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Terry Harper

CNC: Recreating some small parts

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Posted (edited)

Awhile back I was asked if we could re-create some hardware for some large Vesta drum lights.

This is the type of project my students and I live for. (I teach Drafting & Engineering Technology at a

high school CTE center) Using the remains of the existing parts, several of my students worked to

reverse engineer the components using Solidworks. We then 3D printed the parts to help verify

that the modeled pieces were accurate and satisfied the design intent.


At first I thought about 3D printing and casting new brass pieces using the "Lost PLA" method. This

is a form of investment casting. However, since my foundry guy is several hours away and without a

kiln handy we decided to try using our CNC milling machine.


After importing the files into Fusion 360 to develop the setups, milling processes and tool paths

and writing out to G-code this week we finally were able to test the setups and do a run through

using machinable wax. Since the flange is curved to match the radius of the headlight we had to

develop a fixture to hold the work piece during the second setup. To speed up the process we 3D printed

the fixture which worked perfect!


Today we ran it to see how it would all work. Other than a error on my part that resulted in the

flange being too thin the wax part came out great! There will be two more setups - one to hold the piece

while the hole for the hinge pin is drilled and bored and the other for milling the male and female






Here you can see the fixture



Finished blank. The flange is too thin and the top is a bit truncated due to an error on my part that's easily




Our students love these types of projects. In the CTE world we call them "Live work" projects. They give the students

an opportunity to develop hands-on skills with the knowledge that the work is real and meaningful. It also allows

us the opportunity to interface with the community and local industries.

As an example, back in December our Farm Mechanic's and Building Trades students completed a set of heavy logging

sleds for the Maine Forest & Logging Museum. The museum provided the lumber and a pile of original castings and fittings.

A local equipment manufacturing firm donated time and materials to fabricate some of the missing pieces.


All good fun!










Edited by Terry Harper (see edit history)
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Shop class is a bit different than I remember.

Still looks like fun though.

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What a beautiful thing that somewhere, somebody is still teaching manual practical skills.

Thank you sir. 

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