By Chris Bruner
So I was asked to demo our new mill/scanner, which was hard to do since I’ve only touched it once a week for the last 3 weeks. However I’m happy to say that my efforts have paid off. The tricky part is that the software expects two separate serial ports for the one printer. One serial port (com3) is used for scanning, and the other (com1) is used for printing. You need to change the wire to make this occur. The com3 serial port is via a USB to serial connection. The other trick is that the com1 serial port must have hardware flow control. It’s set up properly now, so it should work with the defaults, and just changing the cable.
So last week I scanned a quarter. I did it twice, once at a low resolution and once at 0.002 inch. The high resolution scan took about 16 hours to complete, or at least that is what it told me it would take before I left.
Scanning is very easy. You have to have the scanner tool on the mill, and remove the protective cover off the sensor, (a metal plate that is screwed over it). Make sure the cable is on the USB2serial connector and run the Dr. Picza software. You set the place to scan in the software, start it off and then wait for a LONG time.
Milling is done by running the Modela player software. The help feature will guide you through all the steps and is fairly easy to follow. The last step is a bit more tricky, you need to go into the layout and set the locations you will be milling, as well as show the height of the material to be milled. You can do a surface mill at this stage as well, which will make the surface of the area you are milling level with the bed. Setting the height of the material is done by moving the bit down with the up/down buttons on the mill itself. You want to just touch the tip to the material.
The following picture was done by first doing a surface, then doing a draft print, then doing the fine print. The surface and draft print took a very long time to finish (a couple of hours in total), however the fine print was done raster fashion and took only 20 minutes. The software views the mill like a printer, so you’ve got all the wonderfulness of print queues etc. If you make a mistake, deleting the item from the print queue will not be deleted until the “printer” asks for more data. It takes data in 4K chunks and depending on how long the lines are a chunk can take 15 minutes to complete.
There are 4 or five bits available for the mill, however they are all 3MM so your choice is actually pretty limited, but they do have different head shapes. But even with 3mm you can get some pretty good results.
All in all, I think this mill is a perfect addition to Kwartzlab as it is easy to use, and has a number of nice features that lend themselves to a hackerspace. One of the features that I liked is that when setting up the job, the material you are milling is available through a drop down list, (if it’s not on the list, then don’t use the mill for that material).