Pocket NC Version 2 - The Next Generation in 5 Axis CNC Milling

If you have been keeping an eye on Pocket NC over the last year or two, you might have noticed some improvements in our 5 axis mill.  Today we are proud to introduce the Pocket NC V2 which follows in the footsteps of continually improving our products.  The V2 is our fastest and most accurate machine to date.  It features a new user interface, more robust electronics, a precision tool probe and a rigid trunnion.  The V2 is a culmination of everything we have learned about manufacturing over the past few years.  In this short period of time we have transitioned from a garage startup to a thriving business providing dependable mills to individuals, universities and businesses all over the world.   Our customers feedback on our designs heavily influenced the features we chose to focus on for this upgrade.

Note that we will now be referring to the previous design of our machine as the Version 1 or V1.  We will no longer be manufacturing that design, however we will continue to support it and provide accessories for it.

New User Interface

A new, custom built user interface is quite possibly the biggest upgrade to the Pocket NC mill.  No more SSHing or downloading software.  Simply connect a USB cable from the machine to your computer and go to your machine's web address in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari on Mac or Windows (no internet connection required).  Operating the V2 feels familiar to an industrial machine but now with a more intuitive interface.   Users can seamlessly switch between imperial and metric units, upload programs and more.  

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Integrated Tool Probe

Our number one hardware request amongst users was the tool probe.  A tool probe is an instrument which automatically measures the length of a tool.  Once measured, tool lengths are then stored in the tool table and are visible from the User Interface.  With the compact design of the Pocket NC mill, finding room for a tool probe was difficult as the location needed to be safe from active tools and maintain the work envelope. We were able to achieve these prerequisites by placing the probe on the side of the trunnion.  The probe takes precision to the next level by allowing users to repeatably set tools within 0.001 inches.  

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Redesigned Trunnion

The V2 trunnion is all about getting work done.  The result is increased speed, rigidity and accuracy.  The redesign starts with reducing part count and making the trunnion from one solid aluminum billet.  Each unit is produced using multi-axis machining, removing human error from the equation.  The new trunnion has an integrated bearing which reduces friction and deflection within each assembly.  We have also added an anti backlash worm drive to the A and B axes allowing them to move faster and with more precision.

The V2 trunnion also allows through-hole fixturing from the middle of the B axis.  ER-40 collets, can be used to hold a variety of round objects.

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Click below to see the technical specifications or to place an order.

Wax Ring Cast Tutorial

Hello Pocket NC Community!

 We are excited to announce our release of a comprehensive tutorial on machining a wax ring using Fusion 360 and the Pocket NC. Since we released the Pocket NC mill, we have learned that jewelry-making has become a relatively common application for the machine. People have expressed demand for showcasing the Pocket NC's jewelry-making capabilities, some how-to's on where to start, the processes and materials involved and how to arrive at the finished product.

 As the tutorial is quite thorough, it goes over every part of the process. Starting with importing the necessary files into Fusion 360 CAD and step by step instructions on part setup/fixturing and reference geometry. The tutorial also includes .f3d files for the Pocket NC vise and backplate to import into your CAD/CAM environments.

 After the part and its various components are set up in CAD, the tutorial moves onto the CAM portion, breaking down the machining process into 8 distinct operations. The exact required feeds and speeds are given as well as the tools necessary for those operations. We then walk through simulating the tool paths for each operation and showing how to avoid any crashes.

 Finally, the tutorial goes through post processing and generating the G-code necessary to create the ring itself. We plainly spell out the individual steps, the required tools and when to use them as well as the runtime of the of the program. Below is a short collection of video clips showing the Pocket NC machining the ring from wax stock material. Enjoy!

  • You can find the tutorial here.
  • We are also selling completed wax rings and other  from our online store so you can see for yourself the degree of precision that the Pocket NC has when machining jewlery. You can purchase them here

Pocket NC, Affordable and Accurate?

Pocket_NC_Accuracy

Since the beginning, the Pocket NC mill has been based around two core values, accuracy and affordability.  While the Pocket NC uses many off the shelf components to remain affordable, it also employs several techniques that, when combined, have a greater impact on accuracy than that of expensive components.  

A good example of this is the ball screw versus lead screw debate. In general, ball screws are associated with accuracy. A machine with ball screws must be more accurate than one with lead screws.  In actuality, lead screws can have about the same accuracy as rolled ball screws, as both use similar technologies in the manufacturing process.  A high end ball screw only has an increased accuracy of  ~0.0003 inches per inch or ~0.0036 inches per foot over that of a good lead screw.  While they can improve accuracy, ball screws are usually adopted for the increase in lifespan, linear forces and noise reduction.  For this reason the Pocket NC mill uses preloaded lead screws with high life span nuts, reducing the cost by about $1000 per machine, without any major sacrifice in accuracy.

Some components used on the machine are extremely expensive, like the linear guides. So why use linear guides instead of lower cost guide rods?  Guide rods in general are very good for linear applications with similar tolerances to linear guides.  At Pocket NC we use linear guides because the mounting strategy of a linear guide allows each rail to conform to the squareness of its mounting surface.  

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Squareness is perhaps the most important aspect of a machine as a deviation in squareness for any given axis directly relates to the accuracy of the machine.  An axis which deviates by 0.001 inches per inch will have 300% more effect on machine accuracy than that of a lead screw and thus is much more important to consider.  

So how does Pocket NC create accurate machines?  For starters each machine is made from billet aluminum and allowed to flex and bow throughout the machining process so that its final surface cuts have minimal effect on squareness.  The use of a rotary axis during manufacturing assures minimum human contact where problems are likely to occur.  Each part is then checked using precision granite and tooling before anodized plating and assembly.  Parts which do not conform to tolerance bands are re-machined or recycled.

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Throughout the assembly process, subassemblies of the machine are measured to ensure squareness.

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Once assembled, each machine is calibrated and tested to ensure accuracy.  The entire process takes about 15 hours.  This includes machining, measuring, assembly, alignment, wiring, calibration and testing.

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Is the Pocket NC mill accurate enough or right for your application?  In general the Pocket NC mill is recommended for light manufacturing.  This means high part counts for soft materials like Delrin or wax or low part counts for harder materials like Aluminum.  The machine is also recommended for applications where +/- 0.005 inches feature locational tolerance is acceptable. While better tolerances are possible, greater attention will be required during the machining process.

International Preorders are here!

We are excited to announce that we have opened up preorders for our machine to be shipped outside of the United States.  Now that we have completed the upgrade of our spindle design we will be putting it through safety testing in preparation for beginning international shipping in November.  You can get in line by preordering a machine here if you live in one of the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,  Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Note that there may be some slight changes to the machine as we go through the certification process.  We'll be sure and keep you updated if there are any changes.  Also, note that the cost of the machine and shipping does not include duties or VAT so plan accordingly.

 

 

April 2016 Update: Announcing New Spindle Design and Backorder Status

We are very excited to release something we've been working hard on for quite a while now, our new spindle design!  We will now be offering an ER11 compatible spindle with individual tool holders. Features of the new design include:

  • 1.5 inches more tool clearance
  • 14 more tooling shank options
  • collets are over $60 cheaper
  • better tool clamping force
  • accepts tool shank up to 5/16" 
  • 3mm allen tool change
  • ideal for multi tool parts
  • increased rigidity
  • eliminates the need for shaft collars to set tool length

 

We are also transitioning from taking preorders for our machines to a 12 week backorder.  We hope to make good progress in the coming months to decrease this lead time even further.  You can now order a Pocket NC with the new spindle design on our store.  

Matt made the trip to SparkFun in Colorado to pick up our new-to-us pick and place machine.  He had a great time there, learned a lot, and was received well by a company that we really admire.  The machine is now at our shop and cranking out boards. Pictures below of the machine, Matt, Robert, and Nathan.  Robert gave up a good portion of his weekend to help get us trained on the machine and get it loaded up.  Thanks SparkFun!

 

Next up for Pocket NC will be proceeding with our new spindle design to safety certifications so we can finally get some machines to those of you who have been waiting for so long outside of the United States.  International preorders will be coming soon!  After being away for a couple of years, we will also be attending the Bay Area Maker Faire in May.  If you're around, stop by to see our machines and you may even catch a glimpse of what's coming next at Pocket NC!

March 2016 Update 2: Kickstarter Shipments Complete!

We are excited to announce that we have completed the production of all of our Kickstarter machines and the last few will ship out today!  A big thanks to all of our backers who put your faith in us and for your continued feedback on our product.  We are very excited to be moving forward and will now begin the production of the preorder machines.  We will soon move out of the preorder stage and into a backorder status.

Your support through our Kickstarter campaign enabled us to do so much to grow our company.  We have hired employees, moved into an industrial shop, and purchased a pick and place machine to aid our production.  We are looking forward to continuing to improve our current product as well as develop some new product lines.

March 2016 Update - Pick and Place

We have been working hard over the past couple of months to assemble and ship the remaining machines from our Kickstarter campaign.  We have already shipped over half of the Batch 3 orders and are on track to ship the remainder by the end of the month without a problem.  After that, we will begin shipping the preorder machines.

Our exciting news this update is that we have purchased a pick and place machine for building our own electronic boards from SparkFun Electronics.  Their operations outgrew the capacity of the machine and so it is a great fit for us to get started.  We will use it to place components on our custom capes, but it will also be an essential piece of equipment for the next product line we will be releasing.  Stay tuned over the next few months for more information!



January 2016 Update

Things are moving along nicely here at Pocket NC!  We have almost finished shipping the January orders from Batch 2 of the Kickstarter campaign and we are ready to forge ahead assembling Batch 3.  

For those of you who missed out on a machine during the Kickstarter campaign, you will be excited to know that we have officially opened up preorders for our machines to be delivered next summer!  We also launched a referral program for our preorders to reward you for telling your friends about our machine.  

This past month we have been working on creating a three part series to show our users the process to machine a wooden impeller from start to finish.  We chose wood because we will be shipping it with each machine so that you can walk through the process for your first part, and wood will be a forgiving material in case a mistake is made.  The first video showed how to arrange the geometry in Fusion 360.  The second video showed how to generate the toolpaths in Fusion 360.  The third video below shows how to machine the part on your Pocket NC!



New Training Series - Impeller Part 2

Per the request of some of our first users, we are creating a training series to teach Pocket NC users how to mill a wooden impeller from start to finish.  Last week we showed you how to create the geometry you would need in Fusion 360.

This weeks video gets to the really good stuff, how to generate your tool paths in Fusion 360 for the Pocket NC.  Once you've completed this tutorial, you will have the Gcode file read to get cutting!

If you have general questions related to Fusion 360 after watching these videos, be sure to check out their Learning Page as you may be able to find some answers there.  

New Training Series - Impeller Part 1

After sending out our first batch of machines,  we realized the most helpful tool to get our new users up and running with our machine would be a start to finish tutorial to mill a first part including how to generate the toolpaths in Fusion 360.  

We chose a wooden impeller as the first part.  While the impeller is the typical part used to show off continuous 5 axis machining, like almost all parts it is possible to do with indexed toolpaths instead.  We will do it using multiple orientations of the A and B axes.  Even though a metal impeller would be a lot cooler for a first part, we want to stress to our users to start out with a softer material while you are still getting to know your Pocket NC.

From now on, we will be shipping our machines with the material to cut the impeller.  For those of you in the first batch who already have your machines, we will send out the material to you soon.  

We will break the process up into 3 parts.  The first part(shown below)  details how to get the geometry all set up in Fusion 360.  You will need to download the file for the table and vise geometry  as well as the file for the impeller geometry.  Part 2 will show how to create your toolpaths in Fusion 360 and Part 3 will show how to cut the part on the machine.  Stay tuned!

Oh ship! December 2015 Update

Great news!  Yesterday we shipped the 19 machines in our first batch ON TIME!  We are really excited to finally get machines out to our users.  A special thanks to those who were brave enough to be in our first group and trust us with your hard-earned money to get you a quality machine.  We can't wait to see all the awesome things that the users within our community will make.  All the machines in the first batch should be in your hands by this time next week.  If you're in that first batch and you didn't see the email with your tracking info in it, let us know and we can make sure you get it.

With the first batch under our belt, we are onward and upward to bigger and better things.  We are excited to continue assembling to get the second and third batches out on time as well using the knowledge we have gained so far to improve our processes.  We are hiring machinists and assemblers to get to work ramping up our production to begin meeting the demand. 

Part of meeting the demand means that we will finally be opening up preorders for machines to be shipped after our Kickstarter campaign orders are fulfilled.  We plan to open those up Friday, December 11 at 10am Mountain Time.  This run will have 140 machines available with delivery goals between May and August of 2016.  The machines will cost 4000USD.  The increase in price will help us greatly to be able to ramp up our production rates. 

Shipping for this preorder batch will still be only within the United States.  We are sorry that we aren't able to open it up internationally yet, but we are still working towards getting our safety certifications.  We know its been a very long wait for those of you outside of the States waiting on our machine and we really appreciate your patience!

November 2015 Update

We've had another big month at Pocket NC.  The biggest news is that we are all moved in to our new shop and getting back to business.  We are getting really close to being ready to ship the first batch of machines.  This means that we've been working hard on aligning the machines to make sure they meet the specifications.  The video below gives a little insight to the process.

We've even got a few machines boxed up and ready to go!  If you're in the first batch of deliveries, be sure to check your email for the Kickstarter survey to let us know where you would like your machine shipped!

We've been lucky to have some extra help this week from our good friend Gary.  He has been influential on this project in many ways and it's great to have him visiting from Minnesota!

We also have another addition to the team, Ruby Louise.  She is spending her days at the shop and office with us. While undoubtedly the cutest member of our team, she still has a ways to go on her assembly skills!


October 2015 Update

We are continuing to make good progress towards our first deliveries in December.  This past month we have been putting our heads down to continue that work.  We are still on track to get the machines out on time.

One slight set back we had was that as we were checking the squareness of the individual parts, between two bearing surfaces we measured a flatness of 0.003".  Between those surface it should measure close to zero in order to achieve the final assembled machine squareness.  One can picture that if a part is off by 0.003" and is assembled with a second part, that assembly is already off by 0.003" in addition to what the second part was off by.  For that reason, it's important for us to closely watch all the tolerances on the individual parts. Getting this tolerance back where we wanted it required some disassembly of the machines and remachining(see picture below).  We are now set moving forward to include this process in the original machining steps.

We have recovered from that setback, and the following pictures show the current state of assembly for the first batch of machines.

Over the past five years Pocket NC has followed us from a one bedroom apartment to a 10' x 12' shed to Matt's parents' basement to our garage and now we are finally making the move to a commercial shop space!  We are very excited for this as it will allow us to begin hiring more employees and really ramp up our production.  We will be moving throughout the next month as well as getting ready to launch preorders.  If you want to be notified when that happens, leave us your email address in the box on our homepage.  Also, if you are in the first batch of machines going out, be sure and keep an eye on your email for a Kickstarter survey to pick up your shipping address!

September 2015 Update

We are continuing to make good progress here at Pocket NC.  This past month we shipped out our hats and stickers.  If you pledged for one and didn't get it, be sure and check your email to make sure you didn't miss the survey for your address!

 We'd also like to take time to thank all those who backed us at the $5 level.  All of you combined helped to give us a little extra wiggle room in our first run of production and we really appreciate all of your support!  So here goes, big thanks goes out to Keith Reffell, Eric Weinhoffer, Heri Sim, Ryan Lackey, Frank Wiebenga, GP Yee, 3Dsimo, Javier, Jotham McMillan, Mathieu Monney, Matt Stultz, Tim, Jason Webb, Michael Curry, Christian Klemke, Dustin Sell, cubergreen, James S Beckman, 3devo, Brian Ware, Thorkil, Jondale Stratton, R. D. Childers, Gavin Bath, L.M. Oliver, Scott Seivert, CHERCIU Mihail, Niall Barrett, Michael Ukabam, Edispin Inc, Grzegorz Jagla, Dag Henrik Bråtane, Laurens Laudowicz, Phoenix, Gerald Fuller, Daniel M Simser, David Perry, Affan, Wolfgang Klich, Nathan Stephens, Tyler Lindsay, Kristen Dyrr, R.M., Lauren Schmitt, JV (John) Pumphrey, Dean, Anthony Bergelt, Amanda Z, Filippo Toso, Celtic Hotel, London (Deb), D.LINK STUDIO LLC, Elias Dinter, Stephen Coates, Andreas Rozek, Ove Andersen, Carlos Poon, Lorenzo Frangi, Sean Hall, David Proffer, Jason Bird, ben shultz, Chris E, Darin, Adam Phelps, Mcontrem, Andy Holmstom, Victoria A., Simen Kjærås, EJ Strauss, Nathanael Nunes, Philip Barishich, Ryan, Jesse, and Wes, Aaron G. Sauers, CLP, NEEO Inc., Evgeny Hotulev, Peter Csontos, Ng Wai Sing, Hamish Patel, Natalie Freed, Ilya Smirnov, Andy Mills, Ernest Ho, CrystalKB, Carsten Spranger, Andrew Sand, Dmitri Don, Brandon Zurek, Justen Judd, Gion Manetsch, Center for a Stateless Society, Kean Maizels, Jonas Rabbe, Jordan, Katrina L. Halliwell, FastEddie, Shaun Redsar, Rob Scott, Vincent Poirier, onelife, Leonard@TM, waquier, Christoffer Wallén, Ryan Oberfield, SeltzerKick, Calvin Chu, IPD DESK Ltd, supervexi, and Alya.

We are continuing to work hard on machining and are over halfway through the machines.  We also have a steady flow of parts coming back from anodize and will soon have the custom machines back!

 We also have all the components we need to begin the assembly process for the first batch!  We are excited to finish assembling a few soon so that we can test them and make sure everything is good before cranking out the rest.

You may have noticed that the machine we advertised on our Kickstarter campaign required an ethernet connection to a computer to operate.  We have realized that this is one of the weak points of our machine because who really wants to deal with an ethernet connection in the 21st century?  So we have been working on a few prototypes to add more ports including a micro USB, HDMI, and USB.  What this means for our users is that they will have three options for operation.  Users can SSH into the machine from another computer using the ethernet connection, SSH using the micro USB connection, or use a stand alone mouse, keyboard, and HDMI compatible screen.  You can also use the USB port to load Gcode files to your machine with a USB stick.  We have tested 3 iterations of the prototype boards and things are going really well.  Thanks again to OSH Park for helping us work through these prototype boards quickly!

We also want to thank our programmer, Duane Bishop, who has been working very hard to iron out any bugs we have in our setup and make our user experience better.

 We are also working on rounding out our website so that by the time we begin shipping machines, there is ample information to get our users started.  You can find this information on our resource page.  This includes things like tutorials on how to use the machine, dimensions of the machine for those of you building custom enclosures, as well as diagrams describing the home position and travel of the machine.

August 2015 Update

Pocket NC has been very busy since our last update!  After receiving our Kickstarter funds, we have been purchasing all of the components necessary to build your machines.  Many of the components are starting to come in, including some of our linear bearings(shown below).  We will continue to see more components arriving over the next few months.  We have worked hard to develop relationships with our suppliers over the past few years to ensure that this part of the process goes as smooth as possible and they are definitely putting forth their best effort to get us this first round of components.

We also took shipment of the remainder of the aluminum for your machines and are running our Haas every day to get the parts machined.  We are about a third of the way done with the machining.

Once we had enough parts, we brought the first round of machines to our local anodizer to get the signature green and black color scheme.  We currently have ten machines ready to begin assembly as soon as the necessary hardware comes in to get going.  We'll also be sending out the machines with the custom color schemes soon.

Before sending out our electronics boards to get made, we realized that we had enough extra space on the boards to design a custom ruler to include with each machine.  The rulers are 6 inches long with a 0 to 6inch scale on one side, and a -0.875 to 5.125 inch scale on the back side for referencing the A axis center line(see second photo below).  We also included a tooling quick reference chart to assist in determining the diameter of your end mill.

 

We have also been working with Autodesk to get them trained using our machines, including putting together tutorials on the various aspects of using the Pocket NC.  We will begin releasing those soon so that our users can get a head start on figuring out what it will take to run the Pocket NC.  Below is a picture of our B axis table with our custom vise modeled in Fusion 360 that our users will have access to in order to help with getting your setups done right the first time.

We also received our trucker hats today and will be sending those out over the next few weeks, so if you backed us at that level make sure you fill out your shipping information in the survey we sent out through Kickstarter.  Thanks for tracking with our progress!

That's a wrap!

Since we have wrapped up our Kickstarter campaign, we wanted to take a post to say a huge thanks to everyone who backed us!  We are really excited to have the go ahead to move into full production.  We have got a head start on the process since we met our goal a few weeks ago and are machining through some aluminum while we wait for our funds to come in to finish ordering our components.  We have been producing about 200 pounds of aluminum chips a week.

 We also have the boards for our BeagleBone Black capes on order.  The photo below is one of the left overs from the last batch of working prototypes that we produced and saw no issues with.  We owe a big thanks to the folks over at OSH Park for all the help they've been through our prototyping process.  If you are looking for a place to get small batches of boards prototypes, we highly recommend working with them!

 One issue we have been struggling with for a while has been finding a way to cover the fastener holes on our linear bearings that is functional, looks good, and won't add an hour to our assembly process.  We weren't too happy with the plastic caps that are made for this purpose and even tried out essentially a hot glue gun and plastic which didn't work too well either.  We finally got around to prototyping some very thin laser cut shims that we are very happy with on all fronts.  It's all about the details, people!

Old rail covers.

Old rail covers.

New rail covers.

New rail covers.

Sold Out!

Wow!  What a week it's been.  Thanks so much to all of our backers who came out to support our campaign!  We are SO excited about the machines sold and ready to head into production.  So ready, that today we took delivery of about 1000 pounds of aluminum so that we can get to making chips on some of your frames.


 For those of you wondering if we will be adding more machines to the campaign, the answer is that we don't plan to.  The number we limited the campaign to is based on the manufacturing plan that we have developed and our capacity to grow over the coming months.  While it kills us to not sell as many machines as we can through the campaign, we want to make sure that we are well equipped to follow through with the delivery dates that we have set.  If you missed out on a machine and you want us to let you know when we launch preorders, or if you are outside the US and want to know when we launch preorders, leave us your email address in the box on our homepage.  Another option, if you are very determined to get a Kickstarter machine, is to watch over the next few weeks to see if another backer cancels their pledge.

Since we have done so well in the campaign, we decided to develop a custom vise to include with all of your machines!  It is a simple dowel pin vise that attaches to the table made from 6061 aluminum.  With what we will include, the width of part it can hold is 0.2-2.25 in.  This width can be easily extended by using longer dowel pins and a longer bolt. 

May Update

We have had a very busy and productive couple of months here at Pocket NC!  

Besides continuing testing on our machines, we have been working on building two more machines that we will be sending out to our partners at Autodesk.  This has been very beneficial because it has allowed us to film the whole manufacturing process to show as part of our video for our Kickstarter campaign, test out a new supplier for our anodizing, as well as a new supplier for the pick and place manufacturing of our electronics boards.

We have been very pleased with how the machine has been performing cutting metal.  Our main project has been machining an engine block out of 6061 aluminum.  We've been running around 20 inches per minute.  The typical cuts have been 0.01 inches step over and 0.1 inch depth.

PocketNC_Aluminum_Engine_Block

We are still on track to launch our Kickstarter campaign later this summer.  We will be tying up some loose ends before pulling the trigger, so stay tuned!


PocketNC and Fusion 360

We have had a very exciting couple of months here at PocketNC.  Our last round of capes for our BeagleBone Black have full functionality which has enabled us to FINALLY move ahead with testing our hardware.  It also allows us to further explore the capabilities of Autodesk's new, cloud-based CAD/CAM solution, Fusion 360.

We are really excited about the offerings of Fusion 360 and believe that it will make a huge difference for our users as well as a ton of makers, educators, and start-ups the world over.  Autodesk has committed to offering the software for free (including 3+2 machining capability!) for hobbyists, educators, and businesses making less than $100,000 per year.  See this great blog post by CEO Carl Bass for more info on their vision.

We've worked with Autodesk over the past months to create a post processor for Fusion 360 specifically for PocketNC, but given the state of our electronics haven't been able to test it until now.  So we've spent the past couple of weeks working through writing tool paths to machine a duck call(based off an open source design by Doug Lanter on GrabCAD) and proofing out the PocketNC post processor.  We are really happy with the results and looking forward to moving on to more testing!