"One Perfect Part at a Time"


A Visit to My Personal Machine Shop

I keep judging my shop’s quality. I consider, “Is this as professional as it should be? What are the right tools for me?” I feel it is so much a personal decision; I will never see or believe an answer from anywhere but within my own desires. If I am doing machining just for the challenge and personal pleasure to myself, no one else can tell me what’s right for me. One thing a personal machine shop is… is that it is personal. So be it… it is then a personal machine shop.

Is there a difference between a hobbyist’s machine shop and a personal machine shop? I think it is mostly just a difference in title, but that little change in thought from hobby to personal does make some subtle change in impression. To me it removes the vision of play and non serious application of time. It sounds a bit more “professional”. Maybe even to the imagined ability of producing professional grade work. The roles and actions have not changed at all. It is just word crafting to create subtle changes in how some people relate words to meaning. It is the basis of how “political correctness” works.  What’s the difference between garbage man and sanitary engineer?

I have never had a hobby where quality wasn’t important. Many hobbyists find a way to maintain the very highest standards and output from the skills and equipment they have and can afford. Hobby machinists for example, can generally produce with a far better standard than is needed for professional work. Even with “hobbyist” machines.

I feel describing my shop as a “personal machine shop” can be an image enhancement to the non hobby person. The same reason the personal computer (PC) is now seen as a professional tool. The… Continue reading

A View on CAD, CAM, CNC Software Upgrades

The Vectric (software) company has just released version 3 of their Aspire CNC software. Nothing too earth shattering as far as major changes that I can see, but some very nice-to-have upgrades in performance and design ease. The update from version 2 is $400.00 USD. Hmmm… a lot?

A new outright full edition Aspire purchase is $1995.00 USD. It is Vectric’s highest priced do-it-all CNC package. So the $400 update cost doesn’t sound too bad. I also got to thinking that a single skilled programmer writing updates and improvements just for me would probably bill out at over $100 per hour and actually earn maybe $40 per hour ($80,000/yr) That is certainly very naïve thinking but don’t kill the message here. So at best $400 buys 10 hours of program changes, or only 4 hours at retail.

So is the upgrade worth it? You bet. I haven’t made the move but it will be coming.

At first look, Aspire and the other CNC packages offered by Vectric seem to be highly centered on CNC overhead routers and to a smaller extent, CNC mills. Many if not most of the projects shown on the web site as examples are executed in wood. That is far from the many real abilities of the software. Aspire is designed to take a block of any sort of machinable material and turn it into a 2D or 3D item of beauty or value. Wrapped 4th axis machining designs can also be executed.

I don’t think Aspire or Cut3D (another Vectric 3D package) can totally replace the function of my Rhinoceros Modeling and design tool which is used to design highly detailed fully multi sided objects such as full size cars, boats, motorcycles and even buildings. Rhino can also be used to design jewelry… Continue reading

Cheap Shop Computer

I just ordered a recertified* computer from NewEgg to put in my shop for use with the CNC machines. It’s old but has everything necessary to be a first class controller computer. The processor is a Pentium 4. It comes with a new install of Windows XP Pro which is a rock solid OS for use with MACH3 CNC controller software.

MACH3 is probably the ONLY software other than the OS I will have on this machine. The really good part is it only cost $140.00 including shipping, keyboard and mouse.

I may throw in some extra memory and maybe an old video card I have. I have boxes full of that old stuff here. The low price is unbelievable (but it IS an old, used machine.)

*I think this means it was plugged in and it booted. 🙂 Other buyers say they are dusty inside so these are pull outs from some corporate office, but perfect as a cheap controller computer. The benefit from buying it from Newegg is if it is broke, I can exchange it.

UPDATE: 5/16/10

The little PC is now listed as not available at Newegg. Got mine no problem. Works perfectly to fit my needs. It was dusty inside so I blew it out with my shop air gun. I do that with all my older computers. It only had 256 Meg of RAM so replaced it with one Gig I already owned. Video seems fine for my needs. It now runs the HB2 machine from a permanent location. It is a perfect machine controller. No need to even see the Internet. Long live XP Pro.

New Publication Format

I am nurturing an idea for a “future state” THMS web publication. The literal big picture is video. I believe Internet bandwidth and present day hardware are fully capable of exploiting this content delivery method. Example: My last post contains video.

Since the beginning of the World Wide Web, but more so as it became commercial, the medium has been handicapped by the belief (and a self standard) we could not abandon the old obsolete tools and practices of the past. Some websites today are still being constructed to accommodate text only browsers. I am not trying to be a techno snob but, TEXT ONLY BROWSERS!! Give me a break.

The Amish value the “simple” life, so the horse and buggy make perfect sense. But just like the horse, text only browsing is not in my view a mission of the modern highway called the Internet. Yes, it can be accommodated over on the berm*, but it is truly out of place. (*Chiefly Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. the bank of a canal or the shoulder of a road.)

I am designing my future messages using the visual method of quality video presentation as well as continue my present standard of high quality photography. The video and new photo story pages will be in a new format section linked to the present THMS website. The present “frames” site and this blog will continue unchanged.

Blogs are the hot delivery medium, and I already have three. I decided not use the blog format for my new design. I won’t be looking for easy feedback, as blogs attract a huge assortment of low life and spammers because of that feature. I presently reject 99.9% of entered comments because of off topic abuse. In my… Continue reading

HB2 Action

I ran some Lithophanes this evening. I realized I had my iPhone in my pocket so I grabed a short segment of the HB2 in operation.

What you need to note is the quiet operation with the Taig spindle running at 10.600 RPM and the bit cutting at 50 IPM (Inches Per Minute). Most of the noise is the cutter in the Corian solid surface material making the 0.10 to 0.20 depth cut. If you listen carefully you can also hear the higher pitch “chirping” of the z axis stepper motor. I am “eighth stepping” the motors so it takes 1600 steps to make one shaft rotation. You are hearing those steps.

Most folks are running very loud (screaming actually) routers or high speed rotary tools to do this work. It’s hard to even think over the noise level. I have to wear ear protection with those spindles, but not with the Taig spindle. It’s nice…

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