As we rode back to the school on our bus from the State competition, Danny and I discussed some of the changes we need to make by next season. One of the top issues on his list was getting either a 3D printer or a CNC machine so that we could create custom pieces by ourselves without having to get things done over at Rockwell or Intermec. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, we actually had an issue regarding Intermec and our rack and pinion system, which was reliant on a piece they helped us mill. When we needed to make two copies of the original piece (one to replace the existing and the other to create a second system) the machinist there did not want to help us because some of their tools had gotten broken during the original mill. While I understand where he was coming from, this still set us back a good deal of time and money to order the Tetrix rack and pinion. We hope to avoid these issues in the upcoming season with the use of a CNC machine.
because most of the pieces we use on the robot are made of aluminum, Danny and I have decided that it will better suit the needs of the teams to buy a really nice CNC machine and wait to buy the 3D printer until later, as opposed to trying to buy both this year. Doing this will also help us to keep our work area relatively clear. Right now we are still sharing our room with the AEA associates (who have been very friendly and pleasant in the past few months) and keeping our workstations clear and free of excess clutter is not an easy task. So only having one new machine to worry about is preferable to having two.
Jerry has mentioned that we may be able to cut down on our spending next year by buying aluminum blocks and sheets and milling our own Tetrix equivalent pieces. although the amount we will be saving will likely not match or even come close to the cost of the CNC machine, it’s certainly a start and it couldn’t hurt to try it (if nothing else, just to see if we could). Another jerry inspired thought was that concept of making our own CNC machine. As the average YouTuber can quickly discover, this idea is not entirely unheard of and actually fairly practical… if you know what you’re doing.
The alternative option would be to buy a CNC that’s ready to go out of the box or a DIY kit like this one from Inventables.
Personally I feel like it would be a better use of our time and that we would end up with a better product by buying a CNC or a CNC kit. I actually feel that buying a kit wouldn’t be a terrible idea – not only because it would save us some money – but it would also help us to better understand how the machine works.
We clearly have some research to do before we decide, but this is one goal that we must deal with before school starts in August.