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V4's FTW
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10,492 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I may be making a couple fuel cells from 2 & 3mm aluminum in the near future. Wondering if I should invest in a nibbler for cutting shapes from a larger sheet. I have a couple bandsaws, sawzall, jigsaw already. Obviously cut off wheels too, but not ideal for cutting aluminum. If it was all straight cuts, I'd get a small shear, but I doubt I'll be that lucky. Thoughts?

Also, air or electric nibbler?
 

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Fuck it, let's do it live
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I have one, pneumatic. It's great when you need it, but I've found that to be a pretty rare thing.

It's probably good to have one in your toolbox, but I'd be reaching for the bandsaw first.

This is a good Harbor Frieght tool, IMO.

Pros:
Stupid easy to use, no risk of cutting off limbs or digits.
Supported cut, no significant vibrations from oscillation.
Easy to cut tight angles (vs a bandsaw).

Cons:
Wide kerf.
Very limited use, unless you generally work with a lot of thin gauge sheet.
Can't easily handle bends.

For thin alum I'd go for pneumatic over electric. If you want to do stainless in the future electric may be able to provide more torque, but I wouldn't trust a HF for electric.
 

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V4's FTW
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10,492 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I don't generally consider 2/3mm (.080-.120") sheet thin.

I'm really just considering it, because:

a) I'm considering making best use of a full sheet of material. I won't be able to maneuver the full sheet around my saws in the shop.

b) I'm hoping it cuts faster than the bandsaw.
 

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Fuck it, let's do it live
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Yeah, .08 is getting on the high end of what any of em can do for alum and .120 is probably out of the question for anything on the market.
My bad, I didn't see you had mentioned sizes in the OP.

If you've got a full sheet and have a nest of parts layed out and ready to go, you might consider outsourcing to a laser or waterjet shop.
 

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V4's FTW
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10,492 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Sounds like I'll either have to reconsider .063 material, or use a jigsaw/cutoff wheel. I don't want to waste time digitizing files and nesting for blanking since both cells will be one-offs and I plan to hand trim/fit/weld all the pieces from card stock templates.
 

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Is my bike ok?
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Plasma cut it in sections that will be manageable in the bandsaw? I cut a lot of sheet metal at work, but obviously nothing near this thickness. Had a pair of nibbler shears once and thought the were sloppy. They really chewed the metal up. Now my handheld is just a mini shear. One small reciprocating blade. Cuts like butter, curves easily and leaves a smooth edge when fed right. But it wouldn't touch the stuff your talking about.
 

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Fuck it, let's do it live
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In my experience plasma leaves an incredibly rough cut on alum. It works, but it definitely needs serious cleanup afterward.
 

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V4's FTW
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Discussion Starter #14
Right. Like I said, plasma cut in to smaller chunks then finish cut at the bandsaw.
Wrong. I mean yeah, if you HAVE to, and have no other way, sure. But the point of this post was to save material, not waste it by having to cut it 3 times (oversize plasma, trim slaggy plasma edges, trim part net).

I have a background in material utilization projects, my main job for a time was nesting parts in sheets for waterjet cutting and minimizing waste. We used nibblers for some large oversize blank trim for hydro form, stretch form, and drop hammer operations but I never used the nibblers personally.

If I decide to go with thinner 1/16" sheet, I'll try out the HF unit for $28. Maybe I can use it over a garbage can or duct tape my shop vac hose to it to keep the mess down.
 

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lb/hp is what it's about!
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I'm looking into a shear or nibbler for the same reasons. I've heard good things about the Eastwood shear but it won't do 16ga steel which is what I'll be cutting.
 

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Procrastinator
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For stuff that's as thick as 3mm I wouldn't think about using my nibbler, I'd go straight for the cutting disc in handheld grinder, especially if it's straight cuts. The nibbler is great for thin material that's curved edges, and deffo a tool to have in the cupboard for the time that you really need it. Although, having said that, I've not used my nibbler for at least 20 years...
 

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I have both a nibbler and a hand held power shear. I find I use the shear a lot more than I use the nibbler. I think everyone has covered the topic pretty well, but I'll just throw out two tips on using them:

The nibblers will scratch the hell out of the surface, if that's an issue - you can help with that by putting some masking tape down first, and cutting right through the tape.

With both the shear and nibble in aluminum, keep a spray can of WD-40, or, my preference, a spray bottle of mineral spirits at hand, and keep the cutters lubricated as you're cutting.
 

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V four honda whore
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12,291 Posts
why not use water jet instead of plasma?
 
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