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Today Otherfab announced a Kickstarter for the Othermill, a unique desktop milling machine. The Othermill is an evolution of the MTM Snap milling machine developed by Otherfab’s Jonathan Ward over the past few years. Otherfab is a small group of engineers and designers within Otherlab, and Jonathan was formerly at the Center for Bits and Atoms. The Othermill comes out of the Fab Lab ecosystem, and is comparable to the Roland Modela in that paradigm.

The most unique things about the tool are that the frame is machined from HDPE (same material as plastic cutting boards) and it takes advantage of a really smart snap lock fitting that eliminates the need for a lot of hardware. All that cost savings has gone into high quality parts for the mechanical systems; no hacked together Dremel tool in this milling machine.

In our local Fab Lab the desktop Modela milling machine is most often used for milling surface mount circuit boards, with machining wax for mold making a distant second place. On the Modela the smallest usable endmill is 10 mils or so, although most work is done with a 1/16″ bit. As shown in the photo below, it looks like the Othermill has similar capabilities.

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Another interesting feature is the self-aligning flexure bearing mounts that keep the bearing rods rigid, but have enough play to correct for the exacting tolerances of machine tools of this kind. I love the idea of replacing what would normally be an expensive machine part with a smart assembly that is machined right into the product.

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The electronics are based on Synthetos’ TinyG controller, which we saw at last year’s NY Maker Faire. TinyG is a slick open source controller that brings a lot of advanced features once found only in expensive industrial controllers to hobbyist-scale CNC machines. As I mentioned in a previous post, it make an Ultimaker 3D printer move like a Cylon (below).

The Kickstarter just launched today and has already reached its $50k goal.

Shawn Wallace

Shawn Wallace

Shawn Wallace is a MAKE contributor, artist, programmer, and editor living in Providence, R.I. He designs open hardware kits at Modern Device and organized the Fab Academy at the Providence Fab Lab. He makes iPhone synthesizers with the Fluxama collective and is a member of the SMT Computing Society.


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