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Machinery for home cockpit building

Started by giaviv, June 04, 2019, 12:12:10 pm

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giaviv

Hello all,

I am interested in building a garmin type panel (Citation Mustang), with backlit panels, button controls (garmin MCP and keybaord).

What kind of machinery should I be looking into getting? I'm lost between CNC machines, laser cutters and 3D printers.

I understand specific knobs can be made with a 3D printer, but I feel like it's not useful for making actual straight panels and etc.

What would each be used for, and are you able to recommend any specific machine models that I can look into?

Thanks!

ame

No replies? I'll bite.

The answer is "it depends".

I have been helping a friend build some stuff and I have learned a few things on the way.

The most obvious point to make is that there are many ways to achieve an acceptable result.

3D printers are great. They are probably the least messy and easiest to care for home fabrication device. You can print accurately sized parts in many colours, and the material can be painted easily. The parts are quite strong, but not strong enough for some parts.

CNC is great too, but create a lot more noise and mess. However, you can make an accurately shaped part from material that is already strong, or already about the right size.

Laser cutters are basically CNC machines with a very thin cutting tool. They are fast and accurate, but can't cut all materials, and can be dangerous.

Fundamentally, none of these are any good without a decent drawing of the thing you are trying to make. Also, people tend to think that once they have one of these machines (printer, CNC machine, laser) then it will do everything. They forget about other techniques such as cutting and filing by hand. Using materials that can't be handled by their machine. Or trying to fiddle with a design to make it work within the limitations of their machine.

If we take the example of a switch panel. It might be about 6mm thick. It will take a long time to 3D print enough material to build up that thickness. The position and size of any holes in the panel will be accurate, but the panel itself won't be strong and probably will need some backing (MDF or aluminum). However, cutting the same panel with CNC or laser from 6mm MDF or acrylic will give a much better result. Or, without any of those tools, careful marking and cutting by hand will still produce something acceptable.

I have a 3d printer, and I have found it most useful for printing pieces that attach to other pieces to build some object. Or to print a jig to help me make something accurately by hand.

Your specific project would be possible with 3d printing only, but probably better with 3d printed knobs and buttons, and a CNC or laser cut bezel. Probably you will need a PCB to support the buttons, so don't forget that that can be a part of the structure as well as being an electronic component. PCB material is usually fibreglass, 1.6mm thick, which is strong, and you can choose black solder mask so that visible parts look nice.

Trevor Hale

Great answer AME. 

Been busy with Worldflight and haven't had a chance to get caught up. 

Thank you
Trevor Hale

Owner
http://www.cockpitbuilders.com

Director of Operations
Worldflight Team USA
http://www.worldflightusa.com

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