Hello Travis; thanks for the images. They were helpful for understanding the precise conditions under which you work. I think the main component parts to this issue can be usefully broken down into current practice, desirable practice and enforcing standards. I would like to speak to them all so please excuse the prolix post.
This concerns the methods employed by the provided software for negating the limitations of the supplied hardware. The endpoint is to produce a working solution that suits most of the user base.
This concerns the methods of work we would all choose were we to pool the collected hive knowledge. We would choose to apply it to the hardware development cycles as well as the software used to drive the machinery. It would be efficient and configurable for as many use cases as we could imagine.
This concerns producing a machine that will not kill the customers if they obey the rules for usage. It will also prevent the foolish from coming to harm. The standards would ideally be consonant with whatever standards are applied in the industry for employing and supervising machinists who work with CNC machines.
Often people will decide to purchase a CNC machine without prompting (other than a little advertising) and they do their own research. After this examination of existing choices and capabilities, they will settle on some CNC machine which they believe will suit their needs.
The manufacturer cannot control many of the variables that attend this process. Who buys a CNC machine? What do they intend to accomplish with it? What level of knowledge, skill or experience does the purchaser have? Will they be sensible when using the machine? Will the machine be neglected and routine maintenance forgotten so that it becomes a dangerous artefact when it is first used after a long period of shutdown?
The idea of including software and hardware features with which to create and enforce standards is an attractive one. A router bit spinning at 30,000 rpm is always going to be a very dangerous tool. It can cause a lot of damage to human soft tissues in the unwary. The danger could only be removed by preventing the spindle from turning on. Or we could educate users in basic safety when using a router.
Basic safety includes ear protection, eye protection, knowing the sounds which indicate something is wrong, never leaving a working machine unattended and prime rule number one… NEVER place any part of yourself or any tool inside the cutting area while the router is working. We could arrange guard fences and electronic interlocked doors for large machines. It is probably not practical or very easy to implement such systems on a hobby sized machine.
I support the notion that we sometimes may prevent people from learning important lessons if we always do their thinking for them. A simple example is my once two year old child was for always walking up the staircase and jumping down the stairs. The game was great fun and after about 6 months of this behaviour, my wife asked me to fit stair gates to the top and bottom of the staircase. We were responsible parents and could be seen to actively try to prevent accidents to our young son when he played on the stairs.
The first day that I had fitted the stair gates, my son fell down the stairs. He had not liked the restriction to his freedom to climb and jump on the stairs as he had always done. Anyhow, he climbed over the stair gate and had his very first accident on the stairs because of my removing his ability to choose to play on them. Immediately after that accident, I removed the stair gates. My son never had another accident on the stairs.
I hope this illustrates what I understand can occur when we take away the ability of the user to learn from their own mistakes. In the instant case under discussion, a simple swivelling tray that occupied the region immediately surrounding the tool change location would be a good cheap solution. Tool bits can be expensive and I am sure that users would appreciate the ability to prevent accidental damage.
Having a tool change location that could be programmed by the user would be a good solution. That way you could choose to set your X axis back from the front of the machine by 4 inches. I am sure it would be possible to apply the 4 inches at the factory and have the issue solved without the necessity for the users to consider it. Not dropping tool bits would also be a good rule to follow.
What the future presages in the case of domestic CNC machines, we do not know. I don’t know how many manufacturers of technical machinery can afford to listen to a large and very disparate user base with widely differing requirements. The notion that users may suggest software and hardware changes to the people who produce the machinery is attention grabbing.
What is nearer to reality is that if the suggestions fall easily within the company’s intended development roadmap, some lucky users may have their ideas implemented. Only the manufacturer knows what is planned and only they are privy to all of the use cases and they can either accept them or reject them as unimportant whenever they feel the need. This kind of committee approach to how the products are used is quite common and it is not usually very responsive to ideas and demands from the user base.
The knowledge required to lay down what would be a desirable practice exists within the user base. I would not wish to see any sort of proxy nanny state but it is clear that professional machinists could have a lot of very useful input into the design and use cases of the CNC machines manufactured by Carbide 3D. I don’t know if it is ever likely to happen (a users expert committee feeding into Carbide 3D) but it is likely to draw up plans which are going to be very slow to implement.
The legal position is also interesting. What responsibility would a manufacturer have if some users hurt themselves, where the manufacturer had followed the suggestions of an external expert committee? That sort of nightmare does not bear thinking about and the vicarious liability for a harmful happenstance must always rest with the company. Primarily because it is unlikely that any civilised legal system would permit a manufacturer to divest their company of its legal responsibility for harm caused to a user, howsoever it was initiated.
Enforcing Standards: The enforcement of standards can produce a situation where it is exceptionally difficult to rigorously apply set standards. Carbide 3D would need to positively vet all of their potential customers and pass them as fit or unfit to purchase, own and run Carbide’s CNC machines. The way forward is training rather than regulation. If you ever get around to thinking that training is very expensive… you should try ignorance.
It behoves the companies who make and sell dangerous machinery, to ensure that the user receives adequate instruction in the use of the products. With webinars, printed materials, internet lessons, adequate support mechanisms et al., it should be possible to train each purchaser to a known standard. It would also underline to the prospective purchaser that you should not buy a CNC machine (for example) if you are not serious about learning how to use one safely.