Owning a CNC machine means that you must inevitably find ways of dealing with the endless stream of dust that is created when cutting material. This dust can easily be controlled with the use of a shop vac. The downside, however, is that the dust filter inside the shop vac can only handle a limited amount of the stuff before it is overwhelmed and has to be cleaned to regain good suction. This is where adding a cyclone dust separation system can make your life much easier.
With such a system, most of the dust never even makes it to the shop vac’s filter because it is collected in a separate container located before the shop vac. This container also adds the advantage of making the task of emptying out the collected dust a lot easier.
I’ve seen several of these systems scattered across the web. The commercial versions similar to the one on this page range from around $20 to $100, and some of the DIY versions I found looked like they would take more effort than I felt like putting in.
I finally ended up just designing something from scratch. It turned out to be really simple to make. And guess what, it actually works!
Here is a top view of my DIY dust collection cyclone separator. The dust filled air enters through the shop vac hose on the right. It then spins around in a cyclone. Because it’s heavier, the dust ends up in the bottom of the bucket while the now largely dust free air continues out the the left tube to the shop vac.
To make this dust collection system, I started out with a lid from a drywall mud bucket and cut two 2.5″ holes with a hole saw. The input side (right) has a 90 degree PVC elbow attached to it. This is what helps create the cyclone. I used caulk to help seal around the PVC and hold it in place. I also used some weather stripping to seal around the shop vac hose.
The output side (left) consists of just the shop vac hose shoved down into the 2.5″ hole.
Here’s how much dust is in the bucket after several hours of operation. This bucket is deeper than your typical 5 gallon one. It’s somewhat hard to make out in the picture, but there is about 4″ of dust in the bucket.
Here’s a picture of the inside of the shop vac. Notice how there is hardly any dust in it. Also, keep in mind that my shop vac wasn’t exactly clean to begin with. It will be a very long time indeed before I have to empty it out.
I’ve been quite happy with this DIY CNC dust collection separator’s operation so far. It’s amazing how such a simple thing makes my life so much easier.