Panel Pro

View a video of one of a Panel Pro model 4824 cutting instrument panels provided by our good friends at D’Marco Areo SAS

Another video producing back lighted panels.

What is a Panel Pro™?

The Panel Pro™ model 5925 is a computer controlled router optimized for aluminum sheet metal 1/8″ thick. It is at home in avionics shops, Completion centers, or anywhere complex routing is required.  It has an x axis (width) travel of 59 inches, y axis (height) travel of 25 inches, and a z axis (up and down) travel of 3.125 inches. With multiple passes, aluminum as thick as 1/2″ can be cut. All 3 axis are computer driven with heavy duty NEMA size 23 stepper that outperform older sized 34 motors. Back to Top

How fast is it?

It takes about one hour and twenty minutes to cut all of the cutouts of a complete 4 foot wide King Air 350 panel.  The cutting speed is dependent on the material being cut and the desired finish, but an average cutting speed is 12-15 inches per minute using 1/8″ 2024 t3. Back to Top

How accurate is it…?

Move resolution is .0001968 of an inch (about two ten thousands of an inch).  Each Panel Pro 5925 is laser tested and employs a table that corrects lead screw errors.  Using a rough and fine cut, hole diameters can be held to better than .002″ with a very light burr and good surface finish.   The 5925 has home switches for a repeatable absolute zero in X,Y and Z.  It has hard stops on the X axis so the X to Y square can be checked and reset easily.  Back to Top

Square corners…?

The minimum corner radius is dependent on the end mill used.  Most cuts are made with a 1/8 inch end mill, therefore the minimum corner radius is .0625 inches. Cutouts that require a very tight fit along with sharp corners may require minor corner touchup with a file. Typically a cutout like a .700 inch square annunciator can be opened up just a few thousands to minimize or eliminate any filing.  The cutter may be changed to a smaller diameter (required to make #3 rivet holes) but rarely needed for general panel work.  Back to Top

Can I countersink…?

The Panel Pro 5925 can perform countersinking operations and other specialized operations such as edge chamfers and insets. The included AvCAM operating software can utilize the Z axis coordinate in the dxf file.  If the CAD you use exports the z axis, AvCAM will command that Z coordinate.  If there is no Z coordinate supplied (2D CAD) then the Z depth defaults to the user entered z cutting depth.

The preferred method of cutting is to do all of the cutting including mounting holes with a 1/8″ end mill.  It is very simple and quick to have one or more micro stop countersinks with 1/8″ pilots to countersink the holes desired manually.  While it may be more practical to perform ordinary countersinking manually, you can make countersunk SLOTTED holes with the Panel Pro, which is very difficult to do manually.  Back to Top

What can I do with it … ?

While Instrument panels are its specialty, the Panel Pro™ is equally at home fabricating brackets, doublers, switch and connector plates, flat pattern mounting trays, and even honeycomb material.   Optional engraving hardware is available.  You can use the Panel Pro™to digitize panels with the measure pro accessory.     Back to Top

What materials will it cut…?

The primary intended material is aluminum alloys, however any material that is free machining and suitable for fast spindle speeds and light cuts will work just fine.   Plastics such as Plexiglas cut very readily.  Woods can be cut, but there is a coolant system to flush chips away, and at the present, no vacuum system.  Even dead soft aluminum can be machined by slowing Z plunge rate pneumatics and x/y axis feed rates.The coolant system lubricates the end mill to keep material from building up on it.  Back to Top

Computer requirements

The Panel Pro™ requires a Pentium class computer with a Windows 7 or newer operating system. AvCAM will work on either a 32 or 64 bit processor. A USB port is required to communicate with the SC3 Controller.Back to Top

Maintenance requirements

The only routine maintenance is to clean the linear bearing ways and lubricate them with a light oil spray such as LPS2, and clean the chips out of the drain pan.  The linear bearings have grease fittings and should be greased once a month.  The Milwaukee 3 1/2  router has a brush type motor. With heavy use, the brushes will wear out in a year or so. The brushes are field replaceable.  In 10 years or so, it is a good idea to give the machine a good detailed inspection. Routine operating supplies are available from us and local vendors.    Back to Top

Shop Space

The basic machine takes up a 4 foot by 6 foot rectangle. It is desirable to have access around the back of the unit, and a table for the computer. If an individual room is contemplated, the absolute minimum size would be 8 x 8. With the legs removed, two people can carry the Panel Pro™ through a normal passage door.  The computer screen, keyboard and mouse should set close to the Panel Pro at a right angle to the machine so the operators can have their right hand on the keyboard, and their left hand on the middle of the machine. The machine weighs about 300 pounds fully set up and can be installed on an unreinforced upper floor.  Back to Top

Shop utility requirements

The shop should provide 110Vac 60hz power on a 20 amp circuit. It is desirable to have a source of running water nearby to flush chips from finished parts and hands.  The system will function 0n 50Hz, but will require an inexpensive transformer to convert 220-250VAC to 110-115VAC  Back to Top

What is the process..?

  1. Make a drawing of each instrument or cutout that is to be included in the finished panel. Once an instrument has been drawn, it is stored for re-use as required.  AvCAM has utilities to rapidly generate instrument cutout cad files when given dimensions.
  2. Make a drawing of the instrument panel.  Again store this for future re-use.  The beauty of this system is that once a cutout or panel is drawn, the work is done.  Panel Pro™ buyers receive our current library of cutouts and panels (serial number specific) that will save countless hours of research and drawing.  The cutout files supplied have close tolerances unlike many manufactures cutout drawings.
  3. Simply insert the panel drawing and the desired instruments in a new file, save them as a dxf file and cut.  In many cases a panel drawing with instruments already exists.  Then it simply is a matter of removing the old instruments and inserting the new ones.  Once a drawing exists as a dxf file,  it can be previewed or routed with AvCAM and the Panel Pro.     Back to Top

AvCAM machine operating software

AvCAM is a Windows application that:

    • Reads dxf files to route entities on selected layers.
    • Automatically applies tool paths for the end mill size entered by the user.
    • re-organizes the dxf file lines and arcs into polylines that proceed ccw for inside cuts and cw for outside cuts placed on the layer called “outside”.
    • Simulates the cut, and estimates the time to cut with current speed settings.
    • provides a digital readout of machine position as well as a graphical representation of where the machine is on a cut.
    • Provides numerous software tools to aid in alignment of existing panels and setting origin points.
    • Generates common instrument dxf files in seconds.
    • Incorporates interactive “jog” mode for manual control of router.  The jog mode employs not only rapid movement across the movement area with keypad keys, but fine movement in a selected axis in .01, .001, and .0002 increments.
    • Provides text engraving support.

  • Generates the indexer signals for the X,Y and Z axis.  Automatically turns spindle and coolant pump on and off.
  • can be operated in the cutting mode or measuring mode with the optional Measure Pro.
  • limits travel to machines travel limits when the normal homing commands have not been over ridden.
  • Download AvCAM help file  for a closer look how AvCAM operates, Save it to your desktop, then open it.   Back to Top

SC3 stepper motor controller

    • converts the commands created by AvCAM  into the micro steps  that drive the X, Y, and Z stepper motors.
    • controls the spindle motor power with solid state relays.
    • controls the coolant pump power simultaneous with the spindle power.

  • Provides  a manual  switch to inhibit spindle rotation.
  • Monitors home switches during home commands.
  • Reads the Measure Pro position sensor to measure existing panels.
  • Powered by 110vac.  Back to Top

Coolant system

Most of the heat of the cutting process is carried away with the chips.  Formula #78, a people / environment/machine/material safe water soluble lubricant is pumped to the spindle where it cools and lubricates the end mill.   The chips created by milling are flushed away from the cut into the drain pan and filter.  This results in a clean workplace.  The coolant pump automatically runs any time the spindle is running.   Back to Top

Material mounting

The Panel Pro™ uses a simple system of moveable rails to clamp the material being cut with C clamps.  When an instrument is cut out, the core drops free of the cutter into the drain pan. Panels with rolled edges such as the King Air will utilize a spacer between the panel and the mount rail equal to the depth of the rolled edge. The depth of the drain pan can accommodate up to 9.5 inches of bracing on the back of the panel. Back to Top

Price and delivery

The package Price is $17,750 USD, which includes:

    • The Panel Pro™ 5925 machine tool.
    • SC3 controller.
    • Interconnect cables.
    • Milwaukee 3 1/2 hp production quality variable / regulated speed  router with a collet adapter to use industry standard ER11 collets.  1/8, 3/16, and 1/4″ collets are provided.
    • AvCAM version 11 machine operation software
    • Easy Cad 2D computer aided drafting software
    • A copy of our extensive aircraft instrument panel and instrument drawing library.
    •  coolant system with 1 gallon coolant.
    • starter supply of high strength carbide end mills.
    • hand tools needed for operation.
    • A 2 inch dial indicator to check the Z level of critical areas.
    • A pen plotter adapter to draw out panels or parts in full size.
    • shipping weight in a sturdy plywood crate is 435 pounds, size 48x24x73 shipping class 92.5.
    • Each Panel Pro takes about 2 weeks to manufacture and each order is processed in the order received.

All you need to provide is a computer with a Windows 7 or newer operating system, 32 or 64 bit.

Lap top computers are ok if they have a separate numeric keyboard and mouse.

Call for lead time.    Back to Top

How can my business justify the purchase of a Panel Pro?

The Aviation industry and Avionics in particular are hard pressed to find quality technicians.  These technicians are sometimes not available at any price.  As a result the technicians you have must maximize productivity.  Instrument panel planning and research must take place regardless of the panel manufacturing method.   One important difference using pre drawn instruments and panels, the layout can be confirmed without the aircraft present, allowing owner concurrence and early submittal of FAA approval paperwork.

It will take a skilled technician 24 hours to manually fabricate a typical pilot’s instrument panel.  It will take the Panel Pro™ 40 minutes to cut out the same panel.

There are other operations in the panel fabrication other than the actual cutting, so let’s be generous and say that the actual time for a technician to cut the panel without painting, etc. is 16hrs.  At a shop rate of $85/hr that is $1360 vs $57 for the Panel Pro.

Every panel that is cut with the Panel Pro will allow that technician about 15 hours to work on other portions of the installation rather than the panel

Stated yet another way, it will take only 13.6 panels to pay for the Panel Pro Back to Top

Will I need highly skilled people to operate the Panel Pro?

 It is helpful to have a basic knowledge of computer aided drawing programs.  Once the drawing is created for the Panel Pro, it is a straight-forward task to cut the file.  The operator will need to at least have a basic knowledge of computer operation.  We can provide one day training at your facility for a Panel Pro™ Owner who purchase their machine new for direct expenses.  Subsequent training is available at a rate of $500 per day on site plus expenses.

Self study training materials are included with the Panel Pro.


Why shouldn’t I just get a milling machine or CNC milling machine?

10 x 54 Milling machine:

  • weighs 3000 pounds
  • 38.5 x 17 travel
  • costs $8000
  • t-slot material mounting does not accommodate cutout slugs
  • No chip control
  • manual operation, many manual tool changes required to cut a panel.
  • impossible to cut complex curves

10 x 54 cnc same as above but:

  • costs $39500
  • automatic operation
  • requires additional expensive software.
  • uses difficult to program G-code.

Panel Pro:

    • Weighs 300 pounds.  Suitable for un-reinforced floors.
    • 59 x 25 travel accommodates most full instrument panels
    • costs $17750
    •  material mount and chip control optimized for sheet metal work.

  • easy to use software included
  • extensive Aviation drawing library included.

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Shipping Size and weight

  • The crate size is 73 x 48 x 24 inches
  • The USA domestic shipping weight is 435 pounds including normal options
  • The international shipping weight is 510 pounds including voltage converter and normal options.

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