Monday, September 17, 2012

First attempt at panel fabrication

I decided to take a crack at fabricating a module panel on my own.  I've got a couple of spaces in the Discombulator that are not quite wide enough for a module in any current 5U format.  So I decided I'd make a multiple that will be a one-half-MOTM-unit width.  "How hard can it be?", I told myself.

So I ordered some sheet aluminum from  This place is nice because the sell sheet, bar, tube, etc. metal goods in retail quantities.  I ordered a 12x24 inch sheet of .0125" 6061 aluminum.  While I was waiting on it, I made a full-size template of the panel, with the locations for the jacks and mounting holes, as well as a switch.  When the metal came in, I used this to mark the length and width of the piece that I wanted.  I bought a metal cutting blade for my circular saw, and had it.

The results, as you can see, were not terribly satisfactory:

The printed template is show here next to cut metal.  As you can see, the cut metal isn't a consistent width; it's wider in the middle.  I found it difficult to cut a straight line with the circular saw because I had to go so slowly, and because the guide on my saw isn't that good.  The burrs were also really bad -- it was like the saw melted some of the edge and it built up an irregular edge on both sides.  I worked on it with a Dremel armed with a diamond-grinding bit, and that got a lot of that cleaned up, but eventually melted metal clogged up the bit.  Nonetheless, I think I'll proceed with drilling and assembly and see how it goes.  I haven't decided yet what to do for a finish.  

Here is the template overlaying the metal:

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