Rewind to September, Building My Robot Army

[baggies of parts]
[more assembly]
[wiring means it’s almost done]
[the robot is awake. “Hello, World!”]
In manufacturing, there are two major categories of technology, additive and subtractive. Additive technology is pretty new. 3D printing works by adding new material and building up a model from nothing.
Subtractive technology, on the other hand, is quite old. With a router, we are starting with something like wood or metal, and using the technology to carve some of it away. DaVinci did it with marble. Even the “high tech” version, CNC carving, has been around for decades and accessible for home users for years.
After a few months of experimenting with additive technology, I decided that I needed to gain some experience with the tried-and-true subtractive technology. I had (and still have) no clear idea exactly how I’ll use it to create a new business, but I know that it has all of the features that I’m looking for.
It’s a complex tool that will feed my soul. I thrive on things that are so complex that it takes me years to explore the potential. The technological aspect will also raise the barrier to entry for potential competitors among the artistic folks that I meet at shows. The complexity will lend an aura of mystique to my finished work and create the kind of shock and awe that helps customers to make the leap and invest in my work. “I literally cannot understand how you are able to turn something so simple into something so complex.”
I went on a search for a CNC machine that was affordable enough that I could have one and stable enough that I could put it into light production. What I found was the X-Carve from Inventables. ( It hit the sweet spot for me, especially since it, like Blender, is based on open source technology and has a huge developer and support community as a result.
If you decide to get one of these machines, make sure that you go to their website and watch all of the assembly videos. You’ll need to be comfortable assembling and maintaining a very complicated machine with extremely tight tolerances. The most challenging part for me was soldering the I/O parts to the microcontroller board. This project is not for the faint of heart, the haphazard, or the clumsy.

In the end, though, my robot army will rule the world! (Or make some really cool art.)

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