Custom Workstation Makes Plasma Cutting a Breeze

A plasma cutter is probably top of every metalworker’s short list of dream tools. From freehand curves to long straight cuts, nothing beats a plasma cutter for getting the creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, there’s also the jet of superheated metal blasting through the workpiece to deal with, which is the reason behind this shop-built plasma cutting workstation.

[Regalzack] looks like he had a couple of design goals in mind for his table. A solid work surface isn’t a great idea for plasma cutting, so he designed the top as a grid of replaceable steel slats. Underneath is a hopper to collect the slag, both for neatness and for fire safety. The table top and hopper live on a custom-built wheeled steel frame, and the lower shelf provides plenty of room for his Lincoln 375 plasma rig. With hooks for cables and a sturdy ground clamp tab, the whole thing is a nicely self-contained workstation. The video below shows the build and some of the fabrication techniques [Regalzack] used; we were especially taken by the clever way he cut the slots for the table slats.

Plasma is versatile stuff – you can use it to make music, cook a burger, or decorate wood. And it’s not too shabby for notching metal tubing either.

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Toast-Bot Butters For You (Sometimes)

Sometimes — despite impracticality, safety, failure, and general good sense — one has an urge to see a project through for the sake of it. When you’re sick of buttering your toast every morning, you might take a leaf out of Rick Sandc– ahem, [William Osman]’s book and build a toast-bot to take care of the task for you.

[Osman] — opting for nail the overkill quotient — is using a reciprocating saw motor to hold the butter while the toast moves underneath the apparatus on a platform controlled by a linear stepper motor. The frame and mounts for Toast-Bot were cut out of wood on his home-built laser cutter — affectionately named Retina Smelter 9000′ — and assembled after some frustration and application of zip-ties. The final result DOES butter toast, but — well — see for yourself.

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Laser-Cut Gingerbread Trailer Home

Ah, the holiday gingerbread house. A traditional — if tedious — treat; tasking to create, delicious to dismantle, so why not try applying some maker skills to making the job of building it easier? [William Osman] decided to try two unorthodox approaches to the gingerbread construct; first, he opted to build a gingerbread mobile home. Secondly, he cut the pieces out with a laser cutter.

After the tumultuous task of baking the gingerbread sheets, [Osman] modeled the trailer in SolidWorks and set to work cutting it out on his home-built, 80W laser cutter. Twice. Be sure to double check the home position on any laser cutting you do, lest you ruin your materials. Also — though this might be especially difficult when modelling food in any CAD programs — be sure to account for the thickness of your materials, otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of trimming on your hands. At least gingerbread cuts easily.

Hot glue and royal frosting secured the pieces together — as well as some improvisation of the final details — making for a picture perfect holiday scene — from a certain point of view.

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Build a Foam Cutter Right Now

Cutting foam is difficult with traditional methods. The best way is with a hot wire. If you read Hackaday, it is a good bet you can figure out how to use electricity to make a wire hot without any help. However, there’s something  clever about [MrGear’s] minimal build.

As you can see in the video below, he uses a 9V battery, a clip, some popsicle sticks, and the wire from a ballpoint pen. He also used a switch, but we couldn’t help but think that was unnecessary  since you could just unclip the battery to turn the device on and off. Since he used hot glue to attach the switch to the battery, replacing the battery would be a pain.

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CNC Scrapbooking with a Raspberry Pi

It is perhaps a surprise that the widespread adoption of CNC machinery in the home has not come from 3D printing or desktop mills, but as a quiet revolution in the crafting industry. CNC cutters for plastic or card have been around for quite a while now, and while the prospect of cutwork greetings cards might not set all maker pulses racing these cutters do have significant untapped potential in other directions. Perhaps you have to own a carburetor whose gaskets have been unavailable since the 1960s to truly appreciate that.

[James Muraca] has a KNK Force, something of an object of desire in the world of desktop CNC cutters. The computer inside the Force is a Raspberry Pi, so of course [James] set about investigating its potential for running his own software. His progress so far is on GitHub, a web interface through which you can upload and cut an SVG file, but his plans are more ambitious. He hopes to turn his machine into a complete PCB manufacturing station, able to both cut the PCB, and with the addition of a vacuum attachment to pick and place components.

The KNK Force is an interesting machine not just because it is powered by a Raspberry Pi. Its cutter head is a rotary tool with a Z axis, so it can perform more heavy-duty and complex cutting tasks than its competition. In addition it has a camera built-in, and it is this feature that [James] hopes to use in his PCB project.

We’ve covered plenty of cutter projects before, from projects turning CNC machines and pen plotters into vinyl cutters to using a cutter as a laser engraver and even cutting solder paste stencils with one. We look forward to further progress on [James’s] project.

Retrotechtacular: Cut All the Cables in this Speedy Teleco Switch Upgrade

In this short but intense classic of corporate cinematography, we get to watch as the Pacific Bell central office in Glendale, California is converted to electronic switching in a 47-second frenzy of cable cutting in 1984.

In the 1970s and 1980s, conversion of telephone central office (CO) switch gear from older technologies such as crossbar (XBar) switches or step-by-step (SxS) gear to electronic switching systems (ESS) was proceeding apace. Early versions of ESS were rolling out as early as the 1950s, but telcos were conservative entities that were slow to adopt change and even slower to make changes that might result in service outages. So when the time finally came for the 35,000 line Glendale CO to cutover from their aging SxS gear to ESS, Pacific Bell retained Western Electric for their “Speedy Cutover Service.”

Designed to reduce the network outage time to a minimum, cuts like these were intricately planned and rehearsed. Prep teams of technicians marked the cables to be cut and positioned them for easy access by the cutters. For this cut, scaffolding was assembled to support two tiers of cutters. It looks like the tall guys got the upper deck, and the shorter techs – with hard hats – worked under them.

At 11PM on this cut night, an emergency coordinator verified that no emergency calls were in progress, and the cut began. In an intense burst of activity, each of the 54 technicians cut about 20 cables. Smiles widened as the cut accelerated, and sparks actually flew at the 35.7 second mark. When done, each tech turned around and knelt down so the supervisors knew when everyone was done. At least one tech couldn’t help but whoop it up when the cut was done. Who could blame him? It must have been a blast.

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Cheap, dirty and perfect V-Groove Foam Cutter

If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Conversely, if you have the right tool for every job, it makes the difference between pro and amateur. [ftregan] needs to cut perfect V-grooves in foam for many of his projects, especially building RC planes. He wasn’t too satisfied with the results using his Xacto knife. And a proper tool was going to set him back by almost $25, but following that example he built his own version of the tool for much less.

Two pieces of wood cut at a 45 degree angle are held between two flat support pieces. A pair of regular shaving blades form the cutting elements. While it looks simple, it’s important to get the angles and blade directions correct. A central wooden wedge holds the two blades in place. He also added a small guide marker that let’s you cut precise straight grooves. [ftregan] built the tool to allow cutting 6mm thick foam but given that it’s so quick and cheap to build, we guess it’s easy to make a few of these to allow cutting different thicknesses of foam. We’re sure that many of you will find different or better ways of doing this, but considering [ftregan] spent just 15 minutes cooking this up, it’s not too bad, especially since the results are mighty good.

Another method of cutting foam is with hot wire. Check out this DIY Foam Cutter that we featured earlier.