Re: Except...

by Thinkertoys

You're right that I'm using small, hobby-grade machines to make limited numbers of specialty items. And I'm not even sensibly limiting myself to a definite product. Specialty keyboards are something about five customers a year want, and mostly each wants ten or fewer. I also make a bunch of puzzle-type toys, custom game pieces, mechanical displays, pieces for marble runs, signs, and just plain stir-fried random. There's even someone building a mechanical clock with a perpetual (mechanical) calendar, and she buys three-or-four tiny brass parts a month, building something she just plain wants to build at the rate she can afford. Of course every clock part is different. This month was a little brass cylinder with the names of months engraved around it in a nice calligraphic style, and exactly 173 tiny gear-teeth around one edge. I spent as much time making the die/stand to hold that workpiece correctly in the mill (in each of 12 different rotations, because I don't yet have a fourth axis) as I did making the thing itself.

Because a huge percentage of what I do isn't routine repetition, a 'hard' automation system would be utterly useless.

But I'm personally interested - as a hobbyist motivated more by the 'hey that would be neat' factor than economics - in the versatility and variety of things I can do. I've made alternate toolheads for the mill that do plastic-extruding and I do 3-d printing stuff in plastic (better than most people can easily get because even my hobby mill has much better resolution than your usual 'reprap' 3d printer). Another different toolhead applies precisely placed resin flux and then uses the same heat-source that the plastic head uses for melting plastic to do wave soldering. And now I have sketches for a pick-and-place head that could populate PCB boards with components, but it seems fairly useless to build until/unless there's an assembly line running through the workspace and the toolhead can change out between pick&place and flux&solder.

I guess I'm one of those guys who had a nerdgasm when watching the 'Iron Man' movie and understood what it meant when Tony had just started a one-off custom build, involving thousands of parts, integration, and complex final assembly - and then gone to a cocktail party. Real makers in the audience were of three minds: many laughed, some were just sad, and a few, like me, said "hmm, what would we need to extend....." He's a comic book character, of course, and his shop is a Plot Device. But... fairly large chunks of it, if nowhere near as sleek and AI-magical, seem possible.


Posted on Mar 7, 2017, 8:35 PM

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  1. how much tinkering have to done until now?. ydna-zds, Mar 9, 2017

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