Tuned In

Field Report: 3 or 4-Axis CNC...in YOUR garage?

November 08, 2023 High Performance Academy
Tuned In
Field Report: 3 or 4-Axis CNC...in YOUR garage?
Show Notes Transcript

Why would you consider a desktop CNC machine? Would it be worth the investment over a 3D printer, and how long would it take to pay itself off? Bantam Tools Rob Lorentzen runs us through some CNC milling basics about their (currently) $6,500 USD desktop CNC milling machine to help us understand if this is an investment that may or may not suit our fabrication goals or even our wider local car community.

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We also dive a little into what CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) is when it comes to learning how to set tool paths and more, as well as some material options for prototyping and finished products.

This product integrates well with software like Fusion 360 and is ready to go out of the box with minimal maintenance required so long as you keep it within the recommended operational window (not hard to do).

Desktop CNC specs: https://store.bantamtools.com/collect...
- 28,000rpm spindle
- 7” x 9” x 3.3” build volume (work area)
- ER-11 collet (not proprietary; you have many tool options)
- 4th axis capable

Speaker 1:

CNC machined billet aluminium parts are ideal for motorsport. However, outsourcing their production does come with a pretty serious price tag and lead time. We're here with Ron from Bantam Tools to talk about home base alternative options.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to High Performance Academy's tuned in field report podcast series. In these special midweek episodes, we look back through our archives to find the best conversations we've had through years worth of attending the best automotive events across the globe. We've pulled the audio from these tech filled interviews with some of the industry's most well known figures and presented it in podcast format for you to enjoy as a quick hit of insider knowledge.

Speaker 1:

Thinking about the perspective of someone who has a home hobbyist, who's maybe designing parts for their car that they're building motorsport performance automotive application, or even in a professional environment, for someone like creating custom parts for vehicles. They may be designing parts in CAD and sending them off to be machined from billet aluminium at a machine shop. Or maybe they're not designing themself but they have the files and they're getting machine shops to do work for them. It's a fairly expensive process and task to get billet machine parts and the machines that do them even more expensive. It seems like you have a bit of an alternative option here. Can you explain what your product is and, yeah, a bit more about it.

Speaker 3:

Okay, sure, at Bentham Tools we make desktop CNC machines for world changers and skill builders, with professional reliability and precision. So what that is is a desktop CNC machine. So, whereas you're used to a large machine, you know small, suv sized machines that are unattainable, cost tens of thousands of dollars. We have a desktop option which has a 28,000 rpm spindle, a three and a half by seven by nine work volume, and with that machine you can literally take your cam, bring it into our control software and it very intuitively walks you through the setup, walks you through a tool touch off, walks you through your plan layout, your material setup and you can then go ahead and mill your job. So instead of sending out your idea or your part to a machine shop outside, you can quite literally, on your desktop, take your idea and turn it into a reality.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so we covered a few topics there, like cam, and we'll come back to that in a minute. But I just wanted to touch on roughly the price and obviously that's going to be a big factor. It's an expensive process to get something machine from billet. Roughly, what is the price of your machine?

Speaker 3:

So our larger machine, with the three and a half by seven, by nine work volume, that machine starts at $6,500.

Speaker 1:

And that's a three-axis mill. Is there any other options with that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, with it we have a whole family of accessories, and one of the most powerful accessories that's unique in the desktop space is our fourth access to accessories, and with that you not only can do three-axis milling, you have the fourth axis where you can rotate the part, and with that it really unlocks your ability to to create whatever you can conceive of, as long as it can be milled. We can do it out of aluminum on our desktop CNC.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so that's. One of the key things people hear when you talk about a CNC mill is the number of axes, and maybe that's a little bit confusing to some people but it really opens up the amount of flexibility you have in the design. But maybe something that can be made on a five-axis mill, can that still be made on something like this with different setups?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, if you do more setups you can get more features built in. It just takes more of doing different operations, different setups. With the three-axis you'll get full XYZ. You can add the fourth axis where you can get the rotational in. Then if you have to add additional features, you would have to do it on a different setup.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that makes sense. So with the size envelope we're talking about a part that you could make in that that needs to be machined usually on a four or five-axis mill or a three-axis mill with different setups. If you send that to a machine shop to be made from billet aluminium, you're looking at at at least a few hundred dollars to maybe a few thousand dollars in some cases. That adds up pretty quick. It's easy to see how that would possibly pay for the machine as well.

Speaker 3:

Yeah for sure. If you're able to take your part in your idea and turn it into reality without having to go to the outside machine shop, you get two benefits. One is you get to iterate right away so you can make changes to your part without having to go back and forth to the machine shop, which gets very expensive each time you do it. So if you're doing low volume parts, you're going to pay for that machine shop to break down whatever they're doing, set up a new job, the sort of setup charges. Once you get to about seven or eight parts you're probably have already paid for the machine.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so yeah, those two things the expense of actually getting a machine shop to do the labor for you is going to pay for it, and then also the flexibility to be able to do it yourself and on your own time. It's really important for someone who's developing parts In terms of actual running costs of the machine once you own it. Is there anything majorly expensive there?

Speaker 3:

One of our goals at Bentham Tools was to make CNC machining attainable and easy to use. So our machine does not require any maintenance, other than we ask the users to be able to clean out the chips that they make when they're machining so that the chips don't start to impact the movement of the machine. But there's no required lubrication or any of that. So basically you get the machine. It comes fully assembled out of the box. You can plug it in, download our software and you're ready to run. It comes ready to go out of the box, low maintenance and easy to use.

Speaker 1:

In terms of the cost for tolling and something like this, is that fairly expensive.

Speaker 3:

No, no, it uses an ER11 collet which is standard in industry and our machine can take up to a quarter inch shank diameter tooling and with that you can buy the tools from Bentham Tools. But there's nothing custom to the tools. That means that you have to buy from the end of the tool. So you can buy the tools from us or you can buy it from tool vendors anywhere.

Speaker 2:

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Speaker 1:

And I guess material cost is material cost in that will fluctuate depending on how things are going on that end of things. But what materials are you capable of machining with us?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so amongst our supported materials we've really optimized the machine for aluminum prototyping. But we've machine wood on it, we've all types of the engineer plastics like delrin, bronze, copper, or amongst the supported materials.

Speaker 1:

So if we talk about it from that perspective of quick prototyping, we start to look at like flexible manufacturing options. Especially we're talking about material, something like 3D printing. What's the benefit of something like this over similar or even less price a 3D printing solution which can also make prototype parts? What's the benefit in having something like this over just 3D printer?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so the one of the biggest benefits is most 3D printers in this price range are capable of printing plastic. With our machine, you can actually make functional aluminum prototyping. And I would say the other benefit unless you get a really high end 3D printer is the ability for the machine to hold tolerance. So the repeatability of our machine is the thousands of an inch and we have people that make very high precision prototype parts with our machine.

Speaker 1:

And I guess not even prototype parts, just a real final finished product. Aluminum is very useful on motorsport applications, being so light and strong when we see it used a lot 3D printers that can print thermo plastics close to this price range, maybe how to do things like peeking carbon fiber blends, but I guess is there's still no replacement for the aluminum.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I would say Aluminum will definitely give you all the properties you need and if you need extra wear resistance, you can even an anodize, which also makes the part look great. And we've had a lot of people here come talk to us at SEMA about making custom parts out of aluminum and it's very common in this industry and I mentioned prototyping, but our machines are really optimized for custom one on parts, whether that's a prototype or making something just look really cool.

Speaker 1:

Now that makes a lot of sense to just moving on from that topic on to the actual process of using the machine. If someone had modeled apart and CAD software, for example Fusion 360. Fusion 360 also has cam capability and, for those who aren't aware, that's computer aided manufacturing and which is really the process of being able to produce a tool path from the CAD model to control the machine. What is the process from? Is cam and Fusion 360 something that can be used for your machine?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely. In fact we work really well with Fusion 360. In Fusion 360 Autodesk has built into their manufacturing tab a selection where you can select to post your to the Bentham tools desktop CNC machine. So it is the most seamless way to work with our machine is to use Fusion 360. Generate the cam when Fusion 360 has done a great job of making that cam generation pretty simple and seamless. And then you post that file right from Fusion 360, the Bentham tools desktop CNC machine, and take that file, bring it into our software and you're ready to go.

Speaker 1:

And then from there, once it's in your software, in terms of setting up for the machining process, setting that the home position or and the zero points for the machine. What is that process like?

Speaker 3:

Okay, so once you the machine, when you power it up, it has you to home it so it knows where it is. Once you load your tool in and you tell our software which tool you're using, it will go put you through a tool touch up routine where the tool will come down and touch off on the bed and you will know exactly where the tool cutting edges for and then you can use that same probing routine to locate your stock. So now the machine knows where your machining stock is. So we make it really easy to do the tool touch off and the probing of the material is that just with capacitive material? Yeah, so that is with capacitive material. For locating the stock If it's non-conductive material, we have methods that are fairly simple to do it. Some of them we have an L bracket where you can push your stock up against it. Now you can locate our L bracket and we'll know where the stock is. And there are other industry-known techniques, such as using a piece of paper and bringing down and touching the tool until you can't move the piece of paper. So there's ways to accomplish the task, no matter what material you're using on the machine.

Speaker 1:

Most people who are using CAM software with 3D models and controlling a big, five-axis, expensive machine or an CNC milling machine for that matter need to have a fairly good understanding of the manufacturing process. So design for manufacturing is something we hear often, and being able to understand the manufacturing process and factor that into the design and the setup so you don't damage the tool Is that something that you deal with a lot and is it common issues and mistakes?

Speaker 3:

you see, yeah so one of the main purposes of our machine, other than making custom parts and prototype, is to do the skill building and that's to teach people the CNC machining, which is a manufacturing process. So if you learn that manufacturing process you'll understand. Or even if you're trying to make a part on our desktop CNC, you're going to have to work through those issues on how to machine that part and that's going to give you the design for manufacturing knowledge. Because when you realize what it takes to machine a feature or the clamp a feature, or to have multiple setups where maybe you can design the part so it only has one or two setups versus three or four setups, that's where you get to design for manufacturing, where you can design your part such that it's easier for you to manufacture. And by working through the process with the desktop you'll see where you can really optimize design for manufacturing of your part by being able to see at the best way to machine a part. And those ideas really come to life and come to the surface as you go through the process.

Speaker 1:

So it's a great skill-building tool for people looking to move into the industry in CNC machining and make that a future.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the machine is designed for it's accessible in terms of price. It's also designed to be easy to use and it's designed to be able to help people learn the skill of CNC machining.

Speaker 1:

Right, well, that's really good to hear. If people want to learn more about your product and what you do, where can they get that information?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you can contact us and look us up on our website at wwwbantamtoolscom.

Speaker 2:

Oh thank you for your time. Thank you If you enjoyed this podcast. Please feel free to leave a review on whatever platform you've chosen to listen to it on. It goes a long way to help us getting the word out there. All these conversations, and much more, are also available in full on our High Performance Academy YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe. It's a one stop shop when it comes to going faster, stopping quicker and cornering better.