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Discussion Starter #1
The old forum where i had this posted got shut down. Figured people here would find it useful.


I'm going to try and stuff as much of what i have learned in here but feel free to ask questions. Here goes...

The skids have been on my truck for maybe 9-10 months (including being pounded on in Moab and the Dusy Ershim trail) and the bumper is currently being powder coated.

So the goal of this was to have an end product that was as close to a professional appearance and performance as possible. I like the plate style bumpers for the type of wheeling I do so I started doing research on plate designs. Here is the list of what I wanted out of the bumper:

-Mount straight to the truck with factory mount points
-Provide much higher clearance and strength than my trashed factory bumper
-Hold two Lightforce 240 blitz
-Hold a warn M8000 with easy access to the clutch lever
-Hold two turn signals
-Keep the weight to around 100lbs

And the Skids:

-Mount up to all the factory skid mounts (except the rear; more later on that)
-Provide more strength and protection than the factory skid
-Be removable for maintenance


As I started looking into it and doing research I came to the conclusion that I wanted to get parts laser cut then weld it all up. Two reasons for this: First, I have done projects like this with cutting torches or a grinder and wanted to avoid the hours of grinding. Second, it allows a lot more design freedom because I only have basic tools (hand tools, welder, grinder,etc) at home. The other thing I wanted to do was to design everything in a 3D CAD program before cutting it out. I had wanted to learn how to work with 3D CAD for a few years and this was a good excuse. After trying out several programs (solidworks demo, google sketchup, Alibre Design) I choose Alibre Design because it was way better than sketchup and waaaayy cheaper than solidworks. They make a "personal edition" for $199 that I bought after doing the 30 day trial. The Alibre guy I deal with has been great about answering any questions I have plus they have a help forum which has saved me hours of tearing my hair out several times. I decided that I wanted to build the skids first, basically as a big test of the whole process (cad design to final fabrication). So I’ll start with that.

I started by measuring the factory skids as best I could. Then made up a 3D model:





If you havn't used 3D cad before the program allows you to build everything in 3D then it transfers it to a 2D drawings like this.



Then I took those and made a partial wood model to see how things looked under the truck. Didn't take any pictures of it under the truck but you get the rough idea



After going back and forth between the computer and the wood model a whole lot to make extra double sure the measurements were right I sent the 2d drawings in four PDF files to Petrofield industries, and had them cut everything from SA36 3/16" steel (this is pretty much your average hot rolled carbon steel). I thought about using cold roll but in the ended decided not to because Petrofield would have to special order it. They were able to throw my parts in with their regular production stuff so the parts were done in a few days. So I picked up a pallet that looked like this:



The cut quality of laser is excellent:


So then I laid everything out on my bench and checked all the parts. There was one part that was missing two holes but Petrofield cut out a new one for free when I explained the issue. Once everything was ready I started to tack it all together according to the cad drawings. Most of it fit well but I had to modify several parts because I had messed up a measurement of the factory skid. Thankfully the measurements I messed up were lengthwise and parts could be shifted end to end so that things lined up. If it had been side to side issues then I would have had to get new parts cut.









After putting together as many parts on the bench as I could they then went on the truck:









Past the trans crossmember there is no really good place to mount things to so i made one from 1"x1.5" rec tube:







So in total the skids are two parts with the front part held on by all the factory holes. The rear part bolts to the front with three carriage bolts then has an additional two carriage bolts in the trans cross member and two bolts that mount to the frame.

Again for some reason I never took pictures right after I welded it so I just have tacked photos.





 

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Discussion Starter #2
Here are a few more detail shots:








Everything then got welded up and the underside welds were ground down. I mounted the skids back to the truck to line up the rear mounts then welded those onto the frame. After that everything got a spray bomb coat of primer followed by two coats of gloss black. Again I failed with the picture taking but here’s everything after the Dusy trip in September:







So how have they held up? Well, I think I’ve hit them fairly hard several times and I haven‘t noticed any warping. I feel confidant that the underside is protected, but time will tell as usual. I have had to drop the skids for oil changes because I'm still on the fence about putting a access hole so I can do an oil change without dropping the skid. I put in a fumoto drain valve already, so I may eventually put a small hole in the skid to fit a hose, but I’m not sure yet. All in all though I'm happy with it. Oh and I haven't measured all the parts but Alibre says everything weighs 106lbs. Which I completely believe as I definitely need a floor jack to mount everything up.

To prep for the bumper I did some strengthening of the frame rails. I had read that with repeated winching the frame rail end can get pulled out so I found an article on I think it was yotatech about plating the end. I made a part like this out of 3/16" plate and 1/2" rod :



Then cut off the frame end, slid it inside the frame, drilled a hole to match the peg, lined it all up and welded it on:





Not too much to see but I've circled where the peg goes through the frame and is rosette welded. The frame end is fully welded and there is also a nut welded on the inside so that all the factory bolts thread right in.
 

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Ok now for the bumper: I outlined what I wanted from the bumper earlier. Just like with the skids I measured the front of the truck then went to Alibre to build up a model. On top of that I measured the Lightforces and M8000 I had already. The turn signals took me a while to figure out. I like the look of square signals on the early tacos because the headlights are square. The factory ones are too big and low for off road needs. I liked the ones on ARB bumpers but since I was doing everything from scratch I figured I would find something with LED’s in it. Originally I found a VW Golf LED that was the same size but I didn't know how tough they were. Then I came across Nova Electronics SL Ultra LED. Made for emergency vehicles, they are 5"x1.5"x0.3" I haven't wired mine up yet but Nova has a Youtube video and they are seem to be plenty bright.

With the measurements from the truck I modeled the frame rails, and roughly the front of the truck plus the rad:



Then did models for the lightforces and M8000:






I worked on modeling and fitting all the plates in Alibre. This went through at least five different versions till I was happy with how it looked. From those plans I made another wood mock up to see how everything worked.





I had to do quite a bit of re-working to the top plate to get it to wrap around the factory sheet metal properly, and after several more rounds of back and forth between the computer and the wood mock up I came up with this. The Outer shell is 3/16”, the mounting plates are ¼”, and the recovery tabs are ½” plate. I tried to keep clearance high while still protecting the rad. The recovery tabs slide through the front plate and lock in to the plates coming off the frame. No surface welded recovery bullets… Everything mounts up to the three bolt holes on each frame end plus the two bolts per side that the factory bumper mounts to. Alibre says the bumper weight without any accessories is 110lbs. Which is a little more than I wanted but completely reasonable in the off road bumper world.









So then the model with all the trimmings...





Like with the skids I called up Petrofield and talked to them about cutting all of this out. I for some reason I couldn't get the files into PDF this time so the Tech suggested i put them in Autocad DXF format. It took a bunch of back and forth between the shop and I to get the files to work with Petrofields program but we got it worked out. I will continue to use this format in the future are I feel its more of what the laser guys want as Autocad is pretty universal. All the steel is again SA36. Again I thought about cold roll but decided against it. A few days and one speeding ticket (on the way to pick my parts up - I was just too excited!) later, I picked up another pile of laser cut goodness:







Then the fab started:











 

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I got the light hoop for the awesome price of free so I put that on while mating the outer shell and mounting section.









Then all tacked up on the truck.





Then I started welding everything up. I really tried to space out the welds to avoid heat warp. Welded about 6-8" on one side then did the same on the opposite side. It was all done with a millermatic 211 mig with 0.030 wire and 25/75 argoshield gas. After that was done I mounted it back up with my fingers crossed that it didn't warp too badly. It ended up a little off but nothing that stopped me from taking these:











So then the long process of grinding the welds down started. I had a few issues with weld porosity. I think while welding with the doors open a gust of wind blew the argon off the puddle a few times. I had to grind out a weld or two to clean that up. Also on the test fitting I noticed that the side sections closest to the tires stuck out too close to the tire. I cut the ends off and changed it a bit for more clearance. After that I hit all the ground down welds with a DA sander and 80grit to make everything nice and smooth. I did one more test fit with the winch then sent it off to Top Gun Powder Coating. And that’s where I’m at right now. It should be something like 10 days till I get it back from powder.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here is the latest. Picked the bumper up yesterday from powder coat. Got it mounted with the LED turn signals in. Threw the lightforces on. Still need spacers so they can be aimed straight. I need to get extended winch power cables so the winch isn't in yet.









 

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Oh yea and this is an early version of the rear.









This is all pre wood mock up and with just some super general measurements of the truck so it still needs a lot of work. Still haven't decided about adding a 2" receiver hitch or not.
 

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Ok so just to finish off the front bumper. Here is the final install with the M8000. I extended the winch power lines with #2 welding cable. The mount for the contactor box sandwiches between the battery tray and the metal battery mount off the inner fender. Its just a 1/8'' plate with some 1/4" solid round bent and welded to half the factory warn mount. I got caught up in mounting everything i didn't take a picture. I also had problems with the LED turns hyper flashing. Fixed it with a Tridon EP-35 LED flasher unit from auto value. I tried a EP-35 flasher unit from NAPA but it didn't work. So if you have this problem make sure its a Tridon one that lists LED on it. Also added some spacers to raise the lightforces a bit. The only change to the front now will be synthetic winch line plus a hawse fairlead both for line snapping safety and to reduce how much those rollers stick out.





 

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So bit of an update. Spent some time messing around with the angles, got the mounting plates sorted out, and getting a trailer hitch in too. Didn't change much to the center section it was mostly the sides i didn't like/first cad stuff wasn't accurate enough. The tires in these are at full stuff.









This is what i've got for a trailer hitch so far. It's the exact same tubing as the old hitch i had on just packaged in the bumper. Mounting plates are cut to let the square tube pass through so i can weld both sides.





Here is a comparison with the old bumper and hitch. I'll gain about 4.5" vertically from the bottom of the old hitch to the bottom of the center section of the new bumper.






I'm happy enough with this version to want to move on to the wood mock up stage. I still need to look into how to mount the mud flaps and the whole moving of the licence plate to use the hitch receiver thing. I'm thinking a hinge but i havn't found the right one yet. Just gotta find time.

Martin i didn't have time to take pics or a video of the flashers before i left for work. Strobes n more has a youtube product video if your interested in that. I'll be home next week so i'll see what i can do when i get back.
 

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So i've been puttering away at the wood mock up for a while. I needed to do the mounting plates and top plate that has to align with the body to double check that what is in my computer fits in the real world. I added some side plates in cardboard, the licence plate section for an idea of where the bottom of the bumper is going to be and the side tubes just to see. The tubes look too big because it was left over 2" pipe from when i mocked up the front. The CAD model uses 1.5" which is what i'll be using. I'm pretty happy how it looks so it's getting closer to laser time. Just gotta sort out a few small issues with the licence plate which i'll ask below.













So this brings me to the last thing i'm still figuring out. The licence plate. I found a flip up kit like this.
http://www.autotrucktoys.com/ford_truck/images/SS950-61100-Flip-Up-License.jpg

I think this is the route i'll go i just need to figure out where to put the lights so they don't get in the way.

Here is the latest CAD work. Its very similar but i've made slight changes. The end of the hitch receiver tube got beveled so it is less of a trail hook, the side wings got angled inward more for clearance, there is a mud flap bracket in place now, and i changed the side hoops a little.





And i may have got sidetracked and did a bedcage just for the fun of it.....



Key thing is that the whole cage only weighs 41lbs
 

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cool project and nice work, going from measurements in the garage to building in 3D CAD would be way more difficult than it sounds!

I have used a company called Laser Equations in Calgary a few times for work and they have been good to work with if you are interested in sending out your drawings to other companies for quotes for laser/water jet cutting, always nice to see what is available for materials and costs

I have never used Alibre before, do you make your .DXF files from that program or do you use autocad for that? I use a program called draftsight at work for some 2D drawings, it is free software that I prefer over AutoCAD if you're interested in trying out different cad programs
Funny you mention the CAD to real world. When i was first researching about these programs i ran across numerous people saying that was the hardest part. I now fully agree with them!
Is laser equation the one up by princess auto in the NE? I think i caught a glimpse of their sign as i drove by there a month or so ago. I might just see what a quote from them looks like.
Alibre does let me change the file from .AD_PRT (3D) to autocad DXF. Once the 3D part is made you create a 2D drawing (.AD_DRW) then export it as .dxf 2007. I make one drawing for each part then send the package of them to laser. When i did the skid plates i sent them as a PDF the tech was ok with this but he left the company when i did the front bumper so the new tech wanted it in DXF which i don't really blame him i think its the better way to go. I have never tried draftsight i always used Autocad because thats what we were taught at school. I've probably forgotten most of it though since i havn't used it in a few years. Draftsight is pretty user friendly?

I think i can also export parts in .stl (3D) but i've never done it. My brother is gunning for a 3D printer so i may try that then just for curiosity.
 

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Here is what i've got for the licence plate issue. Its a street scene part made for street trucks with a roll pan. Comes with a light but the placement doesn't really work on this bumper. Hidden hitch has the same one without the light but it was three to four weeks away.



It just has a spring that keeps it in either the open or closed position





So say you are using your hitch and the licence plate is up. It will stay there till you push it closed. No flopping around. And the damn spring is strong i snapped it on my finger the first time i looked at how it works.

I made a CAD model to check how it fits





And added it to the rest of the gongshow







Still gotta find some lights that work though.
 

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Picked up all the laser cut parts today. Grabbed the other needed square tube on my way home. Somehow misplaced my camera so sorry about the crappy cell pics.












After a few hours i had the mounting plates tacked together and some of the face plates tacked to the top.









 

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More work done today. Got a bunch more plates tacked on, mated the mounting section to the outside, and started to cut the body to fit. I still have more plates to add but wanted to start fit up on the truck before the bumper got too heavy.









 

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Here is the progress so far. Trimmed the body to fit. I'll still do one more round of trimming after the bumper is fully welded but its pretty close now. I'm still waiting for the side hoops. I talked with E-mortal customs about bending them up but i'm still waiting on the final product. I ended up changing how the end part of the mounting plates works because my original design made it hard to get the bumper on and off. The flip up licence plate works sweet though. Next on the list is bending some 1/4" solid rod to support the mud flaps. The slot in that "L" bracket fits the 1/4" rod then the other end gets bolted to the mounting plates.











 

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Here is the latest after tonight. Welded everything up. Did most of it with mig, but pulled out the tig for the two inside corner joints next to the licence plate. Used it for two of the mounting plates too. Made some changes to my mig welding after the two issues with porosity i had on the front bumper. No problems with that this time. After it was all welded it got mounted up and there was a final trimming of the body. E-mortal got back to me about the side hoops on Friday. They should be ready tomorrow. Now the long crappy weld grinding phase starts. Still gotta seal all the bodywork. Anyone else hate painting things when winter sets in? I know i do. Keeping the garage heated enough with the Mr. Heater burns through propane like nothing else.

Some of the mig stuff









And the few tig welds



 

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Picked up the hoops from E-mortal today so here is the latest. There is about a 1/4" clearance between the hoops and the body. The material is 1.5"Dia 0.120 wall DOM.









After tacking in the hoops i moved on to the mud flaps. I really like the factory mud flaps so i just re-centered them then built the support to the frame out of 5/16" solid rod. Used it as more tig practice. They are held to the bumper by the upper carrage bolt and the one bolt on the frame.









 

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Here is the latest. After a filing all the edges then buzzing them all with 80 grit on a DA i think its ready for powder coating. Damn i'm glad all that filing is done. Fully welded the hoops on too. Then rolled it outside....and had a beer.















 

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Back from the powder coaters! Swung by the gear shop to get some help lifting the bumper into place. If was getting dark by the time i took pics so they are my usual cell crap. Will try to take some better ones tomorrow. Still gotta add the licence plate light.









 
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