CNC Tank Desk Candy

CAD, Machining, Manufacturing & Production

For our first intensive project in IPD 501 (Integrated Computer Aided Design) we were given the task of producing some desk candy made with computer aided machining on the Haas MiniMill.

I chose to machine a three part tank, with the barrel, turret, and main chassis designed loosely to look like the M1 Abrams tank.

Process and Reflection

Going into the project, I envisioned that the whole process was going to be plug-and-play from the SolidWorks model that I created to the final part that came out of the MiniMill much like that of a 3D printer. The process ended up being something completely different. By the end of it I had this newfound appreciation for 3-axis CNC milling.

Rather than creating simple engineering drawings from the newly designed parts for machining in a manual process or for 2.5D CNC, these detail-heavy parts for 3-axis milling had to be designed from the start with the new milling process in mind. For this tank in particular, both the body and turret each had to be milled in 2 steps, each with a flip in the middle. Careful adjustments had to be made in SolidCAM (SolidWorks compatible CAM generation software) to account for every pass, tool speeds, total milling time, and tool changes. The location of the fixtures in relation to the mounting block and max shear forces that the fixture screws could withstand were also taken into account. The level of painstaking detail was not over when the CAM was done and G-code generated, as the later processes involved closely monitoring the milling process to ensure that the code was executing correctly.

When the parts finally came out of the MiniMill, an additional 12 hours was spent on sanding down the residual material and fillets leftover from the milling process. The final product was sandblasted and sent out to be anodized in olive drab.

Machines Used

Haas MiniMill 3 axis CNC, Manual Lathe, Manual Mill

Materials Used

6061 Aluminum, 1020 Steel

Project Duration

3 Weeks


January - February 2016