Originally Posted by jetjok
Do you hire out??
Here's what the experience taught me: When you pay the $200-$400 that it costs to get your panel professionally cut either by CNC or waterjet, it is money well spent. I don't believe any of the guys who are doing it are making a huge profit. If you want a recommendation, I'd go with SteinAir.
I cut the first panel for my RV-10 by hand a couple years ago; it took about a month. Then Blue Mountain went out of business and I traded up for Dynon Skyview. Since I needed to redo the panel I wanted to be able to try out several different layouts in the plane. I looked at a number of different companies to get it waterjet cut, but didn't feel like I could adequately explain my layout without trying it out in the plane. I didn't want to send off a cad file, spend $200, and find out it wasn't what I was looking for.
So in the interest of experimenting, I built my own CNC (from the kit on the website I listed). I wanted to be able to play around with different panel layouts and because I'm fascinated with how CNC machines work.
The machine I built has some limitations (the one I built won't cut a full panel at one pass; I had to do half and then shift the panel 12" to do the other half) and it is not as rigid as a commercial machine built out of metal, so I had to cut at much slower speeds in order to keep the accuracy. After cutting several test panels out of lexan, I cut 2 trials out of .032 (to test instrument fit) and then the final out of .063. Each panel took almost 8 hours of cutting. The machines the big boys are using probably take less than an hour per panel.
End state, I got the panel I wanted with extremely accurate cutouts (to .001) and a machine that will cut some neat patterns for things like cabinets, etc. But it wouldn't be usable to hire out because it's way too much work to cut a panel; between the cad/cam setup and the "supervision" of the actual cutting, I'd never have time to work on my RV-10. That said, if anyone is in the Jacksonville, NC area and wants to come by and learn some CNC or just BS about RV's, let me know. I'll be here until next summer; I don't deploy until about June.
Extremely slow build...