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Topic: The CNC Machine Revolution
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 7, 2011 09:12AM)
Not sure if everyone is aware of the CNC Machine revolution that is on the way, and partially here already. You can build a 3D model, send an email for a quote, make a PayPal payment, and boom --- FEDEX brings you a custom made part in aluminum, acrylic, plastic, or whatever the next day. These machines are coming online as a service and they make short run production parts available at a much low cost then ever before. Ultimately you could have one of the CNC Machines in your house if you so desire.

You could make actual products in short production runs, but that is rather expensive, or create precision aluminum molds for vacuum forming and epoxy resin casting, which is the route I am pursuing. Anyway this is a really exciting future with 3D Printers and in-house prototyping and production capabilities, similar to the computer revolution except with real atoms.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Oct 7, 2011 09:59AM)
Bill, a member posted this site a while back, it is a small version that has been used by the industrialist for over 20 years.


I only heard of these industrial design machines, and could not believe what I was hearing. A machine that could create a part out of resin. It was described a little differently to me, as the industrial version was said to use electrical changes to create the part in a vat of resin, then the solid part would be risen up out of the resin tank.

These machines work from 3D CAD programs for the design process.

One company I use to work for used this type of machine for prototype work. It was possible to have an exact model of the part in 3D, to exact size. I actually used a form product in the manufacturing process as a mold that would hold a part.

These industrial machines cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if a manufacturing company could not afford their own, like GM, there were independent businesses that did this type of work.

Robotics and CNC has bee around for some 30 years now in full manufacturing plants. Most manufacturers never make the fully robotic process as they usually stop on the finish side of the process. They have found that the cost is not justifiable to box and pack the final product. This is where the low cost of having a human place the product in the robot and to remove and box the product for shipping.

Trying to keep up with an unforgiving machine is a real task buster, as they never have to scratch, itch, or sneeze to throw off timing of the process.

To get back to your inquiry, these machines are not usually ever used for production, but for prototyping a part or product to go into the manufacturing process. It is cheaper or cost efficient to mold a hundred parts a minute then to have one machine drill and carve a part out of plastic. Do you know that there is even aluminum injection mold machine, that mold aluminum parts in a few seconds, just like the plastic injection mold machines.

It is really something to actually know what is in the manufacturing sector of the world, but is no fun actually working with the machines. After you did if for 12 hours and made several hundred of the same product, it is very boring monotonous work.

Not to mention you can lose a finger, and injure yourself in these plants very easily. Metal is not forgiving to the human body.
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 7, 2011 11:11AM)
Hi Bill,

Industrial CNC has been around for a while, but exciting new things are happening in this industry. For example you can buy a pretty good CNC milling machine for less than $5000


This is not the 3D resin printer, but rather true subtractive aluminum block milling. But what has me more excited is the low volume supply of CNC Machine parts provided as an online service:


Just send these guys a model and they FEDX back the parts. And there are some very ambitious new companies that are automating the ENTIRE process of making parts and even setting up injection molded production runs:


So with every 10 fold change in QUANTITY, there ends up being a major change in QUALITY. There is a big qualitative change on the way in how things are being built, and this is perfect for "long tail" applications like magic equipment where the parts are highly specialized and volume is low.
Message: Posted by: Dan Efran (Oct 7, 2011 11:22AM)
A few days ago I came across a reference to this service: http://www.shapeways.com
They've got 3D printers and will make stuff for you based on CAD files you upload, in various materials including metal.

I'm not a customer (yet...) so I can't vouch for the quality, reliability, or anything else about them. But it [i]sounds[/i] good...this is probably an easier way to experiment than buying your own 3D printer or CNC machine.
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Oct 7, 2011 11:45AM)
Just FYI, that 3D additive extrusion printer I've got (a.k.a. the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic) has now become a regular part of my workshop. For certain parts, it's the perfect solution: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:11869 (Yeah, that's me.)

Printing a plastic forked demon tail was the ideal solution- far quicker and more accurate than cutting it out of wood and sanding it down to shape. It's also lighter weight and less likely to break or hurt somebody. And no worries about having to make a mold for a one-off piece.

Eventually, I'll probably use it to print a few components for a large illusion- pulleys or rail slides... or gear mechanisms. And they're now releasing a dual-headed extrusion system. You'll be able to print using plastic with a water-soluable support material; the possibilities of that are just beginning to be explored.
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 7, 2011 07:01PM)
Hi EsnRedshirt, that's awesome you HAVE a 3D printer. What modeling software do you use? How long does it take to make something? What is the process like?
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Oct 7, 2011 08:35PM)
On 2011-10-07 20:01, billappleton wrote:
Hi EsnRedshirt, that's awesome you HAVE a 3D printer. What modeling software do you use? How long does it take to make something? What is the process like?
You can get one, too, for about $1300... or $2400, if you want them to assemble it for you. Actually, you can get one cheaper than that, depending on how comfortable you are with assembling all the electronics. Makerbot kits come with the boards and such pre-assembled. There's a bit more work if you want a Rep-rap or other design. Anyway, these are some of the first 3D printers designed for the home user and hobbyist. They do require some minor skills with electronics and computers, but they're less complicated than you might imagine, and mostly use freeware software.

Personally, I use Blender 3D, a freeware modeling program, to design my printable objects- but you can use any 3D software that can export to the .stl format (which is most of them.) OpenSCAD is really popular right now among the community, but it's more designed for programmers and doesn't do organic designs as well. The design time is variable, depending on what I'm doing, but I think the tail took about two hours total to design. (Blender has a steep learning curve that I'm still dealing with- I used to be more comfortable with 3ds MAX, but I don't want to pay a few thousand dollars for the latest version.)

The actual printing uses ABS plastic- the same material LEGOs are made from. The printer heats a plastic filament to the melting point of about 220C, then deposits it on the built surface in layers. My resolution is roughly .3 mm per layer, but some people have gotten closer to .2 mm. In order to print, you need to run the .stl model through a program called Replicator G and generate gcode that the printer can understand (basically directions that move the extruder head in the x/y/z direction, and control the speed at which the molten plastic is extruded.) Generating the gcode depends entirely on the complexity of the model, and the actual printing depends on the size. The demon tail, for example, took around 40 minutes per piece to print- and printed in two pieces. I glued them together, primed them and painted them black, but the plastic does come in a whole bunch of colors.

I hope that answers some of your questions. Feel free to ask me any more, and if you go to the link in my earlier post and start exploring, you can find a wealth of info. Oh yeah, the web page for my printer is http://www.makerbot.com
Message: Posted by: Leland Stone (Oct 9, 2011 06:01PM)
Yeah, thanks expendable Star Fleet crew member, for yet another fascinating Web site on which to expend hours of time online. :giggles:
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 9, 2011 07:31PM)
I built a vacuum forming table this weekend. I'm going to pull forms over CNC generated parts. Or maybe I'm just going to melt lots of plastic, I'll let you know...
Message: Posted by: bbarefoot (Oct 19, 2011 09:30AM)
I saw a guy on the Colbert Report talking about these a few monthes back and the ideas started to run wild with the effects that could be made with it. I just didn't have a chance to investigate it much, so thank you for doing the research and reminding me about it.
Message: Posted by: Magic Researcher (Oct 20, 2011 01:37PM)
Any pics of successes or failures with the vacuum forming?
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 21, 2011 10:09AM)
Hi MR, here is a picture of the oven and platen setup, you can see some formed lexan in an aluminum frame against the back:


The oven has a 15 inch griddle that provides nice even heat, and a thermostat for cooking the lexan for a few hours, this is needed for drying and preventing bubbles. Then the oven goes to 350 degrees and the hot lexan begins to sag.


Here is the platen, made of 3/4 inch red oak, I have about 12 inches square of forming area. The first one I made was just about crushed by the intense vacuum, this is connected to my whole house vacuum system. So this new one is much stronger.

Vacuum forming lexan is hard, I am still learning how to do this correctly, but the results are crystal clear and very, very strong and rigid.
Message: Posted by: Magic Researcher (Oct 21, 2011 11:32AM)
That's a lot of holes! Why did you choose lexan over plexiglass?
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Oct 21, 2011 01:16PM)
Acrylic is better for a scratch-resistant product, lexan is better for impact resistant properties.

I will probably try both.
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Nov 1, 2011 01:04PM)
OK, I tried both acrylic and lexan.

The acrylic will heat and melt and form easily, but man that stuff is brittle after formation.

The lexan is harder to deal with, requires hourse of drying, and must be heated up quite a bit to form. But the end product is amazingly clear and tough.

In a bit I'll show you guys what I'm trying to make, it's going to be amazing. Or not. One or the other.