Sunday, November 16, 2008

From Refrigerator to Robot

I took a drawing of my 5-year old daughter's and scanned it in as a black and white image. I brought it into Partworks using the "Import Bitmap for Tracing", and followed that up with the "Fit Vectors to Bitmap." I had to clean up some stray vectors.

The images was them V-carved into a piece of black Komatex (a foamed PVC similar to Sintra) using a 60 degree V-bit. The material was held fast to the spoilboard with a high-bond acrylic tape from a company called Nitto-Denko. (It is a low VOC tape that we have around because it can be object-friendly in our museum exhibits in many cases.)

The final product measures 12" wide by 18" high - It took about 15 minutes to cut. Using a drywall taping knife I applied vinyl spacking compound and struck it off. For the finish the surface of the board was wiped with a damp cloth, giving the appearance of a chalkboard.

The figure on the lower left is not a centaur - it is our dog Marlowe, damn it - open your eyes. Mom, Fletcher and Chloe round out the tableau. Dad must be working on the robot.

Vacuum Board

Howdy Folks - Have gotten a bit behind on the posting of our progress, but I am hoping to catch up this week.

Here is am image of our first vacuum board (A spin on the "Brady Vac" system. 24" x 24". Not a bad size to start. Will be using a Fein shop vac.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Training with Famous Brady

Just finished up training with Brady Watson of the "Brady Vac II clamping system" fame. Over the past 2 days we made some tweaks to the system, reviewed software, and started cutting some files. Brady was thorough and his background in production was evident.

I'll post some images of our results tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Working on the set-up still.

A head-scratcher we are encountering is that any movement command sent to the 'Bot is expressed at half that amount plus an additional fraction.

If I send 10,10 - it moves to 5.25, 5.25 (almost). If sent to 20,20 it moves to 10.5, 10.5.

I am sending in a tech support request. More later.

UPDATE: Wrong ShopBot control software was installed. Previous model had a different ratio on the control of their stepper motors.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On for Training Next Week

Brady Watson got back to me and confirmed that our training is rescheduled for 9/22 and 9/23.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Like Ike.

Sunday afternoon I called our trainer Brady Watson. I have been so busy I have not been a very good host - I was not sure when he was coming into town or told him how to get to the museum.

It turns out that Ike has air travel so screwed up that he can't make it until next week.

This is not a bad thing, as we have some issues with the dust collection and vacuum clamping that need to be taken care of. It will also give us some more time to familiarize ourselves with our new system.

Day 6 Progress - It's Alive!

I did not have time at the end of the day on Friday to proceed to powering up, so I stopped in on Saturday night to give it a spin. Initially I had problems with the computer finding the 'Bot because of a problem with the USB, but I after I loaded up to date software from the web, there was no problem.

I applied the lithium grease to the racks and moved through the X, Y and Z axes using both numerical and keyboard commands. Tested the e-stops.

Nothing caught on fire, which is a plus.

Day 5 Progress

On Friday we got the whole mess wired up - the "e-track" to the Z-axis on the Y gantry...

... everything tied back to the control panel ...

... and the festoon in between. I could be happier with what ShopBot provides for cable management along the X-axis. In the near future I'll probably spring for an decent carrier system like the one along the Y-axis.

I have bigger fish to fry right now - getting the beast running by Monday morning when our trainer arrives.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day Four Progress

Plywood base and MDF spoilboard installed.

Control box and VFD mounted, power installed. It turns out that there was enough room in the exiting conduit for not only the spindle and controls wiring, but the PC as well. May the sun never set on the glory that is the SNOMNH Facilities Staff. Thanks guys.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 3 Progress

X rails are now true - Z axis installed

Our intrepid facilities team Wes and Marlin getting juice to the 'Bot. Can't say enough good things about these guys. Hardest working men in show biz.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day Two Progess

Y axis gantry in place - still truing up the rails. So far so good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Installation - Day one

As much as we wanted to get to this first thing Monday morning, we weren't able to start until 3pm. We are on a tight schedule, as our trainer Brady Watson is coming on Monday. We anticipate the power to be on the unit Wednesday afternoon, and we have the computer in hand with the software installed. We hope to surface the table on Friday at the latest.

All said, we felt it was preety good progress for 2 hours of work.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Got 'Bot!

And more importantly:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On it's Way!

The 'Bot should be arriving sometime tomorrow - the spot is cleared out, our table materials are in house, and the trainer is scheduled give us some learnin' on 9/15, 16. Pretty sure the wiring is sufficient. Will double check though.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shipping Date for the 'Bot, and more good news

I just spoke with Dianne @ ShopBot, and she informed me that our unit would probably ship from their shop 8/28 or 8/29. Should get here the first week of September.

The other good news - ShopBot Jamboree will be held in Austin on the two days prior to Maker Faire '08. We had already planned on attending the Faire, hoping to make arrangements with the ShopBot people to work with them and absorb some more useful experience. The Jamboree will feature 'Bot users from the region willing to share their tip and tricks.

We should have our machine installed by that time, and have received our on-site training. The Jamboree is hitting at a great time to reinforce that knowlege.

Purchase Approved!

Yee haw!

-----Original Message-----
From: Kokojan, Susan K.
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2008 9:32 AM
To: Luczycki, Thomas J.
Cc: Davidson, Melanie G.
Subject: FW: Univ of Oklahoma PO # 2000006347

Hi Tom,

You can contact ShopBot to determine when router
ter will arrive & set up your training.

Thanks, Susan

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting Closer

Ouch - this is the part of our system that I tend to forget. Purchases over $5K must be put out for bids, or a compelling argument must be given for a "sole source."

Here is what I submitted:

During our search for computer controlled routers, there were two companies that seemed to provide what we were looking for: ShopBot and Shop Sabre. Both of these companies provide what are considered to be “entry level” machines. (by that we mean a $20K price range. After that pricing jumps up to +$75K) Each of these companies machines have different nuances, and each has both proponents and detractors. In considering what would be the best fit for our shop, we looked at the following: Cost, ease of use, adaptability, and customer support. In each of these categories, ShopBot came out on top:

In our price range, the ShopBot had many more features that came as standard in the package. Shop Sabre had these items as well, but as add-ons. The Shop Sabre touts itself as being a more rigid machine for the price, but since we are not a production shop we are not as concerned with that aspect. We are buying this machine for its capabilities, not how many units it will be producing in a day. For its price the ShopBot package has more features and functionality.

East of use:
The ShopBot company has had an ongoing commitment to education, and in doing so has strived to lessen the learning curve for their system.

In our department we don’t want to limit ourselves to the shaping of wood. I see us using this device for a variety of applications such as scoring plastic sheet for folding, drawing, etc. ShopBots’s open source software can be hacked to suit our needs. In fact, the company encourages such activity.

Customer support:
From reviews that I have read and people I have talked to, the ShopBot company offers stellar customer service. This is reflected on their website which features not only the their documentation and support, but blogs and wikis of current ShopBot owners. It is a very active user community that wants to share their knowledge and successes. While the Shop Sabre company is supposed to at least as good customer support, no such support community exists as of yet.

Am I making the right decision? Is this the right machine for us? Writing this justification made me go back over my research and do a reality check. I am convinced that we are on the right track. This machine will not be all things to everyone, but neither will anything else (short of spending$75K.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Electricity is there. (in the panel, anyway)

Good news from Marlin, our building supervisor. We have enough available amps in the shop panel to power not only the ShopBot, but the regenerative blower for vacuum clamping. The 'Bot requires 26 amps, but the blower needs 54. We won't be getting the blower this fiscal year, but we will be running the conduit and wire for it so we can make some economies with installation labor.

Marlin said he would let me know this week when he can have the electric installed to the area where it is needed. Once we know that, I can order the 'Bot. Delivery time is 4 weeks from receipt of a purchase order.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It Begins!

After 10+ years of designing exhibits and their components in CAD and having the product produced by others, I will finally have the ability to do so in-house. My 2008-09 FY budget was approved this Monday. The Sam Noble Museum will be getting a ShopBot.

I have been having parts produced directly from my drawings since my days at a company that built materials handling systems. Mostly components for conveyor systems (Chutes, guardrail bends, wheels) that were made from plasma-cut steel.

I transferred those skills to a new position at the Detroit Science Center where I worked as an Exhibit Developer/Designer/Fabricator during their remodeling and expansion in 2001. Here is an example of my work there, though it does not really feature any good details of the type of work we are talking about:

I have been working as Head of Exhibits for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History for 3 years. I have a staff of 4 with a 1/2 time position I have yet to fill. For the size of our staff I feel that we accomplish some really great things, but I want to be able to boost our output AND provide our visitors with something new. I think that we have done all we can with a table saw. I am hoping the ShopBot will allow my abilities to fit my designs, not the other way around.