Recommend a small CNC plasma table?

Joined: May 11th, 2004, 4:09 am

May 9th, 2018, 2:14 am #1

Looking for something in the 4x4 range or smaller.  Just mainly for bracketry and other random parts.  I looked at one on a crowd funding site that was around a grand, but they aren't shipping until September.  And I'm always kinda suspicious about crowd funded projects nowadays.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 9th, 2018, 9:38 am #2

It's been my indirect experience (IE, listening to others and reading the occasional write-up online) that you're going to need to spend a bit of cash to get a decent machine.

One key bit is you will definitely want automated torch height control- and dynamic, too, not just "set it at the beginning and stay there". Thinner materials especially warp considerably, affecting the torch-to-work distance which in turn affects the cut accuracy and quality.

I can't recommend any specifics, however- the only one I have more than just a "I've been in the same room with it" connection to, is a 4x8' Torchmate. Cost some $15K complete with water table, controller, a Miller plaz hefty enough to cut 3/4", and so on.

One that recently got mentioned by a poster on one of the hotrod boards, was this Baileigh unit for $5K. Self-contained, portable including a water tank (highly recommended unless you always cut outside) but only 29x31" table area.

Of course, you could also go the other way and get a portable waterjet machine. Compact, self-contained, just right for the home shop. Only has a 12" square work area though, but hey, for $20,000, what do you expect? 😁

Doc.
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Joined: October 1st, 2014, 2:49 pm

May 9th, 2018, 5:49 pm #3

I'll be honest. We looked at CNC plasma tables for what we do. The cut quality was universally crap. Unless your looking at cutting stuff that it excels at (thick plate is about it) look into CNC router tables. Yes, they are slower(ish) and have some other downsides but the cut quality is so much better.

If your curious what it is we do, this is us.
www.truckcab.com
www.westernhillsfab.com
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 10th, 2018, 6:22 am #4

I tend to wonder just what plasma tables you looked at, because while the "budget priced" stuff might not be the most accurate, the more professional grade- like the Torchmate I saw run- produce very good results.

Of course, they ARE just plasma cutters- you can expect pretty decent repeatability, but they're not milling machines and you're simply not going to get .001" accuracy out of them.

If used within their limitations, for common brackets, braces and such, they're huge time savers. The custom 4WD guys are always building or buying a "home shop" version basically just to do all the fiddly little brackets and mounting tabs and whatnot for their full-cage "rock buggy" builds.

Between a CNC plaz and a well-built press brake, a 4X4 guy can set himself up a pretty damned fair little factory- and more than a few have done just that.

A router table is a poor choice for cutting out steel brackets, and not much better (generally speaking) at doing aluminum. My Shapeoko is capable of milling aluminum- plenty of people have done it- but finishes are poor, cutting is slow due to the limited depth-of-cut, and the machine is not well shielded against metal swarf.

Doc.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 11th, 2018, 9:00 am #5

TW- I asked around on a couple of boards, and for a prebuilt unit, you're looking at $10K and up. The Baleigh unit I linked above is basically the cheapest prebuilt I could find.

Anything under that is a "kit" requiring significant fabrication and considerable fine-tuning, if not merely a set of plans and a source list.

Doc.
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Joined: October 1st, 2014, 2:49 pm

May 11th, 2018, 3:05 pm #6

For us, its the edge quality. Plasma leaves a pretty nasty edge for what we do. Yes, you can clean it up with a sander or grinder but then your tolerances are shot to hell. We even looked at water jetting. Again, left an odd beveled edge.  We had demo parts cut from Tourchmate and a few other places. None of them could produce the super fine edge we require.

Our Mazak Optiplex does a great job cutting most stuff, but doesn't like thicker aluminum sheet. It LOVES mild steel or SS.

This is what we are looking at for work.

https://www.axyz.com/us/product/pacer/

Ours would end up being a very large machine setup with pendulum processing. Supposedly it would be the largest machine of that series they have ever built/quoted.
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Joined: May 11th, 2004, 4:09 am

May 13th, 2018, 4:24 pm #7

Any thoughts on this setup?  For non production work, it's probably one of the better priced I've seen, and should work with the plasma cutter I already have
https://www.gotorch.com/index.html

It's a clear "get you in the door" price, and from the reviews I've read you're really looking at around $5k to get everything (better software, auto torch height control, advanced edge design, etc etc), but once you do you're set up pretty nicely.  That's still half the price of most other systems (as mentioned above)

I do like the idea that you can "unlock" the setup and expand as far as a 5x10 if there was ever a need to start doing larger pieces or production runs of smaller pieces.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 13th, 2018, 7:33 pm #8

Those guys are regular advertisers in Home Shop Machinist and Machinists' Workshop magazines- and have been for many years.

I have no personal experience with their stuff, but in terms of longevity, they must be doing something right.

It might be down to them or a build-your-own.

Doc.
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Joined: April 15th, 2003, 12:28 pm

May 14th, 2018, 5:09 am #9

frank-n-pulse wrote: I'll be honest. We looked at CNC plasma tables for what we do. The cut quality was universally crap. Unless your looking at cutting stuff that it excels at (thick plate is about it) look into CNC router tables. Yes, they are slower(ish) and have some other downsides but the cut quality is so much better.

If your curious what it is we do, this is us.
www.truckcab.com
www.westernhillsfab.com
I default to these guys a lot on cutting, because they make parts for my shop ;)

Hey B!
__
Designer / maker of Jeep gauges and assorted automotive bits and baubles.
TeamADW.com
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Joined: October 1st, 2014, 2:49 pm

May 14th, 2018, 12:20 pm #10

That machine looks really nice for its size. Has options to mount a router on it as well. Plus its on sale (at half off, i have to question if its never not on sale)

My only reason to harp on the cut quality was we where very surprised and unhappy with what we got sample wise from tourchmate. A machine like your looking at with the option to run a router can give you the best of both worlds.
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