October 22, 2013

Wellhead casing project

We always have new and interesting projects come through the shop.  This one was a wellhead casing project which consisted of a few tasks:

All these steps were done in house to reduce lead time and improve quality control.


The design of this project was based loosely around the existing prototype developed.  The prototype was quickly reverse engineered in order to have a 3D model to compare our new design against.  This will allow us to compare the range of motion and limitations of the prototype vs the new proposed design.  There was also a list of requirements that the new design had to achieve that the existing one couldn’t do or perform, one example is the lack of a guard on the sheave/pulley.

Here is the prototype, ready to be reverse engineered.

wellhead casing

Here it is modeled up and mocked up on a small wellhead.  The hardware was not modeled as they wouldn’t add any value to the new design.

wellhead casing saskatoon

Now we began our design process taking the reverse engineered prototype into account.  Here is the preliminary design compared to the prototype.  The new design took requirements from the client as well as added a few other features to compact the design as well as make handling and setup easier.  The handles on either side make carrying the unit easier as well as adjusting the position of the sheave.  The handle is also located very near to the COG (center of gravity) of the part so it makes it very easy to carry.  Here you can see the prototype and the new proposed design overlaid on top of each other.

solidworks saskatoon

Since the functionality of the new design is different in a few ways than the prototype, it is submit for a design review and no modifications were needed.  The 3D model is then set it up for FEA (finite element analysis).  The initial design is to show the concept of how it will work, now with taking loads into account we can factor in how it will actually perform and meet all the requirements of the client.

Here you can see a stress concentration on the arms, this was the final design, prior to this the concentration was higher around the radius as it was tighter.  Just a simple tweak in the design and we minimized this stress to an acceptable level without any real added weight.

fea saskatoon

The design could have been optimized further by reducing the material thickness of members under low stress, however the design also considers the cost of fabrication.  The minor cost increase and weight to a part being thicker than necessary outweighs the cost of having to load multiple sheets of various thickness material onto the CNC table to be cut.  In this case everything was designed to be cut out of 1/4″ plate except for the top of the guard which would be done out of 10ga steel (1/4″ would have made it far too heavy and cumbersome).  Here is the final design mocked up.

mint design solidworks

Now that the design achieves the clients requirements and has been approved, the project proceeds to the fabrication phase.


Once the design was completed all the parts were exported to our CAM software, nested and cut out of 1/4″ 44w steel plate.  Hardware was brought in based on the hardware selected in the design.

CNC Cutting Mint Design

Next the pieces were acid dipped to remove the mill scale to prepare it for welding and eventually powder coating.  The TIG welding process does not cooperate well with burning through mill scale and it takes a tremendous amount of time to media blast mill scale off.  Our in house acid bath works quick and takes little effort.  The parts are susceptible to some light oxidization due to the steel being stripped bare, no protective coating is applied since it would have to be removed prior to welding and the part is going to be blasted prior to powder coating anyways.

acid bath Mint Design

Here the parts are being welded and tacked up.

TIG weld Mint Design

These plates were sandwiched together and a groove was CNC cut in two locations, these locations were TIG welded to secure these pieces all together.

TIG weld Saskatoon

TIG weld wellhead

All the parts are 100% welded up, blasted and ready for powder coating.

wellhead casing project

These parts were powder coated with RAL 3016 Coral Red.  Here is one of the arms ready to be cured in the oven.

powder coat Mint Design


And here they are out of the oven, assembled and ready to be used.

powder coat Saskatoon

wellhead casing pulley wellhead casing

This project started with a physical prototype and ended up with a commercial functioning/looking product.  This project combined mechanical design, CNC cutting/engraving, TIG welding and our latest powder coating service.  Everything with this project was done in house to reduce lead times and achieve the highest quality product for our client.

October 3, 2013

Powder coating and building mounts

We’ve been busy working on a variety of projects, some powder coating and building mounts for a 50″ light bar on a Dodge truck.  Nothing too sophisticated with this project, just took some time and some careful measurements to ensure that everything lined up and time wasn’t wasted.  We only had a few hours to knock this project out so there wasn’t really time for progress photos.

Here you can see the cardboard template on the left.  The template is strictly to dictate the CNC cutting shape and bend locations.  The template took 60-70% of the time to produce as the metal versions are exact replicas of it, so it had to be accurate.  Once the cardboard template is acceptable it is redrawn in CAD and the new pieces are cut out of steel, the bend locations are slit 95% of the way.  This makes manipulation of the steel easier in order to get the correct bend angles.  Once the bend angles are determined from the temporary steel brackets, the final units are cut and formed to match the temporary steel brackets without the slit bend lines for maximum strength.

Dodge light brackets

The customer had the parts painted and installed.  Here is the final product installed (thanks to the customer supplied photos).

Dodge roof light barDodge roof light bar

Another project we’re preparing for requires a fair bit of powdercoating, so before we shoot any production parts we did a bit of testing.  Here is the first part we’ve powdered.  It’s shot with a wrinkle red, super common for use on valve covers etc…  We also have wrinkle black in stock as well.  We just shot a simple part to begin with (it’s one of our custom box re-sizing tools, a variation of this one can be seen prior to powder on our Mannequin blog post).

Mint Design Powder coat wrinkle red

We’re preparing powder coating for this project working it’s way down the line.  More to come…

CNC cutting

September 4, 2013

Stainless Steel Urn

These are not projects we want to work on, it’s something we have to work on.  Here’s a stainless steel urn produced in the shop for my father-in-law, Larry Mortenson.  This urn was designed in SolidWorks, converted to a flat pattern and all pieces exported as .dxf’s for the CNC table.  It is made out of 14ga 304 stainless steel, the perimeter is one piece that is slit with the plasma cutter along the bend lines, which is subsequently TIG welded closed.  The top is a separate piece that is TIG welded on, the bottom is a separate piece that is attached with three #4-40 screws.  Prior to any cutting the part was engraved on the CNC table.  Warpage was a big concern so the use of a damp cloth was used to help dissipate heat without imparting any heavy scratches on the urn prior to final brushing.  All the welds were ground down and the entire part is finished with a fine scotch brite pad and cleaned with a stainless steel cleaner.

stainless steel urn

Here’s the urn after welding. The top has the welds blended in.

Here is the urn ready for the funeral and to protect Larry’s ashes at his final resting spot.  One personal touch is that all Larry’s immediate family’s signatures are engraved on one of the three sides.  The signatures were scanned, converted to vector format and engraved.

IMG_0926_2Stainless Steel UrnMetal urn

Rest in peace Larry.

August 27, 2013

Custom built roof rack

We’re building almost anything and everything.  This time we’re working on a custom built roof rack.  We had completed the design work for this roof rack a few weeks ago, it was a collaborative project with the customer as he had quite a few requirements.  Once all the requirements were listed a 3D model and subsequent drawing was created, the drawing was reviewed and the build process began.  The advantage of designing it is that we could figure out the actual mass, in this case 47.55lbs (not factoring in the weight of welding filler).  The rack uses a Ø1-1/4″ perimeter hoop and seven Ø1″ horizontal crossbars.   Here’s the 3D rendering of the roof rack.  The tab at the rear is for an LED powered flood light, the two tabs at the front are for a LED light bar.


All the plate pieces were cut on the CNC table and prepped for welding to the rack.

Mint Design

Here are the pieces laid out on the shop floor prior to tacking and welding the main hoop and the coped Ø1″ tubes.  Also notice all tube ends/mating faces are sanded prior to TIG welding, this ensures a high quality structurally sound weld.  All joints were wiped down with alcohol prior to welding as well.

custom roof rack

There are a lot of things we can do at Mint Design, some of which we don’t advertise until we have a few projects go through using the new piece of equipment or technique.  In this case it’s tube and pipe bending.  We will be adding this to our list of services in the near future.

Here are the CNC cut mounting plates TIG welded from the underside of the rack.  The nice thing about designing with CAD is that everything just “fits”.  There is no slop and everything lines up.  The time spent on the computer saves us more time in the shop so in most cases it’s saving the customer money if it’s designed properly from the get go.  In this case the use of Ø1″ crossbar tubes along with the Ø1-1/4″ perimeter tube is that the 11ga steel plates fit up nearly flush with the outside tube once welded to the Ø1″ crossbars.

TIG weld CNC cut

100% TIG welded at all the connections.

TIG weld tubing

One thing to note, to speed up fabrication as well as improve accuracy and consistency we CNC cut a pair of tubing spacing jigs.  This allows us to make sure the rungs are evenly spaced from front to back and from side to side.  This eliminates any guesswork and makes fabrication work that much easier.  Here’s  a shot of the super simple jigs.


And here is a picture of the finished rack installed.  The light bar on the front wasn’t snugged down yet…  The customer is going to have the rack powdercoated.  One neat feature about the rack is that it can accept a double set of gutter mounts to distribute any extreme loads evenly across the gutter rail.


August 16, 2013

CNC Cut Skateboard

It’s always fun doing artsy projects that force us to be creative.  This is a CNC cut skateboard coat rack that was modeled, CNC cut, fabricated and painted in one day.  It’s constructed from 14ga 44W steel with TIG welded hangers on the back.  This pushes the deck 1/2″ away from the wall and gives it a 3D look.  The long horizontal slots were intentional because the TIG welding process will cause warpage these slots allow for this warpage to be dramatic.  This pushes out the text further than the area above and below the top and bottom slots, this giving a greater 3D look.  Also after the part was cut we forgot to form the tails on the 3D model, so we formed them after the part was cut.  Here’s the rendering before we began cutting any steel.


We didn’t get any photos during the cutting and forming process since this was something that had to be done quickly.  However here it is prior to paint.

CNC skateboard

The coat rack is based based off a few measurements from this old deck.


Since the mounting bracket is viewable from the front, they were necked down along the slots so when viewed from the other side they look like the axles from the trucks.  The bolt pattern through the deck and mounting bracket are the same as an actual skateboard so in theory you could bolt up a set of trucks to it.

CNC Cut SkateboardSteel skateboard

We used a rocker guard paint to finish it off as it’s textured to look like grip tape as well as being really really durable.

Metal Skateboard


Follow the links to our CNC cutting and welding capability.  Thanks for looking!

July 26, 2013

Behind the fabrication

We may give off the impression that that almost all we do is fabrication.  Which is not entirely true, which is why we would like to see what goes on behind the fabrication.  Here’s some of the last things we’ve gone through on the CNC table.  Lots of 1/2″ and 3/8″ lifting rings and turbo flanges.


3/8″ 44W steel


With jobs like that there is very little design work required, just nesting and setting up tool paths to cut them out as efficiently as at the highest quality possible with our table.  We do a lot of mechanical design that is either “behind the scenes” once the part is fabricated, like this roof rack we will soon be building for a client.


Everything is designed to ensure that it will be easy to fabricate and the CAD files are used to produce the flanges that will be welded onto the tubing.  It also allows us to determine the correct amount of material and reduce any amount of waste due to errors during the fabrication process.  It’s much easier to update a CAD model than it is to re-cut and re-weld pieces.  All of which waste time and money.  Here’s the flanges cut awaiting the tubing to formed, cut and welded.

2013-07-20 13.41.51

We also have many projects that are designed and sold strictly as a design, it is then left up to the customer to use those drawings and models to create what was designed.  Some of these designs have NDA’s signed or have potential for a patent application so we cannot post any of these, however here are some other examples of what we’ve designed.

Humminbird console mount behind the fabrication

Fish finder console for a 14′ aluminum boat.

Aluminum boat console

Paramotor design

Mint Design branded paramotor – think paragliding with a motor.

Skateboard Bench

Skateboard picnic bench for kids.

mannequin renderings

Mannequin renderings for scale purposes prior to slicing and CNC cutting.

welding table acorn

Shop welding table with loops for holding TIG welding filler tubes or clamps.

Rav4 hitch

Low profile Rav4 hitch.

intake manifold CFD

CFD showing how poorly a flat ended intake manifold flows to the final runner.

Drilling rig platform in transport position Drilling rig platform Stairs FEA Exo-skeleton FEA Drilling rig platform

These are only some of the dozens and dozens of parts we have designed.  Please take a look through our gallery for more images of what we’ve designed.

June 3, 2013

Exhaust repair and custom tool

In among working with mannequins we had a chance to do an exhaust repair and have a custom tool built.  The exhaust repair was pretty straight forward, it was a crack that propagated around the merge of a stainless steel system.  The quick and simple way would be to run a bead over it…however the chances of it cracking are still there since the quality of the original weld is under question hidden under a nice TIG weld.  Not good.  So instead we grind the weld out all the way around, then run two passes around the collector with some filler material to make it strong.

The crack was more apparent on the other side of this part.

stainless steel exhaust crack repair

Once the weld is ground out the surface around the weld has to be cleaned and prepped prior to welding.  After that process the inside of the tubing has to be back purged with argo and then it’s ready to weld.  Here it is all welded up and ready to go.

stainless steel crack repaired


Here’s the custom tool that we made for another customer.  Two 304 SS plates with a bolt and pipe passing through them.  The bolt and pipe are welded to the smaller diameter plate, this allows the larger plate to be torqued down and expand the rubber gasket to seal the assembly in the pipe.  The pipe is then connected to a manometer or similar pressure gauge to monitor pressure in a piping system.  Perpendicularity of the bolt and pipe are important, otherwise binding would occur when torquing or disassembling the part.

pipe pressure tool

May 30, 2013

CNC Mannequin Production

Well we’ve been busy in the shop with a variety of projects.  Here we’re entering into a small CNC mannequin production run for a luxury fashion designer, Nosakhare Osadolor, based out of London, UK.  The website for Nosakhari is http://www.nosakhari.com.

We adopt a lean manufacturing process where we try to carry as minimal inventory as possible, so once the job was put in place the material was put on order and picked up on a rainy day.  It was all unloaded into the shop, the sheets were then cut in half to have it loaded onto our CNC table) and the CNC cutting could begin.

Mint Design CNC steel

This is one of five sheets that were CNC cut out of 44W mild steel to form the body of each mannequin.  With this order we are producing two mannequins, one male (first time we’ve made one) and one female.  The female weighs in at 47.8lbs and the male comes in at 70.8lbs, they aren’t lightweights!

We just recently got a set of laser crosshairs for our CNC table.  This allows us to easily square up material and to reduce waste, which will ultimately save our customers money and be more productive!  here it’s cutting the vertical body section of a female mannequin.

CNC laser cross hair

This job required five sheets of material to complete the two mannequins.

CNC fashion mannnequin

Once the pieces are cut up they are marked, removed from the table, dross is removed then they are ready for test fitting.  These are all the pieces required to make one male mannequin.


These mannequins could be used for modeling everything from scarves to jewelry to welding helmets or PPE gear.  Right now they are being test fitted to ensure that everything fits and there will be no issues when they are reassembled by our client in London.  Due to the high cost of shipping, these mannequins will be disassembled and flat-packed to be re-setup by the client just in time for a fashion exhibition in the following week.  Here are some finished photos.

Iron Man with his two Iron Maiden’s?  You bet!

Iron Man Iron Maiden

Mannequin gas mask

male mannequin

steel male mannequin unique

mannequin army

mannequin mint design

male female mannequin

Making custom boxes isn’t the most enjoyable task, however things go by quicker when you have custom built shop tools to create perforated folds.

custom box perforation tool

All packed and ready to go!  They are just waiting for the FedEx driver to arrive.

flat packed mannequin


Click here to see our customer update!

May 13, 2013

Plasma Cutting

Here at Mint we’ve just been busy CNC Plasma Cutting, this time we’ve got a decorative part and some more mechanical parts.  The sign is made for ‘The Other Guy‘ a local business in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ran by Trevor G.  He does some very cool artwork pieces and was looking for an industrial looking sign to promote his business at art exhibitions and shows.  The sign is cut out of 10 gauge mild steel and measures in 12″ tall by 36″ long.  The sign uses custom font and really cool coffin shaped hanger mounts all designed by Trevor.

plasma cutting the other guy the other guy

We have a bath formula that works really well at creating a really nice industrial/aged patina that goes really well with this sign.

Here we’ve cut some more 3/8″ steel plate for an engineer who always has projects on the go and continuously coming up with new designs.  This will be for a hydraulic lift setup he has designed and will be fabricating together. He’s aware of how valuable his time is, and having these parts CNC cut means a lot less overall effort required and allows him to have a working design sooner than later, with a lot more precision than trying to make these pieces by hand.

3/8 plasma cut steelair plasma cut steel

May 1, 2013

CNC Cutting Aluminum

We been quite busy in the shop and we just haven’t had time to take much photos.  The only time we pulled the SLR into the shop was to snap some photos of CNC cutting aluminum (some 0.080″) for a few customers.

These are destined to be bookends that will have some Subaru STI (EJ257) pistons welded onto them.  They were pulled from an engine that had ring land failure, one thing we noticed while cleaning up the pistons in the ultrasonic bath is that the piston that failed pitted quite easily and the other that didn’t fail cleaned up just fine.  Maybe a casting defect or lesser grade aluminum?  Either way they’ll be on display as a conversational book ends.  Here’s the plate marker engraving and plasma cutter cutting out the pieces.

CNC engraving aluminum CNC cutting aluminum

After some surface treatment work and a bit of welding here’s the finished Subaru piston book ends.

Subaru piston broken ring land Subaru book ends

Here is the case for a portable “boombox” that has some pretty cool features.  We didn’t do the design work, just took the customers design, redrew it in SolidWorks to allow us to create an accurate flat pattern so it’d assemble how the customer envisioned it.  The design wasn’t 100% set in stone so there were some added holes and some slight tweaks after the parts were cut.  Here is the rendering of the metalwork:

Electronic pi case

And here’s the cutting process on our Torchmate CNC plasma table using the Hypertherm plasma cutter:

Hypertherm cutting aluminum CNC cutting aluminum CNC cutting

April 10, 2013

TIG Welding and CNC Cutting

We’ve been busy the last few days TIG welding and CNC cutting up a variety of materials and a variety of thicknesses for some local fabricators.

Here’s some 1/2″ 44w steel plate that we cut, the internal features were cut with the corner lockout on so it allow for a slower cutting speed and less taper.  We’ve seen a huge improvement with holes!

TIG Welding and CNC Cutting

1/2" steel cnc plasma cut cnc plasma cut fish eye

While cutting all the half inch steel we had some room to nest a prototype rotation gauge.  This tool will be used with our tubing bender to ensure that our bends are on the correct plane or what angle the plane should be. This was designed in Solidworks to be perfectly balanced left-to-right as the center of gravity is located right in the center of the “V”.  It just needs a tapped hole at the bottom of the “J” for a 3/8″ bolt.

rotation gauge mandrel bend tool

mandrel bend rotation tool steel

After all the heavy lifting we had a quick tweak to make with this exhaust that is destined for a Dodge Viper.  The hangers were off by 1/2″ (hence the pair of black “X’s”) and needed some adjustment.

exhaust hanger repair

Normally we’d just cut the brackets off and just create new ones, but the customer wanted a quick fix, so instead we strategically cut the hanger, moved them to where it should be and then welded in the cuts.  Made for really quick work and it provided a low cost fix.

Now onto a R32 Skyline anti-sway bar modification.  We already started in this photo by cutting three of the four mounting points.

R32 skyline sway bar modification

Rear anti-sway bar mount removed.

anti-sway bar mount cut

Front anti-swaybar mount removed.

sway bar mod

With the mounts removed the ends of the tubing are prepped.  Here the removed mount is having the orientation double checked with index mark on the tube.

mint design sway bar modification

Here are the new brackets cut off the CNC plasma table.  The new mount for the front allows for an additional mounting hole 0.875″ forward and behind the stock mounting location.  The rear allows for 1″ forward and behind.  This will allow the driver to adjust the anti-sway bar roll stiffness and alter the handling of the car.

CNC cut sway bar mounts

Checking alignment.

CNC anti-sway bar adjustable


Mint Design TIG welding

Checking the alignment on the other end.

Mint Design anti-sway bar modification

Getting ready to tack.

TIG weld anti-sway bar

Beginning to weld them all up!

TIG welding Speedglas

Post flow.  This is when the argon is purging after the arc has been extinguished.  This allows for the weld to cool down in an inert atmosphere as well as the tungsten and filler rod.  This all avoids contamination and yields very high quality welds.

post flow TIG weld

Speedglas welding helmet

This was a multi-pass weld so as to ensure that this joint would be strong and not fail in this high stress area.

R32 Skyline anti-sway bar modification

All our jobs of the day ready to pick up and go!

Fab shop photo

UPDATE – 5-May-13

Our customer took those 1/2″ steel plates (first three photos in this post) and fabricated a hitch for a John Deere tractor.

john deere hitch john deere fabricatecnc cut john deerecnc cut john deere tractor

April 8, 2013

Canadian Water Table

We’ve come up with a Canadian water table for our CNC plasma setup.  Sometimes we have a tough time getting Liters (or Gallons for our American friends) of water into our shop in the middle of winter.  So we tend to improvise.

What do we have a lot of in the dead of winter in Saskatchewan?  Snow!  So we try to make use of it when we can.

Canadian water table Mobius Threads water table Water table CNC snow

We’ve found the snow actually does a similar job as water in terms of trapping smoke during the plasma cutting process.  However when cutting thin material cool down before cutting reduces the amount of warpage when doing a lot of intricate cutting, especially on thin gauge stainless.  The only drawback with snow is that when it melts the smoke trapping effectiveness decreases rapidly.

We don’t do this very often but when we get a nice heavy snowfall it just takes a few shovelfuls to fill the plasma table.  Only in Canada…

March 20, 2013

AVHC corner lockout for holes

This is a clear and concise tutorial on creating an AVHC corner lockout for holes or any other features that requires a part to drop through it (square hole for carriage bolt, slot, round hole etc…).  Also since multiple tools are created, this tutorial also sets up the CAD to generate g-code via the Machine Output.  This tutorial is to be used at your own risk and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call Torchmate.

We are using a 4’x4′ Growth Series plasma table by Torchmate, it has a plate marker and AVHC (blue screen) installed along with a Hypertherm Powermax 65 machine torch.  We are running Torchmate CAD 8 strictly for the CAM portion, so we are able to nest parts and generate G-code for the CNC controller software, Torchmate 4.  So if your configuration is a bit different, you may have to omit or substitute some settings, but this tutorial deals primarily with settings within Torchmate CAD 8 and Torchmate 4 CNC controller software.

First off we have a fresh install of Torchmate 8.

Torchmate CAD

Setting up Torchmate CAD

Material Library

It takes a considerable amount of time to build up the material and cutting database.  Depending on how many thicknesses and types of material you cut, you may be compiling this database for a while.  The first step is to set up your materials.

Go to Machine > Material Library

Torchmate material library

For this example we’re going to use 1″ thick mild steel as our material in this tutorial.  So create “Mild Steel, 1-1.000”, input the thickness of “1.000” and click Add.

Tool Library

Now to create a tool to cut this material.  We create a tool that is a male tool path and a female tool path.  All the female tool paths will be applied to the interior cut outs of the part and all the male tool paths will be applied to the perimeter of the part.  We are also creating an online plate marker tool (as our table has it), if your’s doesn’t just omit the plate marker step.

Go to Machine > Tool Library…

Torchmate tool library

As you can see we already have a collection of Mild Steel toolpaths already created.  For this example, enter “Mild Steel, 1” in the Name field, ensure Type “Plasma ” is selected.  Now the parameter section D1 is the kerf width of your plasma cutter while cutting 1″ Mild Steel, in our case it’s 0.094″, enter in the appropriate D1 value.  Ensure the Turret is set to “1” and the Priority is set to 3.  If you don’t have a plate marker you can set this to “2”, but if you ever get a plate marker down the road you’ll have to change this, so it’s easier to just set it to “3”.  Now you have one tool created that will be used to cut male tool paths.

Time to create another for female tool paths.  It’s the same process except note the differences.

Torchmate tool library

The Title is “Mild Steel, 1F” and the Turret number is “3” along with the Priority being “2”.  The reason for the “1” and “1F” is because with future real world testing the cut speed of all your female tool paths will be slower (60% slower) which will create a larger kerf width.  Defining a “1” and “1F” will allow you to come back into your tool library and update your D1 value for either cut speed.

Now to set up our Plate Marker.

Torchmate plate marker

Set the Name as “Plate Marker”, Type to “Engraver” and enter in all the same Parameters as shown.  The most important part is having the Plate Marker define as Turret “2” and the Priority as “1”.  The reason it has the highest priority is because we don’t want any plasma cutting to begin until the part is fully engraved.

Creating the Cut Templates

Now is time to create tool paths with the created material and tools.  Go to Machine > Cut Template Wizard.

Torchmate template wizard

Hit Next and click on Online and Next one more time.  Select your material, in this case “Mild Steel, 1-1.000”.  Click Next.  Select the “Plate Marker” tool for the current pass and enter in the Total Depth of Cut as “0.005”, this would be a typical depth for plate marking.  Click Next twice and set the Cut Direction to “Climb Milling” as shown.  For the Plate Marker the cut direction doesn’t really matter but with plasma cutting it does.

Torchmate tool movement

Click Next four times to get to the last screen to save the Cut Template Name as “Plate Marker”, click Add New and Close.  Now you have a Plate Marker cut template 90% defined.

Time to create the cut templates for a male and tool path to cut this 1″ thick steel.  Almost the same process as last time.  Go to Machine > Cut Template Wizard.

Hit Next and click on Male and Next one more time.  Select your material, in this case “Mild Steel, 1-1.000”.  Click Next.  Select the “Mild Steel, 1” tool for the current pass and enter in the Total Depth of Cut as “1.000”.  Click Next twice and set the Cut Direction to “Climb Milling” as shown and the Tool Path Cornering to be sharp (the icon on the left).  Click Next three times and enter in this information.

Torchmate lead out

Click Next and enter in the Cut Template Name as “Mild Steel, 1”, click Add New and Close.  Now you have a male tool path cut template for 1″ thick steel 90% defined.  Now we do this over again for the female tool path.

Almost the same process as last time.  Go to Machine > Cut Template Wizard.

Hit Next and click on Female and Next one more time.  Select your material, in this case “Mild Steel, 1-1.000”.  Click Next.  Select the “Mild Steel, 1F” tool for the current pass and enter in the Total Depth of Cut as “1.000”.  Click Next twice and set the Cut Direction to “Climb Milling” as shown and the Tool Path Cornering to be sharp (the icon on the left).  Click Next three times and enter in this information.

Torchmate lead ins

Click Next and enter in the Cut Template Name as “Mild Steel, 1F”, click Add New and Close.  Now you have a female tool path cut template for 1″ thick steel 90% defined.  As you can see this takes a lot of time when you’re doing it for many different thicknesses of material as well as types.

Now to 100% finish of the cut templates, you need to bring a .dxf of any type into Torchmate CAD.  You can do this via File > Import.  Bring the .dxf file in with these settings.

Torchmate import

Go to Machine and make sure Use Easy Templates is deselected. Now for the “tricky” part.  Click on the part that was just imported, it should be outlined in red.  Go back to Machine > Apply Tool Path > Male… And make sure “Mild Steel, 1” Template is selected.  Click on the tab Basic Cut at the top.  Now this is where you enter in the Feed Rate, in our case with a Powermax 65 the recommended straight line cut speed for 1″ thick steel is 8.000in/min.

Torchmate male tool path

Now press Change to associate that feed rate with that Cut Template.  Hit Cancel.  Now do this over again for your female tool path and plate marker.  Reselect the part  and go back to Machine > Apply Tool Path > Female… And make sure “Mild Steel, 1F” Template is selected.  Click on the tab Basic Cut at the top.  Now with this female tool path it will be slowed down 60%, this will allow for less taper in holes (at the expense of slower cutting time as well as more low speed dross).  So enter in the Feed Rate, at 60% of the male it is 4.800in/min.

Do this process over again, except go to Machine > Apply Tool Path > Online… Click on the tab Basic Cut at the top and set your Feed Rate for plate marking, we typically run ours at 75in/min.

Setting Up Multi-Tool in TM CAD

This tutorial was provided on Pirate4x4 by Jack at Torchmate.  It can be seen here.  Our procedure is virtually the same but there is some minor differences due to the male tool path being assigned to Turret #1, plate marker being assigned to Turret #2 and the female tool path being assigned to Turret #3.

Go to Machine > Machining Defaults and under Selected Driver choose “Torchmate Dual Tool Driver”.  Ensure that Material and Selected are checked under the Machining heading and that under Tool “Multi-tool” tool is selected.  All shown here.

Torchmate Output

Then click on the Setup button and enter the Machine Limits, in our case 48″x48″ and the height is 6″ (height doesn’t really matter).  Click Apply, OK, then Apply and Close.

Check to ensure that the feed rate units are correct in Torchmate CAD, go to Options > Torchmate Setup > General Preferences and under General Units ensure that they are in “inches” and that the Speed Units are in “in/min”.

After all this Torchmate CAD is configured to a multi-tool environment and has different cut speeds associated with female paths and male paths.  You can use the same technique to populate the Material and Tool Library for more male and female tool paths.

Setting up Torchmate 4 CNC Software

Download this file.  Everything you need is in it.  Open up Torchmate 4, click on File > Open Setup and load the file.  Instead of explaining everything step by step it’s all contained within this file.  This sets up a list of M-code definitions, macros, tool offsets (for the plate marker in relation to the torch) and tools so it will understand what is being exported from Torchmate CAD.

Now that Torchmate CAD is setup and Torchmate CNC controller software is set up you can test a part.


Draw or bring a part into Torchmate CAD that has a few holes.  Select the entire part and go to Arrange > Break Path, if you part is completely solid and you can’t see the holes go to View  and deselect Show Fill.  Now select one of the holes and apply an online (plate marking) tool path.  Go to Machine and ensure that Use Easy Templates is selected.  Now go to Machine > Apply Tool Path > Online and select the “Plate Marker”.  Now do the same with the other hole(s) but this time choose a female tool path, Machine > Apply Tool Path > Female and choose “Mild Steel, 1F”.  Now select the outside profile of you part and apply a male tool path, Machine > Apply Tool Path > Male and choose “Mild Steel, 1”.

Now you need to check to ensure the correct sequence of all these cuts and plate marking.  There are many ways to do this, but for this example go to Layout > Sequence > Start Sequence by List.  Then click on the Tool Paths Only button.  Ensure all your plate marking is done before the cutting, the perimeter cut should be done last.  Once you have this done, select OK.

You might as well set up your material as well, Layout > Material Size…

Torchmate material size

Location of the origin and material size is important.  Now click OK.  Make sure your part is located on your material, feel free to nest or array this part at this time (if you do, you will have to check the sequence again).  Now you are ready to create the G-Code.  Drag your cursor from one edge of the material to the other (so all the part(s) you want to cut are highlighted). Then click on Machine > Output…  Now either click on the Cut Now button or the scissors.  Save this file G-Code file (it should be saved as a .fgc).

Now load the file into Torchmate 4 CNC software via File > Open G-Code…  It’s a good idea to run the table offline to ensure that all the outputs are working as they should.  Here is a video showing the workflow described with an imaginary part.  Sorry we don’t have a microphone…but everything is self explanitory, the only thing adjusted was the feed rate, it was increased during the plasma cutting portion to save some time in the video.

This entire setup allows the full control of cut speeds for internal and external features. adjusting the lead in and lead outs along with locking the AVHC when the torch is slowed down for cutting internal features.  Along with this is full control of kerf width for internal and external features, since the cut speed is different the kerf will be as well, this can only be determined by real world testing.  However with the tooling set up the way it is, it allows for easy refinement of the kerf and/or the cut speed down the road.

Now this takes care of the CAM to CNC portion, there is one thing left wiring in the control unit to the AVHC to switch the corner lockout off and on.

Wiring in the AVHC to the Control Box

This step is the easiest part.  Take a 120vAC to 12VDC power supply, cut the ends off and wire it to a standard 12v relay (pin 85 and 86).  Here it is before it is plugged in and wired.

AVHC corner lockout

The yellow and blue wires (pin 30 and 87, normally open connection)  are then connected to the corner lockout terminal on the back of the AVHC.  Plug the power supply into the universal two channel relay box and this will allow the software to control the hardware and ultimately turn on and off the AVHC when needed.

March 17, 2013

AVHC hole lockout

Here at Mint Design we’ve been doing some tweaks with our Torchmate CNC table.  One great feature of the table is the “auto” torch height controller, which adjusts the height of the torch in reference to the material.  So if the material bows or sits on the slats at an angle the torch will compensate for this and allow for a consistent torch to workpiece distance.  This ensures less chance of crashing the torch due to tip ups, minimal heat input, consistent kerf width and most importantly improves edge perpendicularity.  There is some drawbacks with the existing Torchmate system, which is why the AVHC hole lockout is created.

When cutting a hole the perpendicularity of the hole is important, having a hole with less taper ensures that that the hardware will fit and also improves the joint strength due to reducing stress concentration on the bolt vs. a tapered hole.  To achieve a hole with less taper you must slow the cut speed down, a typical rule of thumb is 60% the straight line speed.  This is a rule of thumb, because when a hole is larger in diameter the closer to 100% straight line speed is achievable  but if it’s a small diameter hole it requires a slower cutting speed.  The only major drawback to slowing down is more low speed dross, but this is a small price to pay for a hole with minimal to no taper.

Now how is this achieved with Torchmate CAD and the Torchmate 4 CNC program?  Assigning different tools for different tasks.  For example for one material type and thickness you will have one male toolpath and one female tool path assigned, the male toolpath will be 100% straight line speed and the female tool path will be 60% of the male cut speed.  The male toolpath will be assigned a turret #1, while the female will be assigned turret #3 (our plate marker has already been assigned to turret #2).  When a .dxf has been brought into TM CAD a female tool path is applied to all the inside features, and a male is applied to the exterior of the part.  The sequence is checked to ensure that all the inside features are cut first.  Then the tool paths can be exported via the “Machine”, “Output” function.

The Torchmate 4 CNC needs to be set up accordingly to read the G-code coming from the Torchmate CAD.  This is all done in the “Configuration”, “Programming”, “M-Code Definitions” and the “Configuration”, “I/O”, “Output Lines” section.  This will be explained in greater depth shortly.

Here are two screen shots showing the TM4 running offline to simulate what would happen.  Notice the hole being cut at 90ipm and the AVHC Lock being on, and once cutting the exterior of the part it is cutting at 150ipm with the AVHC Lock off.  This allows for the best of both worlds, less tapered holes and AVHC when it’s needed.

AVHC hole lockout AVHC hole lockout

One simply has to connect a 5v relay to the output of the controller and wire the relay to the corner lock inputs on the AVHC to enable this feature.  This will be described further once this is actually done.

March 13, 2013

CNC cut octopus and plates

We’ve been busy CNC plasma cutting out a variety of parts.  Everything from two 1/8″ 304 stainless steel CNC cut octopus to 3/8″ and 1/2″ structural plates and lifting rings to supply local fabricators.

cnc cut octopus

The structural components are easy, just need to have the dross removed and wiped clean.  The octopus’ in this photo came right off the table.  So they need a few pieces to be knocked out, all the dross removed from the backside and then they can be lightly orbital sanded across the face of the part.  Then they will be carefully packaged and sent off to the customer in Victoria, BC.

It’s always interesting going from mechanical/structural parts that require the use of thick material to delicate artsy pieces that need to have a very high visual appeal when completed.  We have no problem switching tasks, as all these pieces were cut in a span of an hour, going from fine detailed work to high power, slow cut speed tight tolerance work.  We have all the necessary tools in house to make it happen.

For more info about our CNC cutting services, please take a look at our CNC cutting page and don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote.  We operate our shop as lean as possible so our material is normally 1-2 days away if we don’t already have it in stock.  We do keep a variety of large sheets in stock that our more frequent customers need access to.

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 15, 2013

CNC cutting up a storm

Tonight we’ve been CNC cutting everything from 10 gauge to 3/16″ to 3/8″ mild steel material.  It’s been busy and we enjoy the variety.  CNC cutting is the backbone of our business and we keep our CNC table as busy as possible.

Another batch of door strike plates (a repeat order) used for the electrical rooms at the new Saskatoon Police Station being built.  The three pieces in the back are the gussets to be used for the new welding table we’re building at Mint Design.  The nice thing about CNC cutting is that we keep our previous cut files and link it to a cut part in the shop, that way when we need to recut more pieces we can easily nest more pieces and know where the previous parts were cut.  This ensures that when the torch is cutting it doesn’t run off the edge of the material or cause an incomplete part.

CNC cutting

Here is some of the 3/8″ steel we cut out for a local fabricator, CW Fab.  These were a one day turn around from the moment we received the files.  When we have the material in stock we can get parts CNC cut very quickly when needed.

CNC cutting

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

February 4, 2013

CNC cut coasters

Made a few promo coasters for our frequent customers.  CNC cut coasters!  These were cut out of 10 gauge 44w steel, mill scale stripped, lightly sanded, sealed with boiled linseed oil and the bottom was lined with a felt pad.  Here they are prior to the felt lining.

CNC cut coasters

Nothing but a high quality cut edge, even on very thin material.

CNC cut coasters

We usually nest in promo pieces if we have room on a sheet, the cutting time usually doesn’t take very long and the material would otherwise be scrap once the skeleton is recycled.  So we try to make good use of our material and provide our customers a promo item here and there to let them know that we do appreciate the business and that we are always there for them.  These CNC cut coasters are one example of that, we also have other promo pieces that make it out of the shop as well.  We don’t photograph everything that goes on in our shop, so there is always a sense of surprise…that and we don’t always have the time to take photos of what we’re working on.  We appreciate the business from our customers and we show that first with our quick turn around time and quality, but it doesn’t hurt to toss a promo piece in there too!

January 31, 2013

Heat recovery plate fabrication for a fireplace

We had a customer that had a neat project, so here we are documenting a heat recovery plate fabrication project needed for a fire place.  To start we’ve been busy hoisting around some 3/8″ steel in the shop to get ready to cut and weld.  We also found it interesting to do a cut comparison between a local laser cutting shop and our in house CNC plasma table.  The laser sample is on the left, we are very proud of the cut quality with our CNC table and this shows it.  The CNC cut has a square, straight and sharp edge, while as the laser cut piece is a bit thicker (1/2″ vs 3/8″) the cut quality is very poor, pictures speak a thousand words.

heat recovery plate fabrication

This heat recovery plate setup was designed by the customer, we just cut it out and welded it. They are installed one set at a time and interlock with each other once in the fireplace.

heat recovery plate fabricationheat recovery plate fabrication

The pieces are TIG welded together after coming off the CNC table.  We pride ourselves on high cut quality, and to go along with high quality welding will always yield a very nice finished product.