3D Printed Tooling Punches Above Its Weight With Added Hardware

Reddit user [thetelltalehart] has been making brake press tooling with 3D printed PLA, and recently shared an interesting picture of a hybrid brake press punch, shown here on the right, in blue.

Printed in PLA, with 80% infill and 12 walls, the tool (right) failed at 5 tons.

In a press, material such as sheet metal is formed into a shape by forcing the material around the tooling. Some types of tooling can be 3D printed, and it turns out that printed tools are not only fast and economical, but can be surprisingly resilient. You can see such tools in action in our earlier coverage of this approach here and here.

[Thetelltalehart]’s previous work was printed at 80% infill and 12 walls, and failed at 5 tons. The new hybrid tool adds some common hardware that has the effect of reinforcing the tool for very little added expense or complexity. The new tool made it up to 7 tons before failure. It’s a clever idea, and an apparently effective one.

The goal with these 3D printed tools is twofold: doing short-run work, and reducing costly rework when developing “real” tooling. Having to re-cut a tool because it isn’t quite right in some way is expensive and costly, and it’s much easier and cheaper to go through that process with 3D printing instead of metal.

Stacks Of Spring Washers Power The Drawbar On This CNC Mill Conversion

With Tormach and Haas capturing a lot of the entry-level professional market for CNC machines, we don’t see too many CNC conversions of manual mills anymore. And so this power drawbar conversion for a Precision Matthews mill really caught our eye.

What’s that, you say? Didn’t [Physics Anonymous] already build a power drawbar for a mill? They did, and it was quite successful. But that was based on a pneumatic impact wrench, and while it worked fine on a manual mill, the same approach would be a bit slow and cumbersome on a CNC mill. For this build, they chose a completely different approach to providing the necessary upward force to draw the collet into the collet holder and clamp down on the tool: springs. Specifically, Belleville spring washers, which are shaped like shallow cups and can exert tremendous axial force over a very short distance.

[PA] calculated that they’d need to exert 2,700 pounds (12,000 Newtons) of force over a length of a couple of inches, which seems outside the Belleville washer’s specs. Luckily, the springs can be stacked, either nested together in “series” to increase the load force, or alternating in “parallel” to apply the rated force over a greater distance. To compress their stack, they used a nifty multi-stage pneumatic cylinder to squash down the springs and release the collet. They also had to come up with a mechanism to engage to machine’s spindle only when a tool change is called for. The video below details the design and shows the build; skip to 11:32 to see the drawbar in action.

We’re looking forward to the rest of [Physics Anonymous]’ conversion. They’re no strangers to modifying off-the-shelf machines to do their bidding, after all – witness their improvements to an SLA printer.

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The How And Why Of Tungsten Carbide Inserts, And A Factory Tour

It seems a touch ironic that one of the main consumables in the machining industry is made out of one of the hardest, toughest substances there is. But such is the case for tungsten carbide inserts, the flecks of material that form the business end of most of the tools used to shape metal. And thanks to one of the biggest suppliers of inserts, Sweden’s Sandvik Coromant, we get this fascinating peek at how they’re manufactured.

For anyone into machining, the video below is a must see. For those not in the know, tungsten carbide inserts are the replaceable bits that form the cutting edges of almost every tool used to shape metal. The video shows how powdered tungsten carbide is mixed with other materials and pressed into complex shapes by a metal injection molding process, similar to the one used to make gears that we described recently. The inserts are then sintered in a furnace to bind the metal particles together into a cohesive, strong part. After exhaustive quality inspections, the inserts are ground to their final shape before being shipped. It’s fascinating stuff.

Coincidentally, [John] at NYC CNC just released his own video from his recent jealousy-inducing tour of the Sandvik factory. That video is also well worth watching, especially if you even have a passing interest in automation. The degree to which the plant is automated is staggering – from autonomous forklifts to massive CNC work cells that require no operators, this looks like the very picture of the factory of the future. It rolls some of the Sandvik video in, but the behind-the-scenes stuff is great.

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3D-Printed Punch And Die Stand Up To Steel

When you think of machine tooling, what comes to mind might be an endmill made of tungsten carbide or a punch and die made of high-speed steel. But surely there’s no room in the machine tool world for 3D-printed plastic tools, especially for the demanding needs of punching parts from sheet metal.

As it turns out, it is possible to make a 3D-printed punch and die set that will stand up to repeated use in a press brake. [Phil Vickery] decided to push the tooling envelope to test this, and came away pleasantly surprised by the results. In fairness, the die he used ended up being more of a composite between the carbon-fiber nylon filament and some embedded metal to reinforce stress points in the die block. It looks like the punch is just plastic, though, and both were printed on a Markforged Mark 2, a printer specifically designed for high-strength parts. The punch and die set were strong enough to form 14-gauge sheet steel in a press brake, which is pretty impressive. The tool wasn’t used to cut the metal; the blanks were precut with a laser before heading to the press. But still, having any 3D-printed tool stand up to metal opens up possibilities for rapid prototyping and short production runs.

No matter what material you make your tooling out of, there’s a lot to know about bending metal. Check out the basics in our guide to the art and science of bending metal.

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The Tachometer Inside Your Smartphone

It’s the latest in instrumentation for the well-appointed shop — an acoustically coupled fast Fourier transform tachometer. Sounds expensive, but it’s really just using a smartphone spectrum analyzer app to indirectly measure tool speeds. And it looks like it could be incredibly handy.

Normally, non-contact tachometers are optically coupled, using photoreceptors to measure light flashing off of a shaft or a tool. But that requires a clear view of the machine, often putting hands far too close to the danger zone. [Matthias Wandel]’s method doesn’t require line of sight because it relies on a cheap spectrum analyzer app to listen to a machine’s sound. The software displays peaks at various frequencies, and with a little analysis and some simple math, the shaft speed of the machine can be determined. [Matthias] explains how to exclude harmonics, where to find power line hum, isolating commutator artifacts, and how to do all the calculations. You’ll need to know a little about your tooling to get the right RPM, and obviously you’ll be limited by the audio frequency response of your phone or tablet. But we think this is a great tip.

[Matthias] is no stranger to shop innovations and putting technology to work in simple but elegant ways. We wonder if spectrum analysis could be used to find harmonics and help with his vibration damping solution for a contractor table saw.

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Automate Wire Prep With A Robot Wire Cutter

When you move from one-off builds to production scale, perhaps to meet that Kickstarter commitment or to keep your Tindie store stocked, you’re going to need to tool up. Jobs like building wiring harnesses can be tedious and time-consuming, so outsourcing them to this robot wire cutter might be a good idea.

The video below tells the whole tale of this build, which despite the fact that [Maclsk] seems to have put it together quickly from scrap bin parts still looks pretty professional. The business end of the machine is a 3D printer extruder, minus the hot end, of course. A Nano controls the extruder’s stepper to shoot out the right length of wire, as well as the servo that squeezes the snippers. An LCD display and some pushbuttons provide the UI that rounds out the build. Tell it how long and how many, and you’ll be ready to build. We can see how this might be upgraded to strip the wires as well, although getting both ends stripped might be tricky.

Might this component tape-cutting robot from a few weeks back have inspired [Maclsk]’s build? Perhaps, but in any case, both are fun to watch.

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Good In A Pinch: The Physics Of Crimped Connections

I had a friend who was an electronics assembly tech for a big defense contractor. He was a production floor guy who had a chip on his shoulder for the engineers with their fancy book-learnin’ who couldn’t figure out the simplest problems. He claimed that one assembly wasn’t passing QC and a bunch of the guys in ties couldn’t figure it out. He sidled up to assess the situation and delivered his two-word diagnosis: “Bad crimp.” The dodgy connector was re-worked and the assembly passed, much to the chagrin of the guys in the short-sleeved shirts.

Aside from the object lesson in experience sometimes trumping education, I always wondered about that “bad crimp” proclamation. What could go wrong with a crimp to so subtly futz with a circuit that engineers were baffled? How is it that we can rely on such a simple technology to wire up so much of the modern world? What exactly is going on inside a crimped connection anyway?

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