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!

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CNC Machine Resources: New HaasPlus.com, Manufacturing, and More

A new week is upon us, and hopefully you’re as busy as I have been!  As we all know the manufacturing environment has it’s share of ups and downs and at times it feels like it’s either feast or famine.  As we head into the dog days of summer here in the US I hope it’s nothing but feast for you all.

Today I have a few useful tidbits I scrapped together from the inter-webs that you all may find of interest.

All New HaasPlus.com: Haas CNC Machine Repair & Replacement Parts

Image via HaasPlus.com

Image via HaasPlus.com

As I wrote in an earlier post, all signs seem to be pointing to better days ahead when it comes to CNC machine manufacturing.  Many of us are already seeing upticks in our business, and that includes myself as well.  Due to my own shops production increases, and wanting to stay up on my equipment’s maintenance, I was on the hunt for some CNC replacement parts and upgrades.  As the name of this blog implies, I’m a Haas guy, so I pointed my cursor to HaasPlus.com to take a look around.  Imagine my surprise when I found a totally new and re-vamped site.  I’ll be keeping my eye on the new site and blog for further updates…

Color me impressed!  I was particularly shopping around for a ball bearings replacement kit and valve control and found the new site set-up smooth, well organized, and friendly.  Some great pricing here folks.  Whether you’re a lone ranger running a used CNC, a shop owner, or a DIY CNC enthusiast, I highly recommend checking them out!

Cerasis: Top 4 Manufacturing Issues in America – Part 1 & 2

If you’re like me you try your best to keep up with manufacturing news and trends.  As a member of the CNC Machining and Manufacturing community on G+ I often come across great community news and postings.  Cerasis recently posted a pair of articles highlighting the top 8 manufacturing issues in America.  Stay educated on the news and trends in your field and take some time to check them out; well worth the time.  You’ll notice that mention of additive manufacturing in that list…pay attention folks, it’s going to impact us all!

Cerasis: Part 1: Top 4 Manufacturing Issues in America

Cerasis: Part 2: Manufacturing Industry Trends in America: The Final Four of 8

The CNC Cookbook: Lights Out Manufacturing

Continuing with trends and manufacturing news: The CNC Cookbook continues to post great articles and resources for your g-code and CNC machine needs.  Bob Warfield has posted a great introduction to Lights Out Manufacturing.   Increase your performance and productivity gains!  Whether you run your own shop or manage a full-scale CNC machine production floor, you’ll want to read this and consider implementation!  We’re all looking for ways to increase productivity and income, and this may well be an approach for many of you out there!

Your Turn

Have a new resource you’d like to share?  Know of a great online shop like HaasPlus.com that has CNC machine repair and replacment parts at competitive prices?  How about a great article on CNC machine manufacturing?  We’re all on the lookout for great deals and valuable resources so let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!

CNC Machine Manufacturing: The News Just Keeps Getting Better

plasma cutting with a cnc machine

plasma cutting with a cnc machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a number of occasions I’ve pointed to specific articles highlighting the potential growth of US and specifically, CNC machine,  manufacturing  in the near future.  You may recall this article about GE and the in-sourcing boom, this article about manufacturing in the Silicon Valley, and this Wall Street Journal article centered around advanced manufacturing.

Never fearful of good, heartening news, I came across another optimistic juicer that I’d like to share today as well.

Comeback: Why the US Sits at the Brink of a New Boom

Your CNC Machine Future

 

Between the growth in newer technologies like 3d printing, the energy boom, and signs pointing to companies bringing their manufacturing  back to America, it seems we’re sizing up for a manufacturing rebirth here in the US.  That is good news for those of us in the CNC machining industry.  Whether you own your own shop outfitted with a rag-tag mix of new or used CNC machines, or you’re managing a crew for a large manufacturer, the time to prepare is now.

Don’t get left behind and find yourself scrambling to update those used CNC machines: take an inventory of needed repairs, upgrades, and replacements, and get those replacement parts ordered.

Shop in disarray?  No better time than now to take a look at your shop layout and workflow.  Can things be better organized?  Are you wasting valuable time in your process due to poor layout?  Streamline your workflow now.

What type of work are you equipped to do?  Do you have the ability to branch out, take on new clients and expand your production?  What are these articles pointing to?  Is it plausible to branch out into 3d printing?  Do you have the skills and expertise on hand to make these types of transitions?

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking my own self as I keep my sight on the future of CNC manufacturing and what I can do to continue to expand and grow.

Your Turn

While it’s easy to get caught up with buzz words and hype, we certainly need to tread carefully.  The news that continues to come in definitely points to better days ahead.  I’m not one to advocate foolishness, but I also don’t like to be blind-sided either.  Whether the manufacturing news is all hype, or good tidings of things to come, planning and preparation, maintenance and upkeep, will only serve you and your company for the better.  So what do you think:  is now the time to invest in new CNC machines and equipment, to prep our shops for a potential influx of business, or is it best to hold steady for the time being and see how things pan out?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

CNC Machine Training

If you’re like me, you’ve often taken some of your free time pandering around the internet for CNC machine related topics and information.  Maybe you own your own shop and are searching for CNC replacement parts or used CNC machines?  Maybe you’re looking for a quick tip on some g code, or even some help on a troublesome alarm?  No matter what it is you are looking for, if you start Google-ing around you’ll eventually encounter links for CNC crash videos.

About once a week I’ll find myself watching a CNC crash video while getting the sleep out of my eyes and slurping down a couple cups of coffee.  These video’s make it easy for one to sit behind their screen, laugh and shake their head, and mumble to themselves about all the morons in the world.  I’m guilty of it myself.  But I’ve been thinking about these video’s a little different lately.

CNC Crash Video’s: What Are They Really Showing Us?

We’ve all had our bad days, am I right?  Made some rookie mistake and cost ourselves, or the company we work for, time and money.  Replacement parts add up fast, and while it’s a fact of life that things are going to break from time to time, it always hurts when it’s the outcome of a preventable mistake.   

So, when you see one of these crash video’s, do you see yourself at some distant point in the past?  If not, count yourself lucky.  

What I’ve started thinking when watch these crash videos is the importance of training.  Yeah, like we all need another CNC Machine and safety training meeting, right?

Yes, we do.

The Importance of CNC Machine Training

Periodic training sessions carry a number of positives.  First and foremost it puts information at the forefront of our minds.  Yes, a session may cover a topic most of the shop already knows, but it may just brush the dust off of it as well.  We carry a lot of knowledge in our heads, and it’s often that some of that is used only on rare occasions.  Nothing wrong with brushing it up, giving it a nice new mental veneer.  It’s simple refreshment that can often save yourself time and money.  It’s easy to forget the small things…and often that is where refreshment training saves us time and money.

Also, sessions like these often lead to related topics and discussion that open the door for the whole shop to learn and benefit.  

 

Let us not forget the newbies  in our shops.  No matter how industrious and sharp and driven, he/she is going to make some blunders.  Hopefully of the less expensive kind.  Added training and mentorship is where my thinking lay when it comes to the young-in’s in our industry.  By taking the time (and yes, short-tern expense) to aid and mentor them in their learning, we all benefit.  Not only do we save ourselves money in the long term, we help craft better CNC machinists and operators.  

That benefits everyone in the CNC manufacturing industry.

Whether you’re clocking hours in a Haas CNC machine shop or a DIY CNC enthusiast experimenting in your garage, periodic training and discussion pay’s dividends in the long-term.  

Your Turn:

Do you believe that periodic training sessions, say, once per month, are a benefit to your shop?  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!

CNC Machine Documentation

English: An example of a 5-Axis waterjet cutti...

English: An example of a 5-Axis waterjet cutting head used to cut complex 3-Dimensional parts on a CNC waterjet cutting machine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure most of the more seasoned CNC machinists and operators out there have their go to places when looking for CNC machine manuals and the like.  We’ve all encountered a situation where we needed a quick reference after the shop brings in a used CNC, or that “new guy” misplaced the manual.  Though if you’re relatively new to the field, just starting out, or simply doing some investigating after being inspired by a DIY CNC project, you may not yet know where to go.

You’d think these companies, especially in this day and age, would make their manuals readily available on-line, but they seem to be few and far between.  Sure, there are plenty of shady looking websites where you can pay but we know we don’t want to do that.  Really, what good is a manual if you don’t own the machine.  Here are two places that are a sure fire bet  that’ll give you up to date information, specs, manuals, you name it.

CNC Machine Manuals and More

Just as the name say’s, I’m a Haas guy even though this site has a broad reach.  So naturally I’ll often drop into Haas Automation’s site.  You’ve got to be impressed with a company that has this much coverage.  YouTube channels, manuals, News, Facebook pages, etc.  More than I care to parse myself but I’m sure it’s all very useful.  What I wanted to specifically point out are the : Haas Automation Manual Updates. Great resource for our Haas folks out there.

Keeping with the broad reach of this site:  FadalCNC.com has a huge collection of Fadal manuals on line for your convenience   Fadal CNC machine parts manuals, operator and quick reference manuals, maintanence manuals, and more.  Hey, for our CNC brothers in Mexico they have manuals available in Spanish as well.

Forums.  Don’t forget to check the CNC forums.  There are a lot of persons looking for and sharing manuals on just about all of the CNC machine and DIY CNC hobby forums.

Your Turn

How about yourself, do have a favorite place to locate CNC machine manuals?  Let us know in the comments below!  To all my stateside brothers and sisters, have a great Memorial Weekend and remember to take some time to observe those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our well-being.

 

Update:  From the G+ CNC Machining and Manufacturing Community I’ve an addition to the list:  CNC Alarms.com where you can look up  CNC Machine Alarms and error Codes for Fanuc, Mitsubishi, Yasnac and more.

DIY CNC: Using SketchUp

I’ve been thinking about DIY CNC for quite some time, and it seems the more I dig into it, the more interested I become.  The DIY/Maker movement is  fascinating, and once you start down the DIY rabbit hole you discover there is a whole world of useful and exciting possibilities out there.  One of the great things about DIY is the community and the sharing of knowledge, tips, and CNC hobby tutorials.  I was digging around over my lunch break the other day and started thinking about software.  Free software (free as in beer!).

Image viaSketchUp.com

Image viaSketchUp.com

Enter SketchUp (previously known as Google SketchUp).  The FREE download of SketchUp allows you to create 3-d images with a highly intuitive interface.  Think AutoCad but stripped down and simplified.  I’ve known about SketchUp for a time but never toyed around with it, though I began wondering if the DIY CNC hobby machinist might be able to put this piece of software to good use.  A bit more investigation revealed that with a bit of fortitude you most certainly can.

DIY CNC: SketchUp to CNC

This tutorial, while looking a little dated, will give you the general break down on how you can utilize SketchUp for your own DIY CNC machine projects.  A basic summary: You export your SketchUp file, which uses the same file type as Google Earth, and you upload it into another free software package: Blender.  Blender is a powerful, and free (free as in beer) 3-d creation software package which will then allow you to export your file in DXF or STL format.  According to the author, “Once created, these files can be loaded into MeshCam or CAMBAM Plus (or another similar program) and used to generate 3D G-code for your CNC.”

The article is a bit older, and looking at Blender.org leaves me to the conclusion that you no longer have to separately download the Python file.  DIY made somewhat simpler.

Now since we have the software down, tomorrow I’ll be digging into building your own CNC machine.  While we can often find good prices on used CNC machines and parts, some may be limited by financial and space constraints.  We’ll look at that tomorrow, in the meantime, how about you?  What software do you use for your DIY CNC projects?