Software: essential component of a maker's workshop!
Yesterday, Mick, our new software guy, saw me placing my flat waterjet-cut parts in our old Cnc press brake the old fashioned way... By hand. He mentioned that we should make it a Cnc press brake. I haven't gotten used to having a software guy around yet. Brian and I had the dream to do this but tucked it away a month or so ago since we didn't have a programmer on staff. Now we do!
I immediately dropped what I was doing and dig into my junk pile of parts. It's a big junk pile of extremely handy parts. We made a deal- I'll do the hardware, he writes the software. Brian is the only one who has operated one, so he brainstormed with Mick and explained how it should work. The killer app is folding a piece and measuring the actual fold height on our super flat granite table with the vertical calipers and being able to punch in the real number to adjust the backstop to correct any flaws.
Mick went home, poured a glass of wine and got to coding. Late last night I got a screenshot of the new software!
Caleb, our teenage maker genius in training, helped me finish it today. I'm a great starter, but tend to go sideways near the finish line.
Mick put finishing touches on the software as we wrapped it up, since I changed course mid-stream (something I'm VERY good at) and made the two sides independent of each other. Independent left and right backstop sides running on balls allow you to square the machine in software (long story) and allow any angle to be dialed in for wired pieces. Right now, this is a horizontal adjustment, we will tackle making the actual vertical bend angle also be controlled by the software later.
We hooked it all up and ran out of time today, but I can taste it. I finished my bends a day late the old fashioned way, but did get to manually set the new backstop getting a nice little bonus while I wait for Mick to dial it in tomorrow.
The moral of this story is simple. Software was a missing piece on my shop. Now I have it, thanks to Mick. It's going to change the course of Printrbot forever.
I have been accumulating some very nice equipment at Printrbot over the years... Hand tools, laser cutters, a nice tormach Cnc mill, old battle-worn lathe (the best kind), manual press brakes, a water jet, a huge tumbler and, later this month, a Samsung pick and place line with all the trimmings! These are nice, but the cost of new equipment prohibits us from solving small manufacturing problems... So we dream of making machines, but software was a missing piece. No longer.
I got into this game after a life long obsession with tools. I just wanted the tools to unlock my creativity. I wanted to make things. That obsession is transforming Printrbot into both- a great 3d printer company that sees a need to also make other tools. Cnc tools.
So we are off to the races. We have several small victories internally- adding to efficiencies in manufacturing. But our commitment to Cnc is about to go public on a couple of weeks at maker Faire. Our Cnc experiment is about to graduate to full-bore commitment. Software is the key.
Watch this space and our website for more info soon.