View Full Version : New Bot, New Projects

12-01-2016, 02:01 PM

I'm senior photographer and lead fabricator at a photo studio dedicated to e-commerce photography.

When I first arrived, in an effort to make myself indispensable, I started making stuff to speed repetitious things through the studio. I'm self taught (aka hackineer). Initially I started making things by hand and managed to keep my fingertips cutting circles out of PC on a home made router table. It helped so much, they started giving me money to buy tools.

I knew a SB would be a big sell given I had no experience with a CNC table, so I stared with the X-Carve. It proved valuable, but it was obvious we were going to destroy it in short order. I was given capital money to buy a machine. Little did I know how integral the SB would become or how large the projects would grow in size.

Buddy at ShopBot sold us a 5x8 PRSAlpha, and we've been working it hard ever since. Wonderful machine.

Aside from the usual cuts of jigs, adapters and fixtures, here are a couple that kind of show off the versatility of the table.

1- We shoot on melamine tables (6' and up to 9' diameter currently), and they pretty much get destroyed within weeks. They are not cheap. So I had the idea of using a performance resin, and pouring a solid top that could be sanded with a motorized drywall sander to yield a new surface in minutes. I couldn't have poured it without the ShopBot, as it allowed us to fabricate a slotted leveling table that only used 4 points (and center support) for leveling. At that size, it has to be dead on. Here's the table being readied for the 6' pour. It has to be able to support 160 pounds of resin for the 6 foot table and almost 400 pounds for the 9' table. We have yet to pour the 9' as other projects jumped in line.


1 - I do a lot of RTV silicone molding and urethane resin casting, and the SB has taken us from a very tedious hand lay-up and gradually moved us to what I believe are master fixtures that will be used long after I'm gone. We have finally settled on this. We use acetal copolymer for the surfaces (the part as well as the parting surface). However, to avoid having to buy full depth acetal, we back it up with MDF and pocket that MDF (oversized) under it with resin on the occasion we need to go below 1/2" (see the pockets in the flat one). The black dots are pocketed cabinet screws - didn't want to try to adhere acetal to MDF with adhesive. Then, rather than deal with clink boards, clay, clamps and all that stuff, we channeled out the walls for an HDPE insert. So now when a mold wears out, we pop the walls in, tape the seam, and pour. Done and done.


Anyway, this is just the tip of the iceberg for such a versatile machine. Even better, I'm helping get others interested and exposing them to things they never knew existed as was done for me by a friend who has a metal shop. Pretty exciting times.


12-02-2016, 11:40 AM
What i like is the bot allows you to think about making stuff you had no idea you could do. "Hackineer" I like that!! Good work!

01-20-2017, 10:48 AM

I've got some follow up as I didn't post much.

Most of what we've done has been "needed yesterday" so I've not been in the position to do things the way I'd like. That is starting to change, though, as you'll see toward the end. It's a constant battle to convince middle managers who have no idea what our needs are that no, it wouldn't be easier to send things out. We have one metal project out that's been out for a year with back and forth, revisions, etc. Everything besides metal, I try to keep in house.

It's worth it. I had not even seen a CNC machine in person until a little over a year ago, so I'm getting to learn on the job, so to speak. Most everything has worked straight away, so that encourages me to reach even more and try just about anything.

On with the photos! We do 360 spins of products, so we need rigs that allow very quick mount and center, etc. Constant pressure for more and faster.

This is a rig to hang lights and center them quickly on two axes.


Interior of our leveling table used in the table mold above.


More below...

01-20-2017, 10:49 AM
Layout of the inserts retrofit to the existing support arms. Not much fun, but bang on (thankfully). Also, custom indexing cleats.


01-20-2017, 10:52 AM
This is the problem we encounter with the melamine tops. This happens in no time flat - we have big, heavy products with sharp edges. This has gone away with the solid resin top.


Here, the support arms are being fitted to the bottom of the new top.


When the top gets beat up, we use a motorized drywall sander hooked to a wet/dry vac and sand the top layer off. Good as new! Should last years, not weeks


01-20-2017, 11:00 AM
Here is a V2 of the door knob mount masters as well as some single mounts having latches cut on the Bot with a jig. We do these in resin because they are really abused, and I spend a lot of time on the masters so each copy that comes out is perfect. Once out, very minimal post - table saw the gate, radius edges on a router, and cut the latches in a jig. Done and done.


Here is the final result. Assemblers rack up a bunch of these, and our photographers knock them out with a quickness. They are just big enough to show off as much of the knob as possible while giving some kind of visual of what it would look like in a door. Click on the 360 view to see all of it.


Finally we are being given some time to develop some time savers in the shop. Here is a test vacuum jig I did in MDF just to test the waters. Worked great, so we went with HDPE for the next.


01-20-2017, 11:05 AM
So here we are with the HDPE vacuum jig. This one was more challenging due to size of part, but it worked brilliantly. Pic of the plenum, then the finished parts on the jig, then stacked, and finally the Bot in process. Appearance of these are not important, so it's much faster to peel the laminate before cutting.

We go through a ton of these (this is just one half of an assembled fixture). These things just disappear in the heat of the battle despite all our attempts to retain control, so we have to make them as easy as possible to replicate.


That's a bit of what I've learned and accomplished over the past year. I can't imagine my life without looking forward to tackling problems with the Bot!


01-21-2017, 06:59 AM
Sounds and looks like you have learned well and fast. I'm sure you will have a place at the company for many, many years.

01-21-2017, 01:43 PM

Self employed 10+ years before this as a commercial photographer, and I've not assimilated to full time rigidity and politics all that well, so I don't see staying too long. Ended up buying a small 2x3 Probotix machine after they bought the Bot (it was that or nothing with my budget) for myself to work on my own ideas at home and start the transition back out to the land of the self employed, where if you reach and work harder, you are rewarded proportionally.