Monday, May 19, 2008

Make:14

The new issue of Make (Vol. #14) arrived today, apparently in advance of the digital edition. This issue is totally devoid of anything that resembles a rocket or rocket-related accessory. I didn't expect a lot of rocket content and I have like George Dyson's articles and the Jack Parsons biopic, however, the newness is wearing off. Your mileage may vary.

The main thing that grabbed me is the growth of personal CNC-machines. By 'personal', I mean that they would be manageable in a home shop. They don't require a warehouse or 3-phase power and are PC-controlled. They still range from pricey to 'if you have to ask you can't afford them'. However, this trend says there will come a day where 'high-end' rocketeers can afford their own. By 'high-end', I mean those who spend thousands of dollars on a rocket, less 'chute, electronics, motor casing and APCP. I.e., those who already have a shop full of lathes, large mixers, and lots of table-top power tools.

ShopBot offers a line of CNC routers. There are 6 PC-operated models, the smallest of which is 2'x4' (depicted to the right). These can cut wood, metals, and plastics. These go for between about $5k and $8k. There are probably additional tools to make these do what you want.

PlasmaCAM makes a small plasma cutter. This tool weighs 365 lb, is less than 6' square and can cut various metals at up to an inch thick. Want to move up to aluminum fins, rings and support structures?

Of course, if you had one of these the temptation would be to make stuff for other people for both fun and profit.

I also saw some upcoming events that may be of interest to my readers: