Introduction: Make an Easy Flexure for Your Machine
I built a little 3-axis desktop mill about a year ago, which functions well, but I really needed to make some improvements to turn it into a workhorse machine. First off, I had built flexures into the frame to support one of the Y-axis rails. While the flexures functioned properly (not overconstraining the Y-axis table), they did not have much strength, and broke off when I disassembled the machine.
So, to make some better flexures!
Step 1: What Would I Want a Flexure For?
Each of the three carriages on my mill bear on two rails. The carriage can move in a total of 6 possible directions (6 degrees of freedom), but I only want the carriage to move in one direction. So I have to constrain it in exactly 5 directions. If I constrain it in more than 5, the carriage will likely jam if the rails are even slightly misaligned with respect to the other. The first rail is easy - it is fixed. This one rail constrains the carriage in 4 directions - translation in X and Z as well as rotation about X and Z. So I only need the second rail to constrain the carriage in rotation about Y without constraining it in any other direction.
This is where the flexure helps - it is stiff in one direction (preventing rotation of the carriage about Y) but flexible in the orthogonal direction (allowing for misalignment between the two rails.
Step 2: The Plan
I needed a flexure that was both robust and serviceable. After a little thinking, I settled on a shaft collar to clamp the bearing rail and some brickstrap as the flexure material. Cheap and easy.
Unlike my first flexure implementation - this method decouples the two functions - increasing serviceability.
Step 3: Support Bracket
I also needed a bracket to securely attach the other end of the brickstrap to the structural wall of the mill. I had some thick extruded aluminum angle stock around that I cut into two little brackets.
Step 4: Flexure
You often find this high yield strength steel being used to wrap big heavy shipments. It's handy stuff - for lock picks and door slides too. I cut it into smaller sections and drilled holes.
Step 5: Assembly
Step 6: Tram
The other great thing about this decoupled flexure is that I can now level my Y carriage platform with respect to the cutting head.
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