Almost Ready for Independent Testing

Next Milestone

The goal is to deliver 2 complete 7W LaserBeam Systems to the test facility before Friday October 29th. There are a few tasks we’ve completed and a few tasks we still have to complete.

Completed Tasks

  • Iterated driver enclosure to ensure a proper fit 
  • Completed a rough safety and user manual
  • Prepared 2 full laser diode assemblies for test requirements
    • In case extreme test conditions causes one to fail, we don’t have to waste time sending another
  • Designed and made compliant laser safety stickers

Next Tasks

Safety and User Manual

  • Photograph driver and laser and create diagrams for safety and user manual 
    • Safety and user manual needs to be approved as part of the testing process

Testing 

  • Receive and assemble 2 test drivers
  • Complete testing paperwork for testing facility  
  • Package and deliver 2 7W LaserBeam Systems to test facility 
    • We will personally deliver this same day to save time in transit

Remaining Milestones

  • Pass IEC 60825-1 tests
  • Receive testing report
  • Order our driver PCB Assemblies in bulk 
  • File FDA reports
  • Assemble driver PCB enclosure 
  • Test each LaserBeam system
  • Pack LaserBeams – End of November 
  • Ship LaserBeams – Early December

Ordering Additional Safety Glasses & Lenses: 

Check out the link above if you need to order additional LaserBeam accessories that you didn’t order in your original LaserBeam preorder. You won’t be charged any additional shipping and your order will be combined with your LaserBeam Pre-order! 

Sienci LaserBeam Pre Order:

Place your Sienci LaserBeam Pre order here:  https://sienci.com/product/laser/

Answering your FAQ: 

Send your Laser Questions Here: https://sienci.com/contact-us/technical-help/

Check out our LaserBeam FAQ video, I take all your unanswered questions from the LaserBeam livestream and try to give you guys more clarity on the LaserBeam add on. 

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Subscribe

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If you missed the last update, check it out here:

https://sienci.com/2021/10/13/prepping-5a-laserbeam-driver-for-independent-testing/

AltMill and LongMill Survey Results and Development Progress

Hi everyone. Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out our survey. We received an overwhelming amount of responses which has helped us get a better understanding of what our users are looking for in a new machine. Here’s a bit of a breakdown and a report of what we learned from your responses.

General learnings

As expected, almost all of our respondents shared that they used their CNC machines for woodworking. Also as expected, almost all respondents expressed interest in increasing the working area of their machine.

I was very happy to see that most respondents use their machine actively, with the approximate per week usage for most users being 15-30 hours per week. About a third of our respondents who use a LongMill reported that they use their machine 20 or more hours per week, which suggests that many of our users use their machines in small-scale production.

As we get into larger machines, power becomes more of a concern. We initially were worried that people would not have access to 220V/240V power in their shops (at least in North America), but it appears around half of the respondents who chose to answer this question have access to 220V outlets. This indicates that we should consider supporting both 110V and 220V spindles in future machine designs.

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Interest between the AltMill and the Extended LongMill

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We see about a 60/40 split in overall interest between the two machines. For LongMill users who are interested in upgrading from a LongMill to an AltMill shared these common sentiments:

  • Want to have a more rigid machine, generally to be able to use spindles and cut faster
  • Want to have integrated limit switches or homing switches
  • Want to be able to handle larger projects and half sheet
  • Want more speed
  • Have some complaints about parts such as the v-wheels and delrin nuts
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For LongMill users that are interested in extending the size of their machine shared these sentiments:

  • Heavily value the community support and affordablilty of the LongMill in its current state
  • Would like general improvements to rigidity and design of the machine
  • Want a way to tram
  • Improvements to the v-wheel and eccentric nut system
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Many people indicated an interest in a spindle option for both the LongMill and AltMill. The AltMill will be designed and compatible with spindles. While we don’t currently recommend using a spindle with the current design of the LongMill’s Z-axis because of weight and size, one option we are exploring is to build the XZ axis assembly for the AltMill to be compatible with the LongMill. This should let us be able to share development efforts for the assembly across both machines. Allowing additional cross-compatibility between motors and electronics between LongMill and AltMill should also make it possible to upgrade more aspects of the LongMill as well.

Development progress (LongMill)

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We’re excited to share that we’ve gotten our first batch of custom aluminum extrusions in for the new iteration of the LongMill. These rails were made for our prototyping and beta testing before starting a larger production batch.

We are planning on using custom extrusions for the next generation of LongMills. We’ll refer to them as LongMill MK2s (at least for now). The goal with this generation is to provide the same straightforward, rigid, and affordable machine at the current sizes that we offer, but allow us to provide extended versions of the machine.

I think it’s important to talk a bit about custom extrusions, as it is a big departure from our original angle aluminum design.

When we first started Sienci Labs, we found that using angle aluminum turned on its side provided a sturdy, simple, and affordable way to create a linear motion system. Given that aluminum angle extrusion was readily available off the shelf, we were able to create both small and large batches of rails quickly and easily, without worrying about custom tooling and MOQs. I would attribute this factor as an important reason for getting us to this stage in our company, as we were able to continue to scale our production as we continued to build more CNC machines.

Creating custom aluminum extrusion was always on our mind, but until recently, it was not feasible for us due to cost, and the volume we would need to make didn’t make sense at our scale. At today’s scale, we’ve learned some important things that justify making our own extrusions.

The first area to talk about would be the accuracy of rails over high volume. Since last year, we encountered a new problem. While all of the angle aluminum we had received in previous batches were made to high tolerances, we had received a new batch of material that varied in the length of each arm and angle, causing less than an optimal fit of v-wheels. This gave us an opportunity to look deeper into tolerances in extrusion manufacturing as well as performing additional quality checks to ensure each rail was made to a high accuracy. We also learned that it would be a reality that at high volumes, it would be important to ensure we tackle issues at the production side with our manufacturers, since we couldn’t trust them to make every rail perfectly unless we provided the correct specifications for the rails.

This lead us to make our own “custom” angle aluminum. Basically, we arranged production of the angle aluminum using a new die made specifically for us at a higher tolerance than the industry standard, as well as extruding the material at precision spec. With these changes, we were able to reduce the number of out-of-spec rails to near zero. This also set up a better understanding of the extrusion process and the process and costs involved in it. It also gave us a chance to work with the extrusion manufacturer to work out design kinks and set us up for future development.

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Today, we use tens of thousands of pounds of aluminum a year to make our rails, way beyond practical MOQs for producing custom extrusion. We are able to spread the cost of the dies over the thousands of rails we produce to make it an affordable option as well. So financially and scale-wise, custom extrusion is a feasible option. So let’s talk about why custom extrusion makes sense, and some cons/downsides as well.

Improved performance

Designing our own custom extrusions lets us create a design that is more optimal for rigidity than angle aluminum. Chris conducted dozens of simulations and tests to find the most optimal designs for the new rails. Based on the results, we can expect 2-3 times less deflection in the rail than the original design. I would note that these are simulations, and real-life results are likely to show less of a difference since the numbers do not reflect deflection from v-wheels, linear guides, and other parts in the machine.

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This is especially important as we continue the development of larger versions of the LongMill since longer rails inherently have more deflection.

Ease of assembly

The new extrusions also include additional features that will make it easier to assemble and require fewer parts. For example, by including tapped holes on each face of the extrusions, users will be able to mount the rail to the gantry plate without any brackets. Each rail also has a t-slot, so all drag chain components can be mounted without additional tapped holes. Overall this will reduce the number of fasteners needed, the number of unique fasteners, as well as assembly time and complexity.

Improved scalability

Although time will have to tell, we expect that the new rails will be easier to produce at a larger scale. Since we already need to custom manufacture our own angle aluminum, lead times for both the angle aluminum and custom extrusion are the same. Since the custom extrusion requires less machining, we expect it to be slightly easier and less expensive to process the rail after it has been extruded. Also, since the rail requires less parts and a lower number of unique parts to put together the overall machine, it will save time and effort in sourcing and purchasing as well.

We are also working on cutting and tapping rails in-house, allowing us to have more flexibility in the sizes and variations in the machines we produce as well.

Less production flexibility and a step away from replicability

Since angle aluminum is a fairly universal product that can be purchased off the shelf, a determined maker should be able to replicate the rail design of the LongMill and make their own custom machine from scratch. It would be much more difficult to replicate the new custom extrusion, as the costs to produce a small number of rails are incredibly high. This, I feel, is a step away from the openness of the platform. We will continue to fully open-source the designs as we have always done, but part of the open-source movement is considering the replicability of the product. This was an important consideration when we started this development, and these are some considerations and why we made this step:

  • The number of people who make their machine from scratch is incredibly low. While there are people who use the LongMill design to make their own machine, making the designs available for this purpose serves a very small population.
  • The net benefit of having a simpler, better machine that is more easily scalable provides more benefit in our goal to make CNC accessible to beginners than to have a machine that can be made from scratch.
  • Most people who make modifications to their machines generally do it after they purchase and assemble a manufactured kit. Continuing to make the design public will continue to support people who wish to simply modify a kit
  • Building a machine from scratch generally costs more and will not perform better than a stock LongMill. We have extensively optimized the design and put an insane amount of thought and consideration to the quality of each part. Parts such as the couplers, Delrin nuts, and even the 3D printing filament are all custom made specifically for us at a higher tolerance than off the shefl components. Since we work within high volumes, we are also able to take advantange of economies of scale that do not come with buying parts in small numbers. Because of this, I believe that folks who want to build a machine from scratch would only benefit if they plan on making extensive changes to fit a specific need, or are doing it for the fun of making the machine. There are of course other designs and options that people can build besides the LongMill that lend itself in being made from scratch.

Backward compatibility

While the rails have been designed to be as backward compatible as possible, and many of the old LongMill parts can be used on the new rails, this brings up another important debate, which is “is it better to take apart and modify an old LongMill to put new parts on it, or is it better to buy a new one?” This is what I think.

First of all, if you already have a LongMill and are happy with the current size of it, I believe that keeping it the way it is and continuing to use it is the best option. While the newer versions of the LongMill will perform better, not only does the current version work well already, the extra cost to switch over parts isn’t worth the extra performance you may get. Instead, investing in other things, such as better tooling, software, and materials for projects may give a better return on investment. It should also be noted that the price of the MK2 LongMill will be higher than the current LongMill, so that we can account for changes in material prices, cost to build the machines themselves, and inflation.

If you are wanting to upgrade the machine to a larger size, then the debate gets a little more tricky. If you take apart your old LongMill to swap in new rails and lead screws, you’ll be left with a lot of leftover parts. Instead, it may make more sense to sell the LongMill and buy a whole new machine instead. So the formula would go:

(Cost to buy a larger LongMill – Price you sell your old LongMill) v.s. Price of the upgrade

I personally like the idea that instead of having this be an opportunity for a new user to scoop up a used LongMill at a discount so that they can get into the CNC hobby and prevent having a bunch of unused parts lying around. The net number of machines is one instead of two.

Of course, we will offer both an upgrade kit and full kit options to customers. These parts are interchangeable between all generations of the LongMill:

  • Motors and electronics
  • Lead screws, couplers, and nuts
  • V-wheels, fasteners, and eccentric nuts
  • XZ gantry assembly
  • Drag chains
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Development progress (AltMill)

We’ve completed the baseline CAD design for the AltMill and are currently in the process of having our first prototype machined. We expect the parts to arrive in mid-November. This will be our first fully functional prototype which will be used to test performance and make design changes.

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Next steps

We’ll be talking about next steps for sales and beta testing of these products. If you wish to sign up for beta testing, please fill out our survey: https://forms.gle/XZgWCi1TagmYytZ87

LongMill/Extended version of the LongMill

We are waiting on a couple more parts to arrive to start building working versions of the LongMill MK2, at which point we’ll be contacting and working with beta testers.

Parts that we are still working on making include:

  • Steel Gantries
  • Feet and Z axis mount
  • Thicker lead screws (for larger versions of the LongMill)

We expect the first two parts to be ready in the next 2-3 weeks, with the thicker lead screws arriving in about a month.

AltMill

The prototype parts are currently in production. We will be building one single prototype and putting it through the paces. Once we’re happy with the performance of the machine, we’ll be opening up pre-orders for beta testers. We expect this to happen around the end of the year or start of 2022.

Prepping 5A LaserBeam Driver For Independent Testing

5A Working Laser Driver

I am very glad to announce that we have a working 5A LaserBeam driver. Although this is exciting and we can now begin to move forward, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can confidently begin shipping the LaserBeam out.

LaserBeam 5A Driver v7

  • Stable 5A max current 
  • Full power mode & PWM mode
  • Set max power (Current – A) with dip switch
  • Interlock switch option (add Estop .etc) 
  • Key switch 
  • Power reset button
  • Power on & emissions LED 

v7 5A Driver Test Results

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New Enclosure Design

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Independent Testing

In order to ship our LaserBeam to our customers in Canada, United States & Internationally, we must comply with: 

  • RED Regulations: Canadian Radiation Emitting Devices Regulations 
  • FDA CDRH: 21 CFR 1000 – 1050: US FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health
  • IEC 60825-1: International Electrotechnical Commission Laser Regulations  

We are confirming compliance by having an experienced company test our laser.

What’s Left to Do

  • Receive and populate a cleaned up version of our v7 LaserBeam driver
  • Send completed LaserBeam product to the Test Engineer
  • Pass IEC 60825-1 tests
  • Receive testing report
  • Order our driver PCB Assemblies in bulk 
  • File FDA reports
  • Assemble driver PCB enclosure 
  • Test each LaserBeam system
  • Pack LaserBeams – End of November 
  • Ship LaserBeams – Early December

Ordering Additional Safety Glasses & Lenses: 

Check out the link above if you need to order additional LaserBeam accessories that you didn’t order in your original LaserBeam preorder. You won’t be charged any additional shipping and your order will be combined with your LaserBeam Pre-order! 

Sienci LaserBeam Pre Order:

Place your Sienci LaserBeam Pre order here:  https://sienci.com/product/laser/

Answering your FAQ: 

Send your Laser Questions Here: https://sienci.com/contact-us/technical-help/

Check out our LaserBeam FAQ video, I take all your unanswered questions from the LaserBeam livestream and try to give you guys more clarity on the LaserBeam add on. 

Stay up to date by signing up for

Subscribe

* indicates required

If you missed the last update, check it out here:

https://sienci.com/2021/09/23/laserbeam-first-working-laser-driver/

Inductive Sensor Kit now available on our store!

Hey everyone, we’re excited to announce that the Inductive Sensor Kit for the LongMill is now available!

As we talked about in our last blog post about the inductive limit switches, we had been waiting on the sensors. While the sensors were shipped out at the end of August/start of September, due to some shipping delays, the sensors took much longer than we expected. They have finally arrived, and we are able to start making and shipping out the kits.

Inductive sensors and gSender

Just a quick thank you to Garrett Fromme (https://www.youtube.com/c/IDCWoodcraft) and Dana Andrews (https://www.youtube.com/c/BuckysCustoms) who have been our beta testers for the past month and a half. We sent them our first prototypes of the inductive sensor.

During the testing of the sensor system, we found a couple of interesting bugs in GRBL and gSender. First involves the coordinate system. It turns out that GRBL counts the bottom left corner in the negative space. We’ve updated the latest version of the firmware for the LongMill to change this to make it in the positive space, making it more intuitive to use the sensors. You can now update to the latest version of the firmware using the latest version of gSender. Instructions can be found in our resources.

Second is the way that the gcode sender handles moving away from a hard limit. If you were to trigger a hard limit on the machine, the machine would not let you travel in that direction any further. However, since the limit will be triggered continuously and the machine cannot move away from the limit switch, gSender has been updated to allow users to move away from a triggered switch. It is important to note that other gcode senders may not have this functionality built-in, and the sender may need to be restarted or the machine moved manually to stop the trigger.

Ordering your sensors

You can now order the kits directly on our store. We are currently in the process of assembling and packing sensors so that we can ship them to folks as quickly as we can.

What coming next?

While the inductive sensor kit is a bandaid solution to add the functionality to older versions of the LongMill, we are planning on updating the LongMill around the end of this year to provide hard mounting points for inductive sensors. This means that brackets will not be needed to install the sensors.

We will also be adding more functionality and tools to utilize the sensors further through gSender updates.

September/October Production Updates

Hi everyone. Here’s a production update for September/October 2021.

We’ve seen a small uptick in LongMill sales over the last couple of months. Overall, shipping and production have been moving along smoothly, and most of the LongMill orders have been shipping out within a few days. We’ve reached the middle of Batch 5 a little sooner than we expected, and we may start to see us run out of a few parts as we wait on parts to complete the second half of Batch 5.

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Just as a side note, we build machines in batches, and Batch 5 consists of 1000 LongMills. With smaller or inexpensive parts, parts with long lead times, and parts that we need to make large quantities of to take advantage of the economies of scale, we order 1000 sets of parts. On the other hand, larger or more expensive parts, parts that have short lead times, and parts that are made locally, we produce in smaller batches. In this case, we produced 500 sets of gantries, control box parts, and rails.

It’s important for us as a business to try to time the production and purchasing for each of our components. Over-producing means having to pay for inventory that needs to sit on shelves, while under-producing means having longer wait times for completed products. We of course try to balance these things and make production as seamless as possible.

Due to the uptick in sales, we’re running out of parts sooner than we expected, which may lead to shortages of parts. Currently, we are expecting to run out of gantries in the next few days. The laser cutting for the gantries is expected to be completed on Monday, with painting and finishing of the gantries to take about 2 weeks to complete. We will be working with our manufacturers to coat the parts that we are lowest first so that we can keep production going, but regardless, you should expect the lead time to increase until the rest of the gantries are completed.

Other parts that are still in production, but are expected to arrive before we run out include:

  • Rails
  • Control boards
  • Control box parts
  • Drivers
  • Flange bearings

Expected lead times

With the gantries expected to be our bottleneck, we expect machines, once they are out of stock, to start shipping LongMills again around the third week of October.

If you are planning to order a LongMill, please check the estimated shipping date on the LongMill order page for the most accurate information.

Surging ocean freight prices and continued instability in the shipping industry

Increased consumer spending and pandemic woes have continued to cause instability in the shipping industry. Recent surges in ocean freight prices now mean that shipping products between China and North America have roughly quadrupled in price compared to the start of this year. The chart below represents a pricing index to compare shipping rates.

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This of course impacts us. A reasonable percentage of parts that we use for the LongMill comes from China, so we are also at the mercy of ever-changing shipping prices.

Luckily, the LongMill is a non-commodity product with a reasonably large profit margin, allowing us to adjust to changes in fluctuation prices more easily than commodity items that have low margins, such as general household items. We have kept the price of the LongMill the same for the past two years, but inflation and current events may eventually warrant increasing our prices as well.

In the longer term, I hope that shipping prices do stabilize. Realistically though, I expect that shipping prices will stay high in the near future, and other unexpected factors may come up, so we will have to keep our eyes peeled for that.

Batch 6 is now currently in production as well, with this batch being 1500 LongMills. By increasing our batch sizes, I hope to smooth out the supply chain and give ourselves more time and flexibility between batches.

LaserBeam: First Working Laser Driver

 

3A Working Laser Driver

I would like to share with the LaserBeam community that v6 of our driver design was our first operating Laser Driver. There’s good and there’s bad but this is a huge milestone, giving us a lot of confidence in continuing to improve and get the design where it needs to be.

Positive Driver News

  • We currently have a working 3A Laser driver that can operate with the Longmill controller & gSender to produce high quality engraving and cutting results 
  • All safety features operate as intended (Key switch, interlock, power failure reset button, led status)
  • Control max current output with dip switches (up to 3A reliably right now)
  • Switch between full power continuous mode and PWM input mode working
  • Power your Laser cooling fan, driver cooling fan and air assist fan working

Negative Driver News 

  • We currently are not able to provide a stable 5A current to the diode (3A is the max right now)
  • Holding down the reset button turns the driver on (small error)
  • There is a small amount of power leakage; when in continuous or pwm mode there is a small amount of current running into the laser diode. This is an issue because unless a current is selected in continuous or a pwm signal is being sent to the driver there should be no amount of current available

v7 Driver Improvements 

  • Upgrade passive components and double copper layer amount in order to achieve a stable 5A 
  • Power and function switch changed to panel mount for more flexibility for driver design
  • Get rid of signal inversion mode and potentiometer in order to solve low power leakage and simplify design

v6 Driver Results 

Next Steps

  1. Test v7 Laser Driver
  2. Working on Laser Resources
  3. We are currently finalizing our air assist design and I’m very happy with the results
  4. New Update October 7th 2021

Ordering Additional Safety Glasses & Lenses: 

Check out the link above if you need to order additional LaserBeam accessories that you didn’t order in your original LaserBeam preorder. You won’t be charged any additional shipping and your order will be combined with your LaserBeam Pre-order! 

Sienci LaserBeam Pre Order:

Place your Sienci LaserBeam Pre order here:  https://sienci.com/product/laser/

Answering your FAQ: 

Send your Laser Questions Here: https://sienci.com/contact-us/technical-help/

Check out our LaserBeam FAQ video, I take all your unanswered questions from the LaserBeam livestream and try to give you guys more clarity on the LaserBeam add on. 

Stay up to date by signing up for

Subscribe

* indicates required

If you missed the last update, check it out here: https://sienci.com/2021/08/30/laserbeam-driver-development-shipping-update/

Vectric VCarve Pro now available on our store

Hey everyone, Andy here. I’m here to announce that Vectric VCarve Pro is now available for sale on our store.

We first offered Vectric VCarve Desktop for purchase through our store after many LongMill users praised its ease of use, a wide array of resources, and powerful features that made it worth the price. Over the past year it has become one of my go-to programs for creating gcode, as it has been proven to be easy to use and come with many presets and features that I have found useful.

One very significant downside to using VCarve Desktop is its size limitation. The software limits you to projects to up to 25″x25″. This of course leaves several inches of wasted potential for LongMill users that have a 30″x30″ work area or requires users to split or tile projects. Here’s an example of one of my personal projects making a trim piece for my old Volvo out of plywood that required splitting the project into several pieces.

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Vectric Pro does not have a size limitation. This, of course, comes at a price. While Desktop is priced at around $460CAD, Pro is priced at $896, a +$400 difference for the convenience of having a little extra working area and a couple of other extra features.

I still firmly believe that all new users should try out free software, as discussed in my previous article. But for advanced users who are making their bread and butter with their machines, it is easier to justify paying for software if it can save time and improve productivity. Initially, when the LongMill first was released, all of our users were new to CNC, which meant that we were focused mostly on helping beginners by focusing on supporting and recommending free and low cost software options. Now, with many users having had used the LongMill for a long time, we now have a growing community of advanced users who demand more functionality from their machines, some of which already have VCarve Pro and other paid software. So to cater to this growing community, as well as prepare for future machines such as the AltMill, which will focus on production and larger scale CNCing, VCarve Pro is now available for purchase on our website.

Just as a side note, we’ve updated the license distribution process so that all licenses get sent out automatically. This means that if you place an order for any Vectric software on our store, you will get an email with the license details right away.

Going Bigger – Announcing the Development of the AltMill and Extended Versions of the LongMill

One of the most frequently asked questions at Sienci Labs is “Can you build a bigger version of the LongMill?”. Well, I just want to assure everyone we have been actively working on the development of 1) an extended version of the LongMill and 2) the Altmill! Although we’ve been working on these projects for a couple of months now, these projects are still quite early in their development and we don’t have a ton of details to share. The purpose of this announcement is to start getting our community involved by learning what sort of machines and features folks are looking for. If you’re interested in being involved in this process, please make sure to fill out the survey.

What is the extended version of the LongMill?

Well, I guess it’s in the name. We’re working on a version of the LongMill that uses the core components of the original machine, but extends the rails and leadscrews to add more working area to the machine. The goal is to have a LongMill 30×48 or LongMill 48×48 machine. We expect to be working in a price point of around $2000-$2500 for a full extended version of the LongMill, with kits available for adapting pre-existing models of the LongMill to the larger size as well around $800 to $1000. Please note that pricing is an estimate at this point and may change.

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What is the AltMill?

The AltMill is a new machine that we’ve been working on that focuses more on the more industrial/production end of the spectrum of hobby CNCing. This means linear rails and ball screws, more powerful motors, and other features that are designed for more intense CNCing. We expect to be working in a price point of around $3000-4000 for a 48×48 inch working area.

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Timeline

Extended version of the LongMill

We are currently in the early stages of manufacturing prototypes of the rails for the extended version of the LongMill. We will be conducting testing between October and November, to push for a December or early 2022 launch.

AltMill

We are currently building to scale prototypes with wood, with plans to start producing prototypes from aluminum in the coming months. Due to the scale and complexity of the project, we expect to have working versions of the AltMill at the start of 2022 with a launch for the AltMill in mid-2022.

Beta testing

If you wish to be part of our beta testing program, please fill out the survey. You will be able to provide your information at the end of the survey.

General challenges of the project

Building larger machines also prevents new challenges. Here are some things that we’re working on addressing. We also discuss this topic specifically about the LongMill here: https://sienci.com/2020/06/05/things-to-consider-when-making-a-longer-longmill/

Rigidity

Longer rails have more flex, which means that we need stronger rails to compensate. For the LongMill, we are currently working on a new rail design that improves rail rigidity while keeping overall weight down. This should help keep similar levels of overall rigidity in the machine and allow users to run their machines with the same speeds and feeds as any smaller LongMill.

The AltMill on the other hand will use stronger linear rails and bearings, as well as a solid aluminum structure to ensure a high degree of rigidity.

Squaring

Our machines rely on both Y rails to be parallel with each other and perpendicular to the X rail to ensure that the machine doesn’t rack or cut out of square. With the LongMill, we can generally rely on our table mounting procedure to ensure that the machine is square, but the larger and heavier the machines become, the harder it becomes to square the machine properly.

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Squaring and calibration tool for the LongMill

To account for this, there are a couple of options:

  • A table which uses precision cut parts to help square the machine
  • A tool or measuring device included in with the machine
  • Making the machine smaller

A table, in my opinion, offers the most precise way of keeping the machine square, which is why we are developing additional structures to support the machine that can use similar or same designs between both the larger LongMill or AltMill.

Beyond this, gSender also offers a calibration tool that will play a more integral role in working with larger machines.

Mounting

Although a LongMill 30×30 fits perfectly on a 4×4 ft sheet of MDF, it is generally difficult to find sheets larger than this for mounting larger machines. One option is to cut and join multiple smaller sheets into a 5ft or 6ft square base to mount a machine on or have a pre-built bench or table that the machine mounts to, with space in the middle to put a larger wasteboard.

In terms of a 30×48 LongMill size, customers could purchase a 4×8 ft sheet and cut it down to 4×6 ft size to mount the machine to. However, 48×48 machines and the AltMill would need to use an alternative method.

In this case, having a table would also offer a good solution to this issue.

Power

The larger a machine gets, the more power it needs. This means larger motors and drivers. This is because:

  • The parts that make up the machine that need to move are larger and heavier
  • We want to cut faster so that larger projects don’t take forever

I generally use the rule of thumb that no matter how large or small the machine is, you want the machine to be able to travel between the lowest left corner to the highest right corner in the same amount of time. So this means that the machine needs to travel faster the larger it is.

We are currently working on either using larger motors as well as optimizing the power from the stock LongMill NEMA 23 motors.

Spindle and router choices

The bigger and more powerful the machine becomes, the router or spindle power becomes a limiting factor. Although I believe that the Makita router we recommend for our LongMills should be able to handle anything for the extended versions of the LongMill, a spindle may be necessary on an AltMill. Here are some hurdles to get over with spindles:

  • They are larger and weigh more, thus needing more hardware to support on a machine
  • Have higher power requirements, which means that users will also need to make sure their workplace can support it
  • Require additional wiring, which adds additional complexity
  • Generally not available in retail, which means that we have to source a spindle manufacturer and ensure we do proper QA and testing

Seeing as spindles could be used interchangeably between the AltMill and LongMill, this opens up the opportunity to offer spindles for both machines as well.

Shipping

Larger machines are larger and heavier, making it harder and more challenging to ship. The current shipping weight of the LongMill 30×30 is around 60lbs. Although fairly manageable, any heavier and larger than this, I feel would be unwieldy for the average user. Not only that, larger, heavier packages are more prone to being damaged during shipping, which is something we definitely want to avoid.

I expect our larger machines to be way bigger and heavier than this, and I estimate that weights will start to exceed 100lbs. This means either shipping the machine in several separate boxes, as well as figuring out the best way to handle the tracking and logistics on this.

Our goal is to continue to make it possible for us to ship by courier (UPS/Canada Post) to ensure that customers don’t need to worry about freighting. This should make our machines more accessible for the general public.

Pricing

Because of all of the factors discussed above, larger machines cost more. As with the current LongMill, our primary goal is to provide the best possible value by lowering manufacturing costs with the most optimal designs. We do make certain decisions, some good and some tradeoffs to achieve competitive prices. Here are some examples:

  • Using standard extrusions for building tables – easy to source and build with
  • Reducing the number of variations of the machine to take advantage of economies of scale (no custom sizes) – reduces the amount of different types of support and resources we need to create as well as reduces machine complexity by not needing to design high customizability, but means customers have less choice in the size of their machine.
  • Assembly required by the customer – better understanding on how the machine works and saves costs on in house assembly labour, but would take longer for customers to get up and running

On the other hand, there are some changes that will add costs that we feel are worthwhile to spend money on:

  • Partial assembly of the AltMill to ensure proper assembly of linear motion components – we are able to create jigs and tooling to make in house assembly and calibration easier than most customers
  • Tables and other mounting options for larger wasteboards and machines – ensure proper squaring and make it easier for the user to set up their machines
  • Larger lead screws and ball screws – Although more expensive, larger screw drives are needed to prevent whip which are more apparent in larger machines

LaserBeam: Driver Development & Shipping Update

 

When will the LaserBeam ship?

During my time at Sienci Labs, I have learned a lot about rapid prototyping, quality control, and listening and working with our amazing community. Andy & Chris our Founders have always advised me to always give myself more time than needed. It’s a lesson I have not fully taken in until now, I feel like I have learned to set more realistic expectations on the timelines it takes to develop a new product. I do believe for the price, we are developing the best laser diode attachment on the market. The last piece of the puzzle is a 5A laser driver that meets the standards of the company and my own. I have no doubt that we will get there but we need time. The driver needs to work well, be tested independently and then ordered in bulk. That’s all that is left with development. We are currently at version 5 of the driver prototyping, we may need 1-2 more before I am confident enough to send off for independent lab testing and bulk ordering. The original ship date I picked was the first week of July, then first week of August then end of August. Instead of telling you we can ship early  October. I need to take Andy & Chris’ advice and give myself and those I’m working with enough time to do this right and to not continuously push the date by small increments. Your support on this new product and journey to developing it really does mean the world to me. Thank you Sienci Labs community!  We do hope to ship earlier than the new listed date but I think it’s best to allow more time than I believe we need. 

*Final shipping update is December 2021 (absolute latest)*

What caused this delay?

  • I hired 2 international electronics designers, I misjudged their experience with laser diodes and constant current drivers. 
  • Neither designer was able to develop something that could perform the tasks we needed v1-v4.
  • The best design we received was v4, it had working safety features and delivered current to the diode, only issue was that is was not constant current and was not a high quality design
  • Slow design work pace: I hired these designers in April 2021 and only had received designs that could be tested in July. This is the root cause of our 3-4 month delay
  • I am now disputing the payments we made to them and working with a new local designer full time and he is working night and day prototyping the new laser driver design. 
  • I am working between the Sienci office and our new designers office in order to keep the project moving forward and continuously test and debug designs at a much faster pace
  • This ultimately stems from my own inexperience hiring electronics engineers and designers. This did teach me a lot

5A Laser Driver Update

  • With all that said, version 5 of the driver was tested last night and had some issues
  • To much inductance/resistance in the traces leading to the voltage regulator 
  • Reverse polarity protection was not included
  • The way feedback was provided to the mosfet was causing issues with the constant current
  •  Version 6 is being worked on as we speak and we’ll be placing a new PCB order tomorrow to fix all the issues listed above. 

Production News

  • We have finalized the LaserBeam Logo 
  • Both aluminum & copper heatsinks have been tested with great results 
  • Focus ring & springs have been tested and packaged with great results 
  • We have a stock of 200 7w Diodes
  • Fans have arrived and will be tested next week
  • New batch of power supplies have arrived and will be tested next week 
  • Extension cables are being prepped for packaging 

Timeline (8-16 weeks): What needs to be done?

  1. Driver Development: currently working on v6 of the prototype (1-2 Weeks)
  2. Testing: send a driver off for testing  (1-2 Weeks)
  3. FDA Compliance: file our test reports with the FDA (1-2 Weeks)
  4. Order Drivers: order the drivers in bulk (4-8 Weeks)
  5. Ship: Package and ship LaserBeam Pre-orders (1-2 Weeks)

What If I can’t wait that long?

Please send us an email or give us a call and we will process your refund. I never want to disappoint community members and customers but at Sienci Labs we value transparency over everything. Some of you run your businesses with the Longmill and you anticipated having a Laser for certain projects/jobs, we understand if you need to make different plans and explore other options. 

For those of you who still want to  wait, first of all thank you. It’s because you guys have supported this project from day one that I get to develop a product that the community will use and hopefully enjoy in the very near future.  

Ordering Additional Safety Glasses & Lenses: 

Check out the link above if you need to order additional LaserBeam accessories that you didn’t order in your original LaserBeam preorder. You won’t be charged any additional shipping and your order will be combined with your LaserBeam Pre-order! 

Sienci LaserBeam Pre Order:

Place your Sienci LaserBeam Pre order here:  https://sienci.com/product/laser/

Answering your FAQ: 

Send your Laser Questions Here: https://sienci.com/contact-us/technical-help/

Check out our LaserBeam FAQ video, I take all your unanswered questions from the LaserBeam livestream and try to give you guys more clarity on the LaserBeam add on. 

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If you missed the last update, check it out here: https://sienci.com/2021/07/26/laserbeam-driver-complications/

Inductive Limit Switches – Production Update

Hey everyone here’s an update on the development of the inductive limit switches for the LongMill! If you haven’t read the last post, you can read it here: https://sienci.com/2021/07/30/longmill-limit-switches-coming-soon/

I know a lot of people are excited about this kit, and I assure everyone we’re working really hard on this. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working on a couple of different things, including video and written info and content, continual testing, assembly instructions, packaging, and the supply chain for the kit. We are now waiting on our first batch of sensors and a couple of other parts to arrive from our manufacturers, and we will be starting packing and assembling the kits as soon as parts start to trickle in. All of the parts for the kit have been ordered and are expected to arrive in mid-September. We expect to start shipping kits a couple days after we’ve received all of the parts. Kits will be $60CAD or around $48USD each.

Our initial timeline for this project was to have a product released at the end of August. However, we had a minor setback due to some changes in part price and availability from one of the sensor suppliers that we initially ordered and tested samples from, so we have acquired samples from two additional suppliers, one of which we’ve fully tested and have decided to move forward with to use for production.

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Some a bit more specifics that we’re working on to provide users include information about using different workspace coordinates, returning to a certain part of your job after a power outage or shutoff, and using jigs, which should add some extra tricks and functionality users can add to their machines.

Making your own

As promised in the last post, here are some instructions on making and assembling your own mounts and sensors if you prefer making your own over buying the kit from us.

Please note that these instructions are still in development, and additional resources and videos will be available for users soon. These instructions should help the general user population if they wish to make their own mounts and sensors.

Choosing sensors

The sensors we recommend using are:

Model: LJ12A3-4-Z/BX

NPN Detection

Detection distance: 2mm-4mm

Normally open

Supply Voltage: 5V* 

Choosing the correct voltage option is very important, as this particular type of sensor is more commonly available in a working voltage of 6-36V, which requires additional wiring to make work with the LongBoard. For using higher voltage sensors, you may need to use either the 12V auxiliary power from the board, 24V from the power supply, or from an external power source. That being said, I highly recommend sourcing the 5V variant of the sensor as this will make installation much more simple.

There are many variations of the LJ12A3-4-Z/BX, as well as other M12 sized barrel sensors that come in different lengths. In my experience, most seem to be more than accurate enough for this application, with a repeatability of 1 thou or better.

Most sensors also come with a set of nuts and washers, which can be used for mounting.

Making the mounts

All mounts can be 3D printed. The models can be found on our public Onshape document for the LongMill. The models can be found under Electronics -> Limit/Homing Switches. Right click on the model to export as an STL or your preferred 3D model file format.

These parts can be printed with most FDM printers. If you’re interested in reading about our 3D printing process, please check out this post. I would recommend using a higher infill for these parts since a more rigid part generally helps mounting.

All of the mounts use a pair of M3 heatset inserts. CNC Kitchen has a couple of videos on using threaded inserts on 3D printing that are awesome which talk about them in general as well as how to install them.

For our application, we found a fairly inexpensive and commonly available insert that works great. A drawing of the insert can be found below.

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Here is an exploded view of the inserts.

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Assembling the mounts

Here is a view of everything assembled before mounting to the machine.

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And here is the exploded view:

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Attaching to the machine

The mounts slide onto different areas of the machine as shown in the images below. Use the M3 screws to secure them. You will need to position the sensor to a position that lines up the tip (usually blue or orange) with the gantry you are sensing for. Loosen and adjust the mounts as necessary.

Wiring

Although the sensors for our kit will come with pre-wired JST connectors with a 2.5m wire for running through the drag chain, it’s likely that off-the-shelf options will not. You will likely need to extend the wires to be able to run the wires through the drag chains.

The LongBoard comes with ports to connect limit switches via JST4 connectors or with the detachable screw terminal block. Here is a diagram of wiring the inductive sensor using the screw terminal. Note that the 5V and ground lines are shared between all of the sensors, and each black signal wire is connected to their separate axis.

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More info on wiring can be found on our resources for limit switches.

Firmware settings

Once your sensors are installed you may need to update your firmware settings to enable the limit and homing functionality. A full outline of all of the related firmware settings can also be found in our resources.

Conclusion

I hope that this information helps some of our more ambition users who don’t want to wait to get a kit from us set up limit switches on their machine. I also hope that this will give you guys a head start in exploring all of the functionality in adding limit switches to your design. Over the next couple weeks, our team will continue developing the resources for the installation of the switches, so I highly recommend staying in tune on our social media and our blog, and check back on our resources page to check for updated resources!