rails is the bigger payoff for a structure already capable of supporting the rails. The welding you have done likely has that facing plate convex on the beam. Depending on how bad that distortion is you may be able to flatten it with hand methods (scrapping and maybe a power sander). It would be a lot of work and you would need a good reference surface. Also welding down the center may pull some of that crown back.

    In any event you have a very interesting build here, hope to see more soon.

  11. #11
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard View Post
    20 mm round rail isn't very heavy at all for a router this size. While i can understand going cheap initially just understand that this will be a weak point in your machine. I understand using what you have on hand so im not dismissing the round rails just that those rails might not give you the results that you need or want.

    The idea behind doing just the gantry with profile rails is the bigger payoff for a structure already capable of supporting the rails. The welding you have done likely has that facing plate convex on the beam. Depending on how bad that distortion is you may be able to flatten it with hand methods (scrapping and maybe a power sander). It would be a lot of work and you would need a good reference surface. Also welding down the center may pull some of that crown back.

    In any event you have a very interesting build here, hope to see more soon.
    Thanks for the feedback man, I really appreciate it!

    I totally agree with you with regards to the profile/round rail issue. My problem here in Australia is postage cost - I can't justify getting one set now and more later, doubling up on postage so I'll be buying them all together later on.
    In the mean time I'll be keeping an eye out for some decent 2nd hand ones but, again, being in Australia it's a rare thing to see on ebay.

    I definitely want to plug weld the front piece in a few places, I should have done that initially but I thought that since the rails are mounting almost directly above the welds to the 200 x 100 I'd get away with it. I didn't factor in the distortion across the crown because it doesn't affect round rails, but you're dead right about getting it done for the profile rails and it's much easier to do it before the machine is assembled any further.

  12. #12
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Today I spent 2 hours making the frame. After grinding the welds on the end caps smooth I tack welded the longitudinal members to the welding table (it's a solid 120mm thick piece of steel)





    Then I tack welded the pieces on top, making sure they were square to the longitudinal pieces





    Once I'd fully welded the assembly from underneath, except for a couple in the middle I skipped to avoid warping the assembly, I flipped it over and proceeded to finish welding.





    I jumped around the base when welding, only doing 50mm runs at a time to minimise heat input. It seems to have worked because the main longitudinal members don't have any noticeable bow in them. I'll still have to epoxy or grind the mounting surfaces when I go with profile rail, but for round rail I believe it will be fine.

    There are a few more reinforcing members I'd like to weld in tomorrow and I'll try to get the flatbar rail mounts welded on as well. If I have time I'll weld on the mounting plates for the gantry, my goal is to have the gantry and base completely welded by Thursday evening.

  13. #13
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Not a huge update but I stitch welded some 10x65 flatbar to the top of the base to provide a solid mounting for the rails.



    By a huge stroke of luck I've found some 25mm profile rails and carriages at work leftover from a previous project but they have some corrosion on the tracks. Is this something I can just scotchbrite off? What would be the best method for removing the rust without damaging the rails? In places there is no rust and elsewhere it looks pretty bad. I may be able to just chop out good sections to get what I want.

  14. #14
    ericks
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Looks great!

  15. #15
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by jones View Post
    Not a huge update but I stitch welded some 10x65 flatbar to the top of the base to provide a solid mounting for the rails.



    By a huge stroke of luck I've found some 25mm profile rails and carriages at work leftover from a previous project but they have some corrosion on the tracks. Is this something I can just scotchbrite off? What would be the best method for removing the rust without damaging the rails? In places there is no rust and elsewhere it looks pretty bad. I may be able to just chop out good sections to get what I want.
    You most certainly can scotch bright or maybe better yet a chemical rust remover. I look at it this way, If you get a year or two out of them have you lost anything at all? Rust will only be a problem if it has resulted in deep pitting, in that case the rials may be useless. However don't throw out the carriages, you might get lucky and find them protected by grease. Given that the rails are a common size you might be able to find new or used ones that fit the carriages fine on E-Bay.

    In the end it really comes down to how bad is the rust. Rust will most certainly impact rail life and maybe make the rail unusable but you will not know for sure unit the rails are cleaned up.

  16. #16
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard View Post
    You most certainly can scotch bright or maybe better yet a chemical rust remover. I look at it this way, If you get a year or two out of them have you lost anything at all? Rust will only be a problem if it has resulted in deep pitting, in that case the rials may be useless. However don't throw out the carriages, you might get lucky and find them protected by grease. Given that the rails are a common size you might be able to find new or used ones that fit the carriages fine on E-Bay.

    In the end it really comes down to how bad is the rust. Rust will most certainly impact rail life and maybe make the rail unusable but you will not know for sure unit the rails are cleaned up.
    That's a very good point, thanks. I've had a look and it appears that there are 6 carriages and there should be a couple of metres of rail that look untouched by rust so I'll see if the boss will let me have it and I'll make it work on the gantry. I'll still have round rails on the table and Z-axis but they can be upgraded at a later date. I'm hoping that after plug welding the gantry will be flat enough to work with the profile rails; if not, I can probably work out a way to machine it here at work.

  17. #17
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by jones View Post
    That's a very good point, thanks. I've had a look and it appears that there are 6 carriages and there should be a couple of metres of rail that look untouched by rust so I'll see if the boss will let me have it and I'll make it work on the gantry. I'll still have round rails on the table and Z-axis but they can be upgraded at a later date. I'm hoping that after plug welding the gantry will be flat enough to work with the profile rails; if not, I can probably work out a way to machine it here at work.
    I like your build! What size steppers are you going to use?

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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by ericks View Post
    I like your build! What size steppers are you going to use?
    Thanks! I've got a set of 3 - 440 oz-in bipolar 3.5A Nema 24 steppers for the project, though I also have a 180 oz-in Nema 23 that I was going to use for the Z axis when I was building a plasma cutter... I think I'll just go with the 440 oz-in motors all round and save the little one for another project.

    I also have a Gecko G540 and Ethernet Smoothstepper to control it all. I wanted to get as close to plug-and-play as possible after my last CNC build used chinese drives and a cheapy parallel breakout board. It worked but I eventually upgraded to Gecko's and it was a big improvement, I'm hoping the smooth stepper will make it even better.

  19. #19
    ericks
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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Quote Originally Posted by jones View Post
    Thanks! I've got a set of 3 - 440 oz-in bipolar 3.5A Nema 24 steppers for the project, though I also have a 180 oz-in Nema 23 that I was going to use for the Z axis when I was building a plasma cutter... I think I'll just go with the 440 oz-in motors all round and save the little one for another project.

    I also have a Gecko G540 and Ethernet Smoothstepper to control it all. I wanted to get as close to plug-and-play as possible after my last CNC build used chinese drives and a cheapy parallel breakout board. It worked but I eventually upgraded to Gecko's and it was a big improvement, I'm hoping the smooth stepper will make it even better.
    Sounds good....yes the first thing i did when i got my 6040 was to dump the cheap stepper drives, VFD and water cooled spindle. Six years later all good except my Homann Designs breakout board packed up when i had a floating earth. Ethernet is something i might upgrade to if/when my older pc dies. I am currently using a 5 axis cheap breakout board in my 6040 must say i am very impressed, however not using the pwm part of it....i did test it a while back it wasn't working very good. Guess you can't expect much for $9

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    Re: Welded steel frame router build

    Little bit of progress this afternoon - I welded a reinforcement into the base frame and attached the gantry mounting plates

    IMG_20180913_165448 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    IMG_20180913_180000 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    These little suckers should stiffen the gantry mounting points and the main rail pieces.

    IMG_20180913_180003 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    Mounting plates all in

    IMG_20180913_183618 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    IMG_20180913_183607 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    Then I just sat the gantry on the frame to get an idea of what it will look like

    IMG_20180913_183925 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    Just for giggles I checked how square the legs are on the gantry

    IMG_20180913_184059 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    Pretty much spot on, except I noticed there is definitely a bow in the 10mm plate from top to bottom. I'll definitely have to get it machined in order to use the profile rails... round as a temporary measure is looking more and more appealing.

    IMG_20180913_184349 by jones_fli, on Flickr

    Things left to do before I can take the frame home to finish: plug weld the 10mm plate onto the gantry tube, weld reinforcing bars into the gantry tube, weld feet onto gantry, make back diagonal pieces... and I think that's pretty much all the major steel fabrication required!

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