The heart of our shop is a 4'x4' CNC, currently configured with a plasma cutter capable of cutting through metal up to 3/4" thick with sub-.01" accuracy. . By deploying a general fabrication setup, we're able to 'ship right, ship once:' there should be few to no parts we need to send from the U.S. after a Shop-In-A-Box is deployed.
The CNC in Kenya is a Plasmacam
that we got used with 2 plasma cutters for $6,000 ; I'm happy with it, and I've also been happy with a 4'x8' Torchmate
I ran. Both are way too expensive new.
Shop #002 has a 4'x4' table built from 2 kits. The table itself is the iplasma
4'x4' and cost $2495 delivered with upgrades (water table, cable carrier, stainless tubes, and support for 620 oz-in motors). The controller and motors are CandCNC's Bladerunner
with 4 620oz-in motors, Hypertherm torch interface, and Sheetcam + Mach3 for software; this cost $1871 delivered. We are running Hypertherm Powermax 45 plasma cutters
; they were ~$1,700 each.
On later shops, I intend to go full DIY on the CNC table and controller.
Our other main tools are:
Here's an inventory of what we sent to Kenya for Shop-In-A-Box #001 (pdf)
Solar panels + batteries / inverters adequate to power the shop during prototyping / design (computers + 1-2 hand tools).
Generators adequate to power the shop during production (usage of welders, plasma CNC, etc.).
Transformers capable of scrubbing irregular grid power to a state where it is safe for use with shop-in-a-box.
2 plasma torches, one for CNC use and another for hand operation. Each is capable of severance cuts up to 3/4″ and sustained cutting in any thickness metal from 1/2″ down to 22-gauge.
Full MIG, TIG, and oxyacetylene welding setups for joining a wide variety of metals.
Electronics prototyping, centered around through-hole components and Arduino microcontrollers.
A wide variety of smaller tools: hand, power, and pretty much everything else you’d expect in a well-outfitted garage.
DVR with 4 cameras, mounted to easily capture and share all details of project builds. (*not installed yet*)
All computers and software necessary to support the shop.
. #002 has essentially the same capabilities, with the addition of a 3d printer
and desktop cnc router
. (I'm not fully satisfied with either of these, both in terms of their functionality and the value that they add for our Kenyan factory: what can we make and sell at a profit
that we currently do not by adding these machines?)
The *right* way to do this, IMHO, is 2 CNCs with fullly interchangeable heads between them. 1'x1'x1 desktop version and 4'x8'x2' shipping container / garage edition. Switch your plasma torch, extruder, laser diode, dremel, pick-and-place etc. between them; eventually, have the table capable of changing its own heads:)