You can use up to a 1/4" shank bit in the stock (with the additional purchase of a 1/4" collet), but the stock spindle is a light duty spindle. Milling a lot of aluminium is going to put that spindle through it’s paces and will more than likely wear out quite fast. Using 1/4" bits isn’t the best set up with the stock spindle as well, usually those 1/4" bits are fairly long and with the collet already being a fair distance away from the spindle bearing it can cause a bit of chatter since the bit will more than likely vibrate.
With a upgraded spindle you’ll be able to run longer and faster (depending on your chosen spindle). The stock spindle is 300w (0.4 HP) and two of the most common upgrade are the Dewalt 611 (1-1/4 HP) and a 800w VFD spindle (1 HP).
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who is currently using the stock spindle, it will definitly get the job done, but it has its limitations.
Looks at it this way, you can tow a big trailer with a Honda Civic, it’ll will do the job and you’ll get to your destination eventually, but if you were to tow that trailer with a big truck your life will just be that much better.
Depending on the tolerances you are looking for, it may be very tough to cut aluminum. For example, small aluminum pieces I cut are generally ~.05-.1" off, but cutting a softer material yields much closer tolerances. This probably has to do with the vibration that courses through the machine as it cuts the relatively tough material. You can improve this by getting the smaller, 500mm X-Carve, because of the shorter rails, there is less flex in the machine. Of course, there are mods out there to help this, but still the long axis have a bit of flex and twist that you just can’t get rid of.
As for spindles, I use a DW660, but would highly advice against getting it. In my eyes, the only way to go is either the .8kw chinese VFD or a dewalt DW611 (or equiv). VFD is preferred, variable speeds and precision collets make all the difference. Also for aluminum, you will need to build up some barriers along the Y-Axis rails to block any aluminum chips from getting stuck in a vwheel or pulley or something. Speaking of the Y-Axis you DEFINITELY need to turn the pots up on the gShield. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was trying to figure out that problem, back in the early days of the X-Carve.
Also its probably worth considering having a local machinist create these out of 1/4" or thicker aluminum:
In short, while you can cut aluminum with a stock machine, you’ll either get horribly poor results or it will take hours and hours for a tiny little piece. Time is money, and if you can reduce the time you spend cutting and increase the quality as well you can do some great things with this little machine. The only way to get that is to do upgrades/mods.
So, if I understood you clearly, you are suggesting actually getting the 500 MM X-Carve for less flexing and then moding it ? I’m concerned the 500 MM may not be large enough, although thus far, I don’t think there is any piece to my custom folding E-Bike, which is longer than 10 inches, or thicker than 2 inches, so the smaller machine may well be where I should start I thank you for your excellent advice Eric
I’m not concerned with speed ultimately. It’s always nice to have a fast and accurate machine, but at the price point we’re dealing with here, waiting an extra 20 minutes won’t break me financially. Perhaps using a 1.8 th inch and working at much slower feed rates can still yield excellent results ?? I will consider your advice. Thank you for your input Rusty
You are the second X-Carve user to suggest I purchase the 500 MM version. Your Aluminum work is of very high quality from what I can see. Your anodizing looks wonderful ! Well, it’s clear the X-Carve 500 mm can do the job on Aluminum I’m looking for in order to build my dream custom designed folding Electric scooter with 10 inch micro-wheels.
The point about the software is important. Easel will not do well with aluminum. I’d recommend CamBam as a good starting point. It is free for the first 40 sessions, which if you leave it running will last you a long time. Enough to get a better idea of what you want to do. You should look into things like ramping cuts (I think CamBam calls this a spiral lead-in), avoiding climb milling, and avoiding cutting slots the same width as the bit.
You probably don’t need to worry about a misting system at first. I’ve been avoiding it as I don’t want to coat my workshop (and the inside of my lungs) with aersolized cutting fluid. I’ve been doing OK by just applying a bit of cutting oil with a dropper during the cut.
A little airbrush compressor with a hose attached to the spindle mount will help clear away chips as you cut. You don’t need a lot of pressure.
Now I know what the x-axis mod is, I think I’ll do this as part of the initial build.
There seems to be a range of opinions as to how wide the gap needs to be. 4mm is a readily available thickness in both steel and aluminium so I’ll go with that…
Point of interest. The material thickness of choice is .1875" or 4,762mm. 4mm or .1574" is under size enough that I think you are going to see problems. I am guessing that you live some where other than the US and only have metric materials available to you. I don’t know if you can get 4,5mm material but that would be much closer to what is being used here is the US.
Using 4,5mm material would still require moving one set of Vwheels out by ,25mm and I think you may be able to find washers in that thickness.
I don’t know if you can order .1875" material online and have it shipped to you with out the shipping killing you but that may be an idea for not having to mess with having to move on set of Vwheels.
Thanks for the info re the correct measurement. I’m in Australia so metric only. 4.5mm would be closest standard size but not readily available in my part of the country.
I might be better off getting 5mm (or 6mm which is more common) and getting it milled down to the required thickness. If I do that, I’d probably go with steel.
It’s slowly going together!. The gantry is assembled and adjusted (sort of) and the gap between the Makerslides measures at 4.52mm. I should note that this machine is not from Inventables but from a local supplier so some components may be slightly different… The washers measure in at 1mm and the aluminium spacers are 7.9mm. ( just realised that the spacer size makes no difference to the spacing of the Makerslide )
I’m hoping that the adjustment is OK as 4.5mm would be an easier size to source steel/aluminium bar.
I’m going to need a bigger table http://imgur.com/zAapO9K
Sorry, not the best image. All the components are made from the Grabcad files, off shore somewhere I believe. I already had the Makerslide from a short lived attempt to make it in Australia a couple of years ago. Apart from the colour, the machine is the same as an X-Carve (but called the XYZ-Carve).
There are a few changes, tapped Makerslide instead of self tappers, wiring might be a bit different as the steppers I have, have 4 metre long wires and the spindle mount is a work in progress.
A piece of 1200mm square MDF will fix the table and later become the spoil board.