Since I first started building custom pieces of hardware I’ve always been limited to a select few materials and design processes. Generally something already made would have to be cut down, sanded, or drilled with the only three power tools I own: a dremel, drill, and angle grinder. If I had to build it from scratch it most likely be made from Shapelock, before be cut down, sanded, or drilled. In the end you have a very labor intensive, not easily repeatable, struggle to build even the most simple objects (take a look at my scoring machine for example). Today that changed.
Our school has a FabLab with several different prototyping machines that are open to any students interested in learning how to use them. Among them is a laser cutter. I love this laser cutter. I took an online laser safety course a few months ago but never really pursued it further. In fact, yesterday was the first time I actually stepped foot inside the FabLab, and I’m glad I did. I was given a very brief overview of how to set up and use the basic features of the laser cutter, after that the attendant had me cut out a simple square with my initials rasterized in the middle and I was done.
I wasn’t really sure how one goes about designing something like a chassis from scratch but I went with my gut feelings, design preferences, and a general idea of what was good and what was bad. I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and slowly measured out the various dimensions I needed from different components until I had a decent 2D representation of each with appropriate measurements. I then drew a 10cm x 10cm square and slowly started drawing in components till I had something that looked like a halfway decent chassis. I went over to the Lab right after class and sat down in front of Solidworks with a very rough sketch and dimensions I wasn’t entirely sure of and started to draw my template. 20 minutes later I had something that resembled something made by someone who might know what they were doing so I stuck with it. I dug a 1/4″ piece of acrylic out of the scrap bin, measured out an area to make sure my design would fit, crossed my fingers and hit the print key. It took about a minute to cut out the entire piece and the whole time I was waiting for something to go wrong. Nothing did. I lifted the cover and gently removed my first machined chassis. I then ran back to my loft so I could check and see whether or not my measurements were accurate and parts would fit. To my great surprise, everything turned out better than expected. Take a look at some of the photos below:
The next update probably won’t be for a while. I have to run out to Home Depot to buy some fasteners to actually attach parts to the chassis as I have none. However, there is much more to come!