Personal Fabrication Tools

Hello Chief Delphi!

My name is Johnny. I am a Senior at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences,

Several of my peers and I are diving into the field of personal fabrication for our Senior project. We need input from our potential market. We would like you to take a few minutes to complete our survey so we can better understand demands of the personal fabrication community. If we are successful, our product will be taken to the open market for everyone to access.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfk5gkXsQBiKg5RMw2W7IzxfW5kfrCjQJ3qOoxll0xozk0V_w/viewform

Thank you for your input. It will be used to determine the best possible solutions for our project.

Hello Chief Dephi!

My name is Johnny. I am a Senior at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences,

Several of my peers and I are diving into the field of personal fabrication for our Senior project. We need input from our potential market. We would like you to take a few minutes to complete our survey so we can better understand demands of the personal fabrication community. If we are successful, our product will be taken to the open market for everyone to access.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfk5gkXsQBiKg5RMw2W7IzxfW5kfrCjQJ3qOoxll0xozk0V_w/viewform

Thank you for your input. It will be used to determine the best possible solutions for our project.

For the question “What size build area do you normally require?” what are the units?

I answered with the assumption that he meant nanometers.

EDIT- Oh. Obviously I didn’t really answer as if you meant nanometers, but I did think you meant feet. Sorry about that.

We meant inches. Thank You so much for pointing that out!

This is a very cool idea, and there are already machines which do a similiar thing.

The main issue I see is that the forces are very different, you will need powerful stepper motors and strong lead screws/frame for a CNC mill/router as there is a significant loading, and these motors will end up being too slow when you need to print/engrave/cut.

Also you should really add a section about what materials people want to work with, I understand that your Laser Cutter will probably only be able to cut wood/plastics. But with the CNC mill, for FRC teams( and me personally) they will want to be able to work with aluminium and that isn’t going to work if you have a little 775 motor as your spindle as many compact Chinese CNC’s do.

Also the size of build area that you would normally see on a 3D printer( lets say 8x8) is kinda limiting on a Laser Cutter and router/mill

For personal use I would much rather buy 3 seperate machines cheap from China, then purchase one little machine that does all 3 terribly.

If you guys want some ideas you should look at the Sienci Mill: http://sienci.com/

You just don’t have enough fields for all the portable CNC tools I currently own personally:

2 MaxNC 15 mills with CNC 4th axis, touch plates and probe

1 MaxNC 10 mill with touch plate

2 MaxNC T2 lathes

1 Seig X2 with Hoss modifications

2 LPKF Protomat 90s circuit board mill / engraver

15 3D printers, including: 2 Up! Plus printers, 1 SoliDoodle 3 and lots of Prusa

2 ShopMaster mill/drill/lathes, one configured for CNC right now, the other manual but the retrofit is still there.

1 48" portable CNC router/plasma cutter custom table (the steel supports come out with the water trays and the table converts to hold a high speed 1/4" shank router with a SuperPID - custom job by an old friend very nicely done).

I personally own this stuff, fix it and acquired it all used. I have quite a few BobCAD/Mach3/FastCAD licenses floating around. I do some commercial work on them, but it’s mostly side projects: enclosures, mounts, signs, letters, car parts…
Eventually this will all be moved from my home and various storage locations to a makerspace somewhere.

(When your house starts to look like Dean’s on a smaller scale, you might want to reconsider your hobby. Many thanks to my extremely cool girlfriend with regards to my tools).

It seems that you have acquired even more tools since the last time I said that you give me “shop envy” :slight_smile:

Your girlfriend IS extremely cool. Hang on to her.

How well does the LPKF work?

I can usually put a trace between 2 through-hole pads on 0.100" centers with a properly installed new contouring tool. With some calibration they both hold 0.001" repeatable accuracy with incidental accuracy of 0.0001". Depending on the PCB material, quality of contour tool and my patience at setup I can make 0.001" traces. These do not have ATC so all tool changes are basically the user’s headache. I have the pneumatic SMT paste dispensor attachments for both. I usually do through via with either a short wire, a press copper barrel, or a blob of silver paste from the dispensor (through-holes are usually plated and I do not like the chemicals around my house). I can do multi-layer by stacking thin copper clad and soldering through or using paste. These machines make it easy to test things at 3AM.

I recently did an RF board with a network analyzer as an accessory. Basically setup the process with short connectors on one end of the PCB then: cut, test, repeat till the PCB traces had the desired RF characteristics. Mostly because I wanted to see if I could make that work and it did: I made tuned traces, inductors, and even a really tiny value capacitor which was just a test. (Capacitors like this are usually sub-picoFarad and since the PCB is unsealed and composite PCB material absorbs moisture the value changes).

I have also cut thin stencils so I could screen print UV cure solder mask onto PCB. This is handy when I need to solder something where paste alone would migrate. I use my UV lamp box for curing that resin. My UV lamp box is a storage shelf with a wooden enclosure I made, a thermometer and a timer to run the bulbs. My solder oven is an old kitchen convection oven with better controls I made. My PCB cleaner is either my Chinese ultrasonic tank or the dish washer with a waste bucket to keep stuff out of the septic. (Keep in mind almost all commodity trading on Earth went through a system I made that was soldered in a toaster oven and cleaned in a dish washer. Those boards are 25 years old and still fully operational, even over-clocked by a few MHz. A little ingenuity and some testing saved me a ton of cost on an oven and cleaner.)

It sounds like LPKF have improved their machine and processes. We had one where I worked 20 years ago that just sat in the corner because it didn’t work well and made a lot of hazardous dust.

Your day job sounds fascinating.

I have 2 professional HEPA filtered vacuums powered on by solid state relays to collect the dust. I would not recommend operating either machine without them. They each sit on a short computer cabinet with casters and inside a wooden box with Lexan panels enclosing it. This way anything that does not go up the vacuum is contained. Could send a picture if you like.

My day job is I do core engineering for an International bank I own a part of in Puerto Rico. We do BitCoin/Ethereum and other bleeding edge financial technology. Mostly writing Java/Python/Ruby code. I no longer make weapon systems or manufacture professionally. I got out of weapons because I prefer to make defensive systems and the money was offensive systems. I got out of manufacturing because I could never afford all these tools on the cost my customers were willing to pay (always in need, never sufficiently enriched). I only rebuilt my tooling capacity as a hedge against a throw-away society. All this junk we buy makes us more dependent on the few people willing to make it for the lowest bid. Experience has shown me that sort of dependence does not cause innovation to thrive. So I rebuilt my capacity to insure if crisis comes I was ready to move, plus this stuff is used so I need runway to get it working as desired.

(Long timers on this forum might note that I change jobs often. I do so because I get good money and opportunity each time. My base salary has increased by $100k in 5 years, and I have had as many as a few hundred reports as manager. If I can not get compensated at market rate I may take risk and move. To put that in perspective I worked 1,500 hours of ‘over time’ last year.)

I tried taking the survey, but the second question did not have a viable answer among the choices.

(I chose “none” for the answer for the first question)

Hey, lol, if you can not pat yourself on the back…do not expect anyone else to do it for you then wonder why they do not. What matters is you get through the day and do what you can. Haters gonna hate.

Girlfriend? You should wife her if she is that understanding.

Only tangentially related to this thread, but I’ve been eyeing the chinese line of 3040 (and larger) routers for a while.

Their quality is all over the place, but some vendors like www.omiocnc.com put together some very nice packages (with HG20 rails versus round rails) at a price that’s very affordable for FRC teams.

I’ve been tempted to buy one for myself and/or 973, but we already have too many machines.

For a team w/o a router and a limited budget, their performance blows away shapeko or X-carves for sure. Not even comparable. You’re able to cut aluminum with these at a rate that is fast enough for FRC production (our router was limping this season, and was barely able to cut faster than these machines can and we still made a boatload of parts).

We met a little over 3 months ago. For much better reasons than her tolerance of the literal ‘junk in my trunk’, we have been strongly considering tying the knot. No worries though there will not be early arrival of additional JR-FLL members ;). I am very process oriented :D.

Interesting. I’d heard a bunch of mixed reviews on the 3040 style machines over the last couple years and most of that came from the lackluster electronics driving them. [1] Most folks I’ve seen tended to swap out the entire brains, these seem to come with at least more than “requires a parallel port”.

If you decide to pull the trigger I hope to see a good review. If not, maybe I con convince a local hackerspace that $1000 is not a terrible idea to get a piece of smaller equipment.

[1] This seems to be the vibe I get on a lot of the lower end stuff is the electronics are a essentially Woot BoC levels, sometimes great sometimes they explode when power is applied.