Tag: Manufacturing Process

CNC Hot Wire Foam Cutting Machine

CNC Hot Wire Foam Cutting Machine

Sunday, April 2, 2017 | By | Add a Comment
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CNC Hot Wire Foam Cutting Machine

A CNC hot wire foam cutter is a computer controlled machine used for mainly cutting Polystyrene foam (also known as EPS foam) and similar materials, such as polypropylene (Known as EPP) and polyethylene (known as PE).  The machine consists of a wire running between 2 towers, which is heated via a hot wire power supply, thus melting and cutting the foam into the desired shape.  The towers can move in an X-Axis (right-left) and a Y-Axis (up-down).

Cutting the foam is done in 3 basic steps:
1. Drawing the desired shape to be cut.
2. Converting the shape into G-Code
3. Running the machine with the software to execute the desired shape.

Any CAD software, such as AutoCAD or Corel Draw can be used for drawing the shape, as long as the file can be saved in a DXF format.  There are various CAD files in the market.  More recommended ones include Instant Engineer 14, which can be purchased online for few dollars, DesignCAD, AutoCAD and TurboCAD.  Another CAD software is DevFoam, that combines both the drawing and the G-Code generation.  It is a user friendly application for cutting foam with a 4 Axis CNC machine.

Next step is to convert the shape into G-Code.  The G-Code is another name for the computerized tool by which we tell the machine what to cut and how to cut it.  For the conversion one can use software such as DeskCNC, DevCAD or FoamWorks.
DeskCNC was originally designed for a 3 Axis CNC Router machines.  It was later on modified to enable a 4 Axis foam cutters to run as well.
FoamWorks is known for its simplicity and being a user friendly software.  It is designed to drive a 4 Axis foam cutter via a parallel port of any windows based computer.  It can cut any shape, but works best for cutting RC wings.

For the last stage of running the machine, software such as Mach3 and DeskCNC can be used.  The Mach3 program is a G-Code reader.  It allows you to turn your PC computer into a 4 Axis CNC controller for machining and cutting.  It is an operating system for running the CNC hot wire foam cutter.  It was originally developed for the home hobbyist, and later modified for use for any CNC machine operation for industrial use.

3D Printed Architecture

3D Printed Architecture

Monday, June 13, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

3D Printed Architecture

3D printed architecture is quickly becoming a viable method of construction in the near future.  Teams of architects in London and Amsterdam are competing to produce the first habitable printed structure, using technology that could transform the way buildings are made.  Though they all have the same objective, the teams are investigating very different materials and fabrication methods.

Existing 3D printers are only able to produce homogeneous materials that have the same properties throughout. But graded materials would be useful for printing architectural elements such as beams or façades that mimic bone, which is hard on the outside but spongy on the inside.  But gradients are hard to produce with the current generation of 3D printers, which rely on armatures or gantries that can only move on three axes such as back and forward, side to side, and up and down, and which must lay down material in layers, one atop the other.  They also require complex support structures to be printed at the same time to prevent the printed objects collapsing under their own weight.

In traditional 3D printing, the gantry size poses an obvious limitation for the designer who wishes to print in larger scales and achieve structural and material complexity.  Research is being done in investigating ways of printing with additional axes of movement, by replacing the gantry with a six-axis robotic arm.  This will allow “free-form” printing at a larger scale and without the need for support structures.

Today’s material limitations can be overcome by printing with responsive materials.  Gantry limitations can be overcome by printing with multiple interactive robot-printers.  Process limitations can be overcome by moving from layering to weaving in 3D space, using a robotic arm.  Robotic arms can be used to print in traditional materials, such as plastic, concrete or composites, or employed to weave or knit three-dimensional fibre structures.  Researchers are also exploring how the high-performance fibres excreted by silkworms and spiders could be produced artificially.  In the future, buildings may be constructed by swarms of tiny robots that use a combination of printing and weaving techniques, called “swarm” construction.

CNC 3D Printing for Parts

CNC 3D Printing for Parts

Thursday, April 14, 2016 | By | Add a Comment
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)

Nederlands: Presentatie van de 3D printer op d...

Nederlands: Presentatie van de 3D printer op de Wikimedia Conferentie 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CNC 3D Printing for Parts

When learning about what manufacturing machines suit your needs as a parts designer or creator, there seems to be a universe of factors to consider when finding the best machines to meet your needs.  For those of my fellow readers that have relatively little or no knowledge on these machines, I would like to briefly describe the functionality as well as the fundamental differences and highs and lows of CNC/3D printing for parts.

CNC mills can work on a huge variety of materials: metal alloys (e.g. aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwoods and hardwoods, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, machining wax (for creating a positive model for casting).  You may need different cutting tools for different materials, but the tool-to-machine interfaces are usually standardized – so the tools can easily be exchanged.  This way, you can utilize a CNC mill to manufacture prototypes in the same material that will be used for the final product – so you can immediately start testing.

Desktop 3D printers are usually restricted to a few materials, typically thermoplastics (PLA, ABS, sometimes nylon) or resins. Thermoplastics can be mixed with other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, but the workpieces produced on a 3D printer will not be as robust as workpieces cut from a block of metal or wood.  As thermoplastics and resin 3D printers use completely different methods, a resin printer cannot handle thermoplastics and vice versa.  These machines are far from perfect and the ability to create precision parts depends on a variety of factors.  In practice, dull or damaged cutting tools, worn mills or faulty data delivered by the CAM software may result in inaccurate workpieces.  Precision in 3D printing is far from perfect and many parts can have many flaws and errors in their creation.  Some 3D printers promise very high precision but fail to deliver it from time to time.  Precision also relies on the capabilities and skills of the programmer/user, and there is a lot of learning and trial and error that goes along with using these machines.

Comparing speed is difficult as CNC mills and 3D printers are typically used for different workpieces and materials.  However, 3D printing jobs often take hours to complete, whereas CNC milling jobs with comparable size and complexity normally do not take more than an hour.  CNC mills are typically faster when chipping away material from a solid block than 3D printers that build objects layer by layer and occasionally have to slow down to avoid printing problems.

Depending on the material used, CNC milling can get extremely noisy.  Cutting metal or wood using a large-diameter tool (to quickly remove large parts) can be ear-deafening.  The rattling noise from a desktop 3D printer without casing is like a gentle waft in comparison.  When cutting wax models, the noise from a CNC mill is hardly perceptible, however.  When working on a metal or wood block, a CNC mill also vibrates heavily and you wouldn’t want to have it on the desktop near you (even if you wore ear defenders to block of the noise).  Vibration normally is no issue when 3D printing.

CNC milling means cutting away material using a rotating tool.  So, as a result there is a lot of material spurting away, and that may be quite sharp (e.g., splinters of wood or metal).  Not all CNC mills are fully enclosed when working on a block of material, so things can get quite messy.  And with enclosed mills, you have to clean up the mess inside, once the workpiece is finished.  3D printing is not messy by design.  When something goes wrong, however, you may need to remove thermoplastics from your printbed.  But that is nothing compared to cleaning up after CNC milling.  By design, there is less waste in 3D printing as this technology only requires the material needed for building the workpiece.  In CNC milling you need a block of material that has at minimum the size of the workpiece and a lot of material has to be removed and often cannot be recycled.

CNC milling is the better solution when manufacturing workpieces that need to be extremely robust and precise and/or heat-resistant.  3D printing has more exotic fields of application: It can be used for bioprinting, for printing food, for building purposes, and it can be used in space (e.g. on the ISS or in future space missions).

Pricewise, getting started is less costly with 3D printing: You can get decent 3D printers for about $500, while the CNC mills featured on Kickstarter recently start at $2,000.  Technology in these machines however is rapidly advancing and new developments are continually being rolled out including a machine that has the functionality of a CNC machine, 3D printer and laser cutter/engraver combined.  So, if you want the best of all worlds, you may want to wait a little while to purchase a machine to cater to all your needs.

Making Molded Helmet Designs

Making Molded Helmet Designs

Sunday, April 3, 2016 | By | Add a Comment


Making Molded Helmet Designs

Another recommended accessory for the cosplayer or semi-cosplayer at heart, is, of course, the helmet or head wear.  This often requires making molded helmet designs of your own creation in order to fit your unique alter ego.  Maybe Bruce Wayne wouldn’t care if he were to reveal his identity as Batman as long as his job get’s done, but for the sake of his protection, along with some cool gadgets in his helmet, it is safer for him to don the bat helm.

So, how does the helmet wearing cosplayer or semi-cosplayer go about creating their own headpiece.  Well, there are several ways of doing this, such as creating a CNC manufactured or 3D printed helmet of course.  I am not going to go into great detail about the processes, but I will talk about a process which I am familiar with which involves creating a clay molding for preparation of creating a casted helmet, much like the helmet in the video above.  This way involves hardening clay around a replica of your own head which can be a lifecasting of your head or something that could be used in place which is the same size and formation of your head.

When purchasing a clay for the mold, it is wise to go with NSP clay which is sulfur free clay, since sulfur will react with the curing chemicals in the rubber that is used for the mold, causing the clay to warp and the silicone not to cure properly.  Other clays that may be considered are oil based clays as well.  Always make sure that your floor is protected with some type of floor cover to prevent stains or ruining any carpeted area.

Once you have the clay, then you can start builiding it up in block like formations on the head replica.

Once you have built the clay up to represent the basic blocking of the subject, you can start sculpting it down to get more accurate shapes, contours, and details using finer and more precise tools.

Symmetry on both sides of the helmet is very important for a good looking helmet, just like a good looking head in real life, and I’m sure all the ladies would agree with me there, right?  You can use mineral spirits and a paint brush to smooth out areas and make sculpting easier and cut down on sanding time at the end of the project.

Once you’re satisfied, what you want to do is prep the sculpture for the molding process.  It is good to go over the entire sculpt with a few layers of primer to seal up the clay really good.  It will also take out any small scratches that the brush may have left.  So, now you should have a wonderfully symmetrical molding prepared for the casting process.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about creating a sculpted helmet design, and for more information on casting and casted designs, please take a look at the video above and stay tuned to the same bat website for more blogging on helmet creation in the future!

Best CAD program for your design

Best CAD program for your design

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

English: Created in AutoCAD

English: Created in AutoCAD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Best CAD program for your design

What is the best CAD program for your design ? What is the best computer aided software for your design?  Everyone who has been around for a while in drafting and design knows that AutoCAD is the basis of all drafting programs.  But using the bare bones of drafting programs can be time consuming, possibly excruciatingly painful and maybe even at times bad for your health.  So let’s compare and contrast some of the other drafting programs out there.

AutoCAD was an all-in-all suite for the design engineer and technician.  The design philosophy behind the software’s is the fact that AutoCAD was created nearly 2 decades ago with a focus on more things for more kinds of users for even more domains. Be it civil architecture design, mechanical part manufacturing, post-development cross-section manipulation and evaluation or simply a script based macro for animating the part’s movement once put together, AutoCAD was developed and meant to be able to do all of that just as easily as anything in between.

But Autodesk Inventor was not.  Where AutoCAD is a heavyweight design production platform with post development features such as cross sectioning, artificial lighting based-renders and panoramic rendering for virtual walkthroughs or a part’s final movements, Inventor is meant for the the manufacturing phase responsible technical staff.  Inventor’s sole responsibility is to aid the post-design manufacturing process.

However, this does not mean that it is not a good tool for design and development or for 2D/3D drawing. In fact, Inventor has some abilities that are far beyond the reach of the AutoCAD and for good reasons.  Using Inventor, drawing is simpler and more powerful, since all you need to do is sketch a raw form for the object, before finalizing its dimensions.

Another excellent quality of Inventor is its ability to distinguish features from within a part and store them as individuals in the part/feature browser.  Which means if you don’t like the hole you put in place previously in your design, then you can simply select the hole from the browser instead of having to tear the entire part away piece by piece.  What is better is that the old habit of delete and repeat the design of the part goes out the window, and if you want to change a feature, you just change the dimension.  Inventor also has the ability to update the geometry of a sketch or part when it is manipulated, so it has adaptability features that AutoCAD does not.

Due to the fact that AutoCAD was primarily 2D software and was fine tuned into 3D software, it lacks features that other 3D modeling software incorporate almost by default.  AutoCAD does not have many modeling capabilities that can be found in SolidWorks or CATIA.  It lacks dynamic simulations as well as cable and harness modules.  Routed systems are yet to be incorporated to their fullest capabilities and software’s such as CATIA offer advanced surfacing capabilities in a much more effective manner.