2013 Northwest Camp Shopbot


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We went back to the Pacific Northwest for our annual gathering of Shopbotters, and after a couple of years of holding our Camp at David Chase’s shop we held this one at Mike Miller’s new shop in Ridgefield,WA.. Mike has hosted a number of Camps in the past, but as his business grew, so did his arsenal of tools, and it got to the point that we couldn’t really fit all of the people who wanted to attend this event. This year was Mike’s first in his NEW, and much larger facility, and space was NO problem this time around.

Mike’s business is concentrated on developing, and building products for the marine community. primarily deck gear, such as rod holders, filleting tables, etc. out of HDPE, and UHMW. And he also has a line of VERY heavy duty bow rollers to accommodate the use of large anchors which are needed for the type of waters his customers fish in ( 8 knot current in the Columbia River, etc.) . Those parts are machined partially on his PRS Alpha, as well as with the assistance of a neighboring water jet to cut out the thick aluminum stock such pieces require. Mike explained some of his cutting strategies in the plastics, and aluminum, and showed us how he has developed specific products for different applications. he also showed off his approach to hold downs, which involves the use of two “Lighthouse Vacuum motors”, wired in parallel, which he has mounted outside his shop to minimize their ‘distinctive’ sounds when in use. Using his technique he is able to hold a variety of shapes securely, and change “blanks” quickly, which is a necessity in a production environment. In addition to his Shopbot, Mike showed us some of the tools he has developed for his specific needs, such as a ‘home brewed” metal press which lets him bend thick aluminum plate into components for his product line.

The “Campers” who attended this year were from a variety of backgrounds, and experience levels. We had a number of people who are using their machines in high schools, and universities. We also had people building cabinets, signs, and a couple of “specialty” products. It was a pretty wide cross section of the Shopbot community as we had hobbyists, and a variety of different businesses represented.

Randy Johnson brought along a Handibot, and went over some of the ideas surrounding the use of this new addition to the Shopbot  family of machines. he also went through a quick description of some of the projects he has done with CNC machinery in the past. There were a couple of software questions thrown into the mix by the group as the day went on, and Randy and both covered the areas people were trying to sort out.

Show and tell had a few interesting pieces again this year. Jeff Krogman brought in an edge lit LED piece of acrylic he has been having commercial success with, and we got into an exchange of sources for the LED strip lights (Ebay/Hong Kong seemed to be the favorite sources here…)

Russ wood showed off some examples of parts cut/produced by way of Shopbot,laser machine, and 3D printer, and we discussed the applications of each type of machine. there was a lot of interest in the soon to be available 3D printer head attachment for Shopbots expressed here.

Will Hansen showed us a great example of ingenuity with his “lifts”for ski boots, which involved cutting thin strips of plastic into wedge shaped pieces which could be used to adjust the fit of a ski boot to a skiers personal comfort.

And then Don showed  a sample of a linoleum printing  block which was used for printing characters simply, and in a cost effective fashion. A few people described their own experience using different materials for this application.

We then threw open the afternoon agenda to the group and asked what subjects THEY were most interested in, and as a result I did sessions using a Shopbot in the boat building process, followed up by some examples of how different Shopbotters have developed a business based on the abilities of their machinery.

Randy finished off the afternoon sessions with some software tips/tricks in Aspire, and showed some simple solutions to common software problems.

The weather was typically Northwest, being SO chilly in the early AM that Mike ran his pellet stove to keep his spacious shop comfortable for everyone, and by the mid afternoon, jackets were coming off in favor of short sleeves in the bright sunshine…Thanks to ALL who attended this one !


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