Plasma cutter idea

Keep the CNC aspect in mind. A lot of people do not realize how cheaply a CNC plasma gantry can be had if ultra precise accuracy is not needed, or you do not need a large work area. A plasma gantry for the home owner can be made from cold rolled square stock and cam followers, and if it is fairly straight material, you probably can be within .015" or so. Thats not all that bad for your typical metal cutting needs. You dont even need cam followers, you can use any plain bearing or even any surplus wheel you can find like inline skate wheels and run them on anything that is straight.
You can obtain rack and pinions really inexpensively if you want, but some have just used the skate wheels as mentioned, spring loaded them and driven by a small stepper motor to actually pull a gantry right along the cold rolled. Its Plasma cutting.... not machining, routing or engraving. Plasma, being "off contact" cutting and requiring no real force only has to pull the head and hose around. I have a real basic 4' x 4' framework that uses 80oz stepper motors and will run 400ipm !
So, mechanically, you can pull something together for a CNC plasma cutter for practically free with a little effort. If your a good dreamer, you can come up with some really small footprint "Cantilever" designs that slide along your existing workbench, but let the torch hang out over a barrel with water in it.
Electronically, it has never been cheaper to CNC a plasma cutter. You can get Freeware PC based controls, spend less than $100 for a perfectly capable 3 or 4 axis "motor drivers" board/kit (solders up painlessly in one evening), and throw together a basic power supply.
I guess in other words, if you have a little time and a good collection of stuff to work with, you might only lay out lss than $200 ! (plus time). The advantages are simply fantastic. Draw whatever,offset a line reflective of half your curf width, load that directly into the control software as a DXF file, and your set. Handiest thing you will have in the metal shop.... reproduce parts over and over and over !
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