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Rotary axis plasma tube cutter build.

Daniel James

Plastic
Joined
Dec 8, 2012
Location
Stockton CA
Hello there
I’m the owner of a small fabrication business. I work with tube and do small runs of production.
I’ve reached the point where I need to streamline my process to increase profits.

I’m going to build a simple rotary axis plasma tube cutter.

My concept is simple. Take a rotating step geared powered 3 jaw chuck and put it on rollers that will slide along a 20’ bed also powered by a stepper motor.

Still considering what drive method to use on the slide. Ball screw, gear, belt or chain. Probably light chain or belt.

The torch will be at the end of the bed and be on a Z axis.

I don’t work in square tube so stock support will be from roller bearing. I will only be cutting round tube.

Here is a link to the rotary axis unit. As you can see very affordable.

Link

So here is what I need help with. Software and drivers. I will use Bend-Tech to create the cut templates and I’ll then create g code in fusion. But I need software to run the machine and to drive the stepper motors. It needs to be able to adjust the rotary axis rotating ratios to accommodate the different outside diameter tubes as well as be user friendly as possible. Any suggestions??

I’ve not built a cnc machine before except my Langmuir and Dynatorch cnc tables. But they are obviously kits.

I’ll share my designs here as a way of giving back if I can get support from those who have the knowledge I require.

Thank you

Dan
 
When you generate g-code it should move the axis in degrees. You won't need to adjust any ratios.

Any controller that can run a plasma can generally run a rotary axis. I've used Planet CNC controllers and like them. Any of the PC based controls like Linux CNC or Mach should do fine too.
 
Get the Bendtech dragon. The none moving heads are a far from streamlining when you need to move material. You also have the incredianably cumbersome programming you brought up. The same Bendtech part goes straight to the dragon- better is entire assembly’s go straight to the dragon, no individual part programming.

The dragon is a money maker. Not even used all the time- it makes money.

The newer software takes entire step assemblies straight into the dragon.

The price on the small dragon is not much more than building from scratch. The big design flaws were the front gate, that has been mostly fixed- we have the 8th production unit- still moves bundles of pipe. Not as tight as new- still pretty dang good.
 
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The price on the small dragon is not much more than building from scratch
Yep. Building from scratch can actually cost more, you have to figure your labor which will be lost time vs. what your shop would be making per hour.
What do they sell for?...I don't want to fill out that form and go thru the process....lol
 
Yep. Building from scratch can actually cost more, you have to figure your labor which will be lost time vs. what your shop would be making per hour.
What do they sell for?...I don't want to fill out that form and go thru the process....lol
A couple of years ago, the little one (250) was around $20,000, and the bigger (400) was around $40,000. Figure more now.
Somehow if the OP is thinking about $150 components from alibaba, I doubt he is thinking of spending twenty grand.

Me, I have been fabricating for about 40 years, and I agree with Jed.
Buy the real tool, that works as soon as its hooked up, and find work to pay for it.
You can spend months dicking around building stuff yourself, and it may never work right.

Most of the natural born geniuses I have known who succeeded in building working crazy machines didnt have any actual work for them, and couldnt run a business.

There was this guy that built a 20' twisting machine that could twist 3 pieces of 2" pipe together in a braid- but he never had a paying job for that kinda stuff. Machine was very cool, though.
 
Yep. Building from scratch can actually cost more, you have to figure your labor which will be lost time vs. what your shop would be making per hour.
What do they sell for?...I don't want to fill out that form and go thru the process....lol
Ours was sub 15 years ago. No plasma (45xp and computer (pos dell)) excluded. Came as kit. I think the small one is still diy instal.

The new big one with powered front gate with channel/angle ability is 60- with onsite training.

Both a bargain. Nothing fancy about build, most components are ok- the software and movement are outstanding. The sharpie as gang tool is not to be understated.
 
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Eg, when on rails you want to load full length, cut multi parts, and have your nest spit out parts in assembly order.

One at a time, go back to saws and copers. At least then you do not have slag layer.

Poormans tube laser- only dragon has 4th so holes can be straight.
 
I think the one from Henan is a better design. Better thought out and more flexible and easier to use. And it's no 20k.
the litter box link doesnt tell me much.
Who actually sells these, and how much are they?
or, like most of the Ali-products, are there two dozen guys who broker em, and no way to contact the actual factory?
I have known a few brave souls who ordered relatively complicated machines direct from China.
Certainly, you save a bunch- but you are on your own for support, parts, or info.
And, usually, the electricals will need some conversion work.
My friends have had the most success with simple mechanical stuff- I had a friend who brought over a whole container of blacksmith power hammers, for example. But they still had to replace all the motor controller switches, and the oilers, both of which were really crappy and failed fast.
I have a chinese hammer, and the original electrics lasted about a month. Square D was easy and fast- but if there is a couple of unmarked control circuit boards inside the pipe cutter, my guess is when they fail, its buy a new machine time.
A lot of guys I know have bought the cheap tig welders- but they are basically disposable. If the main board goes, or even the big scr's you just scrap the whole thing.
Similar stories with the induction forges- at this point, there are probably 3000 to 5000 of them in the USA, but coming from a half dozen different chinese plants, with no standardisation, and no parts.
Also, the air fittings, circuit breakers, and other small peripherals are often impossible to just pull and switch, you need to completely replace.
I knew a guy from South Africa who was in China, and bought a whole container of fab equipment- fancy twisters, rolls, scroll machines, and end forgers- but he went to the factory, and pointed, one at a time, at bearings, switches, hydraulic fittings, breakers, and so on, and paid extra for upgrades. In the end, he had two shops worth (one in Dubai, one in ZA) worth of equipment for about a third of what the Germans would charge, but without being there and paying the relatively small price for upgrades in quality, he would have been very grumpy.

So, if you are handy, as Red Green used to say, and have the time to fix things, it can certainly save you money to order direct.
But if you want plug and play, and have paying work waiting, I have found its worth it to spend more and buy from somebody who stocks parts in the US, and will answer a phone call in english.
YMMV.
 
Eg, when on rails you want to load full length, cut multi parts, and have your nest spit out parts in assembly order.
Yeah, and ? Henan one has tracks, can be any length, you could put a 50' tube in if you had one.

What I liked was several things :

It's modular, so can take to a job site or if your shop is small pop it into components to store out of the way.

It sits on the ground, which tends to be stable. Also means you don't have to hoist tubes three feet up in the air, and don't have shit tending to fall down all the time.

If you make the tracks in, say, 5' sections you can work on any tube length you want, while still using minimum space for storage or transport.

I see nothing keeping you from doing parts A, B, C and D in order. What would stop that ? Weld together a 100' long tube if you like, as long as you make your track that long, no problem.

Poormans tube laser- only dragon has 4th so holes can be straight.
I'm confused. Motionally I see the exact same thing, one linear axis and one radial axis. If they tipped the torch, that could be useful. Does dragon do that ?

@Ries : not on alibaba. Maybe some day. I'm not recommending you do this. I would tho. They are cool, and $15,000 cheaper. I could probably mess with the wiring a little for that kind of money. At five grand, should make someone some money. It's an option for that kind of person.

I bought a bike out of Italy once. Imported it. I have no idea how many in the US, but not a lot. It was ... Italian :) For anyone who wanted a Yamaha, that would be a bad choice. For me, it was great.
 
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Yeah, and ? Henan one has tracks, can be any length, you could put a 50' tube in if you had one.

What I liked was several things :

It's modular, so can take to a job site or if your shop is small pop it into components to store out of the way.

It sits on the ground, which tends to be stable. Also means you don't have to hoist tubes three feet up in the air, and don't have shit tending to fall down all the time.

If you make the tracks in, say, 5' sections you can work on any tube length you want, while still using minimum space for storage or transport.

I see nothing keeping you from doing parts A, B, C and D in order. What would stop that ? Weld together a 100' long tube if you like, as long as you make your track that long, no problem.


I'm confused. Motionally I see the exact same thing, one linear axis and one radial axis. If they tipped the torch, that could be useful. Does dragon do that ?
It has “a” axis for the gang tooling (sharpie and scribe), also uses for rectangle parts. You can tell it to not rotate hole and a becomes y axis for that op. Hole can then be straight, or straight and offset if you want.
 
It has “a” axis for the gang tooling (sharpie and scribe), also uses for rectangle parts.
That could be useful, if you do that kind of thing. For me, the other features would be more important. The ol' "no perfect machine" problem again :D

[Doesn't that seem a little more like tube laser kind of work tho, instead of basic structural/piping stuff ?]
 
Yeah, and ? Henan one has tracks, can be any length, you could put a 50' tube in if you had one.

What I liked was several things :

It's modular, so can take to a job site or if your shop is small pop it into components to store out of the way.

It sits on the ground, which tends to be stable. Also means you don't have to hoist tubes three feet up in the air, and don't have shit tending to fall down all the time.

If you make the tracks in, say, 5' sections you can work on any tube length you want, while still using minimum space for storage or transport.

I see nothing keeping you from doing parts A, B, C and D in order. What would stop that ? Weld together a 100' long tube if you like, as long as you make your track that long, no problem.


I'm confused. Motionally I see the exact same thing, one linear axis and one radial axis. If they tipped the torch, that could be useful. Does dragon do that ?

@Ries : not on alibaba. Maybe some day. I'm not recommending you do this. I would tho. They are cool, and $15,000 cheaper. I could probably mess with the wiring a little for that kind of money. At five grand, should make someone some money. It's an option for that kind of person.

I bought a bike out of Italy once. Imported it. I have no idea how many in the US, but not a lot. It was ... Italian :) For anyone who wanted a Yamaha, that would be a bad choice. For me, it was great.
I am confused. All you catbox link gives me is a tik tok video.
And if I google Henan, all I get, here in the US internet, is Ali-baba links, most of which are, again, generic brokers who will sell you any pipe tool that has ever been made. Cant find a specific Henan company, or any links to a similar plasma machine.
But I have to ask- did you buy no name stuff from China, because it was cheap, when you were running a machine shop in Cali?
Or did you buy machine tools that had US offices you could call, parts available, and so on?
I am slowing down now, but for 25 years or so, every single day, we fabbed with at least two guys full time in the shop.
Saving five grand, or even ten grand, on a machine that needed fixing when it arrived, and then needed me, because I was the one who could, to drop what I was doing and fix a machine, was not a smart way to do things.
I was happy to buy the most expensive ironworker, the GEKA, because it worked, didnt break, had lots of smart design features, and US parts, service guy available on the phone, and good documentation, along with lots of accessories you could just order.
I have seen some really nifty little mechanical ironworkers from china on instagram lately- and, for a hobby or home shop, sure- they are really cute and cheap. But if you are actually trying to make money, I have found its really worth it to buy the good tools.
I have machines in my shop from the USA, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Taiwan, and one from China. But in each case, I spent MORE, to make sure I got the good ones.
My chinese hammer, which I love, was bought thru a US rep, and I am sure I could have gotten a better deal buying direct on alibaba- there are a dozen dealers- but it was worth every penny more for support, and a US base of similar machines from the same maker, which means institutional knowledge.
But I have always needed to make money from my machines. And that means, they gotta work, even when the kids I hire are banging on em.
 








 
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