Magic Mill

The Magic Mill is a multi-purpose personal fabrication tool that will let people bring their fab lab with them, and explores new ways of interacting with fab tools. It has its roots in a long lineage of tools built by myself and others as part of the MTM project, including most recently the PopFab made in collaboration with Nadya Peek. The Magic Mill is very compact owing to its unique mechanical architecture. The machine is built around a vertical aluminum plate, constructed using similar techniques to the CoreXY frame of the PopFab, that acts as both the X and Z axes. This places the drive motors stationary and at the bottom where their weight helps stabilize the machine, and makes it natural to have a handle at the top of the machine for easy transportation. The final axis of motion is achieved by propelling a removeable pallet using a rack and pinion. This solves a typical issue with many machines which is that it is difficult to install and remove the workpiece within the cramped quarters of a machine tool. Instead, the table of the machine is first removed and can then be readily accessed. This has the additional perk of placing the third motor also in a stationary position at the bottom of the machine. All of these motors being so closely located to each other and to the control board results in quite simple wiring without cables everywhere. One interesting fact is that all of the aluminum plates, which together comprise the structure of the machine, nest during fabrication. Thus the majority of the machine can be made from a single piece of aluminum 220mm x 235mm.

Although the name of the tool is 'Magic Mill', its control system has been designed as a 'virtual machine' that is easily configured to support a wide variety of toolheads such as an extruder for 3D printing, a drag knife for vinyl cutting, a pen for drawing, and of course a spindle for milling. There is a network port on the machine where these toolheads can be attached to the control system. The machine is controlled from task-specific browser-based interfaces. For example, I have made a milling web app that generates toolpaths in the cloud and talks locally to the machine from the browser. This gives everybody a familiar and OS-independent way of using their machines, and most importantly integrates the last step of the digital fabrication process with the web, opening the door to new ways of sharing designs and machine settings across the Fab Lab Network.

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