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December 9 – December 16, 2022 “A Project That is Winter/Christmas Themed” Contest

Hello, everyone. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who took part in the contest this week. We’re really pleased to see that you all utilized the information you learned from these projects you completed on your LongMill for other projects. We are aware that this journey may be challenging but the outcomes are incredible. We love seeing all the projects shared within the community.


Last Week’s Winners

We are happy to announce that Kevin Veliz, Jason Binkley, Andre Arseneault, Gavin Hutchens, Mark Lesinski, and Ed Barsalou are the winners of the “A Project That You Learned Something From Making It” contest! Look out for a prize coming your way!


This Week’s Theme: A Project That is Winter/Christmas Themed

Happy festive season everyone! Celebrate the season with us by posting your best Winter/Christmas-themed projects made on your LongMill to get us in the jolly spirit. We will pick our favourite festive season projects and send cool stuff to the makers. Happy holidays to all of you!

Happy making!

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AutoZero Touch Plate macros now available for alternative gcode senders

I’m excited to share that new macros for the AutoZero Touch Plate can now be found in our resources! This means that users who wish to use the Autozero Touch Plate with gcode senders that are not gSender can now do so with senders such as UGS, CNCjs, and Buildbotics/Linux CNC controllers.

We hope that users outside of the LongMill ecosystem will be able to use our unique touch plate for their CNCing.

For folks not familiar, the AutoZero Touch Plate is a revolutionary CNC touch plate design that allows for homing of both straight and irregularly shaped bits (v-bits, ball nose, and tapered) in the X, Y, and Z directions automatically using a unique chamfered-edge design.

Unlike most conventional touch plates, AutoZero also automatically measures and calculates the size and position of the bit that you’re using, allowing users to skip the process of measuring and inputting their tooling sizes into the software. Plus, with our gSender control software, users can use pre-built settings to have a seamless experience homing bits on their CNC machines.

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Everything you need to know about 4th/Rotary axis on the LongMill (so far)

One of the common asks that users have been requesting has been adding a 4th axis or rotary axis to the LongMill. We’re now happy to share some of the work we’ve been doing to add this support to the machine. We are currently in the early stages of development for this addition but have been able to get some good results from our testing.

A survey can be found at the end of the article, where you can help us understand your needs and get feedback and comments if you wish to participate!

What are we trying to sell here?

Although things are not finalized yet, here’s a breakdown of a rotary axis kit we’re looking to develop for the LongMill. Our goal is to have a kit that allows for a plug-and-play addition of a 4th axis to any LongMill.

  • Motorized chuck and headstock, along with a mounting solution to the machine
  • Cables and switches for connecting to the LongBoard controller
  • Resources and customer support to help set up and use the kit

What is a 4th axis?

Most CNC routers like the LongMill use a 3-axis system, which consists of a X, Y, and Z linear motion system that is used to position bits and end mills. One of the limitations of a 3-axis system is the fact that 3-axis machines cannot make “undercuts” without flipping or material manually. Since the machine only can orient the bit vertically, there are limitations to the types of geometry it can carve.

Source: https://waykenrm.com/blogs/undercut-machining-for-cnc-machined-parts/

To address these limitations, CNC machines can come with additional degrees of motion, typically including a 4th or even 5th axis. In the case for the LongMill, a rotary axis positioned along the X direction allows the machine to turn a part as the X and Z axis can move in sync as the material turns and rotates.

On a mechanical level, the 4th axis for the LongMill will come with a chuck to hold material as well as a series of bearings and pulleys connected to a stepper motor to rotate the material as the machine carves.

What can it be used for?

The best way to think about 4th axis is to look at it as a computer-controlled lathe. Projects that are best suited for using a 4th-axis include making table legs, chess pieces, threads, and other mostly cylindrical objects.

Who is it for?

At this current time, we are exploring the suitability of a rotary axis as examples of practical use are limited on the market. We’ve put a link to a survey at the end of the article to help us understand the use cases of a rotary axis by asking what the community is interested in creating!

Based on our research and experience, we feel that this is best suited for early adopters and people who are wanting to tinker with the technology and can accept that at this current time, it is quite primitive. There are quite a few steps to using this add-on and the learning curve involved that may not be intuitive to folks that are mostly familiar with the typical cartesian coordinate system. Additionally, there are a lot of new software features that need to be tested and created, and we expect software bugs in the initial development of the rotary axis that may be frustrating if it’s not expected in the early stages of this product.

Limitations

Software

By far the most important aspect of the viability of this project comes down to the software since a rotary axis is useless without being able to program it. At the current time, the number of software that supports 4th axis machining is limited and the ones that we feel are best suited for this application are paid. Some options include:

  • Vectric VCarve Desktop, VCarve Pro, and Aspire ($349USD, $699USD, $1995USD)
  • Fusion 360 ($1600/year)
  • DeskProto Multi-Axis Edition (€249.00 for the hobbyist edition, €995.00 for commercial)

From our testing, Vectric’s software, in terms of functionality, ease of use, and price, is our recommended choice.

We won’t get into any specific details comparing the software today, but it’s likely that when we start to create documentation for 4th-axis programming, that it’ll be done using Vectric software.

Electronics

It’s also important to specify that with the current setup, this is not a true 4th axis. Rather, this setup uses the motor control from the Y-axis, disabling the linear motion from the two motors and redirecting the power to a single motor that controls the rotary axis. At this current stage, the plan is to provide hardware that allows for switching between rotary and linear motion by connecting directly to the control board.

While this seems like a big downside because the programming of true 4th axis is quite complicated and not supported by most hobby-level software.

Users who wish to explore true 4th-axis machining will need to use a more advanced control system and sending program to control the extra axis. We are working on creating electronics and software that will support this in the future, but we are not quite ready to share these details yet.

Hardware

Due to the size of the LongMill and the size of the rotary axis, users should expect to be able to cut materials up to 4.5 inches in diameter and roughly 10 inches less than the length of their X-axis. So 12×30 and 30×30 users would be able to do up to 20 inches in length and 48×30 users would be able to cut up to 38 inches in length.

The longer the material, the less stable the cutting is, since the material is only supported from each end of the machine with a chuck and headstock. Further testing will show practical speeds and feeds at different sizes.

Pricepoint

During the development of the project, we explored using either an off-the-shelf rotary axis option or designing one from scratch. It turned out that at this stage, it would be difficult to beat the cost of an off-the-shelf option purchased in bulk since if we were to design and manufacture it ourselves, the investment into design and the high volume of custom parts we’d need to produce would make it economically unviable.

Additionally, the off-the-shelf option appears to be quite well-made and good value, and ubiquitous enough that customers on a budget and willing to tinker may be able to source the same or similar option and use it for their machine, rather than buying it straight from us.

We’re estimating a landed unit cost for a pre-made unit in bulk will cost around $200. Additionally, the cables and electronic hardware required would add roughly another $15-20 to the unit cost. We also may need a precision fixturing plate that may cost around $100. Once applying a margin to account for things like development cost, customer support, shipping, resources, packaging, quality control, and everything else that we need to run a business, we’d estimate a price of around $500-700CAD per unit.

Additionally, users should budget to purchase software, as at this time we do not have a recommended free software option.

Next steps

Our next step is to determine the demand and viability of providing a rotary axis option to our user base. If we see enough demand, we can start to invest more time and resources in additional work and development such as:

  • Sourcing parts to create a rotary axis kit
  • Developing new features into gSender to add 4th-axis compatibility
  • Design of hardware for mounting to the machine
  • Resource development
  • Stress and long-term testing

Our first step is to share this survey so that interested LongMill users can share their thoughts, wants, and opinions on what they want to see in a kit.

In terms of timeline, we expect to make decisions on the direction of this project by the end of January. Depending on demand, we’ll start taking pre-orders for the kit and start sourcing components. We expect the sourcing and manufacturing process to take around 2-3 months, which brings us to around April-May 2023 when users may start getting their rotary axis kits.

Survey

To participate in the survey, please click the link below. Your participation is greatly appreciated!

https://forms.gle/nStvHGw78abFCcEZ8

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December 2022 Production Updates

Hey everyone, here are the production updates for Dec 2022.

For all news and updates, please see our Blog.

Just as a reminder, if you’d like to get these updates as a weekly email newsletter, please subscribe here: https://sienci.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=720f140325aaa668a8aa09916&id=e18d59a085

LongMill users on a map!

Using a new feature in our e-commerce sales tracking software, we can now look at all of our customers on a heatmap!

Here are some cool facts:

  • We have customers in 59 countries, including Aruba, the Faroe Islands, and Oman!
  • The United States represents our largest demographic, followed by Canada. We have customers in all 50 States!
  • We estimate that we have about 5000-6000 LongMill users in total!

LongMill and Extension Kit Orders

Last month we slowed down shipping due to a shortage of lead screws and linear guides. I’m happy to say that our new batch was expedited (at no small cost) and we are currently working to get through the current backlog. Although we expect to get through most of the backlog next week, we are currently keeping our 3-4 week lead time for the time being. Once the backlog is cleared orders should ship within 1-2 weeks. We will have an updated lead time once we have gone through initial quality checks today and early next week for the new batch of parts.

Batch 6, which consists of 1500 machines, is officially complete! New orders are now part of Batch 7. For changes and improvements we’ve made through Batch 6, check out the write-up from the last production update. Batch 7 consists of another 1500 LongMills.

Recently we had a few issues with bent lead screws. We’re currently working on testing all of them before shipping to make sure they are straight and don’t cause binding issues. Here we’re using an optical comparator to check how much deviation each screw has.

LaserBeam Orders

Orders for LaserBeams continue to ship as usual with fairly short lead times. Although we have stock, we are currently working on adding another 500 units to inventory. Due to a sudden increase in sales, we are currently low in stock and while some order will ship quickly, customers should expect to wait 4-6 weeks for their orders to ship based on part availability.

End-of-Year Holidays

As we typically do, we are on closing for holidays from Dec 23rd to Jan 2nd. If you have any questions or need anything shipped out, please reach out to us before the 23rd. There may be some of us providing limited holiday support and getting ready for the new year, but the large majority of us will be on holiday.

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December 2 – December 9, 2022 “A Project That You Learned Something From Making It” Contest

Good Friday afternoon, everyone! Thank you to all the makers who entered the contest for this week. We loved seeing all of your furniture projects made with the help of your LongMill. It was hard for us to choose our favourite ones since all were perfect. These fantastic projects prove that the possibilities of creating are endless with a LongMill. It is always a pleasure to see projects shared within our community of creators.


Last Week’s Winners

We are happy to announce that Patrick Baerts, Ian Fraser, Modern Memories LLC, Justin Currie, Kevin Waddell, and Matt McMullen are the winners of the “A Project That is a Furniture Item” contest! Watch out for an amazing prize coming your way!


This Week’s Theme: A Project That You Learned Something From Making It

This week’s theme is a little different, but very interesting. We want you all to share a project that you have learned something from using your LongMill to make it. All you have to do is post your project and within the caption, share with us what you learned from doing it. We’ll choose our favourite projects and send awesome prizes to the creators.

Happy crafting!

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Updated Feeds and Speeds Resources and Tool Libraries for Fusion 360 and Vectric Software

Happy Monday folks. Over the last couple of weeks, our engineering team has been working on creating a standardized testing method and recording values to provide recommended feeds and speeds for a large number of end mills that we provide in our store.

Check out our resources page (https://resources.sienci.com/view/lmk2-feeds-and-speeds/) where you can find downloadable PDF guides for feeds and speeds and tool databases for Vectric and Fusion 360 software.

Our updated resources also provide additional learning and theory in choosing feeds and speeds, so make sure to take a look through!

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November 25 – December 2, 2022 “A Project That is a Furniture Item” Contest

Happy Friday, everyone! We want to give our utmost thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s contest. We had an immense amount of signs and clocks project submissions this week that made it by far the most difficult for us to choose our favourite ones since all signs and clocks projects were so cool and unique. It is always such a joy seeing all the projects shared within our community of creators.


Last Week’s Winners

We are happy to announce that Steven Parks, Kyle Black, Brad Olmstead, Daniel Kerr, Rick Gauthier, and Jim Baker are the winners of the “A Project That Is a Sign or Clock” contest! A prize is coming your way!


This Week’s Theme: A Project That is a Furniture Item

The theme of the week is “projects that are furniture”. Share with us your tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, beds, and other furniture-related projects that were made using the LongMill, and we will reward the ones we liked best with great prizes.

Happy making!

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November 18 – November 25, 2022 “A Project That Is a Sign or Clock” Contest

Good afternoon, everyone. We want to give a huge thanks to all makers who entered the contest for this week. We saw plenty of GOURDgeous autumn/thanksgiving themed projects made by all of you awesome creators. Thank you all for celebrating American Thanksgiving with our with us. It is such a pleasure seeing all the projects shared within our community of creators.


Last Week’s Winners

We are happy to announce that Jay Smith, Derek Carriere, Mark Van Hooren, Nick Nalbone, Steve Goodrich, and Nathan Weaver are the winners of the “A Project That is Autumn/Thanksgiving Themed” contest! Watch out for a prize coming your way!


This Week’s Theme: A Project That Is a Sign or Clock

This week’s theme is “projects that are signs or clocks”. Post your most creative signs/clocks projects that were made using your LongMill and share them with us for a chance to be one of the winners of this week’s contest and win free prizes!

Happy creating everyone! 

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General Tips on LongMill Troubleshooting

Hey everyone, it’s Andy here. Over the past few years, we’ve welcomed many thousands of CNC users into our community. Of course, with any electro-mechanical machine, some degree of troubleshooting is to be expected.

For the first year and a half since the launch of the LongMill, I had taken on the large majority of troubleshooting from customers directly through email. This was an excellent experience for me as it opened my eyes to observe almost all of the issues that were possible, as well as giving me the chance to learn and communicate with customers better. Even to this day, I am regularly checking on customer tickets and working with our support team to tackle new or more complicated support issues, although it’s typically no longer my day-to-day role.

What has been interesting to see over this period of time has been not just how we collect data and information about issues over time, but also our understanding of the human nature of users when it comes to identifying and troubleshooting issues.

One of the things we’ve come to recognize is that there are a number of misconceptions to address in terms of troubleshooting the LongMill. This article covers some of my personal recommendations for helping you troubleshoot issues on your LongMill.

Our custom dashboard tracking what types of tickets we receive and the frequency of certain issues

Tip 1: Listen and look at your machine carefully

Simply listening and looking at what your machine is doing can help a lot in identifying problems. Is the machine making a weird sound? Do you hear the motors stalling? Is the machine stopping and starting irregularly? Is there a component that is slipping? Making a close observation can help identify the cause of an issue.

It’s important to note that the large majority of issues for the LongMill are mechanical. This means that for most issues, you can physically, hear, or feel issues. A few extra tips for this tip:

  • Jog your machine manually on each axis and check for smooth motion. I recommend running at the highest speed for each axis as stalling is more likely at higher speeds
  • Run your project in the air. Look for any irregularities and odd behavior.
  • Try turning lead screws and moving your gantries by hand. This can help identify looseness or binding.

Tip 2: Most issues are simple issues

The large majority of issues are caused by something simple. Always start with simple fixes first before trying something more drastic. This will save you time and give you statistically the best chance in fixing your issue.

99% of issues that our users have can be found in the Common Issues and Fixes section of our resources. I encourage everyone to read through it carefully as it covers everything that we know that may help you solve your issues. This section is updated regularly with new issues and fixes when they are found.

From my experience, users often have a tendency to jump to the conclusion that if they run into an issue, it’s a rare, complicated, or unknown issue. Sort of like being a…LongMill hypochondriac? This means that many people try to troubleshoot their issues in the wrong place and become frustrated with the machine, rather than checking the most simple reasons for issues. For example, you’d be surprised at how many people reach out to us because their machine won’t work at all because they just never turned on the machine in the first place.

Tip 3: Mechanical and electrical issues happen randomly. Software issues happen exactly the same way over and over again.

The main differentiator between a mechanical and electrical issue versus a software issue is that mechanical and electrical issues seemly happen at random and software issues happen the same way over and over again.

While mechanical and electrical issues can be caused over time by loose fasteners and connectors, wear and tear, and power fluctuations which can happen seemly randomly, software works in a series of exact pieces of code that is rigidly defined. While double-checking firmware settings and reinstalling gSender can help eliminate those as being the issue, if your issue seems random, it’s more likely to be a mechanical issue and updating or reinstalling gSender will not help.

I sometimes joke to Chris that many users use gSender as a scapegoat, as many pin their issues on gSender when they aren’t sure what’s going on. I suspect it’s because its easy to blame something that people don’t feel as comfortable with (aka the software). Sometimes it feels like gSender is messing something up randomly, however, the reality is that the vast majority of issues come from something mechanical.

If you are running into issues with gSender, additional help and documentation can be found here: https://resources.sienci.com/view/gs-feedback/.

Tip 4: Static and EMF cannot cause a machine to lose steps

It is a common misconception that static and EMF can cause a machine to stall or lose steps. The main symptom of static and EMF is a complete disconnect between your machine and CNC. Issues caused by static and EMF will likely cause your machine to disconnect or stop completely. Additionally to note, due to the high draw of tools such as routers and dust collectors, its easy to mistake brown-outs for static and EMF, even though they are completely separate problems.

If your machine is losing position or steps randomly, it’s best to check out the mechanics of the machine first, as static and EMF does not cause the machine to lose its position. Use the process of elimination by turning on and off different tools and dust collectors in your shop while running your machine to identify the culprit.

Tip 5: Let us help you

Don’t forget that our technical support team is here to help answer any questions and help tackle technical issues. Sending us a message with detailed information, videos, and photos of your issue through our Contact Us page.

When you send a ticket, you’re talking to:

  • One of our team members or engineers who designed a certain part of the machine
  • Someone with hundreds, if not thousands of hours of CNC experience
  • The whole technical support team, as tickets and information can be shared between all members

We also use tickets to collect data and improve the quality of our products and make adjustments to our resources.

Reaching out directly to our technical support team is typically the fastest and most reliable way to solve technical issues.

A note from Jason Kent, our Customer Support Manager

Provide as much information as possible. Information such as recent changes or updates made to the machine or software is useful to include.  When reaching out for customer support, please add images or videos relevant to the issue. While family photos are cute, images of the issue help us to diagnose your problem faster.

TLDR:

Tip 1) Observe the mechanics of your machine carefully, such as the sound and the movement, as mechanical issues are the most common in LongMills.

Tip 2) It’s statistically more likely that an issue is caused by something simple. Always troubleshoot by checking basic things first. Troubleshooting guides in our Resources contain fixes for 99% of issues around the LongMill and are regularly updated.

Tip 3) Understand that if the problem happens randomly, it’s most likely a mechanical or electrical issue. Software does not cause random problems.

Tip 4) Static and EMF does not cause stalling or missing steps. Static and EMF causes the machine disconnects or to stop completely.

Tip 5) Don’t forget to reach out to us directly! We can help too!

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Sienci Labs Shop Tour 2022

Can you believe it’s been just over two years since we did our last shop tour? Since then we’ve expanded our shop and our team in leaps and bounds. Join me and Chris in our shop tour where we show you where we make our LongMills and other things at Sienci Labs!

Want to see our shop tour from 2020? Check it out below: