Talking about the Makita RT0701. Do I need a larger router for my CNC?

I decided to write this post to talk a bit about routers to use on hobby CNC machines like the LongMill. If you’ve done some research on this topic, you’ve probably seen a lot of machines use the same Makita router. Of course this isn’t a coincidence. We believe that the Makita RT0701 is a great option for a lot of reasons, including:

  • Good speed control from 10,000 to 30,000RPM
  • Simple round body which makes it easy to mount to a machine
  • Affordable price of around $100 to $150
  • Easy to find at most big box hardware stores
  • Ample power and performance

However, for a lot of people, especially woodworkers who use full size routers that have 1/2″ shanks and +2HP motors in their work , the Makita router looks a little bit dinky. If you’re one of those people who have this opinion, here are the reasons why the this router is more powerful than you might think.

Electronic speed control

By far the biggest reason the Makita punches above its weight is because of the electronic speed control built into the router. Simply put, when the Makita’s motor is under load, the electronics will boost power to the motor to compensate. This means that no matter how hard you’re pushing the router, the motor will continue to spin at a constant speed. For CNCing applications, this is an important feature as the speed of your router is closely tied with the speed and quality of your cut.

Although many routers now come with this feature, routers that do not have electronic speed control need to rely on their internal inertia to keep their RPMs stable. Although this works in an hand held application, CNC machines need to have a consistent speed through all of the cuts for the best results.

If you have a router that doesn’t have speed control, you’ll likely notice that your RPMs drop when you hit the material, and you have to adjust the pressure of your cut to keep cutting consistently. With a router like the Makita, the router will instantly compensate for the change in load and not allow the RPMs to drop.

Matching the performance of your router to the performance of the machine

With almost all hobby CNCs, the deflection of the structure of the machine is the limiting factor. To put simply, the machine will deflect far enough to ruin a cut before the router will begin to struggle to keep up, which means that there is no point in putting a larger router that will never see its full potential.

Our real life testing

Over the last couple years, we’ve heavily abused our Makita routers, such as by cutting large amounts of aluminum and wood at a time. We do run tests as well that involve crashing the machines while the Makita is still running to test the effects of changes in the electronics which can completely stall the router. We also have built custom industrial-focused machines that use the same router. Here’s an example of a project where we used a Makita router to cut aluminum.

Some of our tests include cutting through upwards of half an inch of hardwood using our 22mm surfacing bits to stall the router.

I hope this post provides a bit more confidence in the Makita routers and answers some questions on whether a larger router is needed for the LongMill.

Laser Pre-Order: May 14th 2021

Hey everyone, Ikenna here again for another laser update. Since my last update I have been testing supplier parts, finalizing our first PCB designs, testing suppliers and ordering parts for production. 

Designs:

  • Copper Heatsink: Design is finalized and sent to the manufacturer 
  • Aluminum Heatsink: Design is finalized and sent to the manufacturer
  • Lens Focus Ring: Design is finalized and sent to the manufacturer
  • Air Assist: I have updated the design but more fit testing is needed 
  • T-mount: Design is completed, if there is time I will redesign a magnetic mount
  • Laser Driver: I have our first 2 pcb driver designs. Will be ordering assembled prototypes this week
  • Laser Driver Enclosure: Now that I have a few pcb designs, I will begin designing an enclosure

Supplier Testing:

  • Safety Goggles:Testing safety goggles is complete and I will be looking to place an order in the next week.  
    • To summarize the testing procedure: I used a laser power meter to measure optical power and then ran the same test with the safety goggle lens between the laser power meter and the laser. This effectively tested how much optical power made it through each lens of the safety goggle. Although most suppliers kept it under the FDA recommended limit of 5mw, there was one supplier that stood out. 

  • Lenses: I have narrowed it down to 2 suppliers, will have a supplier selected by the end of this week
  • Fans: I have tested our fan supplier and am happy with the results. Our main fan selection needs more testing to find the perfect noise output to heat exhausting balance. Trying to make sure the main fan we select isn’t noisier than it has to be. 
  • Power supply: I am finalizing the connector type that is needed for the power supply. Will have samples ordered and tested next.  

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Supply Chain:

  • Laser Diodes: We placed our first order of diodes this week. I will continue to look for backup suppliers so that we can keep up with any future demand if needed.  
  • Aluminum Heatsink: Order has been placed for our very own aluminum heatsink design  
  • Copper Heatsink: Order has been placed for our very own copper heatsink design
  • Lens Focus Ring: Order has been placed for our very own lens focus ring design

Pre Order Launch: 

Our Pre order page will launch May 14th, price is set to $400CAD for the module + $60CAD for the safety goggles. Each laser will include 1 lens with the option to purchase more. Here are some of the things we still have to finalize: 

  1. Photorealistic product renders
  2. Finalizing a product name 
  3. Introductory resources so you may begin preparing to operate your laser module.

Just like this update, all future laser updates will be sent out directly to the mailing list as well as posted publicly to the Sienci blog & Facebook group

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If you missed the last update, check it out here: https://sienci.com/2021/04/12/laser-development-update/

April/May Production Updates

Hi everyone, this is our April pt 2. and May production update.

If you’re looking to order a machine or waiting on one to show up, please read this update to find out what’s going on in our shop.

For previous production updates, please check our blog (https://sienci.com/blog/).

If you are looking for an update on where your order is on the waiting list, please check our list (https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215)

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Lead times for new orders

We’re happy to announce that lead times will be dropping from 3-5 weeks to 2-3 weeks!

*UPDATE – We have now cleared our backorder. New orders will ship within one week!*

This comes due to a flattening out in the number of orders we are getting, as well as the additional staff that we’ve brought on to continue packing and shipping machines. We are aiming to keep our lead times within two weeks, however, we are stating our lead time as 2-3 weeks to provide ourselves an additional 2-week buffer for any unforeseeable delays.

It’s exciting to finally get back down to our 2-3 week lead time, as we have seen a major backlog of orders since around June of last year and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the Sienci Labs team. As our production capacity meets the demand for the LongMill, this gives us the opportunity to dedicate more time to developing other parts of the company such as marketing, customer support, and technical development. We also expect to see improvements in the productivity and efficiency of our production, giving us more flexibility in the number of machines we can sell and ship.

At the time of writing, we have around 270 machines in stock. We expect to keep our lead times at around 2 weeks until we run out of this stock.

Batch 5 production

We are currently shipping machines for Batch 4 and are producing parts for Batch 5. Parts for Batch 5 will be arriving between May and June. Once we run out of parts for Batch 4, new customers will need to wait for all of the parts in Batch 5 to arrive for us to start shipping again.

Batch 5 will consist of 1000 LongMills.

Commonly asked questions

If you are interested in ordering a LongMill please read this section.

If I place an order today, how long will it take to ship?

2-4 weeks

Is there any way to skip the line/get my machine faster?

  • No. To keep things fair for all of our customers, we ship all orders based on when they were ordered. There are no exceptions. The only way to get a machine faster is to order one sooner. If we have updates to the lead time, they will be posted here and on the forum: https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215If you want to see where you are in the queue for your order, please check the forum.

Does it make a difference in when I get my machine if I pick it up?

  • The only difference it will make will be that you will not have to wait for the shipping/transit time for the machine to ship. Typically, machines take around 1-3 days to ship within Ontario. Otherwise, there is no difference.

When do you charge my card/take payment for my order?

  • Your card will be charged at the time you place your order. This is to ensure your place in line, purchase parts ahead of time, and have the most accurate estimates on production and delivery.

How can I cancel my order?

  • You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment.

Can I add other items to my order before it ships?

If you’ve ordered a LongMill and wish to add other items to your order afterwards before it ships, please choose “Local pickup” (for free shipping) and add your LongMill order number. Some items (such as the T-track sets) cannot be combined for shipping.

200 Review Milestone for the LongMill

When we first launched the LongMill on our website, Chris set up a system to let people post reviews about the LongMill. These reviews have been important to us so that we can continually collect feedback and have real-world testimonials from our customers on how they feel about the machine.

With both me and Chris having used CNC machines for a long time now, one of the things that we’re always conscious of is how we can relate to our customers that are using CNC machines for the first time. The review system has been one way we can keep in touch with customers and their feedback as they journey into the realm of CNCing.

The review system of course helps share real experiences that LongMill users have had so that they can recommend to other customers on whether they should get a LongMill or not. We send an email to users roughly two months after purchasing a LongMill to ask about their experience with Sienci Labs and their machine to make sure that they’ve had enough time to get to know their purchase.

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Here are some reoccurring positive points people have made in the reviews:

  • Excellent customer service
  • Price and value for money
  • Easy to assemble
  • Overall machine performance, quality, and rigidity

Here are some areas we could improve:

  • Missing parts and improving QA
  • Improving software support

Thank you for everyone who’s written a review for us. Your positive comments and support have been a great morale booster for us and the rest of the team!

Laser Development Update

Hey everyone, Ikenna here. Wanted to offer everyone a new update on the laser attachment and the progress on the development. I can break down what I’ve been doing into a few categories; design, samples and testing. 

Designs:

  • Copper Heatsink: Main design is completed, may make minor changes to offer better component fit.
  • Aluminum Heatsink: Main design is completed, may make minor changes to offer better component fit .
  • Lens Focus Ring: Main design is completed, testing fit with resin 3D printer before getting samples made.
  • Air Assist: Rough design is completed, will need to make major changes once heatsinks are finalized.
  • T-mount: Design is completed, if there is time I will redesign a magnetic mount.
  • Laser Driver: I have 2 PCB designers working on a laser driver design as we speak.

Samples:

  • Safety Goggles: I currently have samples from 3 different suppliers, I will test each one to ensure we are getting the optical density I need to ensure safe laser operation. Once I know which suppliers have the best quality safety goggles, we will place an order for a few hundred. 
  • Lenses: I currently have 3 sets of lenses from 3 different suppliers, I will test each one to ensure we are getting the best lens quality when compared to reputable North American lens suppliers. 
  • Fans: I have a sample set of fans from a very reputable overseas supplier being shipped this week. I am confident this fan supplier will provide high quality parts but if that is not the case, I’m in contact with a few other suppliers that I can work with. 

Testing: 

  • Software: Lightburn has been my software of choice, very simple, lots of features and reasonably priced. I will also begin using LaserGRBL for testing as it is a free option for customers and I’d like to be able to help with any issues that may arise with these 2 software options.
  • Laser Diode: I have been testing the quality of a particular 7W diode and am very pleased so far. I have been keeping current low when running tests but I will be running tests at full power going forward
  • Functionality: Currently I’ve been using mix parts from Amazon and North American laser suppliers as a proof of concept but as I get more into the supply chain the goal is to have a prototype that uses all parts from our final list of suppliers. 

Timeline Update:

  1. April 2021: 
    1. Test lenses at max current 
    2. Test cutting capabilities of G2 lens
    3. Confirm optical power with laser power meter
    4. Receive & test sample lenses, heatsinks, driver design, fans & lens focus ring
    5. Finalize list of suppliers using quality test results
  1. May 2021:
    1. Allow pre-orders
    2. Make last minute design changes
    3. Finalize all designs 
    4. Order parts in bulk
    5. Create quality control processes 
    6. Continue testing 
    7. Design and order packaging 
  2. June 2021: 
    1. Quality control incoming parts
    2. Create  assembly guide 
    3. Create troubleshooting guide
    4. Create project tutorials 
  3. July 2021: 
    1. Product assembly 
    2. Begin shipping pre-orders
    3. Focus on laser customer service/troubleshooting/community building

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If you missed the first update, check it out here: https://sienci.com/2021/03/26/laser-module-attachment-coming-soon/

Business as usual – COVID 19 updates

As Ontario once again goes back to another state of emergency and stay at home order, we’ve gotten a lot of questions on how things are looking like for us. Here’s what you should know in regards to the impact on our business:

  • Businesses in the manufacturing and supply chain (such as us) are considered essential in the province of Ontario, and thus are allowed to remain open.
  • We expect production for machines and other parts to remain as scheduled.
  • No visitors are allowed into our office. Customers may request local pickup at the checkout page. PLEASE place your order at home and wait until you recieve email notification has been sent before coming to pick your order up. Most orders (that aren’t LongMills) should be ready to pick-up within an hour or two during business hours.

We’ve had a lot of people walk into our office without permission and disregard the signs. We ask that all customers remain outside for pick-ups and we will bring your order to your vehicle for the safety of our staff.

If you’re looking for more info about production and other news, feel free to check out our blog: https://sienci.com/blog/

Laser Module Attachment: Coming Soon

Hey everyone, Ikenna here. I just wanted to share an update about the new Sienci Labs Laser Module Attachment we will be launching this summer. Over the past 2-3  months I have been researching and playing with different designs, parts and laser diodes. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, we are now confident in our ability to provide the community with a great laser attachment. 

Over the last year and a half we’ve been building and shipping LongMills, we’ve seen a lot of users add lasers to their machines and so far it has been a very popular modification. However, we’ve also seen a lot of issues arise with the integration of aftermarket lasers such as:

  • A lack of documentation for installing the laser
  • Poor service and communication with sellers
  • Incompatibility between the laser and controller board
  • Poor quality and faulty lasers
  • The need for complicated wiring and splicing
  • Lack of software support in CAM
  • Questionable safety and protection for the user

We aim to solve all of these problems and have a simple, plug and play, Canadian designed and made laser for your CNC!

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These are the general specifications we are aiming for: 

  • Will be priced around $400-500CAD
  • 5A constant current laser driver with safety features
  • 5-7W optical power laser diode: 440nm – 460nm
  • 40mm x 40mm x 28mm turbo fan for diode heat dissipation 
  • Safety goggles with a protection scope: 200 – 540nm O.D 6+

The Sienci Labs Laser is designed to be: 

  • An entry-level to intermediate laser engraving/cutting attachment
  • High quality
  • Easy to repair or swap parts 
  • Replace the need for our customers to purchase lower quality lasers from sites like Ebay, Aliexpress, Banggood or Amazon.
  • Replace the need for our customers to purchase expensive lasers from companies like JTech Photonics, Endurance Lasers & Opt Lasers

What is a Laser Module Attachment?

The laser module attachment consists of a laser diode, focusing lens, heatsink, cooling fan and a laser diode driver. It allows you to engrave and cut thin material with accuracy and quality. The laser diode is a semiconductor device similar to a light-emitting diode in which a diode pumped directly with electrical current can create lasing conditions at the diode’s junction. Laser diodes can directly convert electrical energy into light.  Laser diodes require a special set of specifically designed electronic control elements. This set of control elements are combined to produce what is commonly called a laser diode driver or laser diode current source. Essentially, these elements determine how the laser is turned on and driven to produce a specific wavelength and output power. A good driver accomplishes this without damaging the laser diode and offering the user multiple safety features to keep everyone protected.

What’s Next?

  1. January: Market research/technical research
  2. February: Order prototype parts/create production plan
  3. March: Testing components
  4. April: Test working prototype & finalizing production parts 
  5. May: Pre-orders launch (Limited 20-25% discount) 
    • Order production parts based on customer interest
  6. June: Quality assurance & product resources
    • Create laser tutorials, troubleshooting guide & documentation 
  7. July: Product launch,  assembly & shipping

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Working Prototype V1

How do I use it?

Using your laser module attachment can actually be a little easier than using your router because designs are only 2D. This is a rough guide for those who see laser operation as a daunting task. Hopefully you can see the huge similarities between operating your Longmill CNC Router and operating your Longmill CNC Laser Module Attachment 

  1. The Laser attachment mounts to the side or front of your Longmill Router Mount with M5 hardware 
  2. You can then run the wires through your drag chains for proper wire management
  3. Connect  your laser and fan to the proper connectors, connect the other ends to your driver 
  4. Turn your driver on
  5. Connect your driver to the spindle/ground inputs on your Longboard
  6. Put your machine interface software in laser mode/confirm all EEPROM settings are properly set
  7. Fire your laser with 5% power and focus the lens of your laser until the spot is as small as it can be
  8. Use software to generate your laser Gcode file (Lightburn is recommended)
  9. Put on your laser safety goggles 
  10. Load Gcode file into your machine interface software
  11. Fire your laser with 5% power, move your laser to your project start point, reset your zero and begin your job

Community Laser Projects

Safety

When you think of a laser, safety may not be the first thing on your mind but I want to emphasize that this is not a toy and can seriously hurt the operator or damage property.  Just like running your Longmill comes with risks, as long as proper safety precautions are taken you have nothing to worry about. 

  • Proper Ventilation 
    • The laser module will produce smoke & other particulates 
    • Use a smoke/fume filtering system or open window or garage door for sufficient airflow
  • Fire Safety
    • Have a fire suppression plan 
    • Have a fire extinguisher nearby
  • Eye Safety 
    • These laser are very high powered, without proper laser eye protection you can damage your eyesight for life
    • Each laser module will include Safety Goggles with a Protection Scope: 200 – 540nm O.D 6+
    • This range corresponds to the range of optical density and what wavelengths you are protected from
      • The higher the optical density the less light passes through the material
      • 10^-OD x laser wattage = optical power let through 
        • 10^-6 x 7W = 0.000007W or 0.007mw
        • FDA recommends no more than 5mw to avoid eye damage
        • We will be exposed to significantly less power than the FDA recommendation
  • General Safety 
    • DO NOT CUT/ENGRAVE: PVC, ABS, Fibreglass, and any other materials that emit toxic fumes when cut
    • Never leave your laser running unattended and always make sure your driver electronics are turned off when not in use

FAQ

When can I purchase one?

We plan on opening pre-orders to the public May 1st with a discount  

When will it ship?

We plan to begin shipping July 1st 

How much will it cost?

We plan to sell the laser module for $400-500CAD (pre-orders will get a 20-25% Discount) 

What Software do I need?

The laser will be compatible with any GRBL based machine interface software that has a laser/spindle pwm control mode like gSender/UGS/CNCjs

Will there be any Addons?

We plan on having an air assist attachment available at the time of launch. Other addons we’re looking into are; magnetic mounting options, and a Pro version of the laser (more optical power)

Do I need a Longmill to use it?

Short answer no, there is a lot of complexity that goes into making laser drivers universal but that is our goal. Compatibility with other Grbl based CNC machines and 3D printers. 

Can I cancel my Pre order?

You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment. 

April Production Updates

Hi everyone, here is our April production updates. If you’re looking to order a machine or waiting on one to show up, please read this update to find out what’s going on in our shop.

For previous production updates, please check our blog (https://sienci.com/blog/).

If you are looking for an update on where your order is on the waiting list, please check our list (https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215)

Lead times for new orders

We are happy to announce that we will be shortening our lead time from 4-6 weeks to 3-5 weeks! It’s been a big effort by the operations team to slowly start whittling away on our lead times.

Why the change? Well we have a couple of factors.

First of all, most of the machine orders we’ve received, we’ve been able to ship within 3 weeks this month. Having kept this up for the last little bit, we feel confident that we can continue shipping this rate and it is likely that orders that are currently waiting on their machines should see them a little earlier than initially stated on our estimate.

The second is with the availability of parts. With the exception (at this current moment) ACME locking nuts and touch plate wiring which are expected to arrive in the next 1-2 weeks, we have around 2 months of stock remaining. This means that we have the parts here in the shop, and the bottleneck is with how quickly we can pack, assemble, and ship parts.

That being said, Batch 5 parts are now in production and most of the parts that will go into Batch 5 will arrive at the end of April and middle of March. This means that if we sell out of our current stock before then, there will likely be a gap where shipping will be on pause as we prepare to ship Batch 5 machines. At the time of writing, we have 319 machines in stock.

Once we start to run low on stock, I will post another update to let everyone know.

Commonly asked questions

If you are interested in ordering a LongMill please read this section.

If I place an order today, how long will it take to ship?

3-5 weeks.

Is there any way to skip the line/get my machine faster?

  • No. To keep things fair for all of our customers, we ship all orders based on when they were ordered. There are no exceptions. The only way to get a machine faster is to order one sooner. If we have updates to the lead time, they will be posted here and on the forum: https://forum.sienci.com/t/list-of-shipped-machines/1215If you want to see where you are in the queue for your order, please check the forum.

Does it make a difference in when I get my machine if I pick it up?

  • The only difference it will make will be that you will not have to wait for the shipping/transit time for the machine to ship. Typically, machines take around 1-3 days to ship within Ontario. Otherwise, there is no difference.

When do you charge my card/take payment for my order?

  • Your card will be charged at the time you place your order. This is to ensure your place in line, purchase parts ahead of time, and have the most accurate estimates on production and delivery.

How can I cancel my order?

  • You can cancel your order with no penalty any time before your order ships. Please contact us through our website or email us with your order number and a request to make a cancellation. A refund will be processed through your original method of payment.

Can I add other items to my order before it ships?

If you’ve ordered a LongMill and wish to add other items to your order afterwards before it ships, please choose “Local pickup” (for free shipping) and add your LongMill order number. Some items (such as the T-track sets) cannot be combined for shipping.

1/4″ Flat Compression End Mills now available on our store

Hi everyone, I’m happy to announce that we now have 1/4″ Flat Compression End Mills available on our store! These compression bits work basically the same as our 1/8″ Flat Compression End Mills , just with a larger cutting diameter.

If you’re interested in learning more about compression bits and how they work, check out our old post about compression bits.

When I started cutting this project, I realized that I had set the depth of cut too shallow as to not get past the upcut part of the end mill. I stopped the cut and started it again after changing the gcode. I guess this is a bit of a happy accident as we can show the difference between using an upcut bit versus a downcut bit, and how it affects the quality of the edge on this particular piece of plywood.

Because on the first part of the cut, only the upcut portion of the end mill is being used, we are pulling the chips up, splintering the top surface of the material. Changing the depth of cut to 5mm engages the downcut portion of the bit, pulling the chips down and leaving a smoother edge.

For this project, I used a feedrate of 1400mm/min and a depth of cut of around 5mm. The upcut portion of this end mill is 4mm long, and as long as your depth of cut for your first pass exceeds 4mm, you will be engaging the downcut portion of the end mill.

In any case, after setting up the job properly, testing shows clean, crispy edges on both the top and bottom surface of the material!

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Updated viewing windows for the LongMill Dust Shoe

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Hi everyone. If you’re familiar with our LongMill dust shoe, you might be familiar with the clear front window. We added the front window to help users see what’s going on with the endmill, but it was prone to breaking due to it being brittle. We’ve seen some hacky fixes for it, but we wanted to figure out a way to deal with this small flaw once and for all.

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The old windows are made from PETG and are laser cut in a local shop in Mississauga. PETG was an inexpensive and easy to cut material, but we learned after people started using them, that they were prone to breaking. Although we provide extras in each kit, we understand it can be annoying to replace.

The new windows are made from clear vinyl. Working with vinyl was a bit of a tricky experience. Initially, we wanted to try using a CNC vinyl plotter, but we were told by some more experienced people that it would be tricky to get the holes and other details from the thicker material we were using. Our friend Adam, from BOKO came up with a process involving guillotine presses and drills, but making it that way would have cost way too much and take too long.

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Guillotine press at BOKO

Eventually, we had the idea of using a press, which is used to make leather shapes, but with the vinyl being pretty thick, we needed a lot of force to punch the shapes out and we didn’t have the right type of tools to do that.

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Example of a leather press we used

We finally ran into a local company called Roylco a few minutes up the road, and we were able to work out a way to die-cut the windows from vinyl. The new windows have come out beautifully and are working great!

These viewing windows seem like a small detail, but we’re always looking out for ways to improve our designs and manufacturing processes, and I just wanted to show a little part of something we’ve worked on behind the scenes.

All new dust shoes will ship with the vinyl windows. We also have them for sale here: https://sienci.com/product/viewing-window/