CNC Machine Personalities

Computer Numerical Controls (CNC)

Computer Numerical Controls (CNC) (Photo credit: wistechcolleges)

As CNC machine operators/machinists, technicians, even button-pushers, we’re a breed apart.   As I stated previously in an article dedicated to CNC shop management and ownership issues, “We tend to be gear heads, persons interested in how things work, passionate about our trade and our skills…”.

We are passionate about what we do and how we do it.  There may be more than one way to skin a cat (or knock out that spindle replacement), and  you’ll certainly find most of us willingly acknowledging this…right before continuing to show you the best way.  We sure as heck are not afraid to get our hands dirty or to attempt new solutions to old problems.

Just like the machines and materials we work with on a daily basis, we come in all shapes and sizes and personality types: some of us smooth around the edges, others a little rough but still full of character.  Some of us are a bit older and seasoned, much like that old used CNC machine that may have a bit o’ grey but runs like a workhorse.

HaasPlus.com: 5 Types of CNC Machine Personalities

The HaasPlus.com blog has a fun post touching on the different makes and models that comprise the people in our industry.  From the “Perfectionist”, “Energizer Bunny”, to the “CNC DIY enthusiast” they cover any number of the personality types I’ve encountered over the years.  Take a look and see if you recognize yourself.

One of my favorites: The Teacher.  The Teacher is an instrumental figure in the lives of those just starting out.  Patient and willing to instruct while never just giving you the answer, thereby allowing those fresh on the block to truly learn and understand their trade.  They realize they could just program that g-code for you but understand it’s better for you to do it yourself, to train your mind to think logically and muscle through.  The Teacher was instrumental in my life and I’ve seen it time and again with regard to others.

Your Turn

How about you?  As the HaasPlus.com blog post asks, did they miss any personality types?  Where do you fit in?

DIY CNC: 3-D Printing Service

Image by danxoneil via flickr.com

Image by danxoneil via flickr.com

If you’re even partially awake then you’ve obviously heard a lot about additive manufacturing of late, specifically 3-D printing.  For those of us in manufacturing the development and integration of additive manufacturing  and 3d printing is likely to impact us all in some shape or form.

While I don’t believe this will be a death knell or manufacturing apocalypse for our CNC machine brethren, I do believe it behooves us all to keep our eyes on additive manufacturing developments and if at all possible seek ways to educate ourselves.  Even better yet, if your company or shop has a way to integrate these technologies into your workflow than all the better.  I’m a believer in staying ahead of the competition and what may now be a niche market could very well lead to major business in the near future.

What for many was an accompaniment to a DIY CNC hobby is going mainstream.

DIY CNC: 3-D Printing at Your Local UPS Store

According to de zeen magazine, the UPS Store will become the first US retailer to offer 3-D printing services.

From dezeen.com:

Customers will be able to bring a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file in to the participating stores and have their designs 3D-printed on-site.

According to the article, Stratasys will be providing their uPrint SE Plus at locations slated for the pilot run of this new service.  It will be using ABSplus thermoplastic with nine colors to choose from.

Okay, you might be saying, “What does this have to do with me? I’m running a CNC machine shop. I deal with steel, aluminum, wood, etc…”

At first glance this is going to appeal to the DIY enthusiasts out there, but I believe it drives home how ubiquitous 3-D printing is going to become.  I believe this may well be an easy, low cost way of checking out the technology to see if it could fit into your workflow prior to making such a large financial obligation.  Some digging around the internet pegged this particular unit from between 18000 and 21000 plus dependent on seller.

Definitely not a  casual investment.

For Your CNC Manufacturing Consideration

A few things to consider, sourced from the Forbes.com article Manufacturing The Future: 10 Trends To Come In 3D Printing.

  • “The technology will also start to be adopted for the direct manufacture of specialist components in industries like defense and automotive.”
  • “Innovative companies will use 3D printing technologies to give themselves a competitive advantage by offering customization at the same price as their competitor’s standard products.”
  • Rapid prototyping
  • “As the capabilities of 3D printers develop and manufacturers gain experience in integrating them into production lines and supply chains, expect hybrid manufacturing processes that incorporate some 3D-printed components.”

I keep reading, time and again, that the future of manufacturing is going to be customization.  As the Forbes article highlights, 3-D printing is poised to bring about that capability on a massive, manufacturing scale.

Prototyping replacement parts doesn’t have to be solely for the CNC hobbyist/3-d Printer garage guru.  I see this as a cost effective way for testing  prototypes.  Read more about the benefits of integrating 3-D printing here.

As the Forbes article states, expect to see this implemented on factory floors.

Your Turn

3-D printing: A lot of hot air, or the future of our manufacturing process?  Too early in it’s development to care, or a great time to get started when it comes to educating ourselves and planning for integration?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

The Internets: DIY CNC Machine Resources & More

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Le...

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Leonhard Building at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to CNC machine resources there is nothing better than having the internet at your fingertips.  Whether you’re into DIY CNC, looking for used CNC machines and replacement parts, sharpening your g-code skills, or pondering the pursuit of a CNC hobby, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information.

If you’ve been following me for some time you know that there are a number of sites and locations I’ll periodically tout.  The Practical Machinist immediately comes to mind as a wonderful forum and valuable CNC machine resource for the machinist/operator and CNC hobbyist alike.  Another blog that I frequent, and which I’ve linked in the sidebar some time ago  is the CNC Cookbook blog.

The CNC Cookbook blog  posts are interesting, in-depth, and accessible to all CNC machine enthusiasts.  Bob Warfield covers a variety of topics from cookbooks on using his G-Wizard G-Code editor to advancements in 3-d printing.  With 20,000 and counting members you know you can’t go wrong by dropping in for a visit.

DIY CNC Machine Resources

Which brings me to mentioning a recent post/cookbook Mr. Warfield put together over at CNC Cookbook:

DIY CNC Cookbook: In-Depth Articles on Building CNC Machines, CNC Routers, and 3D Printers

This is the kind of resource you are going to want to take a look at especially if you are considering going the DIY CNC route and building your own.  Mr. Warfield has put together an in-depth cookbook covering all the angles.

G-Code Tutorials

Since I’m touting the expertise over at the CNC Cookbook I thought I’d mention they’ve also cooked up an extensive G-code tutorial and course.

As the man say’s, every machinist should know g-code, and that means you as well.  Jump on over and see what I’m shouting about!

CNC Cookbook: G-code Tutorial and Course

Your Turn

What about you?  Know of a great CNC machine related blog or resource and would like to share?  A favorite CNC internet stomping ground?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!

DIY CNC: The Kickstarter Way

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Fourth of July has come and gone, though for many of us the celebrations continue throughout the weekend.  What a wonderful time of year to celebrate our independence and the innovative American spirit!  When I think of what makes America great much comes to mind: our indomitable work ethic, our spirit of innovation, American Manufacturing (…hat tip to our CNC machine operators and machinists out there!…), the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces (a hearty salute to those American warriors!)…the list is endless.

Kickstarting CNC

 

Speaking of innovation I came across a few items this past week that the DIY CNC crowd may find interesting.  Heck us “regular” CNC metal heads may find it of interest as well.  Kickstarter is an interesting idea/funding generator.  It speaks to that ingenuity and innovation I mentioned above: a truly American spirit.  When I was pondering our great American heritage and what it meant to be a CNC machinist in America, I got to thinking about our inventiveness and curiosity.  One thing led to another and I came across these Kickstarter projects (see below).  In hindsight, it seems an obvious extension of the CNC machinists inventiveness and curiosity to find a place among the innumerable Kickstarter projects seeking funding everyday.

The Handibot:   From the site: “Handibot is a robotic, multi-purpose tool for makers that’s controlled by smart phones and computers via programmable apps.  Think of it as a portable CNC that’s capable of cutting, drilling, carving, and many other machining operations.”  

Now this is obviously a limited-capability machine, ideal for the DIY individual, tinker-er, garage workshop environment.  When I first saw this little CNC machine I thought it was made out of plastic, but viewing some of the sites video’s leads me to believe it may be a bit more durable.  Also, while I understand the video’s are intended to demonstrate the Handibot’s versatility and variety of applications, some of these demonstrations seem a bit contrived.  Example: as someone who has done a fair share of his own home construction it’s much easier to use a handheld router to cut a utility box hole in some drywall.  You’d be finished with a room by the time you set this thing up.  The same goes for cutting out stair risers: much quicker for the reasonably seasoned person to line out their steps with a square and knock it out with a skill-saw.

What I do like about this is the fact that it’s open source.  To me that means that that innovative and curious spirit we harbor is going to find ingenious uses and expressions with this little guy.  I can only begin to imagine the various apps and programs the DIY Maker crowd will come up with.  I also think it’s a great introduction for the younger set out there.

The Othermill:  From the site: “The Othermill is a portable, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specifically designed for use at home or in a small workspace. Our objective is to build a mill that is compact, clean, and quiet enough for use at home, yet is precise enough for high level electrical and mechanical prototyping work. The Othermill will be at home on your desk, in your workshop, or on your kitchen table.”

Another DIY-centric machine, though specializing in custom circuit creation.  This just “sparks” my imagination.  Now only if I were more electrically inclined.  Once again, an open source project with quite a bit of versatility.  Ideal for those with limited space but large imaginations.  It will be interesting to see in the day’s ahead what interesting and varied creations people come up with!

 

Your Turn:

Know of any innovative CNC related Kickstarter project’s out there that need some attention?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!

 

 

 

CNC Machine Manufacturing & the Future: Part Duex

The other day I shot out a post highlighting a few thoughts about the future of CNC machine manufacturing and the growing 3d printing movement.  I’d like to add to that a bit here today as I came across a couple of articles that build and expand on those thoughts (thanks to the forum users over at Practical Machinist for sharing these links).

For the CNC Machine Operators:

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Le...

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Leonhard Building at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the main thrust of my post the other day centered on 3D printing as playing a greater, if not massive part, in the future of manufacturing, there is still plenty of good news for those of us still wedded to our “ancient” technologies.

Silicon Valley Mercury News:  This article highlights the results from the report “The Hidden STEM Economy”. It states that degrees are not required for  27-36% of all jobs in science, engineering, technology, and math within the greater San Jose, San Francisco and bay area.  While I think living in some of these locations may financially eat away at the incentives, this is still an interesting read and hopefully signals a growing trend here in the states.

From the article: “The report urges policymakers to boost funding for training in such careers as tool making, technical writing and technician work — the critical pick-and-shovel brigades in tech’s gold rush.”.

Glad to see that tool making was first on that list!

 

Digital Manufacturing and 3D Printing

English: Example of replication of a real obje...

English: Example of replication of a real object by means of 3D scanning and 3D printing. The gargoyle model on the left was digitally acquired by using a 3D scanner and the produced 3D data was processed using MeshLab. The resulting digital 3D model, shown in the screen of the laptop, was used by a rapid prototyping machine to create a real resin replica of original object. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time to take that DIY CNC hobby to the next level and begin applying your chops to 3D printing folks.  Mixed feelings about this article.  While I’m in awe of the technological advancement, and see a place for CNC machine operators and the like in this mix, it does fill me with some trepidation.

No technological, and especially manufacturing, advancement comes without costs.  No easy road here.

Now if I were a young CNC hobbiest or 3D printing guru, I’d be pointing my sights toward building on those skills.   The landscape is always changing, and sometimes it’s a swift transition; the manufacturing world looks ready for a huge shift.  Don’t be caught unawares.

The Wall Street Journal: A Revolution in the Making 

 

Your Turn:

So, what are your thoughts?  Is CNC machining poised for a rebirth of sorts and an elevated place in our future, or is 3d printing graduating from diy hobby and sporadic manufacturing implementation to full-fledged wide-scale production and machining replacement?  Or is the future something more balanced like these articles seem to suggest, a place where 3D printing and CNC machining both have their places in a stable manufacturing economy?  Let me know in the comments!

 

CNC Machining and the Future of Manufacturing

As I’ve said before, I tend to check into the CNC machine related forums and communities on just about a daily basis.  The forums are a great place to share with the CNC community, find that g code solution you were looking for, pick up helpful tips, and to find DIY CNC inspiration.  They’re also great places to discuss CNC related topics: political/economy, the manufacturing climate, and even the future of CNC machining and manufacturing.  My personal favorite forum: Practical Machinist.  If you haven’t checked it out, take a gander.  You won’t be disappointed.

The machinist and his apprentice

The machinist and his apprentice (Photo credit: Bosc d’Anjou)

One topic I often come across, in various shades and forms, is the state of CNC machining and the future for machinists.  You can get a good example of this type of discussion here:  What percentage of machinists/ moldmakers at your company under the age of 40?  As you can see, quite quickly, the conversation morphs into a discussion of the trades longevity, wage stagnation, the education climate, the quality of the latest generation, etc.  While I’m not one to dismiss the difficulties of manufacturing in the U.S., and specifically the challenges facing  CNC machining, I tend to take the more optimistic outlook.

Manufacturing has constantly evolved, for better and for worse.  It seems to me that it’s only natural that machines will evolve with technology and this, unfortunately, means that some of us will lose out to robotics and other more streamlined processes.  There will always be a need for the skilled machinist, but one also needs to keep their eye on the future lest they find themselves summarily dismissed…if you get my drift.

Manufacturing and Machining Future?

PWC Norfolk Machinist

That future, in my estimation, will be a greater reliance on 3d printing.  I’m no expert, and I could be completely wrong, but I think the CNC machinist of the future may be more of a 3d machinist/programmer.  While that may cause apprehension in those of us wedded to our love of CNC machining (and the basic reliance on our employment working on CNC machines),  I believe the skills and talent it takes to be a top notch CNC machinist are easily applicable to the 3d printing field.

For example:  many of us already program, design, make quality control measurements and checks, work with a variety of materials, troubleshoot and repair our machines, etc.  While I’m only beginning to learn about 3d printing, it seems all of these same skills would apply.  In the future, will we continue milling molds, or will we simply program and print the mold outright?  My guess: we’ll be printing those bad boys.

I found a couple of interesting articles regarding 3d printing over at MakeZine you might enjoy.  While the majority of MakeZines articles are centered on  DIY CNC hobby, and the DIY’er in general, I think these articles are hints at what manufacturing is going to look like, or almost like, in the future.

3D printing a functional boat

Bringing them together...3d printing a cast for CNC mill replacement parts.

Your Turn:

What about you?  Do you think in the future 3d printing will become the equivalent of what CNC machining is today?  Share your thoughts and comments below!

DIY CNC: Projects and Inspiration

Cnc

Cnc (Photo credit: olleolleolle)

If you’re a DIY CNC enthusiast, or maybe someone simply looking to get your feet wet with a CNC hobby, you’re probably looking for ideas and inspiration from time to time.  While a full-fledged CNC machine opens the door to practically limitless options, those with smaller designs and home-builds often have limitations.  Not to worry, there are plenty of exciting projects for you to get your CNC fix on.  Some of these CNC tutorials and projects are definitely geared toward those just starting out and looking for simpler designs while learning the in’s and out’s of their machine.  Others are more complex and geared toward the more salty veteran.  Either way, there is something for everyone.

DIY CNC Projects

 

Vectric: Like it say’s, Free CNC Projects.  These projects come with step-by-step instructions, documentation, and project files.   Granted, this company is pushing their software, but they do offer free trial downloads.  If you don’t want to go the opensource route, then this may be the way to go to test drive the software on relatively introductory projects.

Instructables:  Hey, build your own CNC Mill or CNC router  before you even begin worrying about making that wooden plaque for mom.  Definitely for the more industrious and tinker type.  Downloadable e-books for those who find paying a little under two bucks a month worth it.

Tons of dowloadable dxf plans over at The CNC Zone Forums.  Forum Thread.  List of DXF files.  Can’t go wrong here folks.

DIY CNC Inspiration

 

This single Pinterest page has a ton of inspirational projects.  No plans or anything, just ideas to get those DIY CNC juices flowing!

Your Turn

 

How about yourself, any DIY CNC project plan sites or file locations you’d like to share?  How about inspirational CNC projects?  Let me know in the comments!

CNC Machine Safety

I was over at The CNC Report earlier today and a video  posted on the front page caught my eye.  Basically  a couple of kids messing around with a lathe and one of them literally gets thrown over and his foot caught in the chuck.  Big laughs all around.  I know the saying, boy’s will be boy’s, but this is no laughing matter.  That  kid was  lucky it was in low gear or he could have lost his foot.  You can see the idiocy below:

 

 

Okay, so do I sound like your old shop teacher yet?

Hey, I was young once.  I’d watch safety video’s like this one and crack jokes with the rest of the guys.  Outside joking in the classroom I took this stuff seriously.  Getting lackadaisical around these machines can cost you an appendage or even your life.  Whether you’re working on a CNC machine or lathe in a large shop or just pursuing a CNC hobby, we all have to be mindful of what we are doing and to never treat our machines as play toys.

CNC Machine Safety Pointers

 

Since I’m harping on safety you can find a pdf with general safety do’s and don’ts here: SAFETY.  While many of these are common sense I’d like to emphasize one of them that some people, particularly some of the newer guys out there, don’t seem to get.

Never Wear Gloves.

Your Turn:

How about you?  Do you have a recommended CNC Machine safety pointer you’d like to share?  If so, let me know in the comments!

 

An American DIY CNC Success Story

As I’ve said in a previous post, DIY CNC is an attitude that starts on day one and it informs the person that we are.  It’s more than a CNC hobby.  It’s a character thing, a willingness to work hard, to follow our inspiration, and be willing to believe in our ideas and ourselves.  I’d say that DIY is very American.  Running a CNC machine with skill and expertise takes years of hard work and learning.  Running your own shop is a whole other ballgame not for the timid of heart.

To celebrate this glorious Friday I’d like to share a story I came across over at the Practical Machinist forums.  This is a very American DIY CNC success story about a man who had the drive and determination to go out on his own and build, as he says, his “piece of Heaven”.  Heaven indeed.

“David N” tells about growing up on a farm with a father who was a jack of all trades.  This mechanical aptitude was imparted to his children and to our story-teller.  He tells about working in a CNC machine shop as a teenager and by age 22 heading out on his own.  He covers the years of hard work and effort building his client list and shares with us the process of building his brand new shop.  Great photo’s of the process included.

I won’t say more so as not to spoil this amazing story.  See for yourself.  You’ll understand why he calls this his piece of Heaven.  I surely did.

Have to admit…loved those Haas CNC machines as well.

David N’s Thread:  My Piece of Heaven Part 2

DIY CNC Intro Kits and Projects

I believe one of the biggest benefits of promoting DIY CNC is getting the young-in’s interested in CNC machining and manufacturing.  What could start as a CNC hobby could also easily transform into a productive career.  That being said, quite a few of the posts and CNC tutorials here at Paul’s Haas Resources are likely out of reach for the kids: cost, level of experience, complexity, etc.  With that in mind I went out and dug around for some relatively inexpensive CNC kits and DIY builds that, with a little parental assistance, can have the young one’s experiencing their first CNC projects.

For the hardcore out there: these are not super-heavy duty machines.  They’re likely not cutting metal.  They’re for more simple projects and parts and would serve as great introductions to CNC machining.

Great Intro DIY CNC Kits and Projects

Desktop CNC Mill Kits – Shapeoko:  Here we have five kits ranging from 225$ to 999$.  The least priced kit requires the buyer to supply their own electronics, so if you’re capable this is a great deal.  Even at 999$ the Premium 220v kit is competitively priced.  The site demonstrates the mill, projects and accessories, faq, and explanation of this open source kit.

Zen Toolworks CNC DIY KIT 7×7:  This is an entry level kit, though note that it does not include 3 Axis Stepper Motor Driver and spindle/cutter and mounting brackets (both available at Zen Toolworks), DC power supply, and CNC control software.  It does appear sturdy and if you purchased all the needed parts you’d be in a similar price range as the Shapeoko.

 DIY CNC Router Plans : How to Build:  This is an in process project that the author states , “…decided to build one using drawer slides as my rails, an Arduino as my micro-controller, and try to keep everything within the $300 mark.”  Site includes video’s of the process beginning with design and goes forward from there.  While I wouldn’t expect this Router to the most robust this could be a very pleasant and engaging project to share with the interested young one.

DIY MDF CNC:  The Young man here built this MDF CNC machine in the spare bedroom of his apartment and later shared it with everyone at the Detroit Maker Faire.  The site include pictures following the construction and includes the option of purchasing the project plans for 40.00$.  Could be about the cheapest approach of them all.

The Cool Tool:  This one was suggested to me and looks great as an intro for the very young.  A variety of child safe kits that appear reasonably priced.

These are just a few places to start and to give you an idea.  Don’t forget the children!  Well, how about you, do you have any recommendations for DIY CNC kits that would be appropriate for introducing the kids to DIY CNC machining?