Cutting flat aluminum parts

If you think I’m making a lot of posts over the past week, it’s true! I took 2 weeks off of my day job and have been able to get a lot done on OpenPCR. Back to my day job on Monday :\

We are prototyping 3 1/8″ flat aluminum parts for OpenPCR:

1. ~ 2″ square plate, with holes for 2 screws for the heated lid. Our prototype heated lid involves a peltier, aluminum plate, and thermal pad

2. ~ 4.25″ square plate for mounting the heat sink and aluminum heat block to one surface. This needs holes for the aluminum block and screw holes for mounting the aluminum block and heat sink.

3. 4 cm square square plate to serve as an “adapter” between smaller heat sinks and the peltier. This might not be necessary if we go with a larger heatsink, though the trade off would be the entire case is about 1″ bigger to accommodate the heatsink.

Designing the part and drawing squares in Illustrator? Easy!

Unlike software, when you want to test a design you get out your wallet. I’m addicted to “Just hit ‘Preview’ or ‘Compile’ and I’ll be done!”. I’m so thankful for the support that we’re receiving from everyone on Kickstarter!

I looked around locally and online  for a shop to make the test pieces. Local prototyping didn’t move as quickly as I had hoped, I still haven’t heard back from the guy I started talking to a week ago. Prototyping shops are pretty pricey, I found rates of about $100 per part. With flat pieces cut from a sheet, Ponoko was the best deal because I could fit a whole slew of parts on one sheet. In about 15 days I expect to receive the flat aluminum parts from Ponoko in New Zealand, hopefully right around the time I receive the new laser cut wooden case. (Ponoko says they’ll have aluminum cutting live in the USA in a month).

Got a lot of things moving over the past 2 weeks! Over and out :)

2 thoughts on “Cutting flat aluminum parts

  1. Tom Benedict

    Something else to consider for prototyping is local home shop machinists. It’s not universally true, but a great many of them operate on a shoestring, and would welcome a little shop cash from time to time.

    If you go this route, be clear up front this is for prototype work. Nothing is quite as scary as making a prototype for someone for a decent rate, and then find out they want 5000 of the same part for one tenth the cost. A commercial shop can pull this off (though not typically for that much of a reduction.) A home shop machinist would be swamped. But prototype work can be a lot of fun.

    And if you go this route, work out a pay schedule that is fair to you both. This keeps everyone happy, and means you have another prototyping resource when the next round of revisions comes up. Some home shop machinists will quote prices. For others it may be their first time. Be fair, and you’ll get good work.

    Check for local model engineering clubs, and take a look at online forums for tools they’re likely to use. It’s quick way to get in touch with people who have the resources to make your parts. Heck, you might just get hooked and wind up with a shop full of machine tools yourself! This is no bad thing.

    Best of luck,


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