May 09, 2013
Regular readers of my blog (when I post... I'll write about what's been going on soon, promise) know that I keep a sensor net focused on the field of microfacture - personal manufacturing and rapid prototyping. Most of the time I natter on about 3D printing, but depositing layers of material to make something isn't the end-all-be-all of small scale manufacture. The other end of the spectrum - milling, or carving feedstock - is just as useful, and for many applications it's a preferable technique for making things. The thing about automills is that they're not yet as common as 3D printers. People have made their own, sure, but there really hasn't been a killer app that made everyone want to jump on the bandwagon. Not even manufacturing your own printed circuit boards, which is traditionally a tricky, nasty process that can cause one hell of a mess.
Say it with me: "Until now."
Presenting the Othermill: An affordable, personal automill for carving and drilling your own circuit boards, metal bits and bobs, jewelry, and reusable molds. The Othermill is a person-carryable (fifteen pounds, ten inches on a side) three-axis CNC designed to plug into any computer with a USB cable, where it can then controlled with software readily available for Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. It's a three-axis mill, meaning that the carving bit can move forward and backward, left and right, and up and down while operating. It was designed to carve printed circuit boards but by switching in different 1/8" cutting bits (which are also readily available from local hardware stores) it can also carve plastic, casting wax, plastic, wood, and metal. The design is as simple as possible for such a complex apparatus to encourage people to modify and hack on it. While the Othermill is designed to work with existing CAD/CAM software they have a software engineering team developing their own easier-to-use CAD/CAM software to lower the barrier to entry for new users. Designs in just about any vector graphics format can be imported into their software to further lower the barriers to entry.
Oh, and it's already 200% funded - the project's raised over twice the money they needed to achieve their goals. This means that they've had a working prototype for a while and are getting ready to go into mass production. They plan on shipping the first batch in August of 2013, so if you want to get in on the ground floor you'd best get a move on.