Taking raw 6061 and 6063 aluminum and turning it into the portable antenna mount seen on this web site is actually a fun and rewarding endeavor. We have had good experiences during the design phase, without AutoCAD it would have been a lot harder to get the drawings completed to our satisfaction.
Finding a source of material wasn’t as difficult of a task as we first imagined. Our source has a location close to our QTH and prices that help us to keep the prices on the portable antenna mount affordable.
Cutting & Fitting
The cutting and machine work is all done at our QTH. When we have several mounts to manufacture at once we venture over to a friend’s custom car shop to speed up the cutting process. Fitting the parts together before they go to the welding shop makes their job a lot easier.
The one aspect of the fabrication process that has had its ups and downs is in the area of the welding. For the most part the problem has been scheduling, an important issue to us. The shops would give us a completion date which we used to relay the expected dates to purchasers only to have them change the dates on us. These changes made it near impossible to promise ship dates to customers. The constant changes also havoc with our ability to deliver products to purchasers in a timely manner.
We had one shop assure us of their ability to weld the extra thick aluminum used in our portable antenna mounts. After 4 days we were told they could not weld the parts after all. On top of this they ruined one set of parts for the portable antenna mount. They gave us the part back with the substandard welding assuring us that someone should “have no problem welding over” their work. Well, no self-respecting welder would weld over someone else’s work. The only way to weld these damaged parts would be to cut the old welds off and then weld them properly. The only trouble was that the parts would be used at this point. The last thing we want is to sell a mount made from used materials. All parts used in our portable antenna mounts are made from brand new aluminum stock. Here’s examples of the poor welding by American Metal Products on Silver Star Road in Orlando compared to our current (certified) welder:
Poor quality welding
On the larger pictures you will see some orange arrows pointing to the worst of these welds. The lack of penetration of the weld combined with the small size of the welds themselves will lead to early failure. These parts are scrap now, they could be salvaged but people do not pay us for salvaged parts in their portable antenna mount. These welds would quickly fail the various welding quality tests.
Quality welding by certified welder
On the larger pictures you will see some orange arrows pointing to certain areas of these welds. Notice the penetration of the welds and the substantial width of the welds. If you will take note of the ‘pattern’ of the weld you can see that the welder’s steady hand and speed gave a quality weld. The most difficult spot to weld is where the corners of the parts meet each other. Notice on the larger pictures the fantastic quality of the welds in these areas.
We have finally located a welder that does the work to our liking and they are certified aluminum welders, not just a shop who happens to own a MIG or TIG welder.
Powdercoating*Powdercoating has been all but eliminated due to the additional costs it adds to the mount. In a case of a purchaser desiring powdercoating there is a steep premium involved. This premium is not a hidden way of making more money off the sale of a mount. The only powdercoat shop near us has different policies than the ones we had access to while we lived in Orlando. Therefore black or white powdercoating carries a $100.00 surcharge on the mount. Colors other than black or white carries an additional $150.00 surcharge due to the fact that I have to pay rental on the powdercoating oven for the entire day when using special colors.
Page tags: aluminum, powder coating, powdercoating, TIG welding, MIG welding, aluminum welding, AutoCAD, CAD