After a lot of research, I decided to invest in some tools to do what’s necessary to make the tubes I need.
First up, a CNC plasma cutting machine to do the notching and marking for bends. Enter the Dragon (forgive me, Bruce Lee)
This machine is sold by Bend-Tech It comes with software that will allow import of my SolidWorks model and with some configuration, do the cuts necessary to make tubes that fit together.
I hauled it home on the open car trailer and lifted it off with my Atlas auto lift – a/k/a “poor man’s crane”. After assembly and setup, you can see that it’s very big! This is a “12 foot” machine which means it’s capable of cutting tubes up to just under 12′ long – plenty for my purposes. They make a 21′ machine also but as you can image, it’s even longer. I do still need to figure out where to put this thing!
After a bit of setup and some experimentation, here’s an example of some cuts I made. This is .065″ wall 1.5″ steel tube. The blue circle was drawn by the Dragon and shows you where another tube will be welded. The fit-up is pretty nice!
The part shown is right from the machine – no clean-up or prep. I’m still not completely happy with it but with some work, it will be completely workable.