Tag: machining

Notes from Austin Blanco

Our friend Christian Wilms tipped us to Austin Blanco’s blog, which has some posts you all might be interested in: Characterizing unknown optical components A few notes on Arduinos, their timers, and using them with rotary optical encoders Long-term considerations when buying or building and imaging system Surprisingly clean +/- 5 volts from USB or



MISUMI for customized parts

When fabricating custom parts, starting from raw materials gives you flexibility. However, it is time consuming and design changes can mean starting from scratch. It’s faster if you can find some part off the shelf to modify. For example, for custom optomechanics, we like to start with some part from Thorlabs or a similar company,



Custom motorized stereotax from Mark O. West’s lab at Rutgers

They motorized a Kopf manipulator and used CNC software to control it. I like the simple mechanics. Here’s one of the parts used to couple the stepper motors to the manipulator: They use a standard 3-axis CNC stepper driver board. They have some of their own software, to simplify the interface: They have a JoVE



Sense of scale

The vast majority of the time, I buy what I intend to. Like the old maxim from construction: “Measure twice, cut once”, I always take care to ensure I’m ordering the right thing. At least when things are expensive. When they’re cheap, I’m less careful. Check out the photo above. I thought, “Sure, that’s the



Viewing CAD files online

When I’m in a tight spot and don’t have CAD software handy, there are a couple of sites I use to view CAD files online. ShareCAD lets you upload CAD files in a lot of different formats and displays the 3D model. It offers very minimal interaction, but you can pan and zoom. You also



Raw materials

If you need a chunk of metal for a custom piece for your rig, what are the options? The best way to go is to buy a part that is close to what you need and then modify it, probably some sort of optomechanics. Alternatively, you can buy a chunk of metal and machine it



CAD-based optomechanics mock-ups

I use SolidWorks to design custom parts for my rigs. Many times, these parts mate with existing Thorlabs parts. Fortunately, Thorlabs offers SolidWorks files that can be directly added to an assembly to ensure everything fits. It’s easy to fix relationships between parts (e.g., force a part to slide along posts in the cage system),



Laser-like water jet cutting

Micro Waterjet has an abrasive-based technique that enables laser-like precision for machinging small parts. The benefits are: no heat damage/distortion, and materials that are toxic when burned can be machined to laser precision. The jet itself is about 0.35mm in diameter, and this helps them achieve cutting precision of 0.01mm and positioning precision of +/-0.003mm.



Your own CNC mill

Most institutions have their own workshops that will machine parts for researchers, but these workshops are of varying quality and capacity. Often researches will become frustrated by their local workshop estimating delivery times on geological time scales. This can inspire the fantasy of owning your own CNC mill. But do you really want one? And