The Pipeline Project

A tool invented to make use of a extremely durable, cheap and ubiquitous material that allows to make things simply, from PVC pipes.

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Sewage pipes are available anywhere in the world, they are cheap and super durable. They come with an existing curve that facilitate the making of complex objects: no costly molding or laminating operation.

I have designed a machine to cut and extract shapes from these tubes. It consists of a shaft, holding the PVC pipe, rotating and a router translating, similarly to a plotter. It allows for any shape to be machined.

It is extremely low cost and simply constructed. Based on well documented 3 axis CNC systems, it is easy to build and be programmed. The basic components also means it can be replicated anywhere, allowing objects to be built from locally sourced, pipes.

The Pipeline project is about empowering people. Without molds, objects like chairs can be made on demand, in small batches and the design can evolve constantly. With the minimal investment, a very large range of product can be produced, using an existing industrial material that can be recovered or brand new.

  • 1 × arduino uno

  • The Pipeline Collection

    Christophe Machet08/02/2019 at 16:00 2 comments

    Very happy to introduce the Pipeline Collection.

    Here are shown some of the objects I've designed and produced using my custom cylindrical router.

    I enjoy very much using that machine, but at the end of the day, seating on these chairs and have a nice diner, or riding my skateboard is what brings me the most joy. So this log is all about objects.

    Here's the first design with a rattan seat, looks awesome and is very comfortable.

    wavy tray: two are cut at the same time, so there's no waste.

    The Ribbon chair is my favorite design, surprisingly stiff and very light.

    Sometime, i get random marks appearing on the products...

    I'd love to get one of these hand held portable printers just so i can add a lot more to these pipes.

    Cutting chairs produce some offcuts. So, im now trying to design smaller objects that would fit in between bigger ones likes the chairs.

    I can fit 6 pairs of spectacles into the backrest of the ribbon chair. frames and branches.

    Skateboards: an other object that is commonly laminated using molds and a substantial amount of labor.

    My cruisers are made in a few minutes and i can make a different shape overtime is i want.

    the curve makes it just stiff enough.

  • Making use of that machine

    Christophe Machet08/02/2019 at 15:03 0 comments

    A bit a time has elapsed since the first cut.

    I've changed studio and had to move everything.

    I found these MUCH nicer pipes. 

    If you go on my website, you might see some yellow and red chair. Even though they look good, the had to be primed, and painted, and its not realistic to go down that road, so I was researching colored material that would allow to a finished object in one cutting operation.

    The machine is now very stable, and run very smoothly.

    I figured out different machining strategies to keep parts within tolerances. 

    I mainly do 2D outline cutting, but the machine can also "sculpt" machine 3D model.

    Intense machining at the studio.

    I've been designing a collection of object, mainly furniture, all coming from the PVC pipes.

    Here's a preview:

  • Testing and Improving

    Christophe Machet08/02/2019 at 14:44 0 comments

    I went to my local construction yard to collect pipes.

    Fits just nice on my car.

    The shaft has expading blades to center the pipe and support it evenly.

    First thing is to lower these blades to load the tube then expend them and lock the pipe in place.

    I had to make a few last minutes changes on that shaft, it was a bit tight

    And i cut a sample so i could check different dimensions.

    First impression: It cuts trough the PVC very nicely and easily. leaving clean cuts.

    The cutting bit has flutes for the shavings to be evacuated upwards, so it leaves a bit a bur that i will need to remove post machining. But its very easily removed.

    The dimensions were a bit off, so i went back to the GRBL firmware to edit a few parameters.

    Otherwise, the machine seemed to be performing well.

    I finally felt confident enough to cut an actual product.

    I've designed a chair to be cut in these pvc pipes. being a cylinder, a pvc pipe has a natural curve that i want to exploit to make object that would normally be molded or laminated.

    I have nothing wrong with these processes, but always require to invest time and/or money in  some sort of mold or tooling. I like the idea to being able to just extract a product in just one cutting operation. As quick and easy as a laser cut can be.

    So here we have the visualisation of the g-code. You can see the trick, the chair is modeled flat.

    This is an other great aspect of this process, objects can be drawn 2D, making it super quick to iterate. 

    It also make the CAM process simpler than involving a 4th axis.

    It works like a charm.

    Still a lot of room for improvement, but doing exactly what i want.

  • Driving the router

    Christophe Machet08/02/2019 at 14:13 0 comments

    The electronic and software side was totally new to me.

    So, naturally, most of the work went into choosing the right components and the correct software chain, from my file to the steppers.

    I determined the force needed to cut through PVC in one pass. This required a fair amount of torque and I went with NEMA 34 stepper motors. 

    Of course during the course of this project, i wanted to spend as least money as possible.

    Already getting these motor plus controllers broke the bank, so i was going to go easy on the rest.

    I considered many different solutions including having a dedicated computer running LinuxCNC or even Mach3 among others. I discovered that GRBL 0.9 could do a very good at controlling these stepper simply using an arduino. I tested it and got convinced enough, so i went with that. At least until i find a better way.

    I crammed together the power supplies and stepper controllers into that electrical cabinet.

    I wanted to add a fan, but its been working pretty well without until now. But would still be safe to add one at some point.

    Grbl is just reading the g-code and moves the steppers accordingly.

    Again, i've tried a couple of different option and finally chose IGSplatfom.

    Actually i chose this software almost only because it handles and its look. All other software have ridiculous GUI. I'm not building a toy here. 

    One day, i really want to develop my own interface. Stay tuned

    Anyway, UGS does a ok job at streaming file G-code files. visualisation could be better, but still does the job.

    The machine is now ready to be tested, all axis run smoothly.

    All axis are belt driven for cost saving and convenience. 

    Now i still need to edit GRBL firmware to change the machine characteristics.

  • Initial build

    Christophe Machet08/02/2019 at 13:37 0 comments

    Initial build of the machine.

    One of the challenge with this machine is the dimensions.

    Ill be using these beam as my linear guide. It might not be extremely accurate, but will provide stiffness at a very low cost. 

    I'll simply need to make support on each sides and a carriage than will hold the router. Here again, stiffness will be ensured by a welded steel frame. I will use skateboard wheels for now, and maybe change them later.

    The frame perfectly matches the technical drawings.

View all 5 project logs

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Ali Ghane wrote 02/15/2022 at 19:45 point

awesome project sir. did you put the design and schematic on hackaday or github?

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YuanGan wrote 08/09/2019 at 09:02 point

nice work! I think the chair is impressive.and it is nice looking.

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ericlm wrote 08/08/2019 at 22:04 point

très très cool! j'adore! vous êtes sur paris?

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Christophe Machet wrote 08/09/2019 at 06:28 point

oui oui

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ericlm wrote 09/08/2019 at 18:23 point

Super!   ça vous dit qu'on se croise? je vous met un mail.

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John Opsahl wrote 08/03/2019 at 13:21 point

Great project! What process/software do you use to generate the gcode?

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Christophe Machet wrote 08/09/2019 at 06:27 point

Fusion360 !

The cad is very simple as everything is laid flat, then i generate toolpaths. Very good software

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Tom Nardi wrote 08/03/2019 at 04:27 point

What's the weight capacity on a chair like that? Asking for a friend.

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Christophe Machet wrote 08/09/2019 at 06:25 point

like how much weigh the chairs can hold ?? like any other really. Its very strong

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Jan wrote 08/02/2019 at 22:53 point

Awesome designs! I imagine a water cutting jet could also work very well for the intended purpose... Not as portable and not easily confined though. 

Looking forward to seeing new stuff emerging from your machine (and brain) :) 

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Christophe Machet wrote 08/02/2019 at 15:12 point

hey, thanks for the comment, 

Yes, it is a manual forming process at the moment, using a hot air gun. I'd prefer not to use any bending as it adds an additional step, but it does bring a lot of options too. 

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Gerben wrote 08/03/2019 at 10:33 point

You might be able to cut a V-grove almost all the way through. Then fold and glue it, to form a 90 degree.
But you'd need a consistent Z height, which a somewhat flexible PVC pipe might not have.

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Christophe Machet wrote 08/09/2019 at 06:23 point

I havn't tried this one yet, but its on the list !!

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Dan Maloney wrote 08/02/2019 at 14:47 point

Very, very cool! It almost looks like you got some way to heat the PVC after it's cut to form shapes like the arms of that one chair. Is that part automated too? I'd imagine that would be tough, so my guess is that that's a manual post-forming step.

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