CNC Plasma Cutter Vote 2022

From Pumping Station: One Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


CNC Plasma Cutter Vote 2022

Ron Olson


  • Andrew Wingate
  • Joe 'theJuggler' Mertz
  • James Lamken
  • Carl Karsten

Vote Results

 Yea Votes: [51]  
 Nay Votes: [2]
 Present or Abstain: [5] 

Definition of "Language"

"The wording of a legal document." []


Proposal Date

Date this proposal was posted to the membership and a request for a vote date was sent to the Board.


Member Input

Does the Sponsor choose to open the language of the vote for changes due to member input? (optional and can be modified at any time)

[ ] YES [X] NO

Vote Announcement and Beginning Date of the Discussion Period

The announcement date of the vote proposal is the beginning date of the seven-day (minimum) posting and Member discussion period. (Certain exceptional vote types have longer discussion periods. Check the Bylaws if you are unsure.) If the Sponsor has chosen to include member input, suggested edits can be made in a shared document or other collaborative vehicle until the language is locked. The sponsor can stop taking suggestions at any time.


Language Lock Date and Start of Voting

Five days prior to the Day of the Vote, the vote language is locked, all edits are frozen, and the language of the vote is converted to a pdf file. Ballots that include the pdf are sent to the Membership, and electronic voting begins. Note that the minimum discussion period of seven days leaves only two days for changes before the lock takes place.


Day of the Vote

Date the Board has assigned for the vote. The Day of the Vote is the day the vote closes.



PS1 has had a CNC Plasma Cutter since CNC Plasma Cutter Vote V2. The machine has a rather ... interesting ... history that a number of folks can expound upon, but long-story-short, it's a homemade machine that has been fraught with issues from the very beginning. It has only been through the work of a number of folks who have kept the machine running and even improved it through the years that it lasted as long as it did.

In November of 2021 the control box, essentially the core part of the machine, shorted out due to being splashed with water and coolant when the table was being filled. Due to the homemade-nature of the machine, as well as its age, certain parts were no longer obtainable, necessitating the entire controller to be replaced. I had made what I believed to be cheaper decision, to try to replace the controller, using some money from my 2022 Hot Metals budget, and keep the table basically the same.

That idea hasn't worked out. 2022 has had a number of challenges and it wasn't until late summer when I was really able to start to work on this. After doing some research I purchased some equipment from Mesa Electronics that burned out. When I contacted them for replacements, they indicated they had no inventory and would only know when they had more when the truck backed up to their dock.

Also, one of the main issues with the existing machine is that its cuts were not fantastic; everyone who has used the machine has likely noted that the edges are generally wavy. This is as a consequence of the table being insufficiently stiff allowing wobble, especially when doing curves at higher speeds. The thought is that this may be mitigated by adding some crossbars underneath, but this is not certain and when I investigated how much the metal would cost this past summer, it was ridiculously expensive.

While we're at it, let's discuss the fact that the pan is warped, leading to the materials not sitting perfectly flat when on the table. Oh and the gearing is especially janky, allowing the gantry to wiggle back-and-forth. And, even after spending literal hours cleaning the rails with industrial Zep, the machine still looks like crap, with the gearing being especially gummy.

Throw in that I just don't have the time to cobble together a control box, weld the supports, etc., with no certainty that the cut quality will improve, or for that matter, that it will work at all; I have been very public about my lack of experience in this area and while it's fun to learn, and just in the bit I have done I've learned quite a bit, there's no certainty the machine will be up and running anytime soon.

TL;DR You Deserve Better

The CNC plasma machine gets a lot of use; when it was running it was probably getting similar usage as the ShopBot. For the year the machine has been unavailable, I have been either emailed or DM'ed almost every week generally polite versions of "Is it working yet?" and I totally understand that there's a number of folks with projects that need this machine; it's an invaluable asset and, honestly, should be treated as such, and not as a cool Hackaday-Science-Fair project where there's no expectation that it should actually be usable.

Thus I essentially am saying that we should give up on the existing machine, in total, and replace it with a new one.

Have a Particular Machine in Mind?

Yes, the Tormach 1300PL.

Wait, why this machine?

I helped build our Tormach 1100 series CNC mill and thought it was well thought out in terms of design and assembly, and it's my understanding the machine has served us well. Because of these factors Tormach is a "known quantity" in terms of reliability and functionality.

Hold up, this machine is smaller than our existing one!

Yes it is. Relatively few projects required the full size of the existing table, and working with metal of that size is extremely difficult in terms of getting it on and off the table, as well as being able to monitor the job from all sides. The table size of the 1300PL easily supports 98% of the jobs I've seen people run through the years, and for the remaining 2% there are options such as working in sections and welding together after the fact, or hanging the material off the sides with appropriate supports.

I went to the website, OMG that's expensive! I did some searching and found plenty of tables for less money, are bigger, etc.

Yup, same here. I did a lot of research last year before attempting to roll my own, and found that most of the equipment was of similar build quality to our existing table, used funky proprietary software I'd never heard of, or a combination of both. At the end of the day we still gotta pick something, and I decided to go with Tormach because we already have one of their machines, in addition to being more "local" than other manufacturers.

Isn't PathPilot (Tormach's software) proprietary?

PathPilot is a fork of LinuxCNC. As a matter of fact, there is a dedicated section for PathPilot on the LinuxCNC's forum.

How am I supposed to create files for this thing?

SheetCam has been our tool of choice and that doesn't change. The post-processor will change but that's about it.

So no Mach 3?

Nope, that part will be replaced by PathPilot.

As I understand it, the computer running PathPilot is dedicated to only running PathPilot; where can I create my files?

As part of the accessories for the machine, the computer running PathPilot will be attached to the machine itself, so the Windows computer running SheetCam will remain where it is for you to use.

You said you're really busy, what makes you think you can get this thing installed in any reasonable amount of time?

Well, Tormach has a lot of videos about the machine including one for assembly, which suggests it's pretty quick to set up, possibly as quick as a single day to go from crate to test firing. I've felt really bad about having the existing machine out of commission for so long so I'm really motivated to get this machine running and in use as quick as possible.

Are you getting a new torch as part of this? If so, why not just use the existing one?

Yes, the plan is to get a HyperTherm PowerMax 45XP as part of the package. The existing machine has been obsolete for many years and when I last turned it on, it was throwing errors that would likely require it to be repaired, which while possible, still leaves us with a machine that is less capable than the newer model.

So I gotta re-learn everything about how to use the machine?

You and me both. The plan is to create a Canvas course for both learning as well as reference so we don't have to rely on the "special tricks" the current machine was full of (e.g. tricking Mach to continue a job after a torch touch-off failure. Didn't know about that one weird trick? Not a lot of people did and it was situation-dependent).

What Are the Plans For the Existing Machine?

Old plasma table will have to be removed to make space for the new machine.
The table in it's current form is welded solid and will have to be chopped into pieces to leave the room.
James has offered to dismantle and remove the machine in exchange for the table legs and some carriage assembly parts.
Nothing has been officially decided.


We authorize the board to spend up to $21000 to acquire a new CNC plasma machine with any additional accessories.