Cable Chain Experiment

I decided to take a detour from the MAME cabinet for a bit and have been collecting supplies and mini projects around my next build, a desktop CNC machine.  Part of this CNC machine is some nice cable management in the form of cable chains to handle voltage and control circuits on a moving gantry.  I could very simply have purchased the cable chains from ebay and would have been done with it but wanted the opportunity to actually build some cable chains using a separate CNC machine available at OHMSpace.  The more I use the available machine the more improvements I can see for my own mental blueprint of the CNC I intend to build, plus having wooden cable chains would be uber-cool.

After many attempts and learning experiences using CAD and CAM software (Inkscape and PartKAM), I have learned that while it is possible to cut your own cable chains, the time and effort involved simply doesn't justify it, especially since the results have been far from perfect. Because of the very fine bow in the wood some pieces came out thinner than others, wood on wood circle joints stick way too much without a lot of sanding, the tabs necessary to keep the pieces in place so they would not be destroyed in the cutting process increase the work ten-fold as they need to be trimmed and sanded.  For the small CNC machine I am designing, I would need between 6 and 10 feet of cable chain that take approximately 20 minutes for each job that results in a two links that measure approximately 5 inches.  If the jobs ran perfect (not) that would take about 5 to 7 hours to cut, add in the cost of material and I should have bought it on ebay.

I look at the whole thing as a great learning experience with these major takeaways;
  • I learned how to make pockets and islands in PartKam
  • I learned how to make, and the importance of, tabs in PartKam
  • I learned simple is better in CNC work
  • I learned that large pieces of 1/4" plywood do not lay flat enough to do accurate CNC work on
  • I learned accurate cuts are absolutely necessary when making cable chains that should move fluidly

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