Aluminum Paintball Trigger Plate(s) - Cut and Anodized

One of the first things I wanted to crank out with the X Carve are some trigger plates for a few paintball guns I have. These are always made of aluminum (or steel), I chose 6061-T6 aluminum. The shape is a 2D profile and 3 pockets, not overly complicated.

My X Carve is a 500mm x 500mm with NEMA 23’s and a dw660.

Heres my first attempt at cutting a trigger plate from aluminum. There is only 1 pocket in the version because it was more of a proof on concept than a final product (I’m still pretty nooby at cutting aluminum).

Because I didn’t really get feeds and speeds when I did this, it took about 25minutes to cut. Eventually I got it down to 8minutes cut time.

After a lot of testing with feeds I eventually revised my CAD model and produced a small run of 5 total trigger plates. Here are 3 of them. (Excuse the messy, greasy hands, this picture was taken right after cutting and lots of WD40 was used).

So they look good enough by my standards, the sides are still a little chatter-y.

I then tumbled the parts in a rough/de-burring media for 45-60minutes.

A single trigger plate cleaned up, post rough.

I switched the bowl on my tumber from the rough stuff to the polishing compound for 36 hours.

Not an ideal finish, but I have a buffing wheel to give it a final sheen (about 1.5-2min per plate to get a near mirror finish).

So since I’m a paintball anodizer, I’m always thinking of stuff thats made of aluminum that I can anodize. Of course, the plan all along was to anodize these. 1 Blue, 1 Purple, and 3 Black. Now I just need to test them to make sure they wont break instantly.

(The white fiber-y stuff all over the parts is just paper towel)

Because anodizing is a fairly time consuming process, I have to make good use of my time, so heres a bonus pic of the gun I was anodizing for a client at the same time.

I’m extremely please with how everything turned out, especially how the X Carve can handle aluminum fairly well. I wouldn’t cut aluminum though with anything less than the dw660. I tried with the 300w spindle that you can order with the X Carve, but it just takes way too long, there just isn’t enough power. Anyways…



Very cool. What are your thoughts on the DW660 as a spindle?

Its a good spindle, loads of more power compared to the 300W. The tool-less design is a nice idea. I know a lot of people complain that its hard to work with or whatever to change the tool. After some trial and error its really not that bad to change tools, and it seems to be efficient. But as Jeremy Clarkson says, “Speed. Power. Power and speed solves many things” and that is especially true when it comes to spindles.

Pre-dw660 cutting aluminum NEVER gave a clean edge finish no matter how high the feedrate and how low the depth of cut was. Using a 3flute 1/8" endmill, with the dw660 I can cut at 55ipm with a .02" depth at a full .125" width and it makes a very decent edge finish. Not ideal, but good enough that my tumbler smooths everything out nicely.

How bout a photo of one mounted on a marker.


What tumbling media do you use? Have you experimented with walnut shells?

Later tonight when I get home, I will.

This is my roughing/de-burring media.,-Green,-Fine-Cut/339402?Pos=1

For polishing I’m using plain walnut shells mixed with car polish. My current ratio is 4lbs of walnut shells with 4 fl oz. of Nu Finish Car Polish

The polish finish is non ideal. 36 hours in a vibratory tumbler yielded what I would call poorly polished. They were probably 75% of what I would have wanted. Again, 2 minutes on my buffing wheel and they were 99% mirror, so its acceptable in the end.

I think I want a tumbler. My process: Wire wheel, followed by 120 grit, followed by 240, then a 340 pad, then polishing compound and it always looks… how can put this… 'antiqued." Certainly not mirrored. I would be very happy with your 75%!

How hard is the anodizing process. never tried that and have always wondered. also i take it its expensive to do both for materials and equipment

Its fairly expensive to start (my brother and I invested about $1000 for our starting setup), but once you’ve got your setup you are mostly just paying for electricity and dyes, and the occasional $50-$100 on new chemicals. Starting out and for the first 7-8 months it would take me 6-10 hours to go through the process and get a result. Not to mention the countless runs that went bad forcing me to strip the parts of their anodize and start all over.

I’ve been doing it for about 1.5 years now, and have collected lots of upgrades for the setup, saving me time. I can do what used to take 8 hours in about 4, and with almost 100% success rate.

Here are some pics of the trigger in action. Also a grip i cut out of some 2 color acrylic

Looks real clean and good.


Sooooo I’m having a TON of fun with the X Carve…

I cut another 21 triggers, LOL. Gonna give some to a few friends and probably sell the rest, haha.

Often times throughout this process the machine would finish a job, but UGS would sit there waiting for a few commands to execute. I had to cancel the job in order to get control of UGS back. I suspected it was because the rails we covered in aluminum and some of the chips would jam up the pulleys for a second, or jam the v wheels or something. My solution was to put together some barriers for the Y axis rails out of cardboard (as a proof on concept before I order some 1/16 or 1/32" aluminum sheet to cut them out of). I’d say about 90% of the chips can’t get into the belt/rail area and for the remaining triggers I cut UGS never threw the error (about 16 triggers).

Here’s the barrier I made, also the 12x12 sheet of aluminum I cut all the triggers out of.

You can see on the right barrier how much aluminum powder is stuck to the barrier. Cutting aluminum is INCREDIBLY messy. I’m looking into a loc line vacuum setup, similar to the one in the projects section: as well as a coolant mister.

What are you using to generate your gcode? I wonder if your post-processor is adding an M2 command at the end of your file, that might help:

Eric and Paul - I though you might enjoy this link. I got on this guy’s mailing list and every month or so, he posts another mind-blowing work of art. But, if you go to his site and click on one of his projects, he walks through his process - initially he made is first anodizer from scratch - and many of his milling machines are salvage - or home made. But check out some of these projects:!sculpture-works/c5u

I know nothing of art and I am light years away from this kind of thing but this kind of machining talent amazes me and is inspirational.

@EricDobroveanu, Would love to see some video of the cutting in action

Wow, that guy’s stuff is absolutely incredible! Looks like he’s got another member on the mailing list :smile:

I was actually gonna go buy a tripod mount for my cell phone so I could do this. Not the best camera, I know, but its an LG G3 so it can do 4K. We’ll see how that turns out :smiley:

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He’s got lots of videos on that site - mostly when he has to make a custom fixture to machine something unusual. At one point, copper was his nemesis, and there are lots of videos of that.

What were your cutting settings? The triggers look great!

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I’m running MeshCAM at a roughing speed of 55ipm, .015" DOC, 10ipm plunge with 1/8" 3FL AlTiN coated flat bit. When I used 2 flutes to do some tests, I ran at 40ipm no problem (the more flutes, the faster you can cut, 3 flutes is the max for aluminum though, its a weird material like that). I leave .015" stock for the finish pass, which goes at 40ipm. The finish is not ideal. The reason I leave so much for the finishing pass is because there is a significant amount of chatter when doing the roughing pass. Even so the final finish still has some chatter/ridges and I need to file it to smooth it out.

Did you modify your machine at all to impact rigidity?