CNC Machines Part 1

2013-06-03 17.53.56

One of my previous jobs was to program and run files on a pair of CNC machines. These machines were pretty cool, they would take a little bit of time to setup but they were amazing tools to get to use. I was part of a program at my college that produces guitar kits. These kits consist of all the materials to build a guitar, including the pre-cut body neck and hardware. You can check it out at My job was to design procedures and software to produce the body’s and necks of our existing and new guitar styles. At first we only had a small CNC machine made by the company ShopBot. Our ShopBot machine ran on proprietary software from their company. I came on board with an intermediate understanding of AutoCad. This meant first learning how we run our machine (physically), then how to create the files that we have for our current guitar styles in the software, then finally learn how to do it with my own guitar style and make our process better. This process would have been really quick and easy had there been a quick and easy way to learn the software and machine. However, this doesn’t really exist. I ruined a lot of good pieces of poplar and maple learning things, I genuinely wish I could go back and not do that. Sometimes I over estimate things I get myself into, this was not one of those times but it really should have been. I was excited to learn and make changes and ultimately I was stoked to be able to design anything I wanted on my computer and make a big machine with a cutting bit produce it for me. None the less, it took me a couple of months but I figured it out. Little by little we made design changes to our guitars and these were like little tests of how much I could learn and execute with the software and machining process that we had in place. We hosted an inner city career high school for one class and part of their year long program was to design their guitar body and neck in 3D modeling software and then hand that off to us to cut out for them so they could build it. This was a huge pain. By that time I had learned a ton about the software and machine but taking 15 different designs and turning them all into guitars was way outside of what I thought I could do. I did make it work however. This experience blew my mind because the whole time I had been learning how to use the machine I never really got outside the boundaries of making our guitars with it. Designing things is the easy part, making them happen in real life is the task of someone with lots of patience and drive. Thus began my first couple of attempts to design my own objects and cut them out on the machine.

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