New Mill Panel

by Ivan Hamilton 4/21/2009 5:43:00 PM

In rewiring the mill's controls, I will need a new front panel for the mill.

I started by Drawing my desired panel in CorelDraw. I've used CorelDraw since the dark ages, and the current X4 product feels like it's lost some of its shine. Still, it's the simplest Vector drawing package I know how to use, so that's where I started.

It wasn't long before I hit my first hurdle. CorelDraw's DXF export leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of exporting curves, circles and arcs are exported as a series of lines (yuck!). There is a "work around", and that's a product called "DXFTool for CorelDraw V2". It's an add-on to CorelDraw that exports curves as curves. Unfortunately, it's commercial, and my evaluation version will shortly expire. I will need to find a better vector tool.

Initial CorelDraw drawing 

Once the design was in CorelDraw, I exported the indicator and switch holes to a DXF file, and imported them to CamBam. It was just a series of hole, so I did an internal profile with an end mill. The extra yellow arrow you see are the lead-in movements. This is to help give a uniform appearance to the hole (no drilling evidence).

Hole Pattern Exported to CamBam 

Firstly the steel cover had these holes milled into it, and then a piece of 0.5mm thick aluminium (the face) had the same machining performed.

The label portions (text & markings) of the panel were printed (mirrored) to a sheet of laser printer transparency. The aluminium panel was cleaned and then covered in spray adhesive, and the transparency laid on top. This puts the toner between the transparency and aluminum face, protecting it from being worn off. The transparency material covering the holes was cut out with an exacto knife (and a quick edge grind with a rotary tool).

Final Assembled Panel

Ok... I have to admit it. I'm pretty happy with the result. I'll even go as far to say that I think it now looks better than the original factory panel.

Every time I use the mill, I'm learning something about "machining". But what I seem to be learning most of all, is about work holding. How do you mill into sheet? How do you keep it flat? How do you not drill into your mill table? How do you align the part to the mill? I think there's an awful lot to learn before a tool even meets the part.

I've got all the parts I'll need for the new wiring scheme, and with the new panel in place I can begin the rewiring. Now it gets interesting!

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