I’ve been making things with the Library’s 3D printers for a few years now. I love how the machine can take a 3D model (.stl file) and add material until you have an object. In industry settings this process is called additive manufacturing. Imagine my delight when I learned that milling machines use the same file type in the creation process.
One of the new tools the Library has added to the Makerspace at the Exchange is a Roland Milling machine. Using end mills (which look remarkably like drill bits), a milling machine removes material from a piece of material such as wood, milling foam, plastics, or wax. This process is known as subtractive manufacturing in industry and makes it possible to create precision parts.
To learn about our new machine, I picked two projects for practice. First, I found a handy 3D model for a Swiss Army style key keeper. I started by testing the model with 3D printing. The result is the royal blue in the photo below.
The printed parts worked great as a keeper for my keys. Next, I set up the milling job in a software that would generate the CNC (computer numerical control) code to run the milling machine job. I cut the parts out of some nice birch plywood, and the results were equally beautiful and functional.
With this initial success under my belt, I moved on to one of my small dream projects: milling a stamp out of a linoleum block. I talked about this project idea in a recent makerspace podcast interview. I was pretty excited to try it out.
In the SRP Player software, I tested different milling settings using different sized milling ends until I was reasonably confident that the model would cut properly. I was very pleased with the initial results and eagerly tested it out with a stamp pad and paper. The next step in my dream project—get some fabric ink and custom stamp some canvas, then sew a simple shoulder bag.
Stop by the Exchange
I hope you will stop by the Exchange when it opens this summer and check out the CNC machine. You don’t have to learn alone. We’ll have classes to teach these skills.
Based on my experience, I’m confident that you, too, can learn how to use the CNC machine. Take your skills and creativity to a whole new level at the Exchange.