I bought a 40 watt co2 laser today. The frames for the first batch of the tiny printers will cover 1/3 of the cost of the machine purchase alone. That is 19 frames and the $10 machine time per machine if I hire it out.
Me and my partner was debating the most cost effective use for investment money. I basically ran thru the options and we worked out which would bring in income first. So a new mill got bumped down one notch in priority.
With the new lower cost of the co2 lasers, it makes sense to re-visit that option. I only wish that a lot of these tools and machines were this low cost when I started this venture 4 years ago.
Lasers went from $2500 to $500 and CNC mills are now down to $185 for the cheapest models. $1000 will get a fairly strong model for production work.
Small machines like these used to be viewed (and still are by many) as hobbyist toys. But somewhere along the way the hobbyists discovered that real work can be done with the cheap 'toys'.
Got the very first 3D printer I made 2 years ago back into service with a new print head. Some of the printed parts on it are starting to deteriorate. Making new ones. The machine makes beautiful prints and is really fast. I stopped using it mainly because the E3D extruder on it was total junk. Paid $90 for that part 2 years ago. The cheap china replacement that is reliable is $10
The other laser I bought arrived with a defective diode. Awaiting word about replacement part. See the review in previous post.
I have however gained a ton of useful info from it in spite of the laser not working. I will be taking a calipers to it and duplicating it for the local market with a 2 watt laser.
The software and manuals with it are very good. All open source free stuff. Ironic huh? Americans copying Chinese goods and beating them at their own low price game.
Putting one of the big red industrial printers into service this week after make a couple new parts. I came up with a improvement to the bed level mechanism. One problem when going big is that the methods that work for small machines do not work on large machines.
The small printers use what is basically a spring loaded bolt. The bed is held up on a spring. Because the bed is so big, I use engine valve springs to hold it tight. But it's a pain in the ass to assemble cause it takes 2 people to put it together. One to hold the spring compressed and one to fasten the nut.
However that can introduce resonance in the machine as tiny vibrations are amplified due to the design and those vibrations can be seen in the surface finish of the part being printed because the spring can vibrate. I really beefed up the Z axis and print bed from the initial prototypes to overcome these issues. The bed now consists of lasered and bent aluminum with lasered steel reinforcement.
The up and down motion is handled by a industrial grade linear guide mechanism.
So I ditched the entire spring loaded design, and came up with a new design that exerts a positive control over the bed height. As a bonus it saves me a couple dollars.
That pretty much does me in for new machines until I can get more control boards, driver chips, pulleys and extruders. Placing order for more parts hopefully this week.
New guy is working out well. He loves to use the CNC mill. Fascinated by it. Put him on a few machine building tasks and he needed very minimal instruction. He just grabbed the proper tools and went to work. End of the day the machine was put back together and aligned.
It is amazing watching the next manufacturing revolution coming together. My partner has been in the manufacturing and fabrication business for all of his career, and today he looks out at his factory, shakes his head and says anyone today can build a modern high tech factory with only a little amount of money.
Just think that even a mere 5 years ago the desktop manufacturing revolution was just getting started.
This week I was on the Ali Express website looking for ideas, when I came across a large number of products made from 3D printed parts.
Americans really need to pull collective head from rear when it comes to this stuff cuz the Chinese are eating their lunch.
Even in Africa this stuff is taking off. I got a African student engineer I regularly correspond with, building his own high tech shop from what essentially started out as a 3D printer kit as the seed.