Newbie Rant on setting up little machine shop, Nomad Pro and The Maker Movement


Hi all,
This is my first post, but I’ve been lurking for a couple of months, read most if not all of the posts here, blog and tutorials. I follow CNC related topics on Instagram. @MachineHeadLabs is my handle if anyone is interested. I’ve had my Nomad Pro for about 6 weeks now. I was a little slow to actually put it to use, but now that the news has worn off I wanted to share my thoughts on desktop manufacturing. Hopefully someone will find them usefull or at least amusing.

A little about me:
I wouldn’t consider myseld a machinist by any stretch of the word, but I have a little experience with Fadal VMC’s at a previous job and have basic shop skills.

I come from more of a CAD/Graphic Design background, so I was reallly excited to discover Fusion 360. It has the familiar layout and sketching tools that I am used to from working with Lightwave 3D, Maya and Illustrator and it is Mac compatible. I haven’t really tried Meshcam or Carbide Create, so I won’t comment there, but Fusion 360’s CAM (which I understand uses the same engine as HSM Works) seems pretty deep. I’ve barely scratched the surface of its capabilites, but I can imagine it could cut down on the Nomad’s machining time considerably with the right settings. Companies like Carbide 3D, OtherMachine (another great looking machine) and Autodesk are forward-thinking in my opinion and I applaud them for making products that are poweful as well as accesible.

On to the machine itself:
It’s quite heavy, rigid and relatively quiet. This is reassuring and ultimately why I chose it over other companie’s offerings. I didn’t want a noisy router type mill yet (I do think I will eventually pick up a SO3 at some point.) I was quite suprised how fast the rapid movements were and how much force is transmitted through the stepper motors (Nema 17?) and lead screws. My machine sits atop a heavy wood workbench I bought at Harbor Freight and it shakes pretty hard during certain toolpaths. The noise floor could probably be reduced considerably if these vibrations are addressed. I installed thick rubber anti fatigue mat type rubber foam underneath both machine and table legs and will reinforce table at some point. The one compromise is the spindle motor. It isn’t particularly tourqey or fast for that matter, but it has the right characteristics for a desktop machine. It is virtually silent while not cutting. I can assure anyone skeptical about whether or not it can mill steel, it can, at least mild steel, but not quickly. I am investigating the spindle motor upgrade that is tossed around here to see if it is feasable. I believe that the 40% power increase would make the machine more well-balanced as the rigidity is there to make some pretty accurate parts. If anyone knows more about this feel free to chime in.
Regardless, the surface finishes I have managed are pretty awesome.

Getting up and running was very quick and easy. I’ve mostly just been experimenting at this point to find its limitations/feeds and speeds and a suitable workflow. The biggest challenge I found is in designing parts with construction tabs and fixturing the workpiece. I have both of the C3D vises but will probably end up buying the sea-of-holes bed and cam clamps from Hitech Systems since it is a lot thicker than the stock bed and it should help a little with vibration.

Overall, I am pretty happy with this machine. I love the simple industrial asthetic and heavy duty construction. It’s a work of art. I could see never using it out of fear of scratching the finish. I catch myself looking at it more than using it. Lol. The frustrations I am having stem from my lack of knowledge and experience. I am very impressed with the work some of you guys here are doing. I hope to be at this level soon.

Tools. Where to start. Well I haven’t picked up any cutters yet. I have quite a collection of Dremel bits that I am experimenting with before I drop too much on expensive Onsrud O-Flutes. I have a cheap 6" pair of Pittsburg composite digital calipers and a General 4" brass Vernier. I also have an engineer’s
square, combination square, watchmaker’s hammer, cordless hot glue gun for fixturing, files, Ottlite, cordless Dremel with drillpress attachment, Craftsman vise and Ryobi cordless Vac. Each week I head to Harbor Freight, OSH or one of the craft stores in search of anything usefull.

I am excited to see the Maker Movement is gathering a lot of steam. Craft stores carying 2D Cutting machines. OSH has sheet metal, rods and brackets for DIY tinkerers. RadioShack while closing a lot of locations has recently been the place for Make: products and Arduino shields. Recipes for Oogoo online. And of course, 3D printing becoming almost main stream. I see a great confluence of complementary technologies that will create competition in the marketplace and level the playing field for the little guy. This will undoubtedly lead to better, more diverse products, since they are driven by people who really understand their niche. If a new product fails, so what. It didn’t take 3 years to get to the prototype stage. A company like C3D understand this better than anyone. I wish this technology was around when I was a kid.