Help cutting aluminum panel

wrote:


Find a local shop with a laser or abrasive water-jet cutter system. You get the next shipment of 100 enclosures, strip off the front panels to be punched and deliver them to the shop. Go back a day or two later and pick them up slightly lighter than when they arrived.
You could make up press tooling to punch everything at once, but it would cost a small fortune for the dies. And if there are any changes, you pay almost as much to get the dies reworked.
With a CNC cutting system if you need running changes you just modify the programming - a lot less expensive. And they can engrave logos and serial numbers, too - just turn the laser power or water jet pressure down so it etches instead of burning through. For very low production runs of a few dozen, you could make a jig in a drill press to drill the holes +/- 1/16" on position, and a Greenlee punch for the square hole.
For several hundred thousand and no chance of running changes, you make a punch die.
But for several thousand (and to allow for easy redesign if needed) go to someone with the right gear and have them cut - unless you really want to buy a new toy and don't want to chance a "machine busy" or "machine broken" delay at the cutting shop, then go get your own water-jet cutter for your shop.
--<< Bruce >>--
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1. I'd ask the manufacturer for a quote with the holes. I bet they have the capability to do it economically. To keep things easy, I'd get a quote for all the panels or half depending and then see if you can buy the enclosures w/o panels in quantity as you go. I don't know what your start up budget is so initial outlay may be an issue.
2. If having the manufacturer put the holes in isn't an option. Find someone with a cnc turret punch press. They do a fine job of taking a sheet of metal and making repeating patterns replete with holes. They would not want to reuse your panels since munching out of a full sized sheet has less material handling time.
Wes
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If you'd like to try making a few to several hundred yourself first without a large unrecoverable investment, this Roper Whitney press is a reasonable piece of equipment for the square hole: http://www.ajmachineryonline.com/ajmaco7216.htm and the round ones could be done a few at a time on a drill press using a drill jig. Unlike CNC this approach works well with small precut panels.
Jim Wilkins
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