This Art Nouveau building in Belgium is an inspiration for Nick Buchhholz
Nick Buchholz has been an amateur woodworker for many years, maintaining a shop in his garage while working as a computer programmer for the National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. He retired from his programming career in 2012 after 25 years with the Observatory.
“At that time I decided to purchase a CNC tool to add to my shop, and see what new projects and processes I could develop,” said Nick. “I purchased a ShopBot Buddy tool with a cutting area of 24″ x 48″; I would have liked a larger tool, but the limits of my garage prevented that!”
Nick’s design interests are varied, and he says he enjoys pursuing all of them. “My original intention for the ShopBot tool was to create art nouveau and art deco dollhouse doors and windows, as well as model railroad buildings in various sizes.” So far, Nick reports, he’s designed and built a door, several signs for local businesses, parts for a marimba, a lot of storage shelving (“That’s so easy with the ShopBot”), and has been delving into making wooden flutes in the Native American style.
“My goal with purchasing a ShopBot was to be able to do more precision work more easily, and to figure out ways to generally work more efficiently with materials. It’s a process, and I’m enjoying it,” says Nick. “I’ve found that with the addition of the ShopBot tool, I haven’t used my table saw in a while.”
Some examples of Nick’s work…
Sign for model railroad club
Framework for model railroad buildings on the ShopBot
Model building frames
Finished Red Cross tents for model railroad scenery
Nick has designed unique signage for local businesses…
“The casters and handle make it easy for the sign to be folded up at the end of the day and stored.”
Close-up of yoga studio signage
“Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of work making Native American-style flutes,” Nick said. “I’ve been using walnut, creating the flute in halves, and doing all of the hole bore work with the ShopBot. There are some very useful links to flute design plans that assist you with correctly adjusting the flute to make the acoustical physics work.” One such site is the Native American “Flutomat” online design tool.
Below are some shots of the flutes that Nick has been making. “I just love the calming sound of the Native American flute. I want to share it!” Nick noted that a friend of his hand carves the bird-shaped additions to the flute that you see at the mouthpiece end.”
Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS Corp. offers complete 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software that engineers, designers and other technology professionals use to create, simulate, publish, and manage their data. The FabLabs are an international community of over 300 fabrication laboratories, complete with an array of digital fabrication equipment, electronics components and molding equipment so that the community members can “make just about anything.” If there is a CNC machine in a FabLab, it is often a ShopBot. SolidWorks and the FabFoundation are committed to supporting the next generation in STEM (or STEAM) education, and announced a partnership at the Fab10 meeting in Barcelona.
To help celebrate the partnership, SolidWorks invited the Fab Foundation to bring a FabLab to SolidWorksWorld 2015 in Phoenix Feb 8 – 11. The SolidWorks Showcase (see video here) is the centerpiece of the Partners Pavilion at the annual meeting for those who use SolidWorks. In addition to the FabLab, participants in this year’s Showcase included Myo, a motion control and gesture control armband that uses arm muscle activity and EMG signals to control digital devices. Pivot cycles use SolidWorks in the design of their performance bikes. Advanced Manufacturing and Metals brought their flight simulator and a tag along camping system that can be pulled behind a small car, or even a motorcycle. GoldiBlox encourage girls to become engineers by combining stories and reading with building tools which expand their spatial skills.
The FABLAB Display
A full FabLab provides a number of digital fabrication tools to allow people to make just about anything, including laser cutters, CNC machines, 3D printers, vinyl cutters, plus an electronics lab and mold-making materials. While examples of items that had been created in a FabLab were on display, the only active machines were a Roland vinyl cutter and two smaller ShopBot CNC machines: the Desktop and the Handibot.
SolidWorks Designs to 2D Drawings:
Designs created in SolidWorks can be exported or saved as 2D drawing files or 3D models/components. Kelly Zona from TIES imported 2D drawings created from SolidWork designs and cut them on the Roland. Many of the male engineers were familiar with the concept of a vinyl cutter because their wives/girlfriends had consumer models, but were surprised to learn that you can use the Roland to create soft circuits from copper sheets or stencils for etching circuit boards.
Sallye Coyle from ShopBot created some examples of how SolidWorks designs can be prototyped and manufactured using CNC equipment. One design, a chicken pull toy with an internal cam to make its wing flap as the acentric back wheel turns, was machined using profile and drilling toolpaths that cut to one depth. The Solidworks files created beautiful parts, assemblies, and videos on how the project fit together and moved. After saving the design as 2D drawings (.dxf, .eps, .ai or .pdf format) Sallye used the CAM features in VCarvePro software shipped with a ShopBot to set the origins, define the depth (thickness) of the material, chose the tool (router bit) and the strategy to create the parts. ShopBot Control software will read G-code, and many CAM softwares such as MasterCAM have post processors that will export to ShopBot CNC.
During the machining and assembly of the chicken pull toy, Sallye discovered that what looks great on the screen sometimes needs some allowances and tolerances in real life (also true of 3D printing.) In assembling the chicken, Sallye used wood glue to hold some parts rigid (the dowel axles in the wheels and wings) and a bar of soap to reduce friction where things needed to slide past each other (the acentric wheel driving the cam to flap the wings.)
SolidWorks Designs to 3D Machining:
In many cases, the same SolidWorks file that can be sent to a 3D printer can be machined on a 3 axis CNC machine. As an example, Sallye took a propeller design created in Solidworks, and did two sided machining on the ShopBot to create the part in maple. Sallye used Vectric’s Aspire 3D CAD/CAM software to lay out and toolpath the 2D and 3D parts of the design. With each side only taking about 30 minutes to rough cut and finish cut, she was able to experiment with toolpathing strategies to achieve the smoothest cuts. Click here for more details on the process. Also on display was a sample created with a Rotary Indexer, using DeskProto as the CAM software.
Before the show, the plan was to demo the 3D capabilities of a CNC tool by machining a 3D heart on one side of a laminated HDPE (white/red/white) material then flipping the file to personalize the heart and cut it out for attendees.
During the first evening of the event, the ShopBot happily machined 26 3D hearts in about 22 minutes before the sheet was flipped for personalization. That level of complexity was abandoned after Marie Planchard, Director of Education for SolidWorks, introduced the partnership of FabLabs and SolidWorks during the General Session on Day 2. She spoke of fostering the next generation of engineers, and the need to bring more women into the fold. She then held up her personalized heart and announced…if you need a heart for your Valentine, stop by the FabLab booth.
Sherry Lassiter, Executive Director of the Fab Foundation, and Sallye went into production mode: redesigning the files, add more hearts to a sheet, taking lists of names. Attendees got into the act, helping to cut out the heart machined in red/white/red ColorCore. By the second day of the heartfest, two computers were running simultaneously: one for putting names in the hearts, one for running the tool. Once one sheet was filled/cut, the computers would be switched around to keep the design and fabrication process going. Rumor has it that there was a farm of 6 – 8 MakerBots 3D printing out personalized keychains, but they probably didn’t do as many samples as quickly, and with as much excitement, as one DeskTop CNC machine.
SolidWorks, FabLab and ShopBot in the Real World
Attendees to the conference included engineers, educators, and artists. Exhibitors in the Partners Pavillion: demonstrated using SolidWorks in their business. One company, Driveworks has an interactive software for designing furniture and products, as well estimating material costs and creating quotes. To make customers more comfortable trying out their product at the show, the Driveworks crew created a high display table and an interactive terminal for their booth. They designed their show furniture in SolidWorks, and cut it out on a ShopBot PRSalpha at the FabLab in Manchester, England.
While most attendees were working engineers, the final day had its share of future engineers visiting the show. SolidWorks and FabLabs are perfect partners for encouraging STEM (or STEAM) education at all levels, from early education through graduate programs. Local High School students visited SolidWorks World 2015, and Educators/Administrators from all over the country picked up information on creating a FabLab in their schools. Students were able to design their files on screen, then observe them being machined immediately. A few students went home with an unexpected prize…the remainder of the ColorCore sheets after the hearts had been cut out. (P.S. For those concerned about sustainability, the waste from cutting process and leftover sheets that don’t find another home can be recycled.)
FabLab Tacoma and Created to Create’s collaborative group
Founded in late 2012 by Stephen Tibbitts, FabLab Tacoma is a community-based prototyping and technology workshop that’s open to the public with a membership business model. I spoke with Stephen recently to learn more. “We opened up the FabLab to provide easy access to cutting-edge design and prototyping equipment, and to bring educational opportunities and a supportive community for students, inventors, artists, and DIY enthusiasts,” said Stephen. The location was strategically chosen to be right by the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus so that the educational community can take advantage of the FabLab’s digital fabrication equipment, classes, and prototyping services.
FabLab Tacoma is a member of the customer/fabber/designer community hub, 100kGarages.com. You can read the full story about FabLab Tacoma at the 100kGarages.com blog.
Founded 20 years ago in the UK, Astor Bannerman is a company that designs and manufactures specialized furnishings — including baths, lavatories and office desks — for use by people with special needs and their caregivers. I spoke with Astor Bannerman’s Technical Director Peter Deverson about the unique challenges of their work, and how adding a full-size ShopBot Tool to their shop has enhanced their ability to serve the needs of disabled people.
Peter has a background as a mechanical engineer, and his business partner James Stuart-Smith holds an engineering degree as well as a degree in patent law. “From early on, we focused efforts on designing and building baths that raise and lower easily,” said Peter, “as we wanted to be able to meet the changing needs of a growing child, as well as to do everything possible to provide a comfortable and respectful setting.”
“We are very aware of how the equipment we manufacture affects the lives of the people that use it,” said Peter. “We have very high standards in both design and customer care, and due to its versatility, the ShopBot assists us in achieving our goals. It’s important to us that we achieve a beautiful looking product, a comfortable product, and one that exceeds standards for safety.” Peter explained that they put their new baths through a rigorous testing regimen of up to 100,000 cycles. “We punish the baths pretty harshly, opening and closing the moving parts, and raising and lowering the baths,” said Peter, “as we don’t want any patient to get hurt using our baths.”
One of many unique products is the company’s VANNA height-adjustable bath:
VANNA height-adjustable bath
As noted on their site, “This bath gives the client and the care giver much greater freedom and control through day to day life. With its simple elegant design and convenient side door, the VANNA allows for easy access in and out of the bath. The height of the bath can easily be adjusted at the touch of a button and also allows for the powered door to be opened and closed for quick and easy transfers. The VANNA bath gives both clients and the care givers the control to do more at the touch of a button.”
To get the best sense of its capabilities, particularly how it moves to accommodate helping the client get in and out of the bath with minimal difficulty, watch this short video:
Peter explained the various ways that the ShopBot Tool was critical to their ability to bring this design to fruition:
Section of VANNA assembly
“This image shows how the base, door, door top roll, side wings and returns are all made from the same sheet of polypropelyne plastic by using fretting and controlled routing using a ball nosed tool – all of the material highlighted in green is the same piece of plastic. You can see that along with fretting, we use a 90° tool to produce 90° ‘corners’ in the material which allow us to fold the material through 90°. The two 90° folds allow us to locate the material into the back face of the door which helps during manufacture and produce a strengthening beam along the length of the door. This image also shows the door closing mechanism incorporating a slot to prevent damage to the bath if someone were to sit on the door before it was fully lowered.”
Peter emphasized that the precise hinge cuts that they achieve with the ShopBot Tool enable them to create a water-tight bath, with ‘soft corners’ rather than sharp edges that could become uncomfortable for the bather, and help ensure maintenance of the bath’s hygiene.
Overview diagram of VANNA bath
Peter said, “This diagram gives an overall impression of the bath and also gives a better impression of the engraved company name and logo on the front door. The engraving of our company logo is performed on the inside of the door so that the outer face of the door remains smooth. It’s illuminated from behind by a couple of green LED lights (which the customer can switch on or off as they wish – there’s nothing worse than a green light keeping you awake!).”
Peter explained that the “open door” image below indicates how the door opens and one can see the ball nosed routed paths that make up the hinges.
“The illustration shown below of the sectioned end box / fretting shows how we use fretting to make up the radii of the bath from a solid 12mm thick sheet of polypropylene (PP). There are a couple of reasons for this, the first is to help protect the client (the person in the bath) if they have a tendency for spasms or flailing about, the other is hygiene. By having radius edges we avoid overhangs and hidden corners where pathogens can hide,” explained Peter.
Sectioned end box – fretting
End box of VANNA design
“This end box image (to the left) shows how by using the router, we create a path into which all of the components fit. This has two benefits: it allows a convenient reservoir for the adhesive we apply to all the joins and also helps with assembly as the components are held in position rather than requiring expensive jigs to hold it all in position. Once the adhesive has set we apply a plastic weld to all the joins; this is a belt and braces approach to bonding the joins and also produces a better aesthetic while also making it easier to clean and reducing hiding places for pathogens.”
Another example of Astor Bannerman’s use of the ShopBot tool in production of their designs is the Syncra:
“The Syncra Standard Modular bath is designed to offer comfortable and safe independent and assisted bathing,” said Peter. “The fully powered transfer seat and bath are operated at the touch of a button, allowing for quick, comfortable and easy bathing for all mobility levels.”
The seat can easily be detached from the bath by the means of the optional transfer frame enabling easy bedroom to bathroom transfers. The Syncra standard bath allows the care giver to perform any assisted bathing routine effectively and efficiently. Here’s video that helps paint the picture of its capabilities:
“We used the ShopBot router to produce the moulds for the seat back and base and also the mould for the long side panel,” explained Peter. “We did this by creating a 3D model in Solidworks, importing the model into Partworks 3D and producing a programme for our ShopBot. There was a little hand finishing of the moulds, but in essence the router was capable of producing what we needed in a sensible time frame.” (See picture below:)
“The challenge here was, we needed to react to the National Health Service’s requirements for a larger bath — there was a poor supply of these sizes, and frankly it was the ShopBot that allowed us to re-engineer one of our baths to a larger size in just two weeks -there’s no way we could have done that without the ShopBot,” said Peter.
“The picture above shows how the bath incorporates a few other items that we manufacture on the ShopBot,” said Peter. “I’ve removed the seat back so that you can see the hook assembly and the relevant components are highlighted in green. As part of the hook arrangement there are two guide blocks, one on either side, another at the base and a cover to the rear. None of them are very complex, but the ShopBot allows us to make small quantities in-house rather than investing in tooling and large batches of moulded components. That’s particularly useful to us as we effectively make bespoke products so it makes no sense to invest in large batches of components as they may remain on the shelf for years.”
Peter mentioned that when it came to deciding on a CNC tool, cost was part of the equation as Astor Bannerman is not a large company. “We did our web research, and we also came over to the US to visit ShopBot in North Carolina, get a tour and participate in their CNC training.” These activities impressed Peter and James such that they purchased their ShopBot PRSalpha back in 2005. “I also wanted to mention that tech support has been very helpful to us,” noted Peter. “We haven’t had to use their services much, but they’ve always been there for us when we needed them.”
CNC PALIMPSEST PRINTS (August 11, 2014) 3 Monoprints, Hand-burnished on Fabriano Archival Paper with Oil Based Ink 5 x 10 ft, 152 x 305 cm, Artist Studio, Bowling Green, OH ,USA
Quite often, artist Erwin Redl makes use of his ShopBot PRSAlpha 60″ x 120″ CNC tool to cut pieces of material such as plexiglas, soft metals, MDF, and wood, in the process of making his art. And occasionally, the CNC itself becomes part of the art.
Redl’s recent print series, CNC PALIMPSEST PRINTS, is his investigation of the artist’s digital production technology. The printed pieces are created using the recessed marks of the mill bit on the large horizontal bed of his ShopBot CNC tool.
If you’re familiar with a CNC such as the ShopBot, you know that each time that the tool makes a full cut through whatever material is being produced, the milling path of the drill bit results in layers of marks on the machine’s bed (also known as the spoil board). The frequent use of the tool results in layers of marks creating large, abstract patterns.
As Redl described it to me in a recent phone call, “Linear time becomes compressed into a singular two-dimensional image.” As he noted on his website, paramedia.net, this work is “a contemporary palimpsest documenting the digital production process over time.” (The term palimpsest in art refers to the use of previously used artwork to create a new piece of art — erasing the old while also acknowledging it in making of the new.)
After a certain period of time using the CNC tool, the density of the marks on the spoil board creates an uneven surface which makes it impossible to further cut additional pieces precisely. In order to continue producing, the machine bed needs to be resurfaced. “Before resurfacing the bed,” Redl explained, “I take several large-scale prints. I apply layers of ink on the CNC bed, place archival print paper on the wet surface, and burnish the paper.”
After making the prints, the CNC bed is milled flat to continue production. The palimpsest has been erased and another palimpsest cycle begins.
close inset of CNC Palimpsest
Redl spoke of his inspiration for this artwork: “Well in one way, I just love the pure aesthetics of the patterns. I also wanted to preserve what had gathered over time onto this bed; I like the way that it functions to preserve a period of time in one image.” As to people’s responses to the work, Redl notes they are unsurprisingly varied. “Some people have commented that they first interpret it as some sort of architectural drawing. Others see a kind of representation of electronics.”
Art being in the eye of the beholder (and I suppose because I recognized that the print is “pulled” from a CNC bed) my response was to think it was pretty cool to blend the messiness of colors with the precision of the marks — human meets machine.
What do you think?… Leave comments below….
Other Works by Erwin Redl, Making Use of The ShopBot Tool…
DIAMOND MATRIX, 2014 410 suspended light panels with acrylic and animated RGB-LEDs 50 x 54 x 24 ft ft; 15.2 x 16.5 x 7.3 m Building architect: Perkins+Will New York Police Academy, Queens, New York, USA
For this installation at the New York Police Academy, Mr. Redl CNC’d pieces of acrylic that became framed and lit by LEDs. Some other views of this installation, highlighting various color configurations:
A Case of Reverse Engineering? Redl has transformed layers of (human-made) masonite to create woodlike pieces:
Wall Relief (wave diagonal concave), 2014; Arthur Roger Gallery Masonite, 30 x 30 inches
Wall Relief (cylinder concave), 2014; Arthur Roger Gallery Masonite, 30 x 30 inches
Wall Relief (cylinder convex), 2014; Arthur Roger Gallery Masonite, 30 x 30 inches
Mr. Redl, who purchased the ShopBot tool in 2010, spoke of his experiences with ShopBot. “I like to use the online Forum, because usually if I put up a question, it invariably generates a lot of useful answers in only a couple of minutes. I also enjoyed attending a Camp ShopBot in Detroit, where I had the opportunity to share my experiences using the tool and learn from others who use CNC on a regular basis. It’s wonderful to see what everyone is making.”
Autistry Studios in San Rafael, California, is a unique non-profit organization that helps teens and adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and other learning differences become successfully independent by building on each student’s interests and talents and creating a supportive community. Autistry’s founders, Janet Lawson and Daniel Swearingen, are the parents of Ian, a teenager with autism.
I caught up with Dan recently to learn more about the workshops they run and how they are putting their ShopBot tool to work in the program.
Dan spoke about the founding of the program. “About eight years ago, looking ahead for our son and what his life would be like after high school, we were very unhappy with the lack of appropriate services, work choices, and living situations available for Ian and others like him. So in small steps we started working to fill this gap in services.”
Dan (a former senior level computer programmer and manager) and Janet (also formerly in IT, and now a fulltime psychotherapist) were able to take over the 10,000 sq. ft. site of a former kitchen remodeling business to house the studios. Here they offer a variety of activities, from Build Stuff workshops (cue the ShopBot), Filmmaking workshops, Theater classes, and College Support workshops. Dan emphasized that there is no “one size fits all” approach to working with these teens. “Each person is unique in their learning differences and their interests. You have to begin with the individual and what he or she gravitates to.”
For example, a 15-year old named Lauren joined the program at about the time that the studio’s full-size ShopBot tool arrived (thanks to a grant from a local foundation). She was definitely “into” all things mechanical and making, so Dan asked Lauren and some other students to help him finish the assembly of the tool. Here’s some video of that exercise:
Since then Lauren has displayed an affinity for sketching in CAD (computer aided design), and making projects with the ShopBot. She’s been expanding her PC skills, and is on a path to successfully entering college.
Dan noted that the students are on the full range of the autistic spectrum from non-verbal or low verbal, to highly verbal children and teens. “We meet each person where they are and help them succeed. In terms of building with the Shopbot, we generally begin with a simple project of carving your name into a plaque. From there we’ll move on to relatively small woodworking projects, using plywood. We’ve found that the PartWorks program is a hit — it’s been quite easy for the kids to grasp and use.”
Lauren helps other students run the ShopBot
Dan also emphasized that the relative ease with which students can take their sketches into CAD software and then bring them into CAM (computer aided machining) software has meant they’ve raised the bar for the kinds of projects that they make — and this is tremendously meaningful to each student, inspiring confidence and providing great satisfaction.
Student readies a gear design project for cutting
A full-size garden shed in progress
Working on the shed
When asked if he had been inspired by similar workshops, Dan mentioned that he thought that he and Janet had created something unique with Autistry Studios. “It’s really a new kind of program, because it’s so focused on the individual and what activities will best serve their interests. Now that we’re eight years into this ‘experiment’ we’re thinking of ways to formalize our processes so that we can share what we’ve learned with other communities.”
A student named Ashley made this patio chair at Autistry Studios. The free plans are available at http://shopbottools.com/mSupport/projects.htm
We’ve got some guests in the shop this week…Anne Filson and Gary Rohrbacker from AtFab and Anna France from MakerMedia.. I’m collaborating with Anne and Gary on a new book called “Design for CNC” for MakerMedia, and they’re in the shop to fabricate and photograph the furniture that illustrates the projects in each chapter. We’ll be making lots of different pieces from their collection of Open Source designs…chairs, tables, shelves, and other pieces…and setup a webcam to show the process. The video shows a day and a half of cutting compressed into 2 minutes and 20 seconds!
Oliver and Sam Moore of the Moore Brothers Company have a passion for everything outdoors. Oliver (who earned his BA in Physics from Williams College) and Sam, who earned his degree in engineering from the University of Vermont, love the water (and the slopes), and have a background building high-end racing boats.
Before starting their own company, Oliver was employed at Hall Spars, a company that focuses on manufacturing high-performance autoclave-cured carbon fiber spars for custom and production sailboats. Oliver spent a year in their engineering department gaining an in-depth education in “old school” machining as well diving into composite work with the help of Visual Mill, SolidWorks and Rhino CAM.
I caught up with Oliver earlier this week. He said, “Around Thanksgiving of 2013 we decided that we’d waited long enough and it was time to start doing things our own way.” Since launching the Moore Brothers Co., they’ve been doing engineering assignments from cutting out flat panels and decorative signs to full carbon foil packages for A-class catamarans — all with the help of ShopBot’s 5-Axis CNC and 3-axis PRSAlpha 96 x 48 gantry tool. Oliver noted that “we really needed a 5-Axis solution, because a challenge in boatbuilding work is having a high enough Z-Axis to be able to machine a large item like a 5′ x 2′ dagger board.”
Now the brothers are hard at work in preparation of launching their own line of tailored skis.
Oliver said, “We’re super charged about the possibilities for ski design and manufacture. Our goal is that by the end of 2015, we’ll be set up to design and build skis tailored to the customer.” Here’s the 5-axis machine being used to carve poplar ski cores:
Oliver summed it up: “We chose ShopBot’s CNC tools because of their value proposition — high performance tools at reasonable cost. Now we have the resources in technology and experience to vertically integrate precision design and fabrication with traditional wood and composite craftsmanship. We’re capable of turning ideas into concepts, concepts into prototypes, and prototypes into products on a rapid time-frame.”
Some of the great work shown at our recent camp in at Wayne Locke’s shop in Austin, TX. We had a great turnout with over 60 attendees. We are still adding images to this gallery so make sure to check back.
Daniel “Dr. Dan” Parker is a master craftsman with 42 years experience in the musical instrument repair trade. His clients include top professional musicians from around the world, and eight years ago he founded and continues to run CIOMIT, the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology. It’s a professional trade school which offers classes online and in-person in Colorado. Dan’s students leave with a highly sought-after skill that can serve them for a lifetime.
Dan said that CIOMIT focuses on training for repair of brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion. This includes oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, flute, guitar, violin, and more. He’s noted that technology is causing huge changes: “In the past few years, with CNC becoming a commonly used method in instrument making, I’ve seen some tremendous opportunities to make use of the technology in repair and in production,” said Dan.
Dan explained, “To become a master craftsman in repairs, part of your training is to be able to build an instrument from scratch. With CNC being commonly used to make guitars, clarinets and other woodwinds, as well as brass instruments, I felt it was important to add CNC training into my coursework.”
Students learning to repair a trumpet
Making Mutes with the ShopBot: A Turning Point
The other opportunity afforded to Dan by growing adoption of CNC was in making and selling instrument accessories. In early 2014, Dan purchased a company called Facet Mutes, Inc., which designs and manufactures high quality mutes from fine woods, for trumpet, trombone and French horns. Some of the woods that are used are walnut, black limba (also known as corina), African rosewood, Spanish cedar, Sitka spruce, maple, wenge and lacewood. In order to produce these mutes more efficiently and in preparation for selling them internationally, last November Dan made a purchase of a used ShopBot 5-axis CNC router.
To give you a sense of how these mutes look, and affect sound, here’s some video made by Facet Mutes artist Chad McCullough playing trumpet with various Facet Mutes. (If you don’t see the video below, you may need to click the link and watch it on Facebook).
Dan explained there were several reasons for integrating 5-axis CNC, and choosing ShopBot’s tool. “From the standpoint of production efficiency, I knew that using a 5-Axis tool was going to allow us to fully carve the inside and outside of a block of wood material all in one pass, rather than a more cumbersome process of the CNC lathe, where you have to flip the part as part of the process. The 5-axis tool has allowed us to triple the speed of producing the parts.”
Here’s video that Dan took of the ShopBot 5-Axis at work on a trumpet mute:
Along with efficiency comes greater safety for the tool operator. “In the past we’d have to hold pieces, some of them quite small, just inches from the blade of a table saw. Even though these are held in place by jigs, you want to minimize exposure to accidents as much as you can. The 5-axis CNC approach is a lot safer for the operator.”
So why did Dan choose ShopBot? “Well, from a bottom-line standpoint, there really was no choice. With some research, I learned that a pure 5-Axis CNC solution was going to be in the range of $250,000. This did not make sense for my business. I started learning about ShopBot’s 5-axis which offers what I needed for quite a bit less of an investment — a new tool costs about $40,000; as I was researching it I came across a post on their forum of a ShopBot 5-axis owner who was looking to sell theirs, and that’s the tool I purchased.”
And how has he liked working with the tool? “I’ve found that it performs well, and I’m seeing a lot of potential with it. One new item that I am introducing to my students is designing and making wooden bells for trumpets, using a solid block of cherry wood.”
Here are some close-ups of Facet Mutes:
“Bubinga” Trumpet Straight Mute. Great bright tone for the play it louder, higher faster type of trumpet players. Also known as an African Rosewood.
“Limba” Trumpet Straight Mute. Good all-around tome made of Black Limba, also known as Corina wood. Same wood used in the Gibson Flying V Guitar
“CJP” This is the Orbert Davis Signature, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Trumpet Cup Mute. Walnut and Padauk wood combination. Tonal qualities are warm and full bodied with a nice staccato on the higher notes.
Facet Mutes being demonstrated at a recent music industry trade show: