Making automotive gaskets with milling hobby router

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CNC Gasket Cutting Making automotive gaskets

            Trying to replace a gasket can be a real pain. Oftentimes you will find yourself hard pressed to find a gasket that fits just right and you can drive yourself up a wall trying to do so. Luckily for machinists, making your own custom gasket that fits just right is something that is not too difficult to do. It is not the easiest project you can undertake but it is certainly better than trying to hunt around for a gasket, hoping that you will stumble across one that actually works (and even if you do, it probably will not work as well as a custom one designed to be the exactly correct size and shape). There are a few different ways you can go about making your own gasket depending on what type of CNC machine(s) you have access to.

            Regardless of what type of method you use the preparation process is going to be very similar for all of them. First you need to select the type of gasket material that you are going to use. Rubber is extremely cost effective and works for many common problems fixed by gaskets. However, rubber does not resist chemicals, pressure or temperatures very well compared to many of the other materials used to make gaskets. Non-asbestos materials combine fibers and rubber to increase the material’s resistance to pressure and temperature. The fibers used can be made from various materials, such as fiberglass and metal. The performance of non-asbestos materials depends on the type of fiber used in them. For example, metal fibers will result in material that operates well under high pressure levels. PTFE materials are highly resistant to chemicals but they do not do as well against more common variables such as temperature and pressure. Carbon and graphite materials resist chemicals and high pressures well; they also may be able to resist intense temperatures depending on their exact composition. Metal materials have a variety of functions depending on the qualities of the metal used. For example, copper and brass provide excellent resistance to most chemicals while nickel and Monel resist corrosion and erosion.

            Once your material is selected you will need to get some files ready to go. The easiest way to do this is to scan the gasket you are replacing and convert it to a file format that is usable with your CAD/CAM software. If you cannot scan it directly because it is too big, trace an outline of the gasket on a sheet of paper and scan that. Once your files are ready you will want to do a little testing before making the real thing. Use some scrap material you have lying around to make sure that everything comes out in the right size and shape.

Using a knife is the option that many machinists will likely have to go with since hobbyists generally have access to a CNC router or mill. A knife works well with rubber gaskets, which are probably the type that you will be using for any of your at-home needs, but is not the way to go when prepping more durable materials. Rubber will work in temperatures up to 400F and with pressures of up to 150 psi and can resist minor chemicals so you should be fine using it in most cases. Making perfect round holes (especially small holes) in a gasket can be somewhat challenging; you may need to use a hole puncher and do that part by hand after your machine has cut everything else. If you have access to a laser cutter the entire process will go much better and be much easier to cut. Ideally, using a water jet would produce the best possible results but most hobbyists likely will not have access to one.

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Making automotive gaskets
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Making automotive gaskets
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