Gabe and Mike Pari have been pretty busy since we held our Camp at their “old” shop last year. They moved their business a few blocks away into a much larger building, and hired on more employees to help them keep up with their ongoing, and still growing business of building Teardrop trailers.
The first thing that greets you when you enter their industrial park is a small “fleet” of their beautiful trailers, in a variety of models. And the interior of their shop has even more chasis, and frames ready and waiting to be completed for delivery.
We had a good turnout of Campers again this year, with many people being at their first Camp. Lots of interest in the latest goings on, and some great show and tell stuff on display.
Many people came to learn about 3D designing, and cutting. This led to discussions about how to utilize 3D files to make molds, and a variety of products. That led right into some of the latest coating and finishing techniques.
We then got into the idea of using vacuum to hold down different materials, and the construction of vacuum tables.
Then Randy Johnson addressed questions about techniques for finishing projects built of wood, including some ways to color, and seal different species.
Right after lunch we went into the Show and Tell sessions and there were some great projects on display.
Sterling Ashman showed off some beautifully carved plaques.
Gillian Kelleher brought in some gears she had cut out of wood and UHMW
Ross Mitchell showed us a couple of games he taught his students to design and cut on their school Shopbot.
Jerry Wilson had a very nicely carved “map” of Southern California where he used both the ‘Bot for 3D work, and then added laser cut lines for the highways. He also had a very clever “picture hanger” he designed which lets you hang a picture exactly where you really want it to be.
Chris Schaie had his latest mechanical marvel- a twelve legged aluminum robot which “walked “ in circles for everyone. And then he showed us a bowl he carved out of laminated sections of bamboo plywood
Sue Piper showed us some of the beautiful carving and artwork she and Ross do with their miniature buildings cut from Precision Board
Gabe Pari explained how he’s been cutting aluminum parts for his trailers on his machine.
And then Randy Johnson gave a talk on some of the latest developments going on in Durham including a preview of the “HandiBot”. Randy then showed a number of projects he completed while working at American Woodworker magazine and he explained some of the techniques used to create them. He brought along a number of samples to illustrate these techniques, and then he closed out the day with a short session on using Partworks and Aspire to achieve specific effects.
There was so much interest in all of this that we ran over our normal time frame until 5 PM !
Thanks again to Gabe and Mike for being such great hosts !
Our host Dave Rosenbleeth decided that for this year’s version of the Florida Camp, we would do a Friday session on sign making that would include info on specific skills, materials, techniques, etc. He displayed a wide variety of sign making supplies which were provided by Coastal Enterprises, and then had the South Florida rep for Onsrud Tools, Bob Schwartz come in and give a talk about tooling for these kinds of materials.
Bob cut through the “voodoo” about choosing the right bit for different types of cutting, and he was able to give people a lot of info in terms of flute types, suggested feeds/speeds, and ways to extend a tools working life.
Kit Hajczewski is a Shopbotter who runs a sign shop in Upstate New York ( and therefore tries to attend the Florida Camp in the Winter….). She was able to answer some “real world” scenarios in terms of running a sign business, as well as suggesting a number of tips and tricks that help when building signs on a production level.
And Dave had designed, and cut a sign specifically for the Camp so he described how he had created it, and then we all got into various options for making similar pieces.
Even though it wouldn’t probably qualify as a traditional “sign” it was very hard to take your eyes off of the “rolling advertisements” brought in both days by Andrew Mcclary. On Friday he drove his Electric powered GT 40 sport car to the Camp and he spent some time speaking about how he has morphed his CNC interest over the years from signs, to custom furniture, and now electric vehicle conversions.
On Saturday Gary Campbell did a great AM session on the maintenance of a Shopbot, and the Production Support program. He walked us through a few daily, and monthly “check lists” of things to DO, and be aware of. He described specific setups for different machines. And he answered numerous individual questions to help people do some self diagnostics when they got back to their own shops. Gary used Dave’s “PRT/S” Shopbot conversion to show some of the different components, and their specific properties. It was a good demonstration platform because Dave runs his machine on a regular basis in his cabinet shop so it does work hard.
Mike Wright brought in a few pieces for the Show and Tell session. He showed everyone how he’s been doing prototypes for a customer out of 2 pound EPS foam. Mike described the design and cutting techniques he used, as well as getting into HOW his prototype was used in the final production process for his customer. He also went through some carbon fiber tricks that they used with his molds. Then Mike showed a technique he’s been playing with where he is doing what amounts to a “poured inlay”. He showed a sign he had cut in which he “area cleared” a piece of solid surface material and then filled in the cut areas with a substance he mixed, poured ,and then sanded to produce a very clean, great looking sign.
Andrew Mcclary followed up the GT 40 by driving his “Electrovaire” to the Camp on Saturday! It’s a converted 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza that he’s now running off of a lithium ion battery pack similar to the one in his GT 40. Andrew showed us how he is using his Shopbot to help do the conversions on his cars with a hefty chunk of aluminum he’s cutting to enable him to mount his electric motors to the conversions. He also spoke about his experience in cutting aluminum, and how he can quickly make adaptations to his designs by doing his test cuts “in house”.
During the Show and Tell local ‘Botter Max Showker brought in some long boards, and explained how he’s been trying a variety of materials, and cutting techniques to create a stronger, lighter “vehicle”. He brought a few of his boards made of aluminum, plyboo, and laminated veneers. Max and Nate Mc Murtrie also showed off some aluminum bottle openers they have been designing , and building and we got into the varying methods of doing products in volume, as well as discussing other options for building similar pieces.
Debbie Jones brought in a number of samples from her product line. She creates miniature horse jumps, gates, awards and numerous equine related pieces, and she does it on a full production basis with over 200 outlets for her products. Her products are a great example of using CNC technology to rescale existing objects in a way to make them a marketable item that can be enjoyed by multiple age levels. We spoke about numerous methods of doing this through scanning, making mold masters, and the pros/cons of off shore production.
And while all of these sessions were going on Andrew and his Son had plugged their Electrovaire into a socket on Dave’s shop wall and recharged their vehicle’s battery pack…And then as the Camp wound down they climbed in and ghosted down the street…
New Camp Year, and we started off in Austin, TX at Wayne Locke’s shop.
As mentioned in prior Blogs the Austin Camp is our oldest ongoing event, and it’s always interesting to see over the years how people are using their machines as they gain more and more experience, both with their hardware, and software.
We kicked it off on Friday with a brief talk about what’s been going on in the Shopbot universe over the last year including some info about the 3D printer and also the drag knife attachment from Donek snowboards. A lot of interest in the knife as people had many ideas of what they could do with it.
Then J.E.Johnson did the first presentation with a great description of how he and the staff of the University of Texas Visual Arts center collaborated with artist Diana Al-Hadid to build a large, complex art piece which they cut from REN board . He went over the stages of working with 3D scans, developing techniques for cutting a large surface area which was broken into many smaller pieces, cutting the individual pieces, and then doing the full assembly with much of this work being done remotely between Texas and New York. A very good example of how well CNC is becoming integrated into the arts.
Ron Matherly attended the Houston, TX Camp back in October and has since ordered his own Shopbot. He brought in some of his first efforts and we all got into some tips and tricks to help him get up and running.
Steve Glassel did an excellent session on “V carving”. He gave some great examples of how different tooling can achieve a variety of effects. he also went into some of the tool pathing strategy involved for specific “looks”. And he had some very good illustrations prepared to document his talk.
Our host, Wayne then spoke about how he has used his machine over the years to develop new shapes for the type of clientele he works with- high end pieces for various religious facilities. He also spoke about his methods of using the Shopbot and his shop built indexer to carve beautifully turned pieces that are then incorporated into his pieces.
Then he brought out a bench he built which shows off both his talent, as well as his sense of humor…
Tim and Mona Maroney had to leave early, but they brought in a few plaques they had carved to display.
Right after lunch we had some Show and tell presentations;
Will Leonard of the Alley Theater in Houston showed us a project they tried where they used the Shopbot probe to scan and cut some molding for stage scenery. This kicked off a discussion about various ways to obtain data to carve. He also explained how they use their machine to create the framework for a variety of projects which have to be done on the shortest of deadlines.
Terry Jones brought in a couple of pieces he has been working on over the last year.
At the 2012 Austin Camp he brought in a Styrofoam carving of a fish and explained his cutting technique. This year he brought back the same fish, only now it’s painted, and finished off nicely. Terry also had a number of other foam pieces where he has been experimenting with a variety of coating techniques and we spoke briefly about some of the products/coatings which are now available to make foam a viable material for various projects. He also brought in a clever jig he has created for holding his plaques in place while carving them.
Gordon Hendley brought in a few plaques, both wooden and foam he has been working on, and we went into some of the options of using different bits for cutting text, and then techniques of coating similar projects. This prompted a discussion about different types of bits, speeds, etc. to use with some of these materials, and a few people had recommendations of their favorite tooling.
First session Saturday I did a talk about the maintenance of a Shopbot. We went over a basic schedule of planned maintenance as well as realistic expectations of longevity to expect with some relatively easy, inexpensive procedures. Monty MaGill chimed in here about the recent Production Support Service call made at his shop to get his machine back into optimal operating condition, and he pointed out the real value of such a visit to those using their machine in a business/production capacity .
David Lemke showed a technique he has developed to make “female wooden molds” out of MDO for the building of light, fast fishing boats. Over the last few years David has been showing a variety of different boat building techniques at this Camp, and his latest system incorporates the ability to his machine to create accurate panels quickly. He then uses his Shopbot to build the framework, and any other supporting members needed to produce a very sleek, and accurate mold in a fraction of the time more traditional methods would take.
Brett Dickinson had just returned from yet another highly successful competition at the high school state level in which his students won 9 out of the 10 categories they entered! He showed some recent shots of this year’s students and their projects which keep getting better, and better every year. He’s also been great about sharing his program with other teachers in Texas, and he certainly has proven the motivational value of giving his students a real skill they can USE after they graduate…
Brooke Davis gave an update of her shop where she does everything from contract cutting, to teaching CNC classes. She showed a portion of her CNC portfolio and brought in some work to pass around. Of particular interest was her version of “wooden alligator skin” where she did a great job of developing a truly reptile feel to a large piece of spalted wood ! In addition Brooke spoke about the CNC process AS a designer and explained how it’s helped her add to her bag of tricks.
Scott Cox brought in some of his turned pieces which he’s created using his indexer, and he gave a short talk on methods of creating a variety of shapes using the tool. He brought in a carved football, and baseball bat to show the final results.
Santiago Laverde brought us up to date on some of his work. He showed pictures of an assembly he did recently down in Colombia where he set up a Five axis Shopbot for a University . He then showed a video of the machine in action after it was installed and he answered a number of questions about the five axis machine, and software.
The he showed some pieces he had created using a recently acquired “toy” a new 3 head 3D printer which gives him the ability to “shoot” a variety of materials. There was a LOT of interest about 3D printers and we also had a few MakerBot owners present who chimed in with even more info. So now everyone wants yet another piece of equipment in their shop…
Another great effort on behalf of Wayne to host the event and make everyone’s time both informative, and enjoyable….
I’m getting back into reporting here after too long a time spent deep in software. I thought I’d start with a report on an Indexerproject. Reporting on this project lets me describe some things that have been going on at ShopBot as well as highlight a feature of the (new) ShopBot 3.8.x Version software.
The project was done for an event that Bill Young, Randy Johnson and I recently participated in. The event was Autodesk University, the major Autodesk user meeting that happens every year in Las Vegas. We have been working with the Autodesk 123D team to get some of their new web (cloud) applications for 3D design outputting directly to ShopBots (check out …).
ShopBot Desktops at Autodesk University
At Autodesk U, “digital fabrication” was a major theme and ShopBot was well represented. The “Creative Studio” and “Everyone’s a Designer” activities included ShopBot users and 100kGarages designers Anne Filson & Gary Rohrbacher of AtFAB . We had 3 Desktop ShopBots demonstrating live CNC machining as part of the digital fabrication display (see …).
Jeffrey McGrew’s Game Tables
For the event, we had also been asked to bring a couple of CNC-cut chess sets and a checkers set. These game pieces were to enhance several digitally fabbed game tables that had been designed and cut by Jeffrey McGrew of Because We Can. Jeffrey and his partner Jillian are ShopBotters whose digital fab approach to business I’ve described before. Jeffrey had incorporated the Autodesk University logo (“AU”) into the design of the tables that were the centerpiece of one of the main mingling areas. He also gave a talk on digital fab practicalities at AU (summary …).
But, back to our assignment … Bill made the checkers set. He used some ApplePly plywood leftover from a furniture project he had cut that was designed by AtFab for the new MakerBot headquarters in Brooklyn (see MakerBot project …). It was a great looking set of checkers and got lots of “play” over the course of the event.
David Bryan (here at ShopBot) and Bill also created one of the chess sets, a modernistic version with profiles of the chess piece shapes cut into the edges of acrylic blocks. They were unique pieces and drew many comments.
I did the other chess set and that’s what I’ll describe here. I started with very ambitious plans. I wanted to do large, detailed, indexer-carved pieces that would dazzle. I picked a set of interesting pieces out of the 123D, 3D-model gallery and experimented with bringing them into the DeskProto CAM software in order to set up the rotary machining for making them on a Desktop ShopBot with Indexer. [By way of introduction to DeskProto (www.deskproto.com), we worked with Lex Lennings of DeskProto at the NYC Maker Faire a couple of months ago; I had been impressed with the ease of use of the DeskProto software for full rotary machining and the quality of the finishing toolpaths. Here’s a look at one of the pieces that Lex was cutting at the Faire, exactly as it looked coming off the Desktop indexer].
I was hoping to tool-path each of the pieces in Deskproto for carving with the Indexer – making them nice and big with lots of medieval features. But … as these things go, I got distracted by a couple of other projects and put making the pieces off until the day before I had to leave. Then, I took a look at how long doing the really nifty carving of a full set of chess pieces would take … WOW, each piece was estimated at more than an hour! Given that each was a small sculpture in itself, that’s probably not so bad, but there are 32 pieces in a chess set! Arrgh! I only had about 12 hrs, assuming a little time for some sleep before I left. So it was time for a revised plan …
The new ShopBot Software, which is just released, has a feature for the Indexer that allows spinning it at relatively high speeds, independent of what the tool is doing. This feature means you can treat the indexer like a manual lathe that is just set to spinning – then use of the rest of the ShopBot to cut a profile over the spinning work-piece. My plan became to utilize this feature to “turn” a more conventional chess set – in a way that it could happen much more quickly than my original plan for fully-indexed, carved pieces.
Using Indexer to Turn Chessmen
To describe the process simply, one starts the Indexer spinning – then runs the profiling toolpath across the longitudinal axis on top of it. Simple concept, but you might ask right off the bat, how does one get the profile toolpath? Well, the answer is “any way you can …”; but one easy way is with the “Flipper” feature under [T]ools in the ShopBot Software. Draw or trace your profile in X and Y in PartWorks and output a toolpath that is offset from one side of it using a ball-nose tool of the same diameter you will use for the turning. Now use “Flipper” to turn the profile into an X & Z or a Y & Z file (hint: before you run the Flipper; remove all the extraneous tool info at the start and end of the file so that you just have the profile motion – depending on what post-processor you are using, there can be a lot of distracting lines of code for the Flipper).
Once you have a profile of toolpath file, you can start the indexer running using the new [M]ove [I]ndexer instruction for setting the Indexer spinning parameters (note: use MI, 0 to turn the Indexer Off; or the shortcut CTL-I; CtL-I will also toggle back on at the last speed). Then, with the tool positioned for the profile, start the carving process with FP. In my case, I started with passes high over the turning. Then you make subsequent passes, lower and lower until you reach the desired depth of the profile.
You can do this programmatically, as I show in the following Partfile.[ WARNING … what follows, is somewhat advanced CNC programming, but if you’re even a little comfortable with the code inside a Partfile, you should be fine with this, and you’ll be able to use this sample file as a template.]
Before I describe the details, I need to say that I have little experience with traditional turning. So I really had no idea of where to start with feeds and speeds — how much material I should take off in a pass, how I should arrange the step-over in relationship to spinning speed … and so on. Here’s what I worked out, but I’m sure there are better ways to do it … it’s worth some experimenting for your own project.
I figured that since I was using a 1/8” bit (a tapered ball-nose), I probably wanted to do the cutting in multiple passes. I also figured there would be a trade-off between how quickly I moved down the piece (for efficiency) and how smooth (for quality) the cut would be. I decided on making the passes that got me down to near the final depth relatively rough, and then do a high-resolution, finish pass, once I was near the final depth.
Here’s the Partfile a came up with to automate moving the profile down through the part. I’ve made extensive comments in the file. And then, further down this article I walk you through it and explain an alternate method.
‘File for Profiling Chessmen (4 pieces at a time on a 14” length of 1.5” dowel)
‘ set up for Desktop Indexer
‘ Zero X & Y centered, at start of dowel; Z at Indexer Center
‘ (*but see alternate method for setting up plunge)
&depth = 0.7 ‘This defines a variable for plunging
MI, B, -1, 120 ‘Start Indexer SPINNING; B-axis, counter-clockwise, 120-RPM
‘ uses [MI] Command in new software version
SO, 1,1 ‘Turn Router/Spindle ON
MS,.1, .1 ‘Use relatively slow move speed for profiling down part
Start: ‘Beginning of my “loop” for repeated profiling
JZ, 0.7 ‘Make sure I pull to full height before positioning
J2, 0, 0 ‘Go to Start Position for pass
MZ, &depth ‘Move to depth; first pass is at top of part as a check
FP, chess01_flipped.sbp,,,,,1 ‘*Call flipped part profile; ** with 3d OFFSET
MZ, .7 ‘Pull back up at end of profile run
&depth=&depth-.05 ‘Subtract from variable for NEXT PLUNGE Depth
IF &depth < .12 THEN GOTO Finish ‘If we’re at finish depth, goto finish pass
GOTO Start ‘Otherwise go back to start for next profile pass
JZ, .7 ‘Position for Finish Pass
J2, 0, 0
MI, O, 1, 0 ‘Cancel Current Indexer Spinning and wait 5 sec
MI, B, 1, 240 ‘Set new Finish Spinning; Clockwise, 240-RPM
‘*The following 2 instructions set an extremely slow move speed, see notes
VU, 4000, 4000, 4000, 4000, .05, , , .25, 33.33333, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 10
MS, .25, .5 ‘Because of timing multiplier above, speed is .025, .05 IPS
MZ, 0.140 ‘Set Finish Pass Depth
MZ, .7 ‘Back to top
SO, 1,0 ‘Spindle OFF
‘*RESTORE Normal Timing Multiplier
VU, 4000, 4000, 4000, 4000, .05, , , .25, 33.33333, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1
MS, 1, 1
J2, 12, -4 'Pull Back
The idea here is that we align the XY axes over the dowel, then create a loop that sequentially moves down into the material by decreasing the &depth variable after each profiling pass. I picked a set of speed parameters here that seemed to work for the rough cut in which I plunged down to near the final depth (see video). I just guessed at this after a little bit of practice spinning/cutting – 120 RPM, with a feed rate of .1ips.
In this set of passes, I just ran the same profile, over-and-over, stepping it down into the part by changing the variable and calling the profile with [FP] set for 3d-offset (that’s the purpose of the “1” after the 5 commas in the command sequence). Note in the picture, that at the end of this sequence of rough passes I was left with a distinct turning pattern on the part because the step-over to federate ratio was not very fine (see image).
This is where the finish pass comes in. I made this last pass only slightly deeper, following the same profile, but at a much slower XY lateral speed and at a higher spinning rate (video 2). This pass left me with a nice smooth part. It was ready for a bit of final finish with fine sandpaper, which can be done while the indexer is spinning at high speed.
NOTES on NEW INDEXER SPINNING FEATURE:
- You’ll be able to use this feature and the new software ONLY IF you have a version V201 or later ShopBot Control Card (last 5 years of PRS tools and upgrades; this Control Card is available for older ShopBots and affords a number of performance enhancements, if you don’t have it)
- The software speed range for spinning is from about 3 to about 300 RPM. But the min and max spinning speed for your Indexer will depend on a number of factors such as unit value and power of your specific Indexer motor … just experiment with increasing/decreasing speeds to determine where your tool tops out
The MakerBot furniture has been in place for about a month, so it’s time to talk about the nuts and bolts of getting the parts cut, the furniture assembled, and delivered to the 21st floor of an office building in Brooklyn.
Since we had pockets of varying depths to cut we couldn’t use a compression bit…the upspiral part at the bottom of the bit would have pealed up the face veneer. We also didn’t want to hassle with cutting the pockets with a down spiral and then switching to a compression bit for the rest of each sheet. We decided to use our old standby, a 2-flute straight bit from Centurion. We generally try to use a 3/8″ bit but there were lots of holes and pockets that a 3/8″ bit wouldn’t fit into so 1/4″ bit was chosen. The ApplyPly cut beautifully, requiring just a minimum of edge sanding with 180 grit paper on exposed edges.
The prefinished maple faces looked great but the ply was a struggle to work with. Even this beautiful ply varied a little in thickness between sheets, and even though we could adjust the toolpaths a little using the Allowance feature in Partworks, nothing could be sanded after assembly. This meant that any exposed edge (and there were lots of them!) had to be sanded for fit and finish before the final assembly. It would have been much easier to assemble the pieces and then sand to fair everything up and then have the pieces finished, but the plywood edges were to be left unfinished so everything would have had to have been dis-assembled before finishing anyway…probably a toss-up?
Here’s a time-lapse of the cutting that Anne and Gary put together from webcam images
The furniture was assembled using “decorative screws” that we get from Stafast. They have a medium course thread, somewhere between a drywall screw and a lag screw, with a flat head with a 4mm or 5/32″ hex bits. They’re less than $.10 each before shipping in quantities of 1000, though shipping can get pricey if you just order a few. These are the ones we used http://shop.stafast.com//product/bw0750uhd,1582,0.htm .
The heads of all these fasteners were covered with 3d-printed plugs, along with LOTS of decorative inlays. We bought a MakerBot Replicator to prototype the 3d features, but the final inlays, plugs, and other 3d printed pieces were fabricated in MakerBot’s “botfarm” and installed on-site.
All the pieces were assembled in the shop, except for the 21′ conference table and two of the lamps that were waiting for led strip lights. As parts were cut and furniture assembled they were protected with 1/4″ x 48″ foam from Uline. We used 3 rolls by the time it was all finished.
It was pretty crowded in the shop for a while!
One thing I was pretty sure of from the outset was that I didn’t have any interest in delivering a truck load of furniture into Brooklyn! The logical solution was to hire a moving company..it’s their job to carefully get furniture from one place to another. The guys did a great job of wrapping the assembled parts and carefully getting them into the truck, and the pallet of parts for the pieces that had to be assembled on site just barely fit through the doors!
Anne, Gary, and I traveled to Brooklyn a week later and the movers carefully brought everything up the freight elevator and put it in place. All that was left was assembling a 21′ conference table which was too big for the freight elevator, and installing all the 3d printed elements. Fortunately that job fell to Anne and Gary…I headed back home!
As you can imagine there was quite a bit of scrap left over and it was so pretty that I hated to throw any of it away. When we were invited to participate in Autodesk University during the cutting, one of Autodesk’s requests was that we make some checker pieces for gaming tables designed and fabricated by ShopBot stars Jeffery and Jillian of Because We Can. This is what we came up with, fabricated out of the Appleply scraps.
Here are some pictures of the finished pieces…they really look great in place! Some more information on the whole process can be found on Anne and Gary’s atFAB website
ShopBot’s Ted Hall reports, “This past Thursday Jan. 17 I participated in the Re-Opening of NextFab Studio … an amazing local maker-space in Philadelphia. It’s a large workshop with all the equipment you can imagine, great individual work spaces, an operating Cafe, and some amazing digital fab tools, including a large 5-Axis water-jet cutter. Looks like a terrific spot to mingle & MAKE in Philly. NextFab is the inspiration of Evan Malone, who as a student at Cornell was an early pioneer in low-end, 3d printing (search: fab@home).”
“They had a very large crowd for opening night, and John Haggerty, NextFab’s ShopBot guru Carter, and I stood by their ShopBot and answered questions about CNC and ShopBotting. People seemed very excited about things they want to do when they get their hands on the equipment at NextFab. Renowned ShopBotting signmaker Kitty Hajczewski came by to say hello (and noted she might be heading to the Florida Camp this year to participate in the sign-making component). And, of course, John and I snuck off for a few minutes to watch that 5-axis water jet in operation.”
You may know how to cut things on your ShopBot ( or print them on your 3d printer) and feel like you just need a designer to email you drawings of the parts and pieces to be able to successfully fabricate their design. And that may be true, but communicating throughout the process will almost always make the process much smoother.
We all know designers that just want to have their parts cut the way they draw them, without any feedback, but a smart designer will understand that while they may have a picture in their heads of what their design should LOOK like, they might not know as much about the fabrication process as you do, or may not see the process from the same “nuts and bolts” perspective. After a Fabber has worked with a Designer on several projects they each develop a better understanding of what the other brings to the table, but even after lots of successful projects, communication is critical. Fortunately modern technology makes that so much easier than in the past.
*) Cell phones with cameras: Modern cell phones have fantastic cameras and are (almost) always connected to the internet, making it simple to snap a quick picture of a problem area or a detail that you might not be sure of and send it via email instantaneously, like the picture below. And in many cases a quick phone call will get an answer to a question that might take a handful of emails to be sure that everyone was on the same page.
*) Adding eyebrows: Sometimes an email or even a phone call won’t accurately convey your question, or their answer. Frank Zappa said “The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows”. One way to add the “eyebrows” is using video chat, and the atFAB designers and I used Google+ hangouts pretty regularly, especially in the beginning. I could ask a question about a detail and Anne or Gary could hold up a laser-cut model and point to exactly the area that I was talking about. There was no question whether I was confused and thinking the back of a piece was the front…it was absolutely clear.
*) 3d models: Sometimes the only thing that will convey an idea accurately is a 3d model, either of the whole part or just a detail in it. I’m pretty fast with Sketchup so tend to use it for these sorts of quick models, but any tool you’re comfortable with will do fine. The only thing to be careful of is to not get too wrapped up in modeling and adding too much detail…it’s a waste of time and most of the time too much is…well…too much!
*) Cloud based storage: Services like DropBox, Gdrive from Google, and box.net are not only great for keeping track of cad and design files, but also can be handy for sharing images and all kinds of other files. For instance all the information for the parts labels that we printed was stored in a spreadsheet, created by Anne in Google Docs and shared on Gdrive. I could access it when I needed to print labels, and she could update it as pieces were added or parts modified.
*) Live webcam: Sometimes just seeing that something is happening is all a designer might need. We set up a webcam in the shop while we were cutting the MakerBot parts so that Anne, Gary, and anyone else could watch. It updated every minute (and was somewhat like watching grass grow!), but did show a little bit of what’s going on. And each image that was uploaded was also save to a Dropbox folder, so a time lapse video can be created from the series of images in a program like the free Windows Movie Maker. The image capture below shows the shop in “tarp mode” when hurricane Sandy was coming up the coast
I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but over the years I’ve tried a handful of different webcams and types of software. I’ve ended up liking the Microsoft Lifecam webcams (Amazon link) the best , but the Logitech webcams worked almost as well in my experience. TinCam is the software I’ve liked the best with (like Sketchup) just enough features to do what I need, but not too many.
Most of the cutting for the MakerBot office furniture is finished and the parts are being assembled in the shop. Next I’ll show how they all turned out (very cool by the way!) and talk about the cutting process and how it went.
The MakerBot office project involves cutting 70+ sheets of expensive plywood and 100’s of unique parts, so it was important to develop a system from the start to make sure that all the pieces were cut accurately, without missing or duplicating any of them. They also involve lots of features like bevels, multiple depths of pockets for 3d printed features, and pilot holes for fasteners….lots of things to keep track of. Here’s the system that atFAB and I developed to try to manage all those details.
With that many sheets to cut it quickly becomes unmanageable to use email to pass drawings back and forth. It’s just too easy to get out of sync and cut a drawing that’s been updated, and you’re never quite sure that everyone is looking at the same drawing. Our solution was to use a shared folder on DropBox, an online storage service that also syncs with your computer so that you always have the most recent version of a file. That way Anne and Gary could see exactly the files that I was seeing, and could make changes that would automatically be updated on my computer. There are plenty of cloud-based storage services to choose from, but we’ve both found that DropBox works the best for us.
Even if you use the same design software as the designer, it’s critical to make sure that there aren’t any translation issues caused by version differences. Something as simple as a box on the drawing with a fixed size…maybe 1” square…will help you feel confident that everything will turn out correctly. And for pieces that have to accurately fit together, a sample part that can be cut and assembled to test the fit can save lots of re-cut sheets.
Layers are the key to dealing with multiple features on a sheet, and standardizing on them at the start keeps you from having to re-do (or undo) a lot of work. Here are the features we had and the layers we decided on, with the colors of the layer to make it easier to pick out features quickly.
Through_Cut. All the general profile (Black)
Bevels. Since there may be several bevel angles on the same sheet, each group of bevels with the same angle is on it’s own layer, with the angle appended to the name like “Bevels_45” (Red)
Holes. Through holes that are drilled for ornamentation. (Blue)
Insert_Pockets for 3d printed inserts (Green)
Plug_Pockets for deeper 3d printed plugs that cover screw heads (Cyan)
Notes. Text labels or any other thing that won’t be cut (Magenta)
Once you get more than 6 or 8 sheets of material and a couple of dozen parts, it can become difficult to keep track of everything, especially if they’re small and similarly (but not exactly) shaped. One solution is to create a separate toolpath that shallowly engraves the part name or number on each part, using a single-stroke font to speed up the process. This can impact the design, however, and may require a bit change for each sheet.
We decided that we would print labels on our Dymo 450 thermal label printer and apply them to the pieces after they were cut but were still on the ShopBot table. This does add an extra step, but allows us to add additional information on the parts labeling for the person assembling the furniture, to make that step easier. The information for the labels is pulled from a spreadsheet of parts that was created by the designers, and the location for each label on the sheet is shown on each drawing in the Notes layer.
To keep all these details coordinated and in sync, communication between Anne and Gary and our shop is critical…next we’ll talk about the ways we’ve collaborated on this project
Troy Carlson let us know that he had a shop with plenty of space, and pointed out that we hadn’t had a Camp in the Houston, TX area for quite awhile so we worked out a date and on Saturday the 13th we held our first Camp Shopbot in Rosharon, TX.
Scraped ice off my windshield to get to the airport, and it was about 90 degrees in Texas, ahhhhhhh…….
Troy’s got some interesting things going on at the shop. He owns one of the first generation Shopbot automatic tool changer machines along with a hot rodded, dual Z axis ” PR” model ‘Bot (they are part of a ” fleet” of five Shopbots he has had running in his shop over the years) . One of the more unique projects he has been working on is developing a way to build some of his custom window dressings and shutters out of a cement board material so it will last forever….. … Both machines serve separate purposes as Troy produces products on one machine, and prototypes files, and shapes on the other.
He also has a great arrangement with some local friends in the lumber business and he is getting large ” sinkers” ( old logs recovered from the bottoms of local rivers that have been submerged for many, many years ) to work/play with. Due to their sizes they are too large to plane on most conventional bed planers so Troy does the face milling for the log mill, and in return has access to some very beautiful logs.
As the day went on Troy explained some of his different setups, and processes for milling everything from louvered shutters, to live edged mantle piece carvings. He’s been able to work out a variety of shapes that can easily be resized for custom work, and that lets him run more than one job at the same time. And he does custom templating for a custom furniture designer who is then able to “test” his designs full sized before committing to them as products.
Terry Jones brought in a number of nice pieces for the Show and Tell session. Terry has made a few Camps this year and he’s been able to bring one project from Camp to Camp so we could see his progress in the carving, and coating phases. He’s been doing a lot of foam carvings with metallic coatings. And he uses both Sculpt Nouveau and Modern Masters materials along with their respective patinas, so we could see some variety in the results. He also ran through the painting process of a beautiful foam salmon he created, including the hard coating process to make the foam more durable.
As a group we went over some of the more “general” topics including a pretty good session on various router bits, and software packages. A number of people had good sources for plastics, MDF, etc. in the area, and we went over a few of the newer ‘add ons’ such as the swiveling blade holder that cuts very thin material cleanly. There was a LOT of interest in rotary carving , and how to set up the fourth access as well.
Troy did a demo file with the Automatic Tool Changer and 6.5 HP spindle package he’s running so people could hear what a large spindle sounds like in operation ( and it sounds pretty good…). This was a BIG eye opener to more than a few people…
Interesting products, and conversations all day. Thanks Troy!
David Chase and family hosted this Camp again in Vancouver, WA. And as usual we had a good turnout.
There was a pretty wide range of “Campers” this year as we had more people attending one for the first time than usual , combined with some people who have been “Botting” for many years.
Cabinet builders, hobbyists, sign makers, prototypers, etc. All ranges of machines from desktops to a tool changer.
We started off with a little review of what’s been going on in terms of newer products at Shopbot , and tools for using on or with the machine, including a number of “after market” items, such as the drag knife and laser positioning gadgets.
Our host Dave was running what I would call a “hot rodded PR” model Shopbot that was 12 years old, and he showed off some of his beautifully built folding cribbage boards which he makes on it . Dave also gave a talk on the vacuum setup he has built for this machine. He’s using two “Light house” vacuum motors (in series) to generate a pretty powerful 18 inches of mercury, and then he’s found a “gasket like material” which is no more than shelf paper with a relatively flat embossed pattern ( as compared to the “waffle style” most stores sell). Combining that rig with dedicated vacuum “jigs” he is able to do beveled perimeter cuts that line up perfectly when his boxes are assembled. He also showed us a clever “shop crane” he’s built out of a Harbor Freight hoist that he uses for moving larger items around. And he also explained how he uses an Xbox controller as a remote pendant to operate the Shopbot. He’s even got his family in the game as well and his Daughter showed off an acrylic penguin she designed and cut so she could help to create a full sized “tree house” for a nursery school where she teaches…
Gene Buckle pulled a video he posted on You Tube literally out of the air as he used his phone as a “hot spot” so we could run the video in Dave’s shop which is not connected to the internet. Gene’s video showed the process of double sided machining a “3D” part, and the importance of proper layout and tool pathing.
We had a good discussion on the “real” process of building and installing signs, and numerous “war stories” sprang from that.
And then we got into the use of different materials for cutting, and learned some local sources for obtaining them.
3D was a topic of major interest and we traced the process of going from an idea, to making a file, then cutting, and coating it. We also discussed the process of making a “master” for creating molds to do multiples of an item.
And the concept of prototyping in foam or similar materials came up so we spoke a bit about the various software options are out there for designing, and cutting ,various types of files.
There was a lot of interest in the “rotary turning” process, and a number of people were looking to find more information that would help them get started on this type of cutting. Daryl Boulton spoke about some of the issues he’s dealt with in fine tuning his indexing rig.
Mike Miller explained some facts about cutting some of the various “flavors” of plastics, and gave good info about which ones would be better options for specific applications. He brought along some of the pieces he builds on his machine, and are cut out of “Starboard” HDPE. He also addressed the differences between cutting aluminum on a Shopbot as compared to a dedicated milling machine.
Plenty of interest in router bits, with major endorsements for Centurion products, and Gary Beckwith’s ’3D ball nosed package set’.
As usual one of the major “benefits”of the Camp was the fact that a few people found out that they had “Shopbot neighbors” closer than previously thought, so they were able to start the process of getting together after the camp. And There was a LOT of interest in having interim “user groups” started throughout the year, and throughout the state ( good sized Seattle contingent here again…), so I think there will be some options down the line for those who may have missed this event.