FarmBot needs to be designed with manufacturability in mind – not just on an industrial manufacturing scale, but on the individual maker/hacker scale as well. After all, our goal is to empower people to build FarmBots! With this in mind, we have designed much of our hardware to be manufacturable using common tools and processes such as 3D printing, drilling, and sawing; as well as common materials including standardized hardware, aluminum extrusions, and aluminum connecting plates.
We’d like to share with you how we manufacture our 5mm thick aluminum connecting plates – an integral component of FarmBot that connects the extrusions, V-wheels, motors, and other components together throughout the hardware system. While the plates can be easily produced using a drill press and a hacksaw at home or in a MakerSpace, we’re going to share how we manufacture them in bulk with a high degree of accuracy.
The process we use is called water jet cutting, where a high pressure stream of water with an abrasive compound (often diamond dust) mixed into it is used to cut through a variety of materials. The machines are often very large and very expensive, though very powerful and versatile. Most machines can cut virtually any material including plastics, woods, aluminums, and steels. The process lends itself well to manufacturing our 5mm thick aluminum plates.
At FarmBot.io, we’ve been fortunate to work with a fantastic water jet cutting service provider named Big Blue Saw. Big Blue Saw is attractive for us to use because they are an online-first service that really caters to their customer’s needs. On their website you can upload a .DXF file of your parts, choose your material and quantity, and receive an instant quote for free. If the price looks right, you can place the order right then and there, and your parts will arrive at your doorstep within a week or two!
So far we’ve purchased about 12 FarmBot’s worth of aluminum plates over three different orders from Big Blue Saw. We’ve been very happy with their service, the fair price, and the quality of the components such that we’ll be continuing to go back to them for all of our water jet cutting needs.
If you’re planning on manufacturing your own FarmBot, we highly recommend downloading our .DXF file for all of FarmBot’s plates, and sending the job over to Big Blue Saw. There is also a basic finishing option for components, though we haven’t tried that out yet because we’re still just building prototpyes. However, once we begin selling FarmBot kits for others, we’ll be sure to polish up all of the plates for a professional, high-quality aesthetic.