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Comment Re:Unit can also do 3d printing (Score 1) 258

Nothing really, the machines themselves however are calibrated to cut at .0002" or better repeatabily. Most of the stuff we make is actually within .001-.002", high quality injection molds. One of our best machines will easily cut to within .0002" consistently, pretty amazing and expensive machine.

You're right though that the typical hobbysit will be fine around .015", you can make a lot of well functioning parts at those tolerances, and you can achieve even better tolerances via secondary operations.

As far as modifications go, I would say it's difficult to create such a system currently since these desktop CNC Machines are a relatively new area. You'd have to balance cost with performance which isn't easy. Most likely any modifications will only be compatible with a limited set of machines. Once well defined performance expectations are set, going about creating a modular system might be easier.

Comment Re:Desktop CNC (Score 1) 258

We use air to cool carbide tools against steel workpieces already. It's actually the preferred method since the steel becomes more ductile at higher temperatures. However Aluminum gets hot very fast, you want it to be as cool as possible or else it gums up the tooling. Air isn't enough unless you're cutting very very small amounts of aluminum per pass. Plastics can be cut with air, but you have to be careful not to cut too quickly or else the plastic will melt instead of cut and things will get nasty very quickly. It really depends on the material which you're using.

Comment Re:Desktop CNC (Score 1) 258

Yes it is.

There are a variety of methods used currently which use powdered metal. DLMS and SLS are the names of two of the most common ones currently.

http://www.eos.info/en/news-events/press-material/videos-animations.html is one such manufacturer of the machinery, they have a pretty nifty video up on their site.

Here are some youtube videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxve3ZOmvc&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88BPmL8cGAo

The biggest problem is time, these machines are slow so they are rather uneconomical for mass production.

Comment Re:One problem (Score 1) 258

ProE doesn't have very much market share these days. One of the best all in one packages is actually UGS NX which features integrated CAD/CAE/CAM. It's hella expensive, but it commands a significant share of the CAM market. Powermill from Delcam and Mastercam from CNC Software are also really good.

Comment Re:Unit can also do 3d printing (Score 1) 258

Haha, you've never worked with a real CNC machine before I take it? Trust me, you don't want to be futzing around with it on a daily basis. You want it to produce parts, and do it as quickly and precisely as possible. The machines tend to be rather unwieldy to work on as well. Changing the spindle in a CNC machine takes a full day, and then the machine has to be checked and indicated so that it cuts accurately. When your machine is accurate down to the .0002", you don't really want to fuck around with that.

I realize you're referring to a hobby machine, but you can't put the cart before the horse. First there needs to be a significant hobby CNC market before a "plug and play" market is developed.

Comment Desktop CNC (Score 4, Informative) 258

As someone who works with CNC machinery on a daily basis as a manufacturing/mechanical engineer, having a cheap low cost DIY desktop CNC would be incredibly useful for home usage. However, this will be limited in it's capabilities. Cutting metals like aluminum usually requires coolant or else the material will melt and jam up inside of the flutes of the tooling. Steels can be air cut with the right carbide tooling, but I don't think this machine will have the structural rigidity required to cut steel. Generally the rule of thumb in machine design is to make your machine as heavy and rigid as possible. There is a good reason why these machines aren't cheap.

Something like this will probably be useful for cutting plastics, wood, and maybe aluminum if your willing to mount a cooling and reclamation system. Also this system will be SLOW most undoubtedly. However it will have it's uses. Cutting HDPE to make molds for silicon casting would be one, great for modelers. Precisely making printed circuit boards would also be another useful feature. Drilling wouldn't be too bad as long as the machine has enough torque. I think something like this would work well with one of the homemade 3D printers such as the MakerBot or Reprap.

I'm very curious on my end, might end up building one if I can get my boss to let me utitlize company machinery to make one.

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