When milling a drink holder from old teak-veneered particle board material, the dust layer it put on everything in the shop was pretty bad. I stood there with the vacuum nozzle most of the time, but it really couldn’t capture it all. Also, when I made a flange out of Renshape material, it put a pink powder everywhere. After reading about the hazards of shop dust, I decided to go ahead and design an enclosure for my Shapeoko3 CNC.
I started by getting the huge Harbor Freight dust collector and retrofitting it with the popular (Wynn Environmental 35A274NANO Cartridge) .5 micron filter. I wanted to get a feel for the suction force and other details before designing an enclosure, as it would incorporate a “port” to suck out the fine particles.
After setting up the dust collector and experimenting, I began to have doubts about building the cabinet. I wondered if I shouldn’t just stay with plastic and aluminum and forget about milling wood and plastics that create dust. The collector and enclosure were becoming a big infrastructure project. I also didn’t want an enclosure that kept me from easily accessing the machine. At this point I was already in deep, so I decided to press on. In hindsight, I'm now glad I built it as it does a great job.
Step 1: Design
I began by doing the fundamental design in SketchUp. That way I could work out some of the details before starting construction. It was going to be a more complicated design than I would have liked in order to achieve my goal of total access. The idea was to have quick access through a front door that hinged up. But, to get at the entire machine in a manner closest to not having an enclosure at all, most of the structure would lift up and out of the way. My approach was to hinge it at the top by creating a rear “riser” to which a piano hinge could be mounted.
Since the plexiglass sides would be lifting forward-and-up away from the rear riser, when they came back down they would need to fall into place. For that I designed “cover guides” which flare out and create a path for the sides to be guided into a vertical position as the cover is closed. I made these on a 3D printer. They can be seen in the CAD renderings on the riser’s sides, 2 inches up from the base. These could easily be made on the CNC or any other method. SketchUp native files for the guides are included.
The main reference to build this enclosure is the CAD design. This was done in the free version of SketchUp. Note this is the native SketchUp file, so you can go in and take measurements, modify it or do anything you want. Each element is a "group", so that you can click on it to highlight or double click to edit it. When editing it, you only see that element and can easily take measurements or print different views, whatever makes it easy to go and make that part.
Here are all the SketchUp files, the most important one is "aaa shapeoko3 enclosure.skp" which is the complete enclosure.
Step 2: Cut the Wood Pieces
For best results I suggest making all the wood panels first. Then build the rear riser consisting of 6 panels. I say this because while the overall dimensions of the enclosure do not have to be exact, you don't want any accumulation of errors that might keep it from all fitting together. Now make the aluminum angle sections and use sheet metal screws to put the whole wood riser and base plate together.
The photos show the wood pieces put together for fit before painting and then all the pieces drying after painting.
Step 3: Plan and Construct Plexiglass Lid
With the riser and base plate assembled, take careful measurements to see if they match my original design. If not, don't worry. Just change the plexiglass lid elements' dimensions to match it. Make the aluminum extrusion pieces and use screws to hold it all together. When it looks right, now cut your plexiglass.
The bottom edges of the plexiglass sides come to rest on the base. I slightly slotted the holes at the top and front edge so that I could adjust the plexiglass to meet the base squarely. I used some rubber windshield washer hose which I split with an Xacto knife to make an edging for those bottom edges. This allowed for a nice seal and quiet closing. Also note that while my wife Linda painted the enclosure satin black, which really makes it look nice, I’ve made it a wood color in CAD so the details can be seen.
Step 4: Additional Pieces
The Shapoko3 CNC has a desktop power supply with an in-line rocker switch. I designed and 3D printed a “switch holder” which snugly holds the switch and has built in round risers which go almost all the way through the wood side and are held in place with sheet metal screws from the inside. The SketchUp file is included.
The rear panel has a large cutout for a Peachtree "6x10 Dust Collection Joiner Flange" PW432. This will kind of “funnel” the dust down to a 4” port to which the dust collection hose is clamped. I actually used the CNC to make this cutout.
On top of the riser there are 2 quasi-triangular pieces aiming up. These provide a resting place for the lid in the raised position. There are 2 screw-on rubber feet on the sloped edge which the aluminum sides of the cover rest on.
The front plexiglass door does not come down all the way to seal the opening. There is a gap that I arrived at experimentally which allows air to be sucked in, run over the CNC’s base plate then out the rear flange. I used an anemometer to tune this gap for the best air flow without imploding the enclosure.
As I was getting close to finishing the project, it was looking very nice and I was starting to think about the next step which would be some type of hold-down system. While I did a lot of research, I just wasn’t looking forward to another “tooling up” project. I really wanted to get on to actually making something. So, I ordered the very expensive Carbide3D Threaded Table. This turned out to be an amazing piece and really finished off my build.
Step 5: Parts Not Shown in CAD Drawing & Parts Info
Not shown in the CAD drawing but seen in the photos:
- Aluminum angle (x2) on top of the riser & aluminum plates (x2) on the sides of the riser all of which hold the two quasi-triangular wood pieces to the riser
- The "Barrel Bolts" used to lock the whole plexiglass section into it's raised resting position. I used two of Everbilt 3" #240-435 from Home Depot.
- "Foam Window Seal" 3/16"H x 3/8"W x 17' L for "Small Gaps", Gray, MD 02253 purchased from Home Depot. I used this on the 3 forward facing edges of the riser that the plexiglass section rests against when in it's lowered resting position, also on the 3 forward faces of the front aluminum angle so that the plexiglass front door will seal against it.
- At the bottom edge of the two plexiglass sides I made my own black rubber edge material by using 5/32" Windshield Washer Hose Vacuum Tubing (Prestone #WV0532 from Auto Zone or other automotive parts store) and using an Xacto knife I split it (be careful) to make a nice U-shape. This just pushed onto the edge with no need for glue. It helps seal the enclosure and makes closing the lid a softer landing.
Shapeoko3 Enclosure Key Materials Dimensions
SOME OF THIS CHANGED DURING CONSTRUCTION, USE CAD FILE MEASUREMENTS AS THE BEST NUMBERS.
DON'T FORGET USING DIFFERENT THICKNESSES WILL AFFECT OTHER DIMENSIONS.
.665" thick wood used for front panel
Front: 30.375" (30 3/8") wide x 16.75" tall
(with interior cut out 1.6" typ. in on 3 sides and 1.925" in along bottom)
Rear Sides (quan 2): 16.375" (16 3/8") tall x 7.00" deep
>>(correct as long as wood is 3/4" thick, any thinner then must make sides & rear panel taller by same amount)
Rear Top: 31.25" (31 1/4") wide x 7.00" deep
Rear Panel: 29.75" wide x 16.375" tall
(with 10.75" wide x 6.00" tall cutout located 2.75" up and 9.625" from each side)
Plexiglass ACTUAL .176" thick
- ordered cut to size from eplastics.com
Top: 30.69" wide x 23.50" deep
Sides(2): 16.75" tall x 23.50" deep
Front Door: 30.75" wide x 16" tall
- front door piece was later altered to allow "tuned" opening along bottom for good air flow))
Alum. angle, 1.25" sides 1/16" thick material, as needed throughout
Steel/Bright Nickel Plated
1 1/2" x 30" (quan 2), found these two models to be the same thing:
Gate-House (Lowes) #0003890
I used a long chrome metal handle to raise / lower the whole moveable cover and two plastic handles to open the front door. I had these in my parts bin, but appropriate handles will do. Actually, you could just use the aluminum angles at the bottom of the front door to open and close it.
Step 6: Using It
The Dust Collection Joiner Flange on the rear of the riser has a 4" round port where you can clamp a dust hose. With the front door open, it only pulls the finest of dust. But when you close it, it instantly pulls out all the sawdust from the table! One big woosh! You will need to trim the height of the front door to make just the right size opening all the way across.
I've now used it for a few projects, and it's really nice to only have to vacuum up the heavier pieces when the job it done. No more dust clouds in the shop!