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'[EE] Cutting out holes for LCD displays in plastic'
2009\02\21@120609 by Larry Bradley

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I'm trying to find a way to cut neat rectangular holes in small plastic box
lids for mounting LCD displays for hobby work.

In the past I've drilled a series of small holes, then used a coping saw to
cut out the piece. Then file the edges smooth. This is not very neat - the
edges are never straight lines.

When I do something like this in woodworking, I use my router to make the
rectangular hole, then clean up the corners. But a router on a small (e.g.
4"x6" box) piece of plastic isn't easy.

I do have a Dremel tool, but I don't have the router attachment for it - that
may be an option, since it is a lot smaller.

What do others out there do? Using a commercial service for a one-of box is
probably rather expensive.

Any ideas?

Thanks

Larry

2009\02\21@122708 by Tony Vandiver

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Before we got an xy table with a router, I cut ragged holes with the
dremel/drill press and used an overlay with a window to "hide" my
handywork.  I usually needed an overlay or keypad of some sort so the
cost of the overlay window wasn't a big adder, but a custom overlay may
be about as much as a commercial service.  Have you considered melting
it with a one piece metal frame that's the right size for the hole?  
Would take a lot of experimenting to get the technique right, but it
might work.

Tony


Larry Bradley wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2009\02\21@124139 by Carl Denk

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To do fine looking work, frequently requires more work at building jigs
and preparation than the actual work itself. :)
There are several ways I might approach this. (not in any order)
1: Drill holes in the corners to make the radius corners, if corners are
square do it anyway, and file square.
2: Cut always slightly short of the line, and file to the line. Can
clamp a piece of wood or metal right on the line and let the file slide
on that surface. The neat thing with files as opposed to loose
sandpaper, is the file does not cut below the surface, it is FLAT. Just
go slowly, a little practice and patience helps alot. If you can
position the file not at a right angle to the edge, but a length wise as
possible.
3: Make a jig, to hold the piece from moving, have a larger piece of
flat probably plywood, but could be most anything. Cut a guide hole the
shape of the new hole plus the clearance between the router collar and
bit diameter. 4: Use the Dremel router base, but there are not collars
available. The base does have holes to add a thin (1/4" plywood)
extension table to bridge big holes or uneven surfaces for more
stability. Use the Dremel fence, or make your own fence to guide and
stop from cutting too deep.
5: For cutting a coping saw is the difficult, but takes patience and
time. There should be 3 teeth of any saw blade minimum in contact with
thickness of material. A good hand held jigsaw is a lot easier. I prefer
the Bosch saws. Very accurate work in many materials is easy, but, it's
not cheap either. The actual blade and the holding chuck are the biggest
help.


Larry Bradley wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2009\02\21@130643 by Mike Harrison

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On Sat, 21 Feb 2009 12:06:07 -0500, you wrote:

{Quote hidden}

With care it can be done very  neatly, but it does take patience.  
Most important is to mark accurately - a super-fine point permanent marker is good as it doesn't rub
off, but can be taken off with solvent afterwards.
For black cases, carefully put a layer of brown parcel tape on the panel to ease marking and reduce
risk of scratching.

Drill the corners (well inside the line)
Fretsaw (like a coping saw but finer blades, use a lot of tension) or Dremel-type jigsaw as close
as you dare to the line. wIth practice this can be <1mm). Use a fine wood blade, essential that it
is very sharp.
If using a jigsaw take care to avoid the sole plate scratching - some tape on the sole or the box is
good.

Here's the important bit - use the widest flat file you can get to finish - the wider the file the
easier it is to get a straight edge. Cutting at an angle also helps lengthen the cut.
MUST be nice and sharp to cut cleanly, and fairly fine (A few teeth in the space of the plastic
thickness). You should grind off the sides of the file so it doesn't matter if you hit the sides
when doing the corners. This makes a big difference!
Do the long sides first, then the short ones, and then finish the corners with a small square file.
Use a sharp knife or fingernail  to clean the last bit of file swarf off the edges.

2009\02\21@130831 by Charles Rogers

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Larry:
There is a tool available at Sears used just for this
purpose.  I use it to cut PCB's and it really works
great.  The tool looks just like a drill bit but it's not
for drilling holes.  It will make the cut perfectly that
you described.  It can be used for cutting into
sheetrock and cutting out a hole for electrical boxes,
which might be its main purpose in life.

CR

Subject: [EE] Cutting out holes for LCD displays in plastic boxes


| I'm trying to find a way to cut neat rectangular holes in small plastic
box
| lids for mounting LCD displays for hobby work.
|

2009\02\21@132654 by John Hansen

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I ran into a similar problem in installing rectangular keypads into plastic
boxes.  I solved the problem by mounting a router bit in my drill press.
Then I took a piece of wood and used additional strips of wood to construct
a frame on top of it (this requires some experimentation for size).  The
base piece of wood has a hole in it that is big enough for the router bit to
go through. I first drill a pilot hole in the plastic box for the router bit
to go through.   I can then put the plastic box inside the frame, install
the router bit,  and move the box around the frame along each side.  The
router bit cuts a hole with very straight sides that is the same size each
time because it uses the same frame each time.  The corners are slightly
rounded, but that just happens to fit the rounded edge of the keypads that
I'm installing.  They could be filed out into a square shape if that is
preferred.

I've probably made a thousand boxes using this one frame.  Here are some
observations:

1. I think it is nearly impossible to cut a nice looking square hole of this
size freehand.

2. There is a fair amount of setup (getting the size of the frame right)
necessary to produce the desired shape.  So if you are only doing one of
these, it may not be worth it.

3. Don't apply too much pressure when running the box around the frame.  If
you do, you can move the router bit to the side slightly and this causes the
square hole to be deformed.  You just have to be patient and let the bit do
the cutting.

4. Because I do a lot of these, I use a carbide router tip.  It lasts a long
time.

John Hansen
Coastal ChipWorks

On Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 12:06 PM, Larry Bradley <spam_OUTlarry.bradleyTakeThisOuTspamncf.ca>wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\02\21@135207 by Peter Loron

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On Feb 21, 2009, at 10:07 AM, Charles Rogers wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Rotozip makes a line of tools and bits for these applications:

http://www.rotozip.com/Learn/ChoosingRightBit

I've found it to be very very handy when remodeling our condo. I  
suspect in combination with fences it would work well for routing out  
a project box.

- -Pete
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2009\02\21@140256 by Funny NYPD

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I believe you are referring something only available online and cost about US$1500.

Funny N.
Au Group Electronics, http://www.AuElectronics.com




________________________________
From: Charles Rogers <.....crogersKILLspamspam@spam@totelcsi.com>
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public. <piclistspamKILLspammit.edu>
Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2009 1:07:49 PM
Subject: Re: [EE] Cutting out holes for LCD displays in plastic boxes

Larry:
There is a tool available at Sears used just for this
purpose.  I use it to cut PCB's and it really works
great.  The tool looks just like a drill bit but it's not
for drilling holes.  It will make the cut perfectly that
you described.  It can be used for cutting into
sheetrock and cutting out a hole for electrical boxes,
which might be its main purpose in life.

CR

Subject: [EE] Cutting out holes for LCD displays in plastic boxes


| I'm trying to find a way to cut neat rectangular holes in small plastic
box
| lids for mounting LCD displays for hobby work.
|

2009\02\21@143131 by Gary Crowell

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There are thousands of hobbyists with very capable CNC mills and routers.
Probably a few living near you.  You could probably find someone who would
do it just for the fun of it or a nominal fee.  Post your needs at
CNCZone.com.

Gary

>
>
----------------------------------------------
Gary A. Crowell Sr., P.E., CID+
<http://www.linkedin.com/in/garycrowellsr>

2009\02\21@144321 by Chris Smolinski

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>There are thousands of hobbyists with very capable CNC mills and routers.
>  Probably a few living near you.  You could probably find someone who would
>do it just for the fun of it or a nominal fee.  Post your needs at
>CNCZone.com.
>

I put together my own hobbyist CNC machine, using a Harbor Freight
micromill and an adapter kit of motor mounts, plus three stepper
motors and a controller board. It runs the EMC software under linux
on an old P3 Dell. Works great for making custom cutouts in plastic
enclosures, which is what I use it for.

Total cost was around $800?

--

---
Chris Smolinski
Black Cat Systems
http://www.blackcatsystems.com

2009\02\21@151414 by Michael Algernon

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{Quote hidden}

I want to do the exact same thing.  I have the mill.  Do you have any  
pictures of your setup ?
Best
MA

2009\02\21@153216 by Chris Smolinski

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{Quote hidden}

Here's two videos. The first is a general shot of
the mill in operation, the second is cutting out
a DB-9:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLJn5YYNmUo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyeIdvwTZxc


This is the conversion kit:
http://www.cncfusion.com/micromill1.html

I used motors and a controller from these guys:
http://www.xylotex.com/

--

---
Chris Smolinski
Black Cat Systems
http://www.blackcatsystems.com

2009\02\21@153819 by Jinx

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> a router on a small (e.g. 4"x6" box) piece of plastic isn't easy

Larry, I do cut-outs with a router and a 1/8" flute, following a template
made from 9mm mdf. The box is held by a jig, also 9mm mdf. It's not
so hard, although to do it that way, the tools to have are woodworking
ones (bandsaw, sander etc) to craft the mdf. The actual routing is the
quick bit. What I'll do next is to cut a piece of acrylic for the window
and route a lip on it so that it sits flush with the box. On top of all that is
a laminated label

Cases for current projects

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/joecolquitt/cases_sm.jpg

Templates for the two different holes (16x2 alphanumeric and 4-digit)
and the acrylic insert

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/joecolquitt/template_sm.jpg

This one was likely to get banged around so has extra acrylic

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/joecolquitt/label3.jpg

2009\02\21@154401 by ZKWrightTrash

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>
> I'm trying to find a way to cut neat rectangular holes in small plastic box
> lids for mounting LCD displays for hobby work.
>
> In the past I've drilled a series of small holes, then used a coping saw to
> cut out the piece. Then file the edges smooth. This is not very neat - the
> edges are never straight lines.


I have had good success using an x-acto to cut in the outline.  Depending on the material, make several passes until you are about 1/3 of the way through the material.  Then use your old method of drilling a hole in the center of the rectangle so you can make some crude cuts to the corners (think of an X in the box from corner to corner).  Once you have done this, flex the pieces you are trying to remove along the lines you previously scored with the x-acto (ie. think of a hinge).  If it is polypro or nylon it will fail in a nice neat straight line.  Repeat for the 3 other sides.  You should be left with a nice neat opening.

Z

2009\02\21@171719 by Dwayne Reid

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At 10:06 AM 2/21/2009, Larry Bradley wrote:

>I'm trying to find a way to cut neat rectangular holes in small plastic box
>lids for mounting LCD displays for hobby work.

I've been using my router table to do that exact thing.  I use 1/4"
up-cut spiral router bits (the cheaper no-name bits from Lee Valley
tools work well).

The router table is equipped with a very rigid back fence - this
fence has slots milled the entire length from left to right.  I use
those slots to mount rigid right-angle fences - one to the left, one
to the right.  Lee Valley makes both the router table as well as the
main back fence - part numbers 05J20.01 & 05J21.01

The idea is that the box can move right up to the main back fence and
move left and right, as well as move front to back along the side
fences.  I haven't bothered with a fence for the 4th side - the holes
I usually make are centered the box so I just lift the box out and
rotate 180 degrees to cut the 4th side.

I rough cut the opening using a jig saw (only doing a few boxes) or
by setting the fences up to make a smaller hole in the box.  I try to
ensure that the final pass is removing less than 1/2 the diameter of
the router bit worth of material - less is better.

I wind up with very clean, straight lines in both plastic as well as
the aluminum that Hammond uses for their die-cast enclosures.

But: its noisy and messy.  I use a shop vac to suck in as much debris
as possible while cutting and vacuum the router table top clean
between cutting each box.

The other thing to note is that I wind up with 1/8" radius (1/4"
quarter-round) rounded corners.  Those I file square if I have to.

dwayne

--
Dwayne Reid   <.....dwaynerKILLspamspam.....planet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(780) 489-3199 voice          (780) 487-6397 fax
http://www.trinity-electronics.com
Custom Electronics Design and Manufacturing

2009\02\21@173536 by cdb

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Another option possibly is one of those heated wires used by modellers
and polystyrene cutters.

Heat versus melting plastic would have to be experimented with, but
with a cardboard or wood template, a small hole drilled on one side,
the wire passed through then connected and hey presto plastic melts
away, just some residual filing to be done.

Colin


--
cdb, EraseMEcolinspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTbtech-online.co.uk on 22/02/2009

Web presence: http://www.btech-online.co.uk  

Hosted by:  http://www.1and1.co.uk/?k_id=7988359







2009\02\21@175024 by cdb

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:: Another option possibly is one of those heated wires used by
:: modellers
:: and polystyrene cutters.

These can be made yourself, but

http://www.hobbytools.com.au/prod905.htm

http://www.hobbytools.com.au/prod402.htm

may do the job.

Colin

--
cdb, colinspamspam_OUTbtech-online.co.uk on 22/02/2009

Web presence: http://www.btech-online.co.uk  

Hosted by:  http://www.1and1.co.uk/?k_id=7988359







2009\02\21@180824 by Sean Breheny

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I keep hearing people refer to a "nibbler" tool. Is that only for
metal or will it do plastic, too? Anyone had experience with using
one?

Sean


On Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 5:49 PM, cdb <@spam@colinKILLspamspambtech-online.co.uk> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\02\21@183616 by Jinx

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> I keep hearing people refer to a "nibbler" tool

A nibbler would work on flexible plastic like the typical black box. Not
good with brittle plastics like acrylic and polycarbonate. Haven't tried
with a box but worked fine with PVC sheet and laminating film

2009\02\21@183617 by Jinx

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> Another option possibly is one of those heated wires used by
> modellers and polystyrene cutters

Bit wobbly by hand, but I guess you could secure the hot wire and
move the box against a fence. I have one to cut expanded polystyrene

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/joecolquitt/0polycut.html

and it works great on that, but most other plastics, such as acrylic
and PVC, melt without receeding. IOW, the melted plastic fills the
hole or cut you just made. This is also a problem when routing. If
you get greedy and try to make too deep a cut, the swarf isn't ejected
and the bit heats up causing melting

2009\02\21@193233 by Jinx

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> I've probably made a thousand boxes using this one frame

John, at that quantity I'd consider waterjet cutting. Had excellent
results with all types of plastics and the set-up costs would not be
hard to recoup (labour savings for one thing)


2009\02\21@205221 by Tony Smith

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> I keep hearing people refer to a "nibbler" tool. Is that only for
> metal or will it do plastic, too? Anyone had experience with using
> one?


You can get hand & powered nibblers, drill attachments are quite popular
(eBay) at the moment.  They work by cutting a small notch out of the
material.  They have a wide kerf.  Good for soft plastic, but hard plastic
will crack.

I'm not keen on hot wire of this type of plastic, the edge doesn't come out
all that cleanly and then there's the fumes.

Scroll saws work well, you can get blades specifically for plastic, I think
the difference is they set the teeth wider to stop the plastic gumming up on
the blades, but I've had good results by just using the first fine toothed
one I pick up.  Clamp a bit of angle to the table to act as a fence, or a
jig (MDF with a hole cut in it & a spiral blade) to act as a guide.  Speed
control is a 'nice to have', you do less clean up of the edge by running the
blade slower.

A router with a jig usually works out best, and is fast as well.  A router
table is even better.  2 flute bits work better, not that you'll find many 4
flute ones anyway.  HSS can be better than carbide (sharper) but good luck
finding those these days.  Routers are generally too fast for plastics, so
you'll need one with speed control.  Keep dropping the speed until it stops
melting.

Tony

2009\02\21@215013 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Feb 21, 2009, at 5:31 PM, Jinx wrote:

>> I've probably made a thousand boxes using this one frame
>
> John, at that quantity I'd consider waterjet cutting.

Laser cutters work well on most plastics (especially clear acrylic)  
(but apparently not on PVC, cause of particularly noxious fumes), and  
are turning up in all sorts of schools, neighborhood shops, and such...

BillW

2009\02\21@234923 by Dr Skip

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One approach would be to drill a small hole in each corner, then use a scroll
saw to cut an X (diagonals from each hole crossing in the middle). Using the
drilled holes as a guide and a straightedge, you can score the front and back,
then you have a free triangle of plastic on each side to wiggle back and forth
to snap off.

For scoring, you could use any of a number of sharp blade like attachments on a
soldering iron (some under the 'woodburning' category) to run along the edge (a
piece of aluminum angle would make a good clamp-able edge).  You can also use a
dremel with a tiny V bit, using a piece of aluminum angle again as guide,
letting the shaft of the bit ride the aluminum. Turn the dremel speed down (get
a speed control if not the VS model) and take a light pass (with either
method). Then snap each free triangle.

One other scoring idea would to take some cheap wood handled wood chisels
(think Harbor Freight) and heat the tip to where it will just melt the plastic
(lay it on a stove burner for a few seconds). Place the flat back of the chisel
along the aluminum straightedge and press (think making a mortise). Instant
score line. You don't need much heat either, so the wood handles will be OK.

-Skip

2009\02\22@064013 by Charles Rogers

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| Rotozip makes a line of tools and bits for these applications:
|
| http://www.rotozip.com/Learn/ChoosingRightBit


I didn't buy the tool, just the bits, made a fence from
a small piece of metal and held it to my small drill press
with C clamps.  It was the best I could come up with
for a one-off project at home.  It works great and will
use it again when necessary.

CR

2009\02\22@083910 by Carl Denk

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> I'm not keen on hot wire of this type of plastic, the edge doesn't come out
> all that cleanly and then there's the fumes.
>
>  
Some plastics in particular urethanes, but others to, serious gases.
Pure Styrofoam, though is OK. with good ventilation.

2009\02\23@131943 by Jeff Anno

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Larry,

I have used Greenlee punches on Aluminum and softer plastic for RS-232
connectors (page 33 of 70 in referenced PDF Below).  It works great.  Drill
a hole in the center for a threaded "draw stud" to go through screw the draw
stud, die, punch and nut together... Then simply tighten the nut with a
ratchet and it punches a clean perfect hole.  We never needed a hydraulic
adapter that they sell.

http://www.greenlee.com/cat_docs/Holemaking08_lowrez.pdf

The LCD is a rectangle (obviously), so on the same page there are
rectangular size punches (square ones on the previous page if you need to
maybe use a square one in 2 places to get the correct size rectangle)... One
of these may work for you.  We had it at work when I got there, so I can't
comment on how expensive these are but they are pretty simple so I can't
think they are too expensive (I know "expensive" is a relative term for a
hobbyist but I thought I'd throw it out there).

Hope this helps,
Jeff




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