Hi I'm Tom, and I've just joined!

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Hi I’m Tom, and I’m a new member.

Here’s a few things I’m interested in:

  • I’ve got a lot of experience designing and building various CNC machines - routers, lasers, 3D printers and the like - with everything from low-end steppers and arduino control right up to machines with servos, linear actuators, super fast movements, sub-micrometer-accuracy and multiple axes in unusual configurations. If there’s anyone interested in this area, I might be able to collaborate or share some knowledge.
  • I’ve built light installations for large festivals for over 10 years, so I’ve got a lot of experience designing, building, controlling and programming for LEDs, projectors, flame effects, etc.
  • My experience with (non-CNC) metalwork is limited - I’m at a very basic skill level with a metal lathe, brake, TIG and MIG welders, bending tools, etc. But I am keen to use these facilities at SLMS and expand my skills.
  • I help run a company in the US which manufactures mainly with various types of CNC lasers. We have 6 large (3m+) CO2 (tube) laser cutters and several smaller ones including some that use RF lasers, so I have some decent experience repairing, modifying and generally running lasers.
  • I guess also my main skills are software and electronic engineering…

Projects I’m interested in doing at SLMS:

  • I want to build an e-bike - ideally completely from scratch - i.e. bending & welding the frame, designing the electronics, etc.
  • I’m working on various electronics/microcontroller projects, I have my own electronics workshop in London, but I may well come and work on them sometimes at SLMS.

I look forward to meeting everyone!

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Hi @tombull

Welcome! Great, I have just rebuilt our CNC machine with LinuxCNC and am looking for more people to help tune/test and get it open to all members, will send you a PM!

Cheers,
Andy

I’d be interested in (building?) a laser cutter that can work with 1.5m x 3m cardboard for prototyping a project that I have in mind…

Hi Tom!

I’d be super interested in talking about the new CNC and the 3D printer area with you at some point!

Hi @recursion, sounds good, I think my membership starts at the start of February - so I’ll hopefully see you around in the space shortly after that!

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Hi @RichM, building a laser cutter isn’t super difficult. Building them bigger, you run into certain problems depending on what you want to do with them.

Slightly over 10ft x 5ft is the standard size we use at my company in the US, because it precisely accommodates 2 x 5ft x 5ft sheets of birch ply. We have a couple of machines of that size we’ve built ourselves and a couple from Chinese manufacturers. The self-build ones cost around $10k plus quite a lot of time to build and the Chinese ones cost around $12k each. They all use double laser tubes on a moving gantry and hybrid steppers (servos that accept stepper control signals) and linear bearing rails (i.e. relatively high-end components for laser cutters).

If you’re rastering (engraving pictures with line-by-line scanning) at a commercially viable speed, you need very accurate, stable and fast movement - which is increasingly more difficult to get the bigger the machine gets. If you’re just cutting out shapes and you have a lot of time, you can use a lighter head and move it slower to get the same level of accuracy with much cheaper components.

For fast, accurate movement, you need a very stable base and higher quality mechanical components when you’re covering such a large area. That’s generally what costs all the money. If you’re working cutting pieces out of cardboard, then there’s a good chance you can go much cheaper than that. The most basic ‘1325’ machines from China start at around $5000 - that’s 1300mm x 2500mm, and the similar spec ‘1530’ machines - that’s 1500mm x 3000mm start from around $7500. Depending on what you want to do with cardboard, that may be more than you need, or it may be just what you need. That gives you a solid base and pretty decent mechanical components, with compromises made on the electro-mechanical, control and laser equipment - which are all likely things you’d be happy to compromise on if you’re working with cardboard. Those machines are generally designed and specced for working with cutting out cloth for large-scale clothing production, so it’s a similar job to cutting shapes from cardboard.

If you’re looking to go cheaper than that, and I guess by the word ‘prototyping’, you probably are… then you could achieve decent enough accuracy but fairly slow speed with a cheap aluminium-framed, grbl-controlled, diode laser like the super-cheap kits you can get from the likes of banggood and aliexpress. It would be a fun challenge to get something like that to work at a 3m x 1.5m size!

Finally, if you just want to get bits cut out, I’d recommend looking through some of the providers from China. They don’t advertise much in the west, but I can help you navigate Taobao (the China-only Alibaba site) to find some companies that do this kind of thing. Even when you add in shipping, they’re MUCH cheaper than you can get stuff like this done in the UK or the US.

I’ll should be around the space at the start of February when my membership actually starts and I hope to bump into you there and we can have a chat about this stuff.

2 Likes

Excellent information!

Thank you.

Hi @recursion, @asander1, @RichM - I’ve managed to get my fob sorted and I’m now a proper member :grinning: - let me know when you’re round and you’d like to hang out for a chat…

Hi Tom,

Welcome! Glad to see more LED installation project fanatics in the space :wink:

Robin

Great! We will be working on the CNC next Tuesday if you happen to be available, or we will find another time after that.

Cheers,
Andy

What kind of time on Tuesday?

During the day… working from home with some breaks to do CNC stuff… :slight_smile:

Sounds good. I can be round all day. Send me a message when you’re heading over.

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I am here, will be around all day except probably 1hr around 12 for lunch… see ya in a bit!

Cool, I’ll head down about 1pm, see you in a bit!

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