Thursday, August 11, 2011

Online CNC and Laser Cutting

Well, my efforts to make my own CNC (computer numerical control - a computerized machine shop) has stalled for the moment.  I orginally planned to make a Dremel CNC out of 3/16 board using my Dremel or my handtools, but all my wood and Dremel is in Augusta.  Then the rest of the plan was once the CNC is complete begin making robot parts for myself (eventhough I still have not settled on a robot yet).  With me joining the AHRC, I am starting to get the build-it bug.  So to occupy my time and maybe take a quicker approach, I started looking for online CNC/laser cutting options. 

A few months ago, I originally found an online CNC operator and REPRAP 3D printer in Atlanta that turned me onto Google Sketchup (which has been the main 3D CAD graphic software that I use now) who happened to also be a member of the AHRC.  I asked about him at the meetings but it appears he has not shown up for awhile.  Too bad, I would have liked to go through a local source.  Unfortunately, I cannot find his website again. 

Luckily, I found a new site called which is a growing CNC/Laser cutting service with online retail store front and support that operates on 3 different continents.  It has been recognized in several bigger name papers and online trade mags by pioneering the Personal Factory concept for individuals and businesses that do not have their own equipment.  In addition, the Personal Factory enables  faster prototyping for a cheaper cost than most CNC shops.  For 3D orders, Ponoko also use Google Sketchup and for 2D laser cutting, they require Inkscape.  Fortunately, Inkscape is free, but it is yet another software that I will have to learn because it is not as intuitive as some of the other programs I am used to interfacing.  There seems to be several tutorials out so it should not be that hard.

If you are curious about Ponoko check out this blog post.

Here is another blog encouraging the Personal Factory movement:

So using the Personal Factory Concept, I could use some of the files uploaded by other robot enthusiasts to build parts.  Here are some of my wish lists (I know that some are not the correct format and some include the REPRAP, but conversions should be possible):

Spider legs ; ; ;
Tank treads
Mecanum Wheels
Marble caster
Drag Chain
Cable Chain ; ;
Brain Gear (multi-wheel)
Sarrus Linkages
Ball joint

How-to for gears ;
planetary gears ; ; ;
gear reducers
helical gears
elliptical gears ;
square gears
spring gear
bevel gear
gear box ; ;
Mini gears ;
Chatterbox gears
Leveling gears (screw bolts)


Line Follower
Spider-bot ; ;
Robotic Arm ; ;
Robotic Hand ;
Walker ;

COOL 3D Kits


**NOTE ADDED** I just found this site

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