February 27, 2013

Dimple Die Rules of Thumb Testing

We’ve done multiple iterations of dimple designs over the years and put together a sort of in house “bible” on what should and shouldn’t be done.  This is a snippet from our bible on when cutting a hole in a panel to dimple die or flare it.

Do not place flared holes in panels situated in high stress areas, it will reduce the overall strength of the design.  The idea is that if you have a seamless panel (no through holes or flared holes) in a high stress area it will be stronger in most cases due to the lack of stress risers/concentrations. A correctly produced flared hole in most cases will be stronger than a through hole in a panel.  If a flared hole must be used in a high stress area the flare should protrude to the side that is bending outwards under load, this will minimize the reduction in strength from the removal of material.


  • 12” x 12” panel
  • 11ga 1020 mild steel
  • 1.5” flanges
  • 5 x 1.5” flared holes
  • 1000lb load exerted downwards on top flange surface
  • Fixed on bottom flange

This example forces the high stress location to be where the flared holes will be located.  It offers a good comparison in terms of flare direction in regards to overall part strength.  The strength in this case improved 4.5% by having the flare in the direction of the bending panel.  However keep in mind it is still 30% weaker than if the part did not have any flared holes to begin with.

dimple die flare steel FEA dimple die flare steel FEA

Left – “wrong” dimple die direction (flared inwards)

Right – better dimple die direction (flared outwards)

Locate the low stress areas, such as web components, and remove weight from those areas by flaring.  Removing the mass and flaring the holes in these areas will reduce the weight while providing greater strength.


  • 6” wide, 6” tall, 12” long
  • 11ga 1020 mild steel
  • 1.5” flanges
  • 1.5” flared holes (when applied)
  • 1000lb load exerted downwards on top flange surface
  • Fixed on bottom flanges

Here is the part without any modifications under load:

dimple die flare steel FEA

Now you can see the majority of the stress is on the top flange surface, it would not make sense to dimple die this area.  Here is what would happen:

dimple die flare steel FEA

There is a lot less red visible since there are extreme stress concentrations located on the edges of the flared holes.  Having the flared holes in this location reduces the part’s effective strength by 20%.  Therefore it is a terrible misjudgment to locate flared holes in this high stress region.

Now notice how the sides have very little stress as opposed to the top surface.  Having flared holes there would:

dimple die flare steel FEA

The interesting bit is that the part is 6% stronger than the part without any modifications.  In this case the flared holes improved the strength of the part, while also reducing the weight by 6%.  As you can see strategic placement of flared holes can produce a lighter part, as well as a part that can take a greater load.  If the flares were inverted in this example (having the flare protrude to the bending side of the panel) the part would be even stronger.

Don’t take the exact #’s too literally, just understand that flared holes are only beneficial in low stress areas and can offer greater overall part strength when done effectively.  To do it as effective as possible only FEA (finite element analysis) can be performed and the optimal setup can be determined.  Otherwise it’s a “best guess” in where and what size flared holes to put in a panel.

If you are designing or just building something that you know has an extremely high factor of safety, then having flared holes in conservative locations should only improve the design by removing un-necessary weight.  If designing a structure, don’t let the use of flared holes allow for a sloppy/overbuilt design.

Please note, this article does not consider the removal of material to be substituted with extra material in the high stress areas.  Also this article does not consider panel deflection due to load.  Those two are entirely different (but related) topics that are documented in our full “bible”.  So rest assured when we punch or cut a hole in a steel part to flare it, we know what we are doing!  Please take a look at our dimple die service that we offer.

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February 25, 2013

Steel mannequin

We had a neat project this week, design and build an interlocking steel mannequin for modeling scarves.  We normally use Solidworks as our primary CAD design source, however Autodesk has come out with a pretty neat piece of software called Autodesk 123D.  It takes 3D models (.stl and .obj files) and allows you to manipulate the model in many ways, in this case we are creating an interlocked sliced 3D model.  This will allow us to slice the model into sheets and allow us to cut in on the CNC table and weld the pieces together.  This 3D model we are dealing with is a steel female mannequin for mocking and displaying infinity scarves for our sister company, Möbius Threads which is run by Jaylene Andres.

Steel mannequin

Before we cut any steel we cut out a small 4″x4″ template with various notch sizes.  That will allow us to find the correct notch size and ensure that when we cut out all the pieces they will fit up tight, but still have some room to slide together easily.  Along the back where the horizontal sheet meets the vertical sheets, they will be tacked in place via the TIG welder.  This will lock all the pieces together and allow this structure to be transported from the sewing/cutting room floor to trade shows and open houses.

Here’s what the template looks like:

Steel CNC cut template

Based on the kerf width of the plasma a notch of 0.108″ (in CAD) is ideal.  Just enough room to be loose for assembly but tight enough that once all the pieces are in it’ll be a solid structure.  Another way around this would be to measure the actual kerf width, then update the CAM software, then make a template.  It’d come out with a more realistic CAD notch size, as the material being cut is 14ga steel (which is 0.074″ in thickness), but the method we took is quicker and worked just fine.

With that info of the ideal CAD notch size the model is updated, exported to a .dxf and then tool paths are created.  The total cut time took about 1/2hr.  The metal pieces were cleaned up and assembled.  Here are all pieces after coming off the CNC table.

Steel CNC cut mannequin parts

This is the final product.

Steel CNC cut mannequin

And now it’s modeling some Möbius Thread scarves.

Steel CNC cut mannequin parts Mobius Threads Steel CNC cut mannequin parts Mobius Threads

Not sure if it’s going to be powdercoated or if a patina will be applied to it.  That’ll be decided shortly.  He’s a video of it cutting one of four panels to create this steel mannequin.

February 14, 2013

Welding table retirement

After five long years we have decided to retire our little welding table and build a new small versatile table that will allow us to build more precise parts.  This below 3d model is the design we came up with.  The hoops are for ratchet strapping parts down easily to the table, hanging clamps from or to stick PVC tubes (containing TIG filler wire) within close reach without getting in the way.  The corner gussets also allow for the lack of bracing on the bottom of the legs.  The less things under the table we find the better.

welding table

We cut the top on the CNC plasma table and began cutting up some 2″x2″ HSS tubing for the base.

welding table base

The CNC cuts pretty good detail out of 3/8″ steel, with little to no dross and angularity.

cnc cut steel

Prior to the table being cut out the plate marker was used to center mark where all the holes would be drilled (4″ on center in both directions).  This will allow for fixtures that can be installed to clamp parts down to the table prior to welding.

center punch marks

We feel like a steel wool factory.  The mag drill with annular cutter made quick work of this table top.  All the drilling was done after the 2″x2″ steel frame was welded on the underside of the table top.  Having this frame welded on ensures that any residual stresses after drilling don’t allow the table top to warp.  We didn’t want to induce any warping during the fabrication process, but the table doesn’t need to be precise enough to be blanchard ground.

mag drill welding table

With the top drilled it was time to weld up the frame.  Legs are completed and welded up to the 3/8″ steel feet which are bolted up to the caster wheels.

tig weld feet

Already being put to good use!

welding table

The gussets are formed and ready to be welded on.  The plasma cut slit on the bend line makes it easier to bend the part as well as gives a clean area to weld the gusset to the leg.

cnc cut gussets

September 4, 2012

Designing and building a lightbar for Toyota Rav4

We put a lot of miles on the Mint Design Rav4, and not always in the best weather conditions.  It was time for a lighting upgrade.

3D model.


The design allows the two CNC cut plates to be linked together and then bolted to clamp onto the crash bar.

IMG_4713 IMG_4718

Wired up and one step closer…

IMG_6043 IMG_6048 IMG_6049

And installed!


August 28, 2012

Exoskeleton for drilling rig

To go with the platforms and cabinets we designed for Cross Borders Consulting, we designed these rated winch points to hoist the platforms up to the truck during transport.  Factor of safety and deflection under load were critical during the design of this project.  To allow for a lightweight frame that is easy to assemble on a truck as well, but also being stiff enough to resist deflecting under load with either winch running.  Also the use of standard components were used throughout the frame, universal winch mounts along with corner gussets and frame mounts make repairs or replacing parts easy out in the field.


3001-01-Winch Loading-Displacement-Displacement1

3D model.


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June 19, 2012

Donating plasma time for a good friend

When we’re not working we try to get down to Cabo San Lucas when possible.  We have one good friend down there, Javier, who runs a very small restaurant called Gordo Lele’s.  He’s been very good to us and we were donating plasma cutting time to cut some souvenirs for him to sell.  All the profits were his and he sold, about $200 worth of bottle cap openers in three days, not bad for Mexico!

3D model.

donating plasma

Here are some cheap prototypes cut out of 3/16″ mild steel to get an idea of what they will look like and feel like.  We also did one with some engraving to see how it’d look.

cnc cut bottle cap opener

After a few tweaks (we radiused some edges as they were quite sharp) based off the prototypes the final 304 stainless steel pieces are ready to be wrapped and brought to Javier!

stainless cnc cut

At Mint Design we are fortunate to have so many loyal customers and we try to give back where we can.  Javier is one of those people that we just want to see succeed and this gift to him was a very good surprise.  These pieces were fairly easy to make, as we could knock out hundreds of these in an hour, the only problem is that it’s heavy, and taking a lot of one type of item in your carry on to Mexico might not be the best idea.  So we figured a dozen pieces will be a nice surprise and we told Javier that he should keep one for himself!

June 4, 2012

Designing a working platform

This was a pretty substantial project with a lot of constraints and requirements. Designing a working platform to be modular, strong/durable and easy to replace out in the field was the major requirements. Our customer, Cross Borders Consulting, is 2-1/2 hours away so after a one day trip measuring out everything we needed the design work began.  The list of requirements were noted, OH&S guidelines reviewed and we began sketching out some ideas. After the design review a few modifications were made, FEA was completed and the drawings were produced. The stairs were the trickiest part, as it had to be adjustable in height, since the platform can be raised or lowered 12″ (in 1.5″) and the stairs had to accommodate that amount of travel and still meet OH&S guidelines with still being functional, hence the add on step. And they also had to collapse underneath the deck while in transport, which was tricky on the passenger side due to the leg that collapsed under the step.  Also when the platform is in it’s lowest position there are two steps that drop into place that allow a step up from the platform into the back of the truck, all meeting OH&S requirements. Here is the final product.

3D model.

designing a working platform CAD working platform oil rig working platform design

FEA testing.

FEA testing stairs

FEA testing platform

And the final product (built by the customer based off our drawings).

cross borders platform

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May 6, 2012

Designing a set of cabinets

This was a fun project.  It had a few requirements, the shelf capacity had to withstand at least 250lbs, the exterior dimensions and that the cabinets could be standalone or attach together.  There are some subtle things in this design that allow for each cabinet to bolt together.  These cabinets may not sitting on a flat surface or have a flat wall to butt up against, so the design of the cabinets allows for misalignment both 1/2″ in the vertical direction and 1/2″ from the front to back.  This makes assembly easier and more accommodating.  These were designed for Cross Borders Consulting.

3D model.


And final product (built by the customer based off our drawings).


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