I went again to the Re:Make project at Derby Silk Mill this time to get an induction on the Silk Mill jewel-in-the-crown of their workshop which is their huge new CNC router. It’s quite massive being able to easily take 12′ by 10′ sheets. I was pleased to find the small amount of experience on Martin Raynsford’s home built CNC machine back in 2011 as well as my experience of laser cutters and 2D design software stood me in good stead to fully understand the quick introduction from TILT.
The software used is VCarvePro 7 and it looks fairly useful. It takes your design and helps you nest it for optimal cutting. Helps you program the CNC to understand what is an inside cut on a shape and what is the outside. With CNC you loose a fair amount of material so the machine knowing if you wanted a hole in a larger section or the hole is the section is useful. Not only that, it can’t cut squared inside corners and have a trick or two to get around that. Slotting stuff together isn’t much fun if your inside corners are rounded so it gives you the option to add a dog-bone or t cut. A very familiar shape if you’ve seen any CNC routed furniture (and you probably have).
To ensure that smaller parts are moved about by the spindle or even sucked up by the dust extraction a small tab of thin material can be programmed to be left for hand finishing you can see an example in the picture below.
Lots of people have asked me about access to this wonderful machine. Right now it’s priority is making the furniture designed by the RE:MAKE project which I spoke about last week. I have a few ideas of things I’d like to make on it myself.
The Silk Mill and TILT team have had a few teething issues with their CNC router including finding it very hard to find materials level enough to put on the table. It uses two huge vacuum pumps to hold the work pieces down level. I’m really looking forward to actually trying to cut something on the table. Only a matter of time really but right now all the focus is on the furniture being designed for the Mill by the public. I’ll try and write up any other experiences I have with the Silk Mill CNC.