Sourcing Cutting Services
Having custom metal cut is typically simple if you can source a local cutting service, most towns have at least one waterjet cutting service anywhere in North America, Europe, and Asia. Some countries you might need to look a bit further away to where steel manufacturing is conducted. A little searching is all that is required and it will save you money compared to shipping heavy plates internationally!
Just search "Water jet cutting", most good cutting services DO NOT charge of CNC setup, they only charge for plate sq feet used, mm cut & time to cut.
For example aluminum is softer than steel so it cuts much faster than steel, so cutting costs are far less! Laser cutting is much faster than water jet so is often less expensive!
Metal Plate Cutting Process
- Plasma Cutting
- Is not suitable of most sim rig plates, it better for construction type cutting were parts will be welded. This process cannot cut small holes and requires grinding of the edges before painting
- Water Jet
- Can cut almost any material, with excellent accuracy. Most town/cities offer cutting service and the price is reasonable. The cut edge is typically very good and feels like medium grade sandpaper. It's ideal for cutting aluminum and can cut steel without issue but is slower which increases cutting cost.
- Laser Jutting
- Can cut a wide variety of metal, with outstanding accuracy, the cut edge is almost a mirror finish. Perfect for cutting steel and excellent for cutting aluminum up to 6mm. This process is harder to find, but worth the effort because the cost of cutting is typically less than water jet because it cuts metal very quickly.
- CNC milling machine
- Perfect for cutting aluminum or steel with outstanding accuracy BUT very expensive unless large production runs are planned.
- CNC router
- Is typically a DIY machine, it cuts slowly and is typically only suitable for aluminum, wood or plastic.
- Steel advantage/disadvantages
- Steel costs much less per sq inch but takes much longer to cut with water jet cutting service, so finished price is often similar to aluminum.
- If steel is cut with laser then the overall cost is lower. But laser cutting services are harder to find....
- Steel is more expensive to finish & must be painted or powder coated.
- Aluminum advantage/disadvantages
- Aluminum cuts much faster with water jet, it's much lighter in weight and a light sanding looks good. BUT aluminum is about twice as expensive than steel per sq inch before you consider the cost of cutting & finishing.
- My personal choice
- Is aluminum IF it's being cut with water jet. Light weight, easy to finish.
- If weight does not matter, & I use laser cutting service & can find a powder coating guy then steel will cost less and look great.
- Typically I ask for a quote for aluminum & steel. Then I make a choice.... Then consider weight & finishing costs.
- A personal project you can easily spray paint plates with a rattle can...
- Powdercoating can often be found locally, the finish is excellent & hardwearing and often just a little more expensive than buying rattle cans and DIY
Custom Plate Thickness
Most sim rig plates should be cut 3mm or 1/8" steel or aluminum.
Structural mounting plates such as direct drive wheel supports should be cut from 9mm or 3/8" OR a bit thicker 1/2".
Pedal plates can be cut from 3mm or 1/8" IF they are well supported, 1/4" is ideal if you are using high end pedals.