Friday, July 19, 2013

Target Sighted: Work Begins On A CNC Prototyper

Well, I've been without a cnc machine in my garage for over two years now, and have been jonesing hard for one ever since I sold my first one.

I spent a few months apprenticing at a local machine shop, when overtime, family life, and digital sculpting permitted, learning a few tricks of the trade.  I think I'm ready to make another attempt at bringing some prototyping business back in-house, particularly for large objects that are cost-prohibitive to rapid prototype.

Nothing against my rapid-prototyping brethren, of course, I love the work they do.  This is just my own little creative effort for the cause of the next industrial revolution.

My criteria were simple:  The thing had to bolt together easily, be inexpensive, modular for future improvement, and have a decent-sized cutting area.

I purchased some motion axes from John at Microcarve.  He's great to deal with, and very patient with my endless tire-kicking, just like I pestered Nick Carter years ago.  Both are great gents to deal with.

So, when the three axes arrived, I purchased some Faztek aluminum off of Amazon (Prime shipping rocks for 97" sticks of extrusion), a few brackets and fasteners, and got to work.

Chopping the aluminum (aluminium for you UK folks) extrusions to length.

 It cut rather handily on my miter saw with a carbide-tipped blade.  Chips went everywhere, and looked like macro-sized glitter.

 Here's the intended primary structure.

 Here are the three axes.  From left to right, they are the 13-inch travel X axis (moves the prototype from left to right), the Y axis (moves the prototype forwards and backwards), and the Z axis (vertical ascent and descent).  The Z axis already has the router bracket attached.

 Here's the cutting spindle.  A 2.25 horsepower Hitachi router.  I'll be buying a specialized tool-holding system for it soon, so I can use precision cutters.

 Here's the Z Axis, with it's backing struts, as it will be mounted on the mast.

 Here's the X and Y axis bolted together.  The mounting struts will bolt to an adapter plate, and the whole shebang bolts to the frame.

 Here's everything in place.  Now I just need to square everything up, add some support and bracing so the entire Z mast doesn't tilt forward, and stiffen things up a bit.  There's a lot more to come on this project, as money becomes available.

That was the morning project.  In the afternoon, I helped out my friend Tim Szarka.  Tim is a classically-trained Blacksmith, from Hungary, and does some beautiful work.

You can check out his work here, at Desert Owl Forge.

From time to time, he also does custom gates and iron work as well.

I got to tag along, and help install a residential gate.


Alright, she's swingin'!  Let's go grab a beer.

All in all, a good day.  I have some OT tomorrow, so it's off to bed for me.

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