Structural Material for Prototype Machine

I'm designing a prototype machine which probably
will be between countertop-size and a freestanding
machine. If the latter, I'm thinking of using
some sort of portable cart for the main structure.
I need to make some of the larger outside components
out of a material which looks good (for a machine
that might be used in a laboratory), is reasonably
strong (for joints of attachment, panels for lights
and switches, etc.), light (I may be lugging this
thing around to demonstrate before venture capitalists),
and cheap. Cheap means not exhorbitant, but not
necessarily super-cheap (like concrete or dried mud).
I had been thinking about wood. Or plywood.
I remember seeing some show on PBS where a guy
was turning a bowl of some exotic wood on a lathe,
and he mentioned the wood had no grain which made
it especially easy to work with. I find it hard
to believe that any wood has no grain, but I wonder
what wood he was using.
I've also been thinking about Corian. Lots of
people are offering it on eBay. One positive thing
is that it should be easily machinable, and I will
have most of my parts made by machining. However,
a negative thing is that I've seen comments that
it's rather abrasive when cutting.
The material used for the prototype doesn't have
to be something I'd use for a production unit.
Any comments on good materials for the outer housing
of a prototype? It should look good, and photos may
be taken. The machine will have electronic, mechanical,
and optical components. The machine will make a small
amount of noise while operating. Operation will be
in a room temperature environment, in air. It will
process liquids and solids, and spills of both aqueous
and non-aqueous liquids are anticipated. Some liquids
will contain tracer dyes, so a non-staining material
is a plus. No liquids will be strong solvents, acids,
alkalis, toxins, or radioisotopes.
The other parts of the machine will be aluminum and
stainless steel. I've also considered mica and cork
for key components, but they are not in the current
plan. Plexiglas and glass might be used -- one section
in a very prominent position may need a transparent door.
If I go with Corian, any recommendations on color
would also be appreciated. It's hard to evaluate the
suitability of "Aurora" from a low-resolution eBay
Reply to
Mark Thorson
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