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Cheap 3D Fab Could Start an Innovation Renaissance 258

Posted by kdawson
from the ab-fab dept.
blackbearnh writes "An article over on O'Reilly Radar makes the argument that, just as inexpensive or free software development environments have led to a cornucopia of amazing Web and mobile applications, the plummeting cost of 3D fabrication equipment could enable myriad new physical inventions. The article was prompted by a new Kickstarter project, which if funded will attempt to produce a DIY CNC milling system for under $400. Quoting: 'We're already seeing the cool things that people have started doing with 3D fab at the higher-entry-level cost. Many of them are ending up on Kickstarter themselves, such as an iPhone 4 camera mount that was first prototyped using a 3D printer. Now I'm dying to see what we'll get when anyone can create the ideas stuck in their heads.'"
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Cheap 3D Fab Could Start an Innovation Renaissance

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  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday December 10, 2010 @02:43PM (#34516248)

    I need to apply for patent lawyer school, pronto.

  • That, or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DWMorse (1816016) on Friday December 10, 2010 @02:45PM (#34516264) Homepage

    "What? They want $50 for that part?? Screw that, I can make it myself for $10."

    And thus, a new legal conglomeration will be formed, akin to the RIAA and MPAA, but this time to sue people for owning fabrication gear.

    • Re:That, or... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:02PM (#34516486) Journal

      Not until they start trading commercially developed CNC path programs for the parts.

      Anyone can make their own music and movies, it just turns out that you get a much more polished product that doesn't take dozens or hundreds (or more) hours of your own time.

      The question will be come whether sharing or selling the digital reverse-engineered program you feed to your 3D printer is legal. Physical items are generally not copyrightable, and I believe selling copies of patents (which describe HOW to make an item) is also legal. Now, if a CNC path is simply a set of descriptive data describing a physical object, it may also fall outside of a "creative work." That kind of stuff should clog the courts for a while...if this every takes off. How many people are going to drop $400 and several hundred hours of time to make personal replacement parts?

      • Re:That, or... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:05PM (#34516530) Homepage Journal
        The path may well be counted as IP and, hence, licensable. CNC programmers (I used to work at an aerospace parts manufacturer, hence why I know this tidbit) can create the same part in many different ways, depending on how fast or how efficient they want the process to be.

        So while a model file showing all the dimensions of a part may be freely tradeable, the machine path required to build that part in the least time or least material may well be copyrightable under current laws.

        O'course, it could always be counted as a trade secret, but that's another kettle of beans altogether.
        • by hedwards (940851)
          That's not subject to copyright law. It's a trade secret, but the parts are not subjected to copyright, and neither are the plans. It's not anymore subject to copyright than the results of last nights sports game.

          And the machine path is even less protected than the designs are. It's governed based upon the rules of physics, not creativity and finding an efficient way of doing it is in and of itself a spur to innovation.
          • That's not subject to copyright law. It's a trade secret, but the parts are not subjected to copyright, and neither are the plans. It's not anymore subject to copyright than the results of last nights sports game.

            And the machine path is even less protected than the designs are. It's governed based upon the rules of physics, not creativity and finding an efficient way of doing it is in and of itself a spur to innovation.

            I'm pretty sure the results of sports games actually are subject to copyright. At least, the MLB claims rights to the results and licences them to the people that distribute the information en mass (ie, a reporter saying who won seems to be fine, but websites that catalog and list all results have to pay). I don't know much about it, or how legal it is, but that is what happens. My friend wanted to make an app with sports results, and he found that they're hard to come by for free.

            And even if a part is not

        • by Solandri (704621)

          So while a model file showing all the dimensions of a part may be freely tradeable, the machine path required to build that part in the least time or least material may well be copyrightable under current laws.

          I would think that while a generic machine path could be copyrightable, the least-time or least-material paths for a specific model would be unique, and thus mathematical facts, and not copyrightable. Now, an algorithm to determine the least-time or least-material paths given a model file as input,

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Not true exactly--

        You can already get reasonably inexpensive stereoscopic analysis software (Like photomodeler scanner) that, with the recent Kinect drivers, could be used to scan a 3D object VERY quickly- Could be used to rapid fabricate otherwise expensive parts.

        Granted, you would need to know how to make your own 3D toolpaths, but that is not, strictly speaking, terribly hard.

        What I want to know is if their 400$ mill is 3 axis, or 4(+) axis-- and also, does it accept G-code. If so, what post processor do

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Add one to your count right now.

        I would do it today, if possible. I would also attempt to provide FREE(libre and gratis) CNC paths for everything I ever do. This would mean the people could finally own the means of production, then sell the goods they produce in a free market. That last sentence should have just exploded the heads of about 50% of the slashdot population.

      • Re:That, or... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:33PM (#34516928) Journal
        It is eminently possible that really widespread 3d printing(unlike novelty prototype stuff where the copies are worse and more expensive than the real thing) would simply lead to a change in the law to "address the problem". In this case [copyright.gov], for instance, the proposal was advanced to create an entirely new form of "intellectual property" consisting of the shape of boat hulls, because it was trivial for company B to copy company A's design just by buying one, taking an impression, and then producing as many fiberglass copies as they could sell.

        If memory serves, something similar was done for IC masks, and in the EU certain geographic regions now have a novel form of quasi-trademark status, not belonging to a company or person; but to a place(ie. Heinz inc. or licensees are the only ones who can see 'Heinz brand catsup'; but anybody can market sparkling wine as 'champagne' IFF it was produced in Champagne, and under no circumstances otherwise.)

        I would assume that truly practical 3D printing would draw the fire of incumbents, much the same way that VCRs, MP3s, etc. did, as soon as they become economically viable. It will also be interesting to see if there is some "hardware DMCA" blocking the reproduction of parts that incorporate 'anti-reproduction-technology like microdots or GUID RFIDs or the like'...
      • scanning an object into autocad is fairly easy with the correct equipment. I could see someone tearing their favorite engine down and documenting every single part in autocad then offering it up for free on their enthusiast website. We're already getting DMCA take down notices for scanned pages of service manuals so I don't see this sort of thing being far off...
      • Re:That, or... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by caution live frogs (1196367) on Friday December 10, 2010 @04:11PM (#34517480)

        I work in a research hospital. I recently had a conversation with our in-house shop guy, while he was doing a 3D build of a prototype part for me. He said this is a huge friggin' deal for people in the industry. He has had his finger on the pulse of this for quite some time now, and the big companies are very definitely worried about this. Right now, he can make anything he wants, and the only major issue is cost of materials. In the future, especially when metal forming rather than plastic is more easily done, who knows? His take is that the commercial-size 3D printers are quite likely going to come complete with DRM systems that will check specs and refuse to print anything that matches certain database flags. He doesn't like this, but he sees it on the horizon. As it is now, it's cheaper for us to do prototyping and then have a manufacturer mass-produce the part we designed; it won't be too much longer before it's just as cheap and fast to do it in-house. Manufacturers are worried. They won't sit idly by and let it happen without a huge fight.

      • One word--- aftermarket car parts.

        Most of the time they're made by using a factory part in a mold, then re-casting. Quality tends to vary, and usually there's some shrinkage (the water in the casting medium evaporates, usually a loss of 15% or so). As far as I know you don't even have to have a license or permission to do this.

        What's the legal difference between this and C&C?
    • Re:That, or... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mspohr (589790) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:17PM (#34516694)
      I have an immediate need for two small plastic parts for my car front bumper which spray water on the headlights. They have broken off over the years due to encounters with snowbanks, etc. Dealer wants $110 EACH for them but they look like they cost about $1 to make. I'd love to make my own.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If you posted on the reprap forums very likely you could find someone in your area with the means to print objects in 3D.

        • Re:That, or... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TheKidWho (705796) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:32PM (#34516894)

          Assuming he is referring to the injection nozzles, I doubt it you can make a quality part on a reprap. You can probably make ones that work, but they wouldn't be any good IMO.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I own a makerbot, roughly the same machine as the reprap...

            I agree, you could not make without any post processing injection nozzles on the reprap. These are actually spray nozzles he's asking for, but same idea.

            You could absolutely get the mechanical strength you wanted, ABS is very strong stuff and stands up well to the elements when dyed or painted (UV can break it down over time)

            The issue would be the nozzle itself... any spray or injection nozzle wants to promote laminar flow until the working fluid l

          • Assuming he is referring to the injection nozzles, I doubt it you can make a quality part on a reprap. You can probably make ones that work, but they wouldn't be any good IMO.

            That's just the thing isn't it? Being able to design and (3D) print something isn't even remotely the same as being able to design and (3D) print something that works.

            Look at Flickr and You Tube - and look at the ratio (among wholly original content) between even halfway decent and utter krep. It's rather steeply tilted towar

      • Re:That, or... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:32PM (#34516896) Homepage
        Yeah, and even with this widget you would need to

        1. Find the 3D representation of the little plastic part or
        2. Create the 3D representation of the little plastic part
        4. Find something on the order of the correct plastic - since it was likely a mass molded part in the first place, you would have to find a plastic that had something similar to the mechanical properties of the original but was machinable
        5.Set up your machine
        6. Run the parts through the cycle a few times (or a hundred times depending how good a machinist your are or are not)
        7.Shut the machine down, clean up, install part
        8. Repeat the whole cycle when you figure out you neglected to add the little plastic tab that broke off in the first place thus starting this whole commotion.

        Just buy the damn part or use duct tape... People have had DIY 3 axis machines for years with CNC capability (See weird w's post above). Sherline Tools [sherline.com] sells the canonical setup. Cost you about $1000 but you will spend many more hours and dollars learning how to use it. Even with CNC, there is an art to figuring out how to cut something complex out of a block of material.

        So I don't think bringing the costs down to $400 is going to make much of a difference. It will still take lots of time and effort and the couple of hundred dollars a dremel tool based rig is going to save isn't going to get you anywhere.
      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        I have an immediate need for two small plastic parts for my car front bumper which spray water on the headlights. They have broken off over the years due to encounters with snowbanks, etc. Dealer wants $110 EACH for them but they look like they cost about $1 to make.
        I'd love to make my own.

        You tried just calling up the local junkyard? There are lots of pull-your-own-parts places that would only charge you a couple bucks for them.

      • First: Stop having encounters with snowbanks.
        Second: Buy a Haynes manual, then go visit a junkyard and see if they have your parts.
        You will never make a part for less than it cost the automotive industry to make that part. It's a matter of finding someone who will sell it without too much markup.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      These are exactly the two possible scenarios : an innovation renaissance or a RIAA-like entity preventing it. The shape of the young 21st century will heavily depend on what happens now and how we solve these "intellectual properties" issues about patents. Can we patent "design of X as outputable by a CNC" ? If so, the renaissance is in danger.

      Say, have you donated to EFF yet ?
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      that is the plot for the story Makers by Cory Doctorow.

    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      "What? They want $50 for that part?? Screw that, I can make it myself for $10."

      I think you just described China's entire business strategy. Make cheap knockoffs of quality products and undersell them. Although I gotta admit the Chinese knock-offs of the small Honda engines virtually the same quality at half the cost. They even take the exact same replacement parts!

    • by skids (119237)

      Depends, how many patents have been issued for innovative dildo shapes? Cause ya know, based on what the Internet quickly became, that's what it will end up being used for at first.

    • And thus, a new legal conglomeration will be formed, akin to the RIAA and MPAA, but this time to sue people for owning fabrication gear./quote

      Cue MAFIAA advertisement ...

      Q: "You wouldn't steal a car would you?"
      A: "No, so I won't steal movies either!"

      What people really think:

      A: "No, but I sure would download one if I could!"

  • From TFA:
    ""everyone should have one" category, and out of the "gee, I wish I couple afford one" tier."
  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday December 10, 2010 @02:55PM (#34516394) Journal

    Autocad, the only fully featured program I've ever encountered that works well with 3D manufacturing devices, is still $4,000+ dollars.

    This is like the AutoCad is like the Photoshop to Gimp, in a manner of speaking. Yes you could probably find a free alternative that does what 60% of the people would use it for, but there is a reason Photoshop is still around, and a reason why both Photoshop and Autocad can charge ridiculous prices.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      The guy seems to have it working with KCam http://www.kellyware.com/kcam/ [kellyware.com] ... which incidentally he'll include on a laptop along with the machine and personally deliver to your door for a donation pledge of $2500 (continental US only)

      Almost makes me want to do it if only to kick myself because this was always the sort of thing I envisioned myself doing now when I was back in engineering school :P .

    • Depends on what your goal is. There's plenty of free 3d modellers, plenty of free or cheap PCB routing software choices.

      For actually controlling the mill, in linux there is ECM2 which is a robust platform. http://www.linuxcnc.org/ [linuxcnc.org]

      For PCB design there are a ton of choices but a popular hobbiest choice is EAGLE from CADSoft.

      In the future there will probably be a repository of available plans for download anyways, so people will be able to mill and print items without the need to design them first.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        The problem with most modeling softwares is that they are polygonally defined geometry. G-Code is more NURBS curves based. (G-Code being what most CNC mills are programmed in.)

        As such, most CAD/CAM softwares are internally NURBS, so that you can easily generate arbitrary tool paths to follow a surface. That would be much more difficult to pull off cleanly with a polygon mesh model, due to the lack of true tangent continuity.

      • by Bassman59 (519820)

        For PCB design there are a ton of choices but a popular hobbiest (sic)choice is EAGLE from CADSoft.

        EAGLE is utter crap.

    • Re:One problem (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ChefInnocent (667809) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:12PM (#34516632)
      You're thinking all wrong man. I own a "vinyl cutter" (Wishblade) that came with some great software. I can do just about anything I want with it. I've made tons of stencils for cakes, woodworking, fabric patterns and other stuff for people. I can scan an image and have it on the cutter in minutes. There's a problem with it. It takes time to learn. It took me about a day to learn and I'm technically adept. My roommate, it would take her a long time to learn. She's been watching me make stuff for a year, and wouldn't know where to begin. She bought a machine which does something similar, but is far more limited. She bought a Cricut. She has made more stuff in the 3 weeks she's had it, than I have all year with mine because it is so easy for her to make stuff. The Cricut is not versatile. It is not cheaper than the Wishblade. It doesn't do half the cool stuff I can do. But she learned it in just a few minutes.

      Wishblade made a very nice product, and they will get to sell me overpriced cutting blades at $20 a pop. Cricut will not only sell their blades at $20 a pop, but you have to buy "fonts" to make it work at $20-$100 a pop. Her friends own about a dozen font cartridges each. Her friends don't need to buy expensive software or even own a PC. They just own a Cricut which holds their hand so they don't have to do any thinking outside the box.

      I'm trying to figure out how to make a 3d fab machine that takes font cartridges I can sell bajillions of. As a person very capable of doing stuff, I love the Wishblade over the Cricut every day of the week. But there is far more profit selling the Cricut. Photoshop is awesome, but when half the population doesn't understand MS Paint, your aren't going to sell to many copies of Photoshop.
      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        You're thinking all wrong man. I own a "vinyl cutter" (Wishblade) that came with some great software. I can do just about anything I want with it. I've made tons of stencils for cakes, woodworking, fabric patterns and other stuff for people. I can scan an image and have it on the cutter in minutes. There's a problem with it. It takes time to learn. It took me about a day to learn and I'm technically adept. My roommate, it would take her a long time to learn. She's been watching me make stuff for a year, and wouldn't know where to begin. She bought a machine which does something similar, but is far more limited. She bought a Cricut. She has made more stuff in the 3 weeks she's had it, than I have all year with mine because it is so easy for her to make stuff. The Cricut is not versatile. It is not cheaper than the Wishblade. It doesn't do half the cool stuff I can do. But she learned it in just a few minutes.

        Wishblade made a very nice product, and they will get to sell me overpriced cutting blades at $20 a pop. Cricut will not only sell their blades at $20 a pop, but you have to buy "fonts" to make it work at $20-$100 a pop. Her friends own about a dozen font cartridges each. Her friends don't need to buy expensive software or even own a PC. They just own a Cricut which holds their hand so they don't have to do any thinking outside the box.

        I'm trying to figure out how to make a 3d fab machine that takes font cartridges I can sell bajillions of. As a person very capable of doing stuff, I love the Wishblade over the Cricut every day of the week. But there is far more profit selling the Cricut. Photoshop is awesome, but when half the population doesn't understand MS Paint, your aren't going to sell to many copies of Photoshop.

        If you substitute Apple and Linux in your story, that explains why people love Macs.....

    • by gblackwo (1087063)
      First of all, you shouldn't be using Autocad to do any 3d design. Ask Autodesk and they will tell you the same thing. Maybe you meant Autodesk Inventor, or one of the other software suites designed for 3d design and rapid prototyping. All Autodesk software is free to students- and the licenses last for several years now. If you are too poor to take an online class or a continuing education class at the local community college, then it probably isn't too hard to just say you are a student and get your free s
      • by hedwards (940851)

        All Autodesk software is free to students- and the licenses last for several years now. If you are too poor to take an online class or a continuing education class at the local community college, then it probably isn't too hard to just say you are a student and get your free software legally.

        That's not true, the software is still a couple hundred dollars, unless the institution happens to pay for a site license that allows the students to install it on their machines.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      You should try Dassault Systemes Catia.

      Although, it is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more expensive than Autocad. (It also does a shitload more, and is easier to use, IMHO. Want to design a radar waveguide? There's a DEDICATED workbench for that! Etc.)

    • At one time, compilers and developing kits were also very expensive. As the cost of the machines comes down, so will the cost of tools to drive them. Some day there will exist a program like Blender, but using parametric surfaces and will be more like Pro/Engineer or Solidworks than like Maya.

      And packages like Pro/E, doesn't really cost all that much when your printer costs $35 grand or more, your engineers cost 100 grand/year or more, their workstations a few thousands, and injection molds for your prototy

  • by th0mas.sixbit.org (780570) on Friday December 10, 2010 @02:56PM (#34516400)

    This is the cheapest path for a CNC and 3d printer in every home.

    I have done quite a bit of research on it and it's competitors (Zen Toolworks CNC, Mantis CNC, Makerbot, Cupcake CNC) and none lead to a completed kit for this low of a price without serious time investment, trial and error, and knowledge.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    To being able to 'steal' the neighbors BMW.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      You wouldn't copy a car would you?

      I for one sure as hell would. I would probably be more likely to use a FREE one though.

  • by AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) <afacini@gm a i l . com> on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:11PM (#34516606)
    Finally every CS student can bring their time-honored declaration into tangibility!
  • If the ability to copy information is any indication, there are powerful people who are going to work very hard to make this sort of thing illegal. Unfortunately, they will probably succeed here, given the requirement of specialized hardware.
  • Customized! (Score:5, Funny)

    by boristdog (133725) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:14PM (#34516650)

    And the customized sex toy industry takes off!

  • Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:20PM (#34516760)

    Other than maybe "it's already packaged".

    Search Google for "Home Made CNC" [google.com]. People have been making these out of OSB & plywood for a while.

    Here's a pretty nice one using an off the shelf router [lumberjocks.com].

    Hack a day has an article from 2008 [hackaday.com].

    Another. [freewebs.com]

    They do require some technical knowhow. But that's about it. I think the most basic use parallel ports for IO.

    • You don't even have to use a router as a "payload". Get an industrial laser and make it a laser etcher [tinet.cat]

      Pens, markers, pencils could be used for an interesting drawing/large plotter.

  • Desktop CNC (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:26PM (#34516810)

    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.

    • Re:Desktop CNC (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:40PM (#34517052)

      Good luck with the latter... Machine time is expensive. :(

      Personally, I'd use this to make specialty cabinets. Simple 3-axis is all you need, and if you keep the spindle speed down, wood does not need coolant.

      For a coolant "enhancement" though, you could add another opcode to the G-program to turn on essentially an aftermarket watergarden fountain pump, and mount the machine over something like a bathtub. That way you could turn on coolant for soft metals like aluminum and copper.

      Mild steel would be OK with the right cutters, but anything in the hard steel category would most certainly be outside the cutting abilities of the proposed spindle for this DIY kit. (Prototype specs a dremel tool.) You would just need to sacrifice speed for utility by turning up the spindle speed and radically reducing the depth of cut.

      Granted, that would RADICALLY shorten tool life-- and cutters aren't cheap.

    • I'm curious, my knowledge of this technology is limited, and I really want to know: I've held examples of the output of these 3D "printers" in my hand, they seem to be most useful for making prototype objects. Although the resulting resin forms seem pretty tough, is this technology transferable to production-quality things made out of steel? Seems like the technology would be limited if it only made things out of that resin. And if they can do steel, then obviously they can't be very cheap.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Just wondering, why can't you just cool the tool itself with something that does not need to be reclaimed?

      I am thinking blasting high pressure air at it, or cut very slowly and dip the tool into an oil tank every X seconds.

      • by TheKidWho (705796)

        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 ver

    • It would appear that the semi-professional gear is also coming down in price. There's already a few labs here where you can send your designs to do 3D printing, PCBs or CNC mill/lathe jobs (even in steel). The quality is quite good... good enough to produce a working model IC engine from plans, for instance. I've had them make a weird driveshaft for a model airplane, and my brother sometimes orders PCBs from these labs. It's not what I would call cheap, but it comes out looking as good as anything you'd
    • I agree with your discussion about steel, however I disagree on the use of coolant on aluminum. At a former employer we regularly cut 1/4" marine grade aluminum sheets without coolant on our CNC Router. I'm not familiar with 3 or 4 axis CNC milling machines but on our 2.5 D equipment we had no problems.
  • The real barrier to entry with these systems is finding someone who can design it in the computer. Or, having software that is simple enough that the end user can do with little training. I'm pretty well versed in CAD but moving to 3D is quite a step. Usually these programs assume an extruded material, which is then carved out, using logical operations. I think using real world tools - planes, knives, sandpaper (for smoothing) etc would translate better for the user.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      That's odd, I always told the students at NIAR that catia was so easy to use, that an angry shaved monkey could probably use it. (Granted, this was as a joke, but I still think it is damn easy to use.)

      can you create a 2D nurbs path? Then you can create neat objects with Catia. V5 uses the "Sketcher" interface, and is very similar to sketchup, only more powerful. Oh, and Catia has a fully featured CAM module for 3, 4, and 5+ axis milling. It even has a rapid prototyping workbench for a 3D printer, as well a

    • by Hatta (162192)

      I'm pretty well versed in CAD but moving to 3D is quite a step. Usually these programs assume an extruded material, which is then carved out, using logical operations.

      So you have to code the logical operations yourself? This will get big when you can submit a 3d model and have the computer figure out how to do it.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        As I learned it yes.

        The idea of a hole connotates using a drill.
        The idea of a boolean operation connotates using a mill.

        3D printers are huge because you no longer have to shape media according to tool operations. If you can imagine it, it can make the layers.

  • This has nothing to do with Ab Fab [wikipedia.org]!
  • The Fab Labs program, spun out of MIT's Media Lab, is a champion of the overall approach of individualized production. It is a beautiful conceptual framework, and they have created a large number of labs around the world. Please have a look if you haven't investigated them, they are doing some wonderful things.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:39PM (#34517038)

    So let me see if I understand this, the thought here is that I donate to fund their building a product they will sell?

    Why in the hell would I do that?
    If the plans were FREE, that might be something, if the software was FREE that might be a reason, but to me this looks like asking me to invest in their company without any possible upside for me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You have it wrong.

      You pledge to support X dollars. Depending on your pledge, if the funding reaches it's goal, you get the CNC. If the funding doesn't reach it's goal, you pay nothing.

      So you decide what you want (just the plans, the electronics, the entire kit, or a preassembled unit), pledge the right number of $ and select your reward.

      You aren't giving them money for nothing. Consider it a preorder system where you don't have to pay unless they get enough orders.

  • It's using a dremel as a tool head. It is not going to be easy to square it. Its going to be an open loop CNC. Maybe they should just make a kit to fit a grizzly mini mill [grizzly.com]?
    • by AdamThor (995520)

      Man, Grizzly keeps popping up in such cool spots.

      Not that their products are super professional, rather in a "Oh, hey, that expensive thing you wanted? We'll sell you a cheap version that's good enough for people who want a cheap version." kind of way.

  • Crap CNC machines (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:44PM (#34517124) Homepage

    It's easy enough to build a crap CNC mill, but not very useful. This one is made of wood, and the bridge isn't even cross-braced. It's not going to be stiff enough to do decent work. Just because the cutting tool is a Dremel tool doesn't mean you can skip on rigidity. Dremel used to make a drill-press rig for their tools, and it wobbled so much it was useless. And that was just drilling. In milling, you have side loads.

    Little CNC mills have been around for years. Roland [rolanddga.com] makes a nice little one. The usual little mill is a Sherline, and those can be equipped for CNC, although it's a retrofit. A Sherline can mill aluminum and mild steel. The MicroLux [micromark.com], at $499, is about as low as it gets in milling machines that can cut metal. That's not a CNC machine, but retrofits are possible.

    These guys aren't the first to propose building a toy CNC mill. The Art Institute of Chicago [diylilcnc.org] has a little wooden CNC mill. And unlike these guys, who are peddling vaporware, the Art Institute machine exists. The Art Institute machine can be made from flat stock with a laser cutter. It can't mill hard materials, but if you're just making models of designs to look at, you can use various easy-to-mill foams, plastics, and waxes. A slightly bigger wood CNC machine is at Build Your CNC [buildyourcnc.com]. Those are all proven designs.

    Hype about CNC milling seems to be highest among people who've never used a milling machine. CNC mills are great devices, but they're not magic. The smaller machines don't cut very fast, the cutting tools are expensive, the process is messy (if you're cutting metal, you're constantly pouring coolant on the cutter, and in high-speed machines, the coolant flow is garden-hose sized), and for complex objects, clamping the work out of the way of the cutter is a hassle.

    If you want to play with CNC on line, download the demo version of VCarve [vectric.com], which is a CAD/CAM design tool for 3-axis milling machines. VCarve will give you a sense of what you can and can't do with a 3-axis mill. VCarve can simulate the cutting process in 3D and show you what the finished part will look like. There's a really impressive solid modeling engine inside that program. VCarve (the pay version) will output the files to drive a CNC mill to make the part.

    At the high end of CNC, there are 5-axis machines with tool changers, and software that can use all those features to full advantage. Watch this demo of Hypermill driving a Daishin 5-axis mill [youtube.com]. The software package alone for that costs $20,000. The software figures out which tools to use in what order, and how much clearance is required to get the cutting head near the work. That's approaching the "replicator" level of CNC.

    Now what would be interesting is to put a Dremel tool on a multi-axis robot arm, with force feedback from servomotors and Hypermill-like smarts. That would allow real 3D work, not just top-down 3-axis work. Most of the dumb 3-axis machines use steppers, so they don't know how much load is on the structure, and can't compensate for deflections under load. With servomotors, the software could compensate for some lack of rigidity.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:46PM (#34517170) Journal

    Buy a pen-knife.

    Larn to whittle.

    Get off my lawn.

    • Pen-knife?
      Thick fingernail.
      Hence from mine lawn.
      • by blair1q (305137)

        on my planet, knife slices wood, wood splinters finger, finger controls knife

        i'm not sure how lizard and spock fit in here, but it could be patentable

  • Its pretty cool, and written up here: http://nilno.com/ [nilno.com]
  • Example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Friday December 10, 2010 @03:53PM (#34517264) Homepage

    Here is an example of what happens when you have an idea stuck in your head, and you have pencil and paper at hand: YouTube - Doodling in Math Class: Infinity Elephants [youtube.com]

    And here's what happens when you have the same idea and a 3D printer on hand: Vi Hart: Blog: Entry [vihart.com]

    Just drawing stuff and 3D printing stuff because it's nifty. This is one of the places where awesome things come from.

  • Not gonna happen. Just like cheap digital audio gear didn't cause an audio Renaissance and cheap video gear didn't cause a video Renaissance.

    Creative people create despite the cost and obstacles. Lowering cost and obstacles doesn't cause more people to create, it generally just creates more mediocrity. Like YouTube.

    Just my opinion.
  • I see a number of replies to OP akin to "oh great, now there will be a new legal group trying to stop me from printing sporks."

    What do you think has been happening for the last decade? There's no money to be made in fighting music pirates. Legal groups are trying to stitch up the rights to digital media and digital rights, extending copyrights and patents, and generally trying to make sure that when 3d printers come they'll have all the associated actions, rights, and empowerment neatly sewn up. That i

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