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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software
Aluminum
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danielwarner



Joined: Dec 18, 2006
Posts: 65
Location: Sacramento

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:39 pm    Post subject: Aluminum Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm planning a modular and I'm curious as to what sort of aluminum people use for panels. 1/16" seems too small, do people normally use 3/32" or 1/8"?

I believe I read somewhere (I can't recall where) to use 6061 alloy.

Does anyone use steel or other metals? I imagine those are too hard to work with comfortably.
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midgetfidget



Joined: Aug 22, 2006
Posts: 84
Location: melbourne, aus

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

i use 2mm aluminum with bananas in motm format.

i would maybe use 3mm if you are using 1/4'' jacks as the 2mm might flex, i'm sure someone else will comment on that.
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Uncle Krunkus
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I use a variety of thicknesses, from 1mm for non structural side panels, to 2mm for front panels (so far, most of which are re-inforced by a layer of iron-on wood veneer), right up to 3mm for large cabinet backs or bottoms which may have a transformer mounted on them.
Remember that, if it's a modular panel, you can reduce the flex to nothing by putting an L bracket under some front panel components as a PCB mount. Basically, if your materials aren't exactly perfect, you can overcome that by using some smart design techniques.

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Tim Servo



Joined: Jul 16, 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:21 pm    Post subject: Aluminum
Subject description: bend me, break me...
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Or "aluminium" as our friends across the pond like to say.

I've found the PAiA Frac panels at .125" to be too thick for front panels. The jacks I like to use are too short and so I have to drill a counterbore or countersink on the back of the panel to allow them to protrude through. What I really like is .063" and then I add a PCB bracket made of .032" steel and bent at a 90° angle (I drill holes in the bracket and the panel for the controls, and then bolt everything together to hold the PCB bracket in place. This makes the overall "panel" thickness .095" and this seems to work nicely.

As far as aluminum grades, 5051 or 5052 are meant for bent / formed shapes, but doesn't machine as cleanly, while 6061 or 6063 can be difficult to bend (more likely to show creases and cracks) but is easier to machine and drill. Either grade works okay for front panels, but take a 6000 series aluminum if you have a choice. For chassis parts where you'll need to do some bending, you'll likely get better results with a 5000 series alloy. You have a girlfriend who is going to bend some metal for you? She sounds like a keeper!!

Additonal info for those who speak metric (i.e., the rest of the world):
.032" = 0.8mm
.063" = 1.6mm
.095" = 2.4mm
.125" = 3.2mm

inches x 25.4 = millimeters
mm / 25.4 = inches
ANSI drafting standards state that inch units less than 1 do NOT show a leading zero (.032", rather than 0.032") while METRIC units less than 1 show a leading zero (0.8mm). Just a little drafting trivia for you there. Wink


Tim (CAD Geek) Servo
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Danno Gee Ray



Joined: Sep 25, 2005
Posts: 1343
Location: Telford, PA USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've been picking up aluminum panels at my local "Hobby" stores. They carry 4" x 10" panels in .032" and .064" thicknesses. I plan on using the .064" as front panels. They are a couple bucks a piece, and generally readily available.
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RF



Joined: Mar 23, 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I use 1/8 inch aluminum - waste drops from a local metal fabricator. Until recently I cut them to size myself - but last time in I asked if they would cut them for me. I got 25 8 /12 inch by 2 1/4 inch perfectly cut panels for $20.

Very solid panels, no flex like I had in the 1/16 aluminum I used for my first project.
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Tim Servo



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:43 pm    Post subject: Aluminum Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I probably should clarify my answer a bit. I'm building Frac or Euro panels, so .063 is just fine and .095 is way beefy. For larger formats (MOTM, DotCom, Etc.) You'll either want to go thicker (.093 or even .125 like MOTM) OR you'll want to put a bend along the left vertical edge of the panel. Put a bend along both vertical edges if you can (like DotCom), and you'll create a VERY stiff structure even with .063 or .095 material. Don't forget to trim the bent material back at the very top and bottom of the panel so that it can bolt flat to the case.


Tim (there's a "stiff structure" joke in there, I just know it) Servo
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Danno Gee Ray



Joined: Sep 25, 2005
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Location: Telford, PA USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, I forgot to mention that i"m making EuroRack panels as well.
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ENDIF



Joined: Jul 14, 2006
Posts: 138
Location: Reno, NV

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've got a few built into clear lexan panels, frac format...

but after I blew apart the lexan on the last drill hole last night, I got pissed and dug out the aluminum.

And promptly realized that cutting the panels out was going to be a pain.
I'll see how my jigsaw does on 1/16 inch aluminum, but I have a feeling its time to look for a friendly metalshop...

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danielwarner



Joined: Dec 18, 2006
Posts: 65
Location: Sacramento

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for the responses!

I'll be making FracRack format panels with 3.5mm and banana jacks so I don't know if bending will be an issue even with thinner aluminum, but reinforcing it with a PCB bracket sounds like an excellent precaution!

ENDIF, keep us posted on how well the jigsaw works because that's how I was thinking I'd cut it down to size.
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ENDIF



Joined: Jul 14, 2006
Posts: 138
Location: Reno, NV

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I made a panel for one of my two Wogglebug PCBs tonight from 1/16 aluminum.

I used a fine toothed blade for my hand/skill saw and went really slow, freehand.

I should work up some adjustable clamped jigs on the table, and clamp down the panel in progress for the cut, as the second edge had a slight dip in it. The first, however, was straight as can be. =] I used a rough file to straighten the other, and to remove all rough edges. Nice and straight now.

Randaleem had some off-thread suggestions involving beeswax and WD40 as lubricant, which I'll likely try.

The 6 pot holes and nine jack holes I drilled using standard old drill bits and an 18v Rigid hand drill. Slow and steady, pulling off as I got closer to having a hole so it didn't grab so bad, and backing it out as needed. I install blinds at least one day a week, so I have a fairly good drill hand. ;] Filed off the edges of the drill holes nice and clean.

Three pots up each side, evenly spaced according to the spacing on the PCB. An approximate circle of 8 jack holes between and near the bottom, with the ninth in the center.

Sort of a ripoff of STG's Mankato panel, insomuch as that circle came from a jpg laser printout of that panel, used to make a Lexan version;
I decided I needed all of the options on the PCB, which that panel didnt implement, so discarded the Lexan panel, which had, of course, cracked some, but was still useable. This became a template for later layouts.

One thing I learned. I need a metal punch. My holes drifted a little as the bit scrabbled for purchase on the aluminum. A metal punch on my carefully measured pencil marks would have made a huge difference.

But now I have my first aluminum panel affixed to the Wogglebug, and can finish building it out. =]

I'm sure I'll have questions in that thread as I go, heh, but so far, so good. All that's left there is to add the 22n cap, build out the remainder of the off-board hardware, and let 'er rip.

From here, I think I'll try some Euro format panels for my MFOS boards. Now that I'm using aluminum, I don't worry so much about busting out the screw holes. And since Euro also uses 12v, I reckon it's best to keep like with like....

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http://www.crunchpod.com
http://www.myspace.com/endif
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Uncle Krunkus
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Joined: Jul 11, 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

ENDIF wrote:
One thing I learned. I need a metal punch. My holes drifted a little as the bit scrabbled for purchase on the aluminum. A metal punch on my carefully measured pencil marks would have made a huge difference.


Yes, definitely get a centre punch. And also drill a pilot hole first, say about 1/16". It will make heaps of difference, both in accuracy and ease. Smile

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creatorlars



Joined: Nov 26, 2007
Posts: 524
Location: Denton, TX
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

www.onlinemetals.com sells 6061 aluminum in a variety of thicknesses, and they will custom-cut the pieces for you at no extra charge. i've placed two orders and they are always perfect.

i ordered six 8.75"x2.125"x2.03mm (moog format) panels for $1.88/each. shipping was $10 and they arrived in a week.
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