[Aleksander Zawada] makes vacuum tubes in his home. One of the most challenging builds he has taken on is to produce a working Nixie tube. He describes the process in a PDF, covering his success and failure. It seems the hardest part is to get the tube filled with the proper gas, at the proper pressure, and firmly seal it. In the end he managed to make a tube with three digits (0, 1, and 2) that worked for about 700 hours before burning out.
[Aleksander] joins [Jeri Ellsworth] on the short list of hackers who can pull off extreme industrial manufacturing at home. Kudos.
BatchPCB is a low-cost PCB manufacturing service run by retailer SparkFun in cooperation with Gold Phoenix. Using them, you can get your design prototyped for as little as $2.50 a sqin. We used the service in our “How-to: Prepare your Eagle designs for manufacture“. The service collects orders until they have enough to manufacture an entire panel. It may take time to get the boards back, but they’re high quality. BatchPCB just added a brand new feature: Now anyone can list their verfied design files on the ‘products‘ page for other hobbyists to order runs of. Yes, people could always upload free designs themselves, but this makes it much easier to order a board even if the designer has no plans of making a kit of it.
The team at oomlout has continued to post all the methods they use in their manufacturing process. This time around it’s the kitting process: how they actually packaged 30 identical SERB kits in an efficient fashion. We covered their wire cutting bot before, but they’ve got other dedicated machines like a sticker cutter. The stickers are used to remove all the cut acrylic pieces from the laser cutter as one unit. They’ve got some other tricks like using a scale to count bolt quantities, and an egg timer to keep track of the laser cutting. All of their envelopes are printed using a parallel port inkjet that has been modified to work with any thickness paper.
We love when hackers bother to post this much detail about their process. One of our favorites is [ladyada]’s full rundown of how the Minty Boost was created.
Ponoko is an on-demand manufacturing service. You submit your design and they’ll cut it out of one of their many materials. The site is built so you can sell your products or designs directly. They recently took a major step with the introduction of Designmake Prime. It’s a monthly subscription based service with many benefits. It lets you submit DXFs for evaluation instead of their standard EPS or SVG. You can request any material you want and they’ll provide direct support. You also get priority in manufacturing queues. While they’ve always offered an à la carte service, this new move puts Ponoko directly in the role of a traditional manufacturer. Offering manufacturing as a service shows their intention of former a relationship with their customers, but at the an individual level, which most manufacturers can’t approach because of scale.
Ponoko first came to our attention when RepRap published an acrylic version of their machine.