Sunday, June 28, 2015

TechShop: Tool Data

TechShop does not believe in having a lot of information online. But neither do class handouts, or even Front Desk, make a good resource for when you want to know what kind of machine it is, what size materials it will handle, what tools fit, etc.

I'll likely come back and re-visit this entry frequently as I find out more. All data is for the San Francisco TechShop, and is current with my posting dates.

Vacuum Former: It is a Formech FM660, with a street price of $8,000 or so. It can handle sheets up to 26" x 26", with a forming window of 24.5" x 24.5", and up to 1/4" in thickness (thicknesses over 4 mm, however, are not recommended). Styrene (available at craft stores and in the form of "For Sale" signs at larger hardware stores), ABS (available at Tap Plastics), polycarbonate, extruded acrylic and PETG all work. TechShop carries pre-cut PETG (forms extremely well, food-safe, clear) at the front desk. I have only used PETG on this machine.

3D Printer: TechShop SF is currently down to ONE functional printer, a Type A Series 1, 2014 model with the metal frame (currently selling from Type A for $2,700). It can handle PLA, High Carbon PLA and PET filament and has a print volume of one cubic foot (12 x 12 x 12 dimensionally). It includes the CURA software that already has the printer's profiles built in. PLA filament in several colors is sold at the front desk at as low as $34 a roll.

Metal Lathe: TechShop SF currently has two Jet GH-1440W3 lathes (about $12,000 new), of which one is currently broken. The universal tool post appears to be a BXA, and the tool holders in shop can handle 3/8" tools. The lathe has a swing of 14" over the bed, 8.5" over the cross-slide, with 40" between centers. The gearbox can (apparently) handle metric and inch threads. It is an engine lathe with gear-driven horizontal and cross travel, with a manual compound rest on top of that. There is a Acu-Rite DRO (Wizard 411) that reads down to ten thousandths for horizontal and cross travel only.

Mill: There are two "Bridgeport" type mills from Jet, capable of handling steel. Model number appears to be JTM-4VS. A basic selection of well-used end mills are available at the check-out desk, as well as some smaller end mills (mostly suitable for the Tomach, below) sold at the front desk.

Laser Engraver: There are 4 Epilog lasers in the 60 watt range available, as well as two other lasers reserved for the really serious users. These appear to be the discontinued Epilog Helix (price around $24,000 with filtration system included). Bed is 24" x 18", a size that is also sold downstairs in 1/8" and 1/4" acrylic as well as laser-compatible (?) MDF. They can cut or engrave acrylic, most woods, rubber, delrin, styrene, paper, cardboard, and engrave some ceramic, stone, glass, and coated metals. They can not engrave raw metals or cut them at all, nor should they be used with foam-core, PVC, vinyl, expanded polystyrene, ABS, and several other materials. The shop does not recommend cutting anything thicker than 3/8". I have used acrylic and sheet styrene with good result.

CNC Mill: this is a Tormach PCNC 1100 (base price $8,400). It has a 1.5 HP motor, and the table is 34" x 9.5". The shop is strongly disinclined against cutting anything harder than aluminium, but it can (supposedly) handle a 1/2" end mill easily. Takes Mach 2/3 Arcs (inch) G-code, as well as G-code Arcs (inch) with the *.tap suffix. Cut3d, which includes a compiler for the above formats, is on the machines upstairs (as are several CAD and 3d programs, notably the complete suite from Autodesk). The front desk has ball nose and straight end mills for a very reasonable price, but the only aluminum are blanks suitable for carving injection molds.

Shopbot: The SF shop has three. First is a PRSalpha that can handle stock up to 4' x 8' x 6", with collets for 1/8", 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" shank. They may be getting a better supply of bits to be sold from the counter. Soon.  They also have a "Buddy" (24" x 48", I think), and a desktop model with a 24" x 18" bed. The Alpha goes for over $17K new, and it whizzes through birch ply, cutting out a coaster in a minute or two. It can handle most woods and many plastics and composites.

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