3D printing may be Guns.com’s not so private obsession but even
fanboys and girls forward thinkers like us have to admit, the technology faces some serious hurdles in the short game. Cost prohibitive, the purely additive process means that when it comes to home cooking, the chef’s ingredients are limited to plastics, plastics and plastics (and then, not quite the Nylon 6 hybrid we learned to love back in the 80s either), while, for many gunowners, the thought of a plastic barrel is still just a bit too much.
Today, the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling process is responsible for chiseling out most gun parts for most guns – frame, barrel, firing pin, internal components, all cut down from a hunk of metal by the spinning bit of a CNC machine. Now what if that was something you could set up next to your home computer? Well, a San Francisco based R&D firm may have just answered your prayers and not even really know it.
Otherfab, a San Francisco based R&D firm under the eponymous Otherlab, launched a Kickstarter campaign May 5 to fund the production of “a portable, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specifically designed for use at home.” Their design, initiated under a government funded program aimed at getting ‘the kids’ interested in shop class again (o, the irony), claims to be portable (like take on the bus portable), clean and quiet (like do in your home office on your desk clean and quiet) yet also sophisticated enough to do high level electrical and mechanical prototyping work (like cutting out any shape your brain can think of, out of almost any material).
The project reached its original goal of $50,000 in less than 24 hours, so if promises made are promises fulfilled, we should see these machines in the homes of tech savvy DIYers by as early as August 2013. Donations continue to climb past $218,000 as we write this and Othermill has even set a stretch goal of $250,000 for June 4 to develop accompanying software to better shepherd those without an engineering degree but who still want to play with engineer toys.
Capable of moving in three directions, the mill cuts by using a sharp rotating tool or cutter to reduce a slab of material (which could be wood, metal or polymers) to a predetermined shape. Controlled via computer software, this machine can produce designs of far greater complexity than could ever be achieved by hand. The unit itself will ship fully assembled and is only the size of a 10-inch box with a 5.5 x 4.5 x 1.4 inch work area. Any milling tool with a 1/8” diameter shank can be inserted into the spindle meaning, on limited scale, you’ve basically got unlimited material and cut options and at under $2000, the metal shaving Othermill is less than the TAZ printer and significantly less than other commercial 3D printers.