CNC on the Desktop Hack Chat

Is that a CNC machine in your pocket?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Matt Hertel and John Allwine will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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Join Hack ChatOnce limited to multi-million dollar machines on the floors of cavernous factories, CNC technology has moved so far down scale in terms of machine size that it's often easy to lose track of where it pops up. Everything from 3D-printers to laser engravers use computer numeric control to move a tool to some point in three-dimensional space, and do it with unmatched precision and reproducibility.

CNC has gotten so pervasive that chances are pretty good that there's a CNC machine of some sort pretty close to everyone reading this, with many of those machines being home brew designs. That's the backstory of Pocket NC, a company that was literally started in a one-bedroom apartment in 2011 by Matt and Michelle Hertel. After a successful Kickstarter that delivered 100 of their flagship five-axis desktop CNC mills to backers, they geared up for production and now turn out affordable machine tools for the masses. We've even seen some very complex parts made on these mills show up in projects we've featured.

For this Hack Chat, we'll be joined by Pocket NC CTO and co-founder Matt Hertel and John Allwine, who recently joined the company as Principal Software Engineer. We'll discuss not only Pocket NC's success and future plans, but the desktop CNC landscape in general. Drop by with your questions regarding both the hardware and the software side of CNC, about turning an idea into a business, and where the CNC world specifically and next-generation manufacturing in general will be heading in the future.


  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney08/26/2020 at 20:03 0 comments

    Hi everyone, thanks for tuning into the Hac Chat today. I'm Dan, I'll be modding things today as we welcome Matt Hertel and John Allwine from PocketNC.

    Hi Matt and John! Can you start us off with a little about yourselves?

    John Allwine12:01 PM
    Thanks Dan, sure. My background is in software development, a lot of web development, but I took every 3D graphics course I could in college and spent a few years employed as a visual effects artist. I've since dabbled in mobile development, electronics, 3D printing and CNC in general. I spent a couple years teaching computer graphics at MSU as well as a number of STEAM topics at our local Children's Museum to get their STEAMlab off the ground. I started a blog called Allwine Designs to document my various projects (a couple have been featured on Hackaday). Along the way, I met Matt and Michelle at various startup events here in Bozeman and convinced them that they needed a web interface to the Pocket NC and have been leading software development at Pocket NC for the last 2 and a half years.

    matt12:03 PM
    I helped start Pocket NC around 10 years ago. I've never been very coordinated so I've always like the idea of CNC. My background is as a machinist. I went to electrical engineering for a couple years but decided to start this instead. These days I get to spend most of my time designing and making new things which is awesome.

    Joshua Wentworth joined the room.12:03 PM

    matt12:03 PM
    Before Pocket NC I was working as a machinist in aerospace in Washington state.

    Funny you mention coordination - I don't think people realize how much of a skill manual machining really is. I really respect it, and hope to achieve some semblance of skill someday, but I'm glad CNC is there to back me up.

    Nicolas Tremblay12:07 PM
    I had a machining class in university. Teacher tough we were crazy operating the mill in 2 axes at the same time. But I prefer coding my way to a part now.

    Paul McClay12:07 PM
    +1 re manual/respect/hope

    What was the impetus for launching a 5-axis CNC machine for the desktop? Seems like it would have been easier to do a traditional Cartesian machine.

    kwakeham12:09 PM
    Futher to Dan's question: I absolutely love that Pocket NC took the concept of 300k machines and brought it to the 6-12k USD price point. I'd liken it to what Makerbot did for 3d printing, or Form Labs for SLA. Now that you have been in the market for a while what has stopped there from being a 3 axis mill that could handle metal. Right now there are < 600 dollar chinese "mills" that can barely do wood or PCBs, and then a gap to 10 - 15k for entry level 3 axis. Is it really a market gap, or is there no market need?

    matt12:09 PM
    At one point there was a section on MakerBot's website that was called the "MakerBot Mill" and it was blank but just asked if anyone was interested in developing it. We started with a 3 axis machine, but Michelle didn't like the first design and we could see there was already a lot more competition in the 3 axis space so we decided to go 5 axis since the mechanical design is really our strength.

    matt12:11 PM
    In our opinion, Carbide 3D and Bantam Tools have good machines in the price range you're talking about.

    Yeah, I guess the 3-axis market is a bit crowded.

    Adam Lange12:12 PM
    Did desire to machine an impeller play any role in the decision to go 5-axis?

    Hackaday Dan Maloney

    Vacuum-Powered Rotary Tool Redux, This Time Machined

    We love to see projects revisited, especially when new materials or methods make it worth giving the first design another go around. This twin-turbine vacuum-powered Dremel tool is a perfect example of what better tools can do for a build. You may recall [JohnnyQ90]'s first attempt at a vacuum powered rotary tool.

    Read this on Hackaday

    matt12:14 PM
    Not the impeller specifically - saving setups when machining from multiple angles was probably the bigger factor. But watching...

    Read more »

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