Tuesday, 28 October 2008

In praise of a good workshop

Having a good space to work in makes it massively easier to do good work.

At first my workshop was the spare bedroom: a tiny child's room. Then I got my CNC router, took over the dining room too. This meant that most of my tools and materials were stored in one place, and I was working in another, which resulted in a huge waste of time and a perpetual battle against clutter. It was also impossible to keep the metal swarf out of the rest of the house.

Now I've moved, and I have a single garage as a workshop. It's still a bit cramped, but it's a massive improvement.

Here are some of the highlights of what I've set up.

CNC router enclosure with high static pressure extractor. The fan can easily be fitted with a flexible duct that I can put out of the door when I'm cutting anything noxious of especially dusty. The box keeps the extreme mess that routing makes off the rest of the workshop, and should contain the splashes from the flood coolant (more on that in a later post). The box walls are 4mm double wall polycarbonate intended for low cost greenhouses, on an Al angle frame.

CNC router. K2 KG-2539, which seems to offer pretty good performance for an excellent ~$7500 including the trimmings. I paid $5000 for a machine without a tabletop, cables, cable chains, or servo drive electronics, and built them myself. It wasn't a smart way to earn $2500 less the cost of the parts, since that didn't leave much actual saving and took a great deal of time that would have been better spent on other things.

Kress spindle, which has a surprising amount of torque and an very low run out. It was able to cut a big chunk off the top of a cast iron G cramp when I accidentally crashed the bit into it at 3600mm/min.

Around the spindle you can see the flood coolant delivery to the four orange nozzles, and the compressed air with optional mist to the grey locline with the red tip. I'll post later on building and using the coolant systems.

Between the flood nozzles is a ring brush that surrounds the bit. The open middle of the ring goes to a shop vacuum cleaner via the the big black hose.

Industrial shelves. Practically impossible to overload.

Really Useful Boxes (TM). From Staples, quite cheap yet sturdy, and it's possible to see what's in them through the walls. They're Euro standard sizes and shapes, too.

Home made work bench, from timber from a builders merchant.

Frankenstein's work bench, supporting the CNC router, (re)built from bench and desk parts salvaged from a skip. It's not really stiff enough: it wobbles at least 1cm when the router X axis starts or stops. I may stiffen it with X braces, or replace it, if I can see some evidence that the flex is actually a problem.

CNC controls. Joystick to control jogging. I haven't set up the HAL (hardware abstraction layer) to make it work yet, but that shouldn't be hard. I'll post about it when it's done.

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