EXBuild Blog

Building Custom Machine Accessories with the Photocentric Magna

The EXBuild Team on Jun 20, 2024 11:00:00 AM


A few years ago I started watching machinists on YouTube and became enamored with the trade.  I enjoyed watching the process of slowly carving away material to make a part, it was very satisfying.  I also liked the idea of being able to make metal parts, so late last year I decided to turn my fascination into a hobby and I bought myself a used mini lathe.  Since the lathe is so small, any stock sticking out of the chuck more than half an inch starts to wobble.  

To help prevent this I needed to get a steady rest, the problem is this lathe was originally made sometime in the 60s so any accessories are hard to find and very expensive.  I couldn’t find any third party companies making accessories for this either, so I decided to make my own.

At first I looked online to see if anyone else had made a steady rest for this lathe, and to my surprise I found one.  After printing and assembling all the parts I ran into a few problems with the design.  Making adjustments required a wrench to hold the nuts, a hex driver to loosen to bolt, and holding the part in the correct position, this is tricky with only two hands.  If I wasn’t careful and loosened bolts too much, the corresponding nut would drop, hit the lathe, then bounce somewhere on the floor.

I decided to make my own version of this.  I kept most of the original dimension and shape, but added some holes so I was able to press the nuts into the part and made the bearing arm slots longer to increase the maximum stock diameter I can hold.

I originally printed the parts in PLA, but the parts are already showing stress marks and scratches, so for this next go I decided to make them out of something that would be a bit more durable so they stand up to the abuse a rookie machinist might inflict on a tool.  Initially I considered making these parts out of aluminum, but since these would be a one off it would have cost over $500 to get them CNC machined.  Even if I was able to machine these myself the stock would cost over $80, but 3D printing these parts will cost less than $5 in resin.

Additionally, this part doesn’t need to be made out of metal, if it's used correctly there shouldn’t be any forces put on it.  It would also be a good idea to have high impact strength, in case I forget to tighten something down and the steady rest gets hit by a piece of spinning metal.  I eventually decided to 3D print the parts on our Photocentric Magna using DL110 resin.  DL110 makes very tough parts that don’t break or shatter when hit or dropped.  Plus printing these parts on a resin printer will make very smooth looking and good looking parts.

Once the parts were printed, cleaned, and cured I assembled everything and tried it out and so far I’m pretty happy with the changes I’ve made.  Having all the nuts captive in the printed parts make setup much easier, I only need to use one tool at a time now.  More importantly, I can now work on longer stock without it wobbling at the end.  This steady rest has dramatically increased the usefulness of my lathe.

Are you interested in learning more about how Photocentric and how 3D printing can help solve similar problems?  Visit our product page or send us a part you'd like to see printed.

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