Life After HB2 – What’s Next
It has taken me about 9 months to get to the user stage in the construction of the HB2. I have written a lot about this project. The HB2 has taken most of my available spare time from its conception to completion. For me it has all been worth the time and effort.
I designed and built the machine at my own pace and schedule. I never forgot the construction is a hobby effort. The clock ticking was important but never the driving force. I did set stage goals and was pleased with myself each time I completed one. The best part is that I built HB2 myself from components and raw stock materials.
Thanks go of course to PDJ and his Pilot Pro materials stock. The Pilot Pro design and choice of drive components was very close to what I was considering. What I received from PDJ was the stock material, critical templates, and the Pilot Pro drawings. I am convinced the templates are the critical part of any build such as this. A CNC machine must be in perfect alignment to function at all. I discovered that crucial piece of information in the HB1 build.
If you want to consider this option the first step is to purchase the CD from PDJ. This is the instruction manual and a load of other very usefully information. The CD is not a highly polished step by step (what I call a Heathkit) assembly manual. There is a good series of assembly photo’s and guide lines, but it was not exactly the version I was building. That is because PDJ is constantly improving the design and so was I. The plans were correct, so all in all the CD is the best investment and complete details I found for a DIY project. No reason to do all the same pictures on my website! Buy the CD.
I do not recommend this method of acquiring a CNC machine unless you are like me, extremely competent and certain you have the skill to complete the project. (Decide that from the CD.)
I realized from the onset the construction phase was a major undertaking. Before I could be able to make router projects with the CNC machine, the build required an entirely separate machine shop set of skills. I am just providing a word for the wise to those craftspeople considering rolling your own machine.
OK, construction warnings over. So do I consider the HB2 to be the best there is? Heck no. Read my other writing if you think I think that is true. What is true is it is suitable for my purpose. Will I build another? Almost certainly not. If I need a bigger, stronger, faster production machine I assume I will have created the need and the ability to pay for an assembled commercial design.
I have had the same thoughts about a larger CNC mill. My next size step up in that area (if ever) would be similar to the Tormach or IH CNC (Industrial Hobbies) products. That’s getting a bit off topic. The point is I don’t want to be a machine maker of that size. I’d rather be making things that need a machine of that size. That is my philosophy, not necessary yours.
Back on track.
What is next will be a few tweaks and adds for the HB2. My major goal is to produce projects to run on the HB2. I build it to use it, not just set in the shop. That doesn’t mean the rest of the shop will go to sleep.
My shop is no where big enough to grow into larger machinery; neither are my projects. I am still fascinated by what can be accomplished on quality micro and mini machines by the home hobbyist. That’s why I offer Taig tools and Proxxon in my store.
I do have one more CNC machine tool project on simmer on the back burner. Since I do not have a need for it, it will probably just stay there for quite some time. I’ll share the vision:
The Taig Micro Lathe is just begging for modification. I know the CNC Frog has died. In fact it has died and been resurrected several times. It was or is a single axis CNC controller for the Taig lathe. Great for enabling the one thing the Taig Micro Lathe is not equipped to handle, cut threads.
The market is obviously too small for the Frog product to provide a good stand alone business. Two axis controls with perhaps a variable speed motor and using MACH3 may not be anything more than a cool conversion. The pot is only slightly warm.
I have made an investment in Vectric, Rhino CAD/CAM and other CAD software products to create high quality detailed output from my CNC machines. The HB2 stepper heat sinks are one example. My plan is to put my creative gears in motion and first recoup my investment in these systems, and then see how far I can push the envelope. The one guiding factor is that I have to enjoy what I am doing. So far I am having a blast!
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