Happy Holidays from Pocket NC

We hope that the holidays found you all happy and healthy and that you're now tinkering with any new toys that Santa may have brought you!

We had a great Christmas and were delivered the last components we needed to complete our second round of prototype Beagle Bone Black capes on Christmas Eve day!  We have been working hard even since then to get everything connected and soldered and ready to go.  We began testing on the machine yesterday and we are happy with the results so far.  We have the machine moving around, and we are very happy to see the boards are staying cool.  The last round of prototype boards were getting pretty warm so that was one of our design objectives this round.  

So everyone is thinking the same thing,   "That's great, so when can I get a machine?!"  Well we have some more kinks to work out on these boards and that will determine whether we continue on with this set to do the fun testing or if we need iterate again on the capes(which will add more time to the process).  

We are excited to keep on testing, and hopefully put out some good videos for you all once we get to making some chips!

 

Testing our second round of cape prototypes for our 5 axis desktop CNC mill. First section is homing, second is just movement. Third is small movement with a dial indicator to show positional accuracy.

PCB Progress

We have had a very busy month placing all the components on our first round of PCBs for our BeagleBone Black cape.  As expected, we ran into a number of issues and bugs on the first round but so far nothing that we haven't been able to address.  We are getting close to sending out the next rev of boards to be made which should have the functionality to continue our machine testing.  

Here's a snapshot of one of our fully assembled Beta 2.0s:

PocketNC_Beta2_5Axis_CNC_Mill

We also had the opportunity to travel to NYC to participate in the Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day along with 20 other ventures from universities around the nation.  We had the opportunity to have a cocktail hour on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and get our picture taken with the opening bell (see below).  We learned a lot over the couple days we were there and were excited to get back home to keep moving on Pocket NC.

Green Beta 2.0 and Purple BBB Capes

Quick update to let you all know how we are doing with our Beta 2.0's.  We got them back from anodize and were pretty happy with the results.  This is our first run with a shop here in Montana so that is always nerve wracking, but they did a great job so that was a relief.

PocketNC_Beta2_Desktop_5Axis_CNC_Mill

Bannor finished the design of our cape and we had the boards made.  The guys over at OSH Park did a great job of doing a rush set for us so that we can keep the ball rolling.  This week our purple boards came, and we have been working hard to get them populated with our components.  Like any prototyping process, we already know of some changes that need to be made to the boards but we are really happy to be making progress.

Also wanted to update you all on the timing of our Kickstarter campaign.  Once we get the boards up and running, we will need to run some good tests on the machines before launching the campaign.  If everything goes as planned, it is looking like December would probably be the earliest launch date for the campaign.

Beta 2.0 Progress

Since we got our Haas up and running last month we have been working hard at machining the frames for our Beta 2.0 machines.  We are close to finished with one of the machines, and the next one will go much faster since the programs are proofed out now.  It is such a blessing to have a machine available to us to make our own parts and learn along the way.  We can't wait for our machines to get out there so others can have that experience too!

Here's some pictures of the Beta 2.0 parts next to our original Beta parts so you can see some of the improvements we have made:

The base of our machine(left) was previously a box composed of 4 half inch walls.  To add rigidity to the machine and simplify assembly, we have moved to machining a solid billet of aluminum(right).

The base of our machine(left) was previously a box composed of 4 half inch walls.  To add rigidity to the machine and simplify assembly, we have moved to machining a solid billet of aluminum(right).

Our previous X/Z stage(right) was composed of 2 parts,  lacked rigidity, and was difficult to align.  Our new one (left) is a single, rigid part and greatly simplifies alignment.

Our previous X/Z stage(right) was composed of 2 parts,  lacked rigidity, and was difficult to align.  Our new one (left) is a single, rigid part and greatly simplifies alignment.

Our previous A/B backing plates(required) required the wires to be routed through the center where they could get kinked and made it impossible to disassemble if repair was needed.  The new plates(left) have the wires routed through the side and includes a second motor for additional torque.

Our previous A/B backing plates(required) required the wires to be routed through the center where they could get kinked and made it impossible to disassemble if repair was needed.  The new plates(left) have the wires routed through the side and includes a second motor for additional torque.

Our previous spindle mount(left) lacked rigidity.  Our new spindle mount (right) has added rigidity and simplified assembly.

Our previous spindle mount(left) lacked rigidity.  Our new spindle mount (right) has added rigidity and simplified assembly.

Our old linear bearings (upper right) for the Y rails were very difficult to assemble because of the fastener size so our new ones(upper left) are easier to assemble, have better seals, and are made in the US.  Our new rotary bearings(lower left) are bigger and easier to assemble.

Our old linear bearings (upper right) for the Y rails were very difficult to assemble because of the fastener size so our new ones(upper left) are easier to assemble, have better seals, and are made in the US.  Our new rotary bearings(lower left) are bigger and easier to assemble.

We are also making progress in developing our cape for the BeagleBone Black.  The initial design is finished, and we are now working on finding a board house that will be able to get us a few prototypes quickly and at a price that we can afford.  Hopefully the first boards will come back around the same time as we get the frames back from anodize and we can get this second round of testing going!

We wanted to let you all know that we will not be attending the World Maker Faire in New York this year.  Those of you who present or attend Maker Faires know that not only are they expensive to do, but you also end up spending a few weeks getting ready, attending, and recovering from them.  We have so much to do to get through this last push of development that we are deciding to spend the time and money to get us closer to our Kickstarter campaign instead.  Thanks for understanding, and we hope you have an awesome time at the Faire! We will miss it!

Welcome Home Haas!

We have had a big month here at PocketNC!  After 6 months, we have officially moved out of Matt's parents  basement into a house of our own with a 3 car garage and an office to house our company in our next phase of starting up.  Our friend and board designer Bannor has been working relentlessly outside of his day job to get our cape ready to go for the Beagle Bone Black.  We also are very excited to have purchased a Haas Minimill 2!  This is a big step for us to work towards the capability to finish up our testing by building 2 new and improved Beta machines and to be able to head into our Kickstarter campaign ready to knock it out of the park.

We have also been working hard with the folks over at Autodesk to get to know their CAM software package and make sure that we have a post processor in place for our machine so that it will pretty much be plug and play with their software.  They have some great solutions coming down the pipe line to offer affordable CAD/CAM software.

The summer in Bozeman has offered some great opportunities to get involved in our community and help educate people about desktop machining.  We showed our machine to a group of Tech Ed teachers from around the state and had great conversations about how it could fit into their classrooms.  We also attended a maker event at our local library.

For those of you looking for an update of when our Kickstarter campaign will be, if our next round of testing goes well we are still on track to launch the campaign this Fall with the first deliveries going out in early 2015.  We will keep you posted as we test to let you know if we come across any speed bumps that will push us out.  

Beagle Bone Black and Beta 2.0

A lot has been going on for us in the past couple of months!  We attended the Bay Area Maker Faire in May and had a great time.  We ran demos of a wax ring casting on our new Beagle Bone Black setup for pretty much both days straight.  We had some family join us and our friend Gary came to help us answer questions at the booth.  

We are moving forward with a real prototype of a Beagle Bone Black cape which could enable us to release the machine with encoders on all axes.  We are also doing one final run of updated hardware on the machine, which we are calling Beta 2.0.  Once the boards and the hardware are done, we will do one last round of testing on the machine before launching a Kickstarter campaign(still aiming for fall).  

Another exciting piece of news for us is that we have ordered a Haas mill that will be delivered in July.  This will be the machine we use to produce our Kickstarter orders as well as machine the Beta 2.0.  It will be a huge asset to be able to prototype our work in house.

Below is a picture of the Beagle Bone Black running LinuxCNC that we showed at Maker Faire.  We have been seeing great results testing our machine with this setup and we are really excited about all of the opportunities it allows for us to increase our functionality and usability.   Big thanks to Duane who has put in many hours to help us get rolling on it!

PocketNC_Beta_Desktop_5Axis_CNC_Mill2



Testing Update

Our last couple months have been spent inching towards the capability of physical testing on our machine.  We are finally to the point of being able to successfully run some complete tool paths(sometimes for hours on end) which is pretty exciting because the build up to this has been hundreds of 10 second runs before having to stop to address bugs.

That being said,  you can see in the video above that we still have a ways to go in refining the 5 axis motion control with our TinyG2 boards.  We are happy to be on our way, and in our down time of getting software bugs worked out we are looking into an alternative motion control solution that would be based off of a Beagle Bone Black.  We are excited to have multiple motion control solutions in progress in the hopes that at least one will work out and we will be able to get machines out there with a stable solution at our Kickstarter campaign.

The other good news about starting our physical testing is that we are fairly confident our machines will still be running in a month from now(possibly with a Beagle Bone Black too) and we will make the trek to the Maker Faire in San Mateo.  We love meeting other makers and hearing what's going on outside of our corner of the world.  Thanks as always for your interest in our project and for your patience in waiting for it to develop!

February Update

Well it's been a while since we last updated, sorry for that.  The reason why is that we have been always feeling so close to getting our bugs worked out and having some awesome videos of the Betas running for you all.  We have been struggling with bug issues with our electronics since our last update, and are still struggling with them but we are still working hard at fixing them, and most importantly getting our customers a machine that just works.  We want to have all this worked through before launching a Kickstarter campaign so that you all can spend your time making cool stuff, not debugging your machine!

The state of our machine for the last few weeks...

The state of our machine for the last few weeks...

That said, there have been some positive things that have come out of our struggles.  One being that we realized we needed a better way to take the electronics in and out of the machine because its inevitable that it will happen, and having the mess you see in the above picture only adds to the frustration of having issues. So we designed a console that pulls out of the back of the machine much more easily .  

PocketNC_Arduino

The other good thing that has been happening is that we have been starting to make more connections here in Bozeman with other makers and entrepreneurs,  which always helps to give us new ideas and to push through these technical problems.  As always, thanks to everyone who is keeping up with our progress.  We hope to get these bugs fixed soon, and once we do we will be posting as many videos and pictures of our testing process as we can.  Wish us luck!

Happy New Year from Pocket NC

Starting the New Year off with a fresh new website!  

Matt and I are both loving being full time at Pocket NC.  Over the holidays we shipped one of our Beta machines off to the guys over at Synthetos so they can help us with testing their TinyG boards.  Now we are working on assembling two more, while the other two are off getting anodized this week.  Pretty excited to get them together in the next few weeks and see what they can really do before getting our Kickstarter campaign rolling.

PocketNC_Matt