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CNC Mill Enclosure

After getting a note from a reader that got me to looking over my enclosure idea notebook, I couldn't resist getting started on an enclosure for my own IH CNC mill. For one thing, I've reached a stage where between G-Wizard's ability to tee up superior speeds and feeds and my own learning curve with CAM and various toolpaths and finish techniques, my material removal rates have gone WAY up. I expect better surface finish and even higher material removal rates will be possible with full flood coolant, but the biggest advantage is not having to deal with the mess. With the feedrates and material removal rates way up there, my mill throws chips as far as the eye can see. They get into everything from my hair to the keyboard on the laptop I run to control the machine. Simple shielding barriers don't seem to deter them in the least as the laptop hides behind a pretty good shield in addition to its own screen yet it still constantly picks up chips.

Time for a real enclosure!

Design Sketches

I started with the mill's footprint travel-wise and being mindful of how far the servo's protrude. I also gave thought to the table height relative to the door opening of the enclosure. Some sketching in Rhino3D led me to this result:

 

IH CNC Mill Enclosure

This rendering gives a flavor for the enclosure. Mill table (blue) is shown in its full forward and centered position...

More views...

Some dimensions...

On the dimensions, note that we let the pan bottom left/right and the short right and left sides run slightly long. The center of the pan was cut to size. This allowed us to cut the angles for these pieces to meet up, fit them up against the front and rear pieces, mark off the actual measurements, and then make a final cut to size. Leaving this room for adjustment was a good idea!

More dimensions for the door...

And side window dimensions...

You can download my Rhino model here. Republish the model or use as you like provided you give credit for where you got it from!

One further requirement is I wanted to be able to hinge down at least three of the sides of the enclosure to make it easy to work on the mill or to deal with workpieces that hang over too far to fit inside the enclosure. When I drew the sketches, I made no allowance for how the mounting of the walls was to be engineered. I plan to work that out right after I build the chip pan and cut the sides so I can experiment. Ever since having seen a Deckel with the hinge-down feature, it's been on my must-have list for an enclosure.

Deckel with Enclosure up...

Convenient to be able to put the enclosure down...

After looking over the dimensions of the enclosure, and the space I have available, I decided not to go with a hinged design. Instead, there are two means of gaining further access:

- Each side is individually removable.

- The side windows can be opened.

That should provide quite a lot of leeway. The issue with hinging is the spot I want to put the mill enclosure won't leave room to clear the big sides if they're hinged.

The Stand

Back when I first got the mill, I built a monster of a stand for it:

That stand is a beast!

The stand is rock solid and quite heavy. The chip pan will sit directly on the stand, and the mill base will sit on the chip pan. The wooden chip pan should help absorb some vibration as well, though I expect to bolt the enclosure to the stand just to make sure it doesn't go anywhere.

 

Leveling Casters

Came across these leveling casters from Access Casters, so I ordered a set and they're great:

leveling casters

Leveling Casters...

They'll make it easy to level the machine and enclosure as well as make it easy to move things around in the shop if I have to. There is a leveling screw on each caster that raises and lowers the rubber puck. When you've raised it high enough the casters is off the floor and the stand sits solid. These casters are extremely well made and were surplus, originally intended for heavy medical equipment that had to be moved around hospitals. With the heavy mill atop this already heavy stand, the whole thing should be very sturdy and hopefully will dampen vibrations as well.

 

The Pig Trough (Chip Pan)

As you can see from the design drawings above, the IH has a pretty good-sized footprint, so I built a largish chip pan for it. The materials are furniture-grade 9/16" plywood (on sale at Home depot, so I couldn't resist picking up 5 sheets of it). Waterproofing will be 3 coats of West Marine Epoxy. This is what the boat builders, who have to deal with a lot more water, use for wooden boats. In addition, I have a fair amount of left over epoxy from my adventures in filling the mill base with epoxy-granite. You want the 3 coats to be rolled on pretty thin.

My brother runs a picture framing business, so he handles the woodworking end of our projects...

I would estimate we have about 5 hours in the pan to this stage, including an hour visit to Home Depot...

Takes a pretty good sized trough for the IH Mill!

You know they'd be happy in that chip pan!

 

The Enclosure Walls

The walls were straightforward to create out of furniture plywood:

Hole saw for rounded corners
We used a holesaw to create some rounded corners. The straight edges were cut with a RotoZip and a straightedge guide clamped to the plywood. When RotoZipping, be sure to consider whether you're making a Climb or Conventional cut. Handheld tools have a lot of "backlash" so Climb is preferred!

Belt sander for chamfering

Use a belt sander to clean up and chamfer the edges so they look nice...

The back wall is structurally the strongest anchor of the 4 walls. In addition to the corner braces, it has this back brace made with some plywood and attached via T-nuts and through bolts...

Here is a look at the corner braces. These are just standard house framing braces. Once you've got one top and bottom it adds a huge amount of rigidity without adding weight or bulk...

Here you can see the top and bottom corner braces. Bottom ones are anchored in the chip tray. Once all four sides are bolted together in this way, the enclosure is solid!

West Marine Epoxy and Paint

In order to waterproof and finish the enclosure, we applied 3 coats of West Marine Epoxy (I had a gallon left over from my Epoxy Granite Fill project on the mill). This is exactly how they recommend finishing a wooden boat, and those are waterproof, so I figure this has got to work, right?

Once the epoxy was dry, we applied extra silicone (the kind that doesn't have acetic acid which accelerates rust on metal machinery) to make doubly sure:

That pan is pretty well sealed up...

Then we applied 3-5 coats of Ace Hardware enamel in a two-tone scheme. The pan is blue to match the mill and the walls are light gray to brighten things up a bit. The paint was applied with a Harbor Freight HVLP gun system, which worked extremely well. We sanded between coats and kept applying paint until we had gotten rid of most of the grain. We weren't trying to create a show finish, but we wanted it to look decent.

Painting with a touch up gun

Here's my brother spraying with a touch up gun. We started with that and pretty quickly moved on to the HVLP gun, which worked a lot better...

Enclosure Mounted on Stand

 

 

See my Flood Coolant page for details on the Coolant System

 


 

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