I'm looking to invest in a mill and lathe to progress my robot building beyond Lego, wood and glue. I'm a proper geek, so I'll be going for CNC.
So, let's assume I have kit the size of a Taig or Sherline mill and lathe, with CNC. How practical is it to cut my own gears? I'm looking at gears for the power train of smallish robots up to 2kg in mass - no60kg radio-controlled Robot-Wars tanks for me! Minimum size would ideally be as small as I can make the electronics (very small!).
I know that gear hobbing machines exist, but as far as I can tell they are too specialised for my needs (read: too big and expensive). Is cutting gears with a small (CNC) mill pratical? How do the gears compare to mass-produced items such as one would find in RC models? Can CNC do it all or is there some art involved? Other than hobs and specially shaped cutters are there any other tools to make the job easier/better?
That's a lot of questions, I know. I'll be happy to hear any personal experiences, references (web or books) or suggestions.
I dream of building a working 1/2 scale model of the NASA Sojourner rover as a platform for my robot brains and sensors. I expect that would require custom planetary gears, machining of complex shapes and a lot of time. It certainly wouldn't be my first project, but I'd like to know if the kind of kit I am considering would be capable of the job once I'm a good enough model engineer and metalworker.