Author Options:

Stuart.Mcfarlan- Finalist Answered

Stuart.Mcfarlan is a finalist in the Laser Cutter Challenge for:
How to Make a Three Axis CNC Machine (Cheaply and Easily)

This is a forum post created by Instructables on behalf of the finalist. Help us judge the contest by rating this forum post! Check out all the finalists in the master list or in the Laser Cutter Finalists Group!



8 years ago

4444 views.LOL

A few words (eeps actually close to a thousand) about how a laser cutter might be put to fun use:

It is ever so exciting to have been chosen as one of the finalists and I must admit I am already planning where I will first wear my t-shirt (currently at the top of the list is my local scrap metal dealer with the hopes someone will recognize it).

However lusting after the "laser" cutter I thought I'd throw my ideas into the ring as to how I would put it to use. I fear I entered the contest after the rules were amended to no longer require a proposal so I don't have anything prepared but an evening of thinking (and of reading Dave Spencer's essay for inspiration ( also a finalist ). I figure why not throw my ideas onto the interweb and see if any of them stick in the eyes of the voters.

3D (not so Rapid Prototyping) (pinched from Dave Spencer)

-I have at times considered how neat it would be to cut out thin layers of material to layer on top of each other to create solids, my main interest however is in connecting this process up to real world sensors. These sensors would influence the shape of each layer creating a layer each time interval whose shape was determined by the factors being monitored. These individual layers could then be placed one on top of the other to produce a solid which was determined by the environment in which it was made (ie. you could set up your monitoring at different locations monitoring sound throughout the day, a solid could be produced for a library, or a mall, or a busy street I think the results could be quite interesting).

Ghetto Teleporter

-Ever since I saw ( fiezi )'s Instructable about his milk scanner I have been tossing around the potential for it in my head. However a milk scanner paired with a "laser" cutter could be set up to take snap shots of an object as a container fills with milk and at the same time produce a thin cutout of that layer. These layers could then be glued together to create a duplicate of the object. Add the ability to separate the scanner from the "laser" cutter over the internet and you would have yourself a ghetto transporter. (You could potentially end up with an issue of objects replicating at such a pace that the world would be overrun by paper layer copies of "laser" cutter sized objects but that may be a while off)

Kits of the big parts of the Three Axis CNC Machine

-I recognize that the cutting out and drilling of all the pieces for the Three Axis CNC Machine Instructable is rather too daunting for many. I think it would be nice to offer the cut pieces for purchase so all that was necessary was to go out and buy the bolts and motors before assembling the mother of all Lego sets. The "laser" cutter would allow me to produce very exact molds for these pieces. Molding the pieces would greatly reduce the cost per kit (sadly the machine in the Instructable while quite robust does lack this level (0.001") of precision (it is closer to the 0.01" level)). These would of course be offered in an open source format the plans would remain freely available for all who still wanted to cut their own pieces, and the low capital costs of the molds produced in this manner would allow for low production runs with similarly low per unit costs (as opposed to rather high per unit costs if produced on CNC routers).


-There was a period in university in which I was introduced to modular origami ( Modular Origami Instructable ) in which I almost failed several tests due to folding enough modules to make the several hundred piece soccer ball (truncated icosahedron (I think)) . I have long tried to produce lovely Kawasaki roses ( example ) but my lack of precision and chubby fingers have made any I produce rather ugly. I have read somewhere (afraid I've forgotten where) that "laser" cutters are capable of being used to pre-crease paper. Imagine the number of modules that could be produced and the pre-creasing that could be done to aid in the production of the roses.


-I do have a certain enjoyment for sewing my own kites I imagine the "laser" cutter would make short work of rip stop nylon. And while I have yet to see it in the main stream press I think few would disagree with me when I say that the world could do with more miniature kites.

Future Plans unrelated to the "laser" cutter

Thought I would append onto this some of the things I'm working on at the moment of an Instructable nature which aren't particularly "laser" based.

-I'm currently prototyping an easy to build digitizing head for the Three Axis CNC Machine which would allow for the scanning of objects in three dimensions.

-I'm also prototyping a syringe deposition tool attachment like the one used by fab@home ( fab@home ) so I can start experimenting with additive machining. (I have plans to make Instructables for both of these)

-Also this one is a tad silly but inspired by my reading of the RepRap website ( RepRap ) I am currently in the early stages of adjusting the pieces for the Three Axis CNC Machine so all of the cut pieces can be machined using only the finished machine (currently some of the pieces are too large to allow this). When finished I will include these instructions in an Instructable so those who have gone through the process of building the machine (or have access to a small CNC machine) will be able to start producing copies of pieces and indeed full machine kits. And you have to admit it would be neat to have a machine capable of making most of its own pieces).

-Finally I am rethinking the design of the Three Axis CNC Machine so a choice can be made to drive it using the belt and pulley (as it is now) or conversely using threaded rod and coupling nuts, which would allow for smaller motors and less expensive drive circuitry, this would greatly reduce the cost of the machine (final cost would be ~$200) (granted a considerable speed reduction would be the trade-off).

Goodness that got a tad wordy. I hope I haven't lost you. Well all's well and I must admit I'm just awfully excited to have made it to this point.

Thank You

I love the idea of using environment data for prototyping. It would be neat to show, say, website traffic in 3D. Oh, the possibilities. Congrats.

I've also been mulling over similar ideas to your "not so rapid prototyping." Additional thoughts: - The negatives of the cutouts can be assembled to create an "object in a box" effect, especially if you use plexiglass or something else transparent. - You can do extremely large object assembly if you distribute the task amongst many people. Imagine an online app where anyone can log in, commit to creating a certain number of slices, and bring them to a central location, later on. jigsawed 4'x8' sheets of plywood could end up making something pretty huge. Call it "Crowd Prototyping" :)

I like the kite idea - give me a shout if you want plans or ideas.

I hope you get the chance to make an Instructable with the cheaper drive system. Great Instructable, I will vote for it when I can (as of now, my votes aren't working right)

Hi Stuart, Congratulation, it looks great. I'm contemplating to build one my self, but before I invest hard earned dollars need a round-abouth cost, and also what software was used to drive this invetion. Thanks, frankloyd

I realized I never extended my congratulations, well done sir!


11 years ago

Congratulations to the winner ! Ottimo lavoro. Great job Ciao

I have tried 3 times to vote for you and it does not appear to happen

This is an excellent submission. I've always wanted to get into CNC or maker-style prototyping, but I've been locked out by the prohibitive cost and by my lack of access to maker-labs (I'm very tempted to move to SF, CA just for the facilities there). This is way more affordable than the commercial systems, and certainly good enough to meet my needs. I like your method of printing out the shapes and adhering them to the boards for cutting out. That'll be a lot easier than trying to transfer them from screen to board with ruler and pencil. I'm trying to vote for this item, but it doesn't seem to be working for me.

I think this is pretty sweet... one thing I might add is to kinda explain in your instructable, about the electronic parts of the CNC machine a little more. That was the only part in the instructable where I think people would get lost if they tried to make it themselves. But good job, I like it.