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Author Topic: UK. Laser cutting metal sheet. One-off small jobs. Recommendations.  (Read 252 times)
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TheLurker
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« on: November 09, 2019, 06:53:54 AM »

I use French Curves to guide my palsied old hands when cutting parts with a low repeat count and they work well, except they're plastic so are far too easy to gouge and almost always have an ink-step which means they can't be easily reversed for mirrored parts.

As, despite quite a lot of poking around, I can't find commercial metal French Curves I've asked a couple of local companies (Kingston Bagpuize, Swindon) if they could cut me a set from 0.5 to 0.8 stainless sheet from my dxf file.  I've had only one reply and that was to apologise for a misleading entry on the company's web site about their metal cutting capabilities.  Nothing from the other Co., not even a, "Sorry, but we couldn't make any profit on this." reply.

So can anyone recommend a company that would be happy to take on a one off small scale (one A4 sheet's worth of steel) cutting job and not charge the earth?  North Wilts/West Oxon/East Glos for preference, but not absolutely vital.

Cheers,
Lurk

PS
I tried the local Blacksmith at Quenington and he reckons he wouldn't be able to cut and shape the pieces accurately enough to remove the need for lots of, expensive, time finishing them off.
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pbrown
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 07:12:19 AM »

Hi Lurker
If you are happy with aluminuim I am happy to cut them for you on a cnc router.
Thanks
Pete
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TheLurker
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2019, 08:22:40 AM »

Consider your hand taken off at the wrist in my eagerness to accept that offer. Smiley

Yes please. 

Personal message sent.

Thanks,
Lurk
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pbrown
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2019, 08:49:08 AM »

Hi Lurker
PM sent
Pete
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DavidJP
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2019, 04:58:37 AM »

Gosh that is ace!  Thank goodness for the internet!
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lincoln
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2019, 09:24:06 AM »

Around here, there is (or was?) a company which does metal cutting via etching, the same way you'd get copper off a pc board except where you want it. They can also etch halfway through. Their sales people carry metal business cards. I don't know if the edges have to be sanded. Maybe you have a company like that on your side of the pond?

Howeber, I've noticed there are various metal french curves and similar gadgets that show up in an internet search. It seems that a number of woodworking companies have them in steel. Even if you have to have them shipped from the US, it's probably cheaper than custom work.
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TheLurker
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2019, 10:45:42 AM »

Quote from: lincoln
Around here, there is (or was?) a company which does metal cutting via etching..
I know the technique,  used to etch my own circuit boards back when the 741 op-amp and the 555 timer were cutting edge tech.   It works well with very fine copper layers on board but I suspect that for a deep "cut" (>> 0.1mm) you'd get very pitted edges and you might even get notches where the Ferric Chloride (other etchants may be available, the value of shares can go down as well as up) leached under the mask.  Having said that it's quite possible that the professionals know of ways to avoid problems like that.

Quote from: lincoln
I've noticed there are various metal french curves and similar gadgets that show up in an internet search.
{Insert oath here}! That's mildly annoying as I couldn't find anything but the plastic ones that Helix and other drawing equipment Mfrs supply when I went a-searching.

However... PB has already cut me a set via the magic of CNC and what's more he's very kindly refused any sort of reimbursement for materials, time and postage which is extremely generous and for which I'd like to thank him.

Lurk.

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gman
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2019, 11:28:29 AM »

Seems that all the metal French curves that I can find (why is it that searching the net for something you don't actually want is so addictive?) are all by a US company called Stirling Tool Works. Lovely I'm sure but nosebleedingly expensive. So there you are Pete, a nice line for the UK's woodworkers, sheet metal workers and even aeromodelers. You'll clean up!

Gavin
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TheLurker
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2019, 01:16:57 PM »

Quote from: gman
...Lovely I'm sure but nosebleedingly expensive.
Aha! Found them.   Ninety dollars!?  How in the name of the wee man do they justify that?  

It took me about an hour to knock up the SVG that was used to generate the DXF file and a small sheet, roughly foolscap sized, 1mm stainless steel costs a tenner or so -  about 10USD at current rates - in my local DIY shop.  I realise that a commercial concern has a lot of overheads that mean some margin is required to make any sort of a profit.  However the difference between the raw material cost, about a tenner's worth of steel, the juice to run the cutter as well as any consumables required for a cutting run, and the retail price of the end product seems a great deal larger than I would have expected.  

Any members of the parish with relevant commercial experience able to offer a reasoned and reasonable explanation for what, at first sight, seems like an excessive mark-up?
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FreeFlightModeller
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2019, 01:52:03 PM »

It's factoring in the set up and drawing charge that makes 1 off  or short run jobs so prohibitively expensive, as you appreciate. I last priced, set up and ran a CNC machine over a decade ago now ... even a basic job had a minimum of 20 minutes dialled in at an hourly charge out rate of £40 plus for the set up. Add this to running time at the same rate and the cost quickly mounts. Add the materials and you can see why a commercial venture used to playing with high quantity output, will not entertain looking at a £50 job.
Thankfully there are people like PB that are prepared to cut through this to do a job.
I look at it as the difference between a mate giving you a lift into town and having you thrust a fiver in his hand ... against hailing a taxi and watching the meter tick over!
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TheLurker
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2019, 03:05:53 PM »

Aye, I understand one off stuff can be prohibitively expensive for all the reasons you've outlined. It's why I was (more than) half expecting to get, "Sorry, no profit in it." replies, even with the cut file, to my local enquiries.  However, Sterling are knocking out their metal French Curves as a product line which argues a degree of mass production and this is why I'm so surprised at how much they're charging.

Like the analogy.  Smiley
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FreeFlightModeller
Russ Lister
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2019, 03:43:00 PM »

Yes, it does sound a lot!
Taking advantage of a niche market perhaps? It's like high end woodworking hand tools I suppose... if you want them,  you really have to pay a price these days.
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DHnut
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2019, 03:53:00 PM »

Perhaps we have been spoiled by the availability of good quality medium priced tools for a long time. I can remember when basic tools in relation to our earnings were expensive and we all learned that you got what you paid for. I like most of us made some bad decisions and when I purchased the right quality of tool it was revelation. The shear volume of offerings at the local big box stores never ceases to amaze me but I still value the specialist offerings that are in my workshop.
Ricky
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TimWescott
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« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2019, 06:40:06 PM »

emachineshop.com does that sort of work mail-order.  I don't know how shipping is across the pond, or what their prices would be.  In case you need more, and you say the wrong thing to Pete...
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