[Lab] Sheet Aluminum: Precision cutting, painting, engraving

Tom Burns tom.i.burns at gmail.com
Tue Sep 27 11:58:12 EDT 2011

I'm mostly finished my CNC (I bought a kit from mydiycnc.com and finally
received it), and am looking at fulfilling my plans to build a modular

A synth module usually consists of a circuit board attached to a metal front
panel.  The power is supplied via a backplane and the modules are a standard
height/width so you can mix/match modules to build your synth.

Using a CNC for circuit board milling is straightforward, but I am trying to
plan out how I finish the synth panels from raw aluminum.

My basic plan is cut the aluminum to size, paint it, then use the CNC to
engrave text and a drill guide into the panel.

For cutting:
- can cut 2mm or 3mm sheet aluminum to a very precise measurement (+/-
0.5mm) with a simple aluminum brake?  I guess I could use the CNC to mill a
guide line but am trying to minimize CNC wear and tear.

For painting:
- I was considering getting an air compressor and gravity-feed HVLP sprayer
to paint the aluminum.  This is similar to how cars are painted but I'm
worried that the paint may flake when I engrave text.  The alternative I
guess is buying pre-painted panels painted using an andization process but
I'd prefer to DIY it.

Then during the milling phase I would engrave text and drill guide onto the
panel before drilling out the holes with a drill press.

Does anyone have experience working like this with aluminum?  Paint choices,
cutting tools, etc, I'm all ears :)

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