How to Choose the Right Spoilerboard

Introduction

    In the world of aluminium framed CNC, the question of the wasteboard material and fixing system is recurrent and it might sometimes be difficult to choose the right one. Indeed, having the right spoilerboard according to the way you use your machine can be a piece of life-changing equipment. In this article, we will simply try to summarize what are the different possibilities and what are their respective advantages and drawbacks.

1. Wooden rough board 

    The easiest, cheapest and fastest solution consists in simply fixing a wooden board on the frame of your CNC machine.  If you plan to work this way for a long time, your table board has to be considered as a consumable part because you will need to change it often.

Advantages : Really Cheap, Easy to set up, large clamping resolution
Inconvenients : Only wooden screws can be used to fix a piece, rapidly wasted, no Z reference
Conclusion : Ideal for beginners

2. Wooden flattened board

    Having a nice flattened surface as a working area is the first step to use a CNC precisely. This is what you will work with once you got skilled with your CNC Machine. The good news is that you can easily transform your rough spoilerboard into a nice flattened one. Here are three possibilities to do it :

2.1. Negative flattened board

    This technique consists in milling your current spoilerboard but in most of the cases you won’t be able to machine it on its full surface, it will then create a gap at the lateral and back borders. This might be annoying to fix bigger pieces than your working area.


Advantages : Easy to make, Z0 reference
Inconvenients : Only wooden screws , rapidly wasted, problem if the piece to mill is bigger than the working area 
Conclusion : meaningless without a clamping system as this is going to be wasted very quickly

2.2. Positive flattened board

    The second technique consists in adding another board fitting your working area. This board can be either glued or screwed to your rough board. By doing this, you will create a small step perfectly referenced with your router once surfaced. This is the most common solution but it can be annoying if your Z clearance is not really high.


Advantages : Easy to make, Z0 reference
Inconvenients : Only wooden screws , rapidly wasted, reduce the Z clearance 
Conclusion : meaningless without a clamping system as this is going to be wasted very quickly 


2.3. Fully flattened board

    The last solution consists in milling your current spoilerboard on its entire surface which is the case with the Mekanika CNC. This technique creates a perfectly levelled plan on the whole surface. 


Advantages : Easy to make, Z0 reference, fixing holes can be milled by the machine itselve
Inconvenients : Only wooden screws , rapidly wasted 
Conclusion : meaningless without a clamping system as this is going to be wasted super quick

 *This example of a flattened surface will be the reference for the next type of spoilerboards

    As written on every conclusion above, a flattened spoilerboard is meaningless if the only way to fix pieces is using wooden screws. This is the reason why the following examples deal about three major clamping systems: threaded inserts, T-slots and vacuum table.

3. Threaded inserts grid

    First of all, let's talk about the threaded insert grid solution. At first, this fixing grid can be seen too rigid to suit any kind of situations, but coupled with adjustable clamping accessories the grid become flexible enough to satisfy 90% of the jobs. 

Of course, the resolution of your grid is obviously related to the future clamping possibilities. 

Commonly, 10x10 cm seems to be a good start but keep in mind that this grid system might need a lot of inserts according to the size of your CNC machine and the resolution you choose. The real big advantages are that the machine can mill precisely all the holes, which means that nothing more is needed except having a flattened surface and a bunch of threaded inserts.  


Advantages : Cheap, easy to set up/ large clamping resolution / can be milled by the CNC machine
Inconvenient : Can be weak according to the type of wood and the thickness/ need adjustable clamping accessories
Conclusion :  Really good solution for Advanced & Pro

 
4. Wooden T-slots

    For the second case, we decided to talk about the widely used technique of wooden T-slots. If you are a carpenter or if you have easy access to a wood workshop, then this clamping system is quite quick to set up. Indeed, once you have cut the wooden laths at the right size, you simply need to profile them with a manual router. Afterwards, you can either glue or screw them on your existing spoilerboard before flattening them. 

Of course, you could also imagine cutting those profiled laths with your CNC machine, it also makes the job properly!


Advantages : Cheap, large clamping resolution, can be cut by the CNC machine itself 
Inconvenients : Can be weak according to the type of wood and the thickness used, reduce the Z clearance
Conclusion : Really good solution for Advanced & Pro


  5. Aluminium T-track inserts

In the series of T-slot tables, the second possibility is to insert some aluminium T-tracks into a wooden spoilerboard. Once again, all the slots can be made by the CNC machine to be sure they are precise. Moreover, those aluminium T-tracks are in general more rigid than wooden T-slots (depending on the wood and the thickness) but they are also more expensive. 


Advantages : Rigid fixture, slots can be milled by the machine itselve
Inconvenients : Expensive , rapidly wasted 
Conclusion :  Really good solution for Advanced & Pro but more expensive thant the two previous ones


6. Full aluminium T-slots

    The last way to install T-slots on your CNC machine is to use wide T-slot aluminium profiles. This solution will considerably increase the general rigidity of your machine and the rigidity of your fixing point. But keep in mind that those extruded aluminium profiles are never perfectly flat and in most cases, you won’t be able to flatten their entire surface. Because of this, you will have to add a linear spoilerboard which you can flatten. This technique is pretty convenient as your linear boards can be easily removed or changed and the aluminium slots assure strong fixing points. But again, if your Z clearance is low it can appear as a bad choice.


Advantages : One of the strongest and most rigid fixture, large fixing area,
Inconvenients : Expensive, can be complex to install, reduce the Z clearance
Conclusion : Really good solution for Pro


7. Vacuum table

    Finally, we wanted to rapidly present you the vacuum solution. This clamping solution appears as being the holy grail for any CNC user. Thanks to the vacuum pump, any parts can be fixed rapidly, securely with no matter how big or thick the part is. These vacuum systems aren't really common on small CNC's but they become almost necessary once working on big panels. But having this kind of system on your own CNC is not free. Indeed, to create a strong enough vacuum, you will need a powerful vacuum pump and a hose system connected to your table. This setup may vary from a supplier to another but you can be sure that it will be thousands of euro for a brand new one!


Advantages : The strongest and most rigid fixture/ the most flexible
Inconvenients : Really Expensive due to external vacuum pomp, complex to install
Conclusion : Best solution for Pro


Conclusion

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