Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Re: Piecenicking made Difficult (was: Pieceniking made Easy)

  • FromBrian Campbell <lambda@xxxxxxx>
  • DateMon, 22 Jan 2007 14:01:15 -0500
On Jan 22, 2007, at 1:43 PM, David Artman wrote:

Brian C. wrote:
I played around with eMachineShop a bit to see if I could get any
metal pieces custom machined, but the only design I could figure
out that worked with their software was a very expensive version
of Minimice.

Ok, I forgot about these services cropping up, but I say that's an
  AWESOME idea for how to piecenik some heavy metal stashes. I am
  already wondering what metals such services support (*I* want brass
  or copper) and what kind of cost reductions we might get given that
  we'd all be using the same "blueprint" and, thus, they might be able
  to do each piece for less than they charge for totally on-off items.

But all that said, we ought to get the blueprints up on some site
  somewhere--if not LL then the wiki--because that should be the least
  of our limitations. If no one else has a CAD tool that can save in
  a sufficiently generic format that can be used on these sites and in
  other CAD applications, then I can hunt around for a freeware one.

I bet they take just about any 3D file format standard, with MAYBE a
  slight surcharge for file format conversion and confirmation, if
  they MUST us a proprietary format (e.g. a format that only their
  machine uses or some such crap).

Anyone know something about CAD, on-demand CNC machining, and
  companies offering such services?

Well, eMachineShop was the only one I tried. The nice thing about them is that they give you a piece of custom CAD software that you just download and design your project in, and it will tell you if they can machine it and how much it will cost. The problem is, you can only lay out 2D cuts, with heights and bends in the metal possible. So, you can't really machine an Icehouse piece directly, though you might be able to do something terraced that resembled an Icehouse piece. I tried cutting an Icehouse piece out of sheet metal, and having it folded up using their folding machine, but they don't allow any folds to share a vertex, so you can't do that. I was able to mock up a Minimice piece, but the cost was something like $5 a piece if you did a run of 60 pieces, which is a little more expensive than I was looking for.

One problem with manufacturing solid metal Icehouse pieces is that time on a 3-axis CNC milling machine is very expensive, as far as I know. I don't think it would get all that much cheaper if we had a common design. There is a reason that people don't usually manufacture things by milling directly, but instead mill a mold and then cast the pieces. At that point, you have to do things in a large enough batch for the milling cost for the mold to be cost effective. Once you go down that route, you end up with, well, the normal commercially available plastic pieces.

I would love to have custom-machined brass, copper, steel, or other metal pieces. Actually, you could do a powder coating to get a whole range of colors. But I haven't seen anything yet that will allow me to make decent pieces (actual solid or stackable pieces, rather than minimice) for a reasonable price. Please let me know if you find something of the sort!

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