The past few weeks have been quite exciting at the Maker Lab. As Shaun mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have new equipment arriving that we will use to further develop the Kits for Cultural History. One new machine I’m particularly excited about is the Roland SRM-20 desktop milling machine.
While the SRM-20 is roughly the same size as the MakerBot Replicator we’ve been using, it relies on subtractive manufacturing, meaning you can place a solid piece of material (such as wood, styrofoam, or acrylic) in the miller and then drill the material according to a 3D model designed in any given CAD app. A digital model is translated into code, which the milling machine translates into the physical movement of a drill bit through space.
Although the SRM-20 is meant for use in studios, classrooms, and offices (that is, it is not an industrial milling machine), it’s still highly precise, drilling at a mechanical resolution of 0.000998594 mm/step. To mill pieces with such precision, we use a variety of drill bits. But for now, we are testing the machine with the default, 3mm cutting tools.
Using the SRM-20 requires a combination of software and materials design. Modela Player 4 is the intended app for preparing models. In it, an STL, IGES, DFX (3D), or Modela file is opened, and all specifications for the milling process (which consists of surface levelling, roughing, and finishing) need to be defined discretely and in detail. Once this preparation is completed, the material needs to be staged; that is, it’s prepared to fit inside the machine and placed on the milling bed. Prior to fabrication, the VPanel software is used to set the appropriate X, Y, and Z coordinates as well as the origin point in relation to the model. This way, the SRM-20 accurately fashions the 3D model out of the staged material.
Once we finish testing the Roland SRM-20, we are going to use it to make jewelry pieces for our early wearables kit. Last semester, Nicole hand-carved a wooden model of a skull piece, and a few weeks ago Shaun, Danielle, and Kat digitized it into a 3D model. This semester, using the SRM-20, we’ll fabricate that model in a size much smaller than Nicole’s wooden model but similar in size to the Victorian original.