May 2024 Production Updates

Hey guys, things continue to chug along at Sienci Labs.

Testing the fit of the aluminum guitar made on the AltMill

Growing the team

We’re looking to expand the team! If you’re interested in working for us, please check out our blog post here.

There are now some specific job postings available on Indeed.

LongMill MK2

Production for LongMills continues to move along.

Spring-loaded anti-backlash nuts continue to be a hot-selling item, with now over 560 sets of the T8 and 200 of the T12 sold. We have received another 1300 nuts (325 sets) with another few thousand in production. We expect to clear the backlog in the next week or so as we do assembly and testing.

We have gotten reports that the nuts work well, however, users should ensure that the M5 screws that hold the nuts to the gantry are not overtightened to prevent the nut from deforming and causing jamming issues. Hand tightening to ensure that the locking washers are is flush enough to keep them in place.

We are continuing to work our way through the materials from Batch 8 and are waiting on Batch 9 parts to arrive. There may be a chance that we will run out of stepper motors for the LongMill a few weeks before the new ones arrive, and so the lead time for the LongMill has been adjusted to reflect a potential slowdown.

We have discovered a small issue with the fit of the injection molded feet for the Y axis rails, and so we are not swapping over from 3D printed feet just yet. Our production and QA team are looking to fixing this problem so that we can implement them into the future batch. For now we have made a system/jig to grind them down to size. I should note that this part does not offer any performance advantages, they are just for ease of manufacturing, and so users should not be concerned about which version they have received.

LaserBeam and Vortex

LaserBeams and Vortex continue to ship out as usual, most are shipping out within a few days.

Now with the SuperLongBoard out in the world, we are working on supporting full 4-axis functionality. This means that the Vortex can be used without the switch and move around simultaneously with the Y-axis. Keep an eye out for more news in the coming months. The Vortex can still be used with the switch to change between rotary and regular milling mode with the SLB.

AltMill

We continue to hammer out things with the AltMill. We are now in production for the first 50 machines. Here’s what’s going on:

  • The first test boards for SLB-EXT have arrived and are going through assembly and testing. We are expecting the remainder to arrive first week of May. Once testing is complete, we will build another approximately 200 units
  • The first 50 power supplies have arrived and are undergoing testing. We are expecting another 50 to arrive in about a month.
  • The first 50 gantries and extrusions are completed and going through QA and assembly. Another 150-200 sets are finishing production this month and are expected to arrive in June.
  • Fasteners have arrived and are being used for assemble of some of the major assemblies
  • Parts for the spindle and VFD are in production now and are expected to arrive in the end of May.
  • We have been working on some closed-loop stepper testing for longer-term use.
  • We have the bristles for the dust shoes in production and are finalizing the 3D printing design.

At the current rate, we have parts being made as quickly as possible, but there may be some stragglers that we may end up waiting on close to the end of the month that will determine the exact timing of the shipment.

These parts will probably be with the:

  • Closed loop stepper motor cables
  • Spindle and spindle components
  • The production version of the SLB-EXT

This means that the first 50 AltMill customers should prepare to receive their machines in June, although we are working as hard as possible to start shipping in May.

In the meantime, we are prepping everything as we receive parts so that we can ship everything as quickly as we can once we do get everything.

Additionally, the team is hard at work in developing the resources and assembly guide for the AltMill. We don’t expect to have an assembly video this month, but are planning to make it soon as we get through the first batch of machines.

SLB EXT

Prototype dust shoe

Fasteners with pre-applied thread locker
AltMill power supply

We needed to have something to test the AltMill with, so Mike made this guitar out of aluminum.

Aluminum guitar made on the AltMill

SuperLongBoard

We’re excited to announce that the first batch of SLBs have now shipped and we have just over 475 controllers in the wild. You can now find all of the setup instructions at www.sienci.com/slb

We are now in production for another 1500 controllers, with more to start shipping in the end of May/June 2024.

Based on Chris’ updates in our production meetings, while there are a few bugs to iron out, the launch of the new SLB has gone fairly smoothly. We expect to make some small tweaks to the fit and finish of the controllers and periphery materials soon to improve the assembly of the boards.

Sienci Router

As we discussed in the last update, one of the main things we needed to iron out was the reaction time of the driver of the speed control. Basically, when the router would go under load, it would slow down and speed up again, but the time for it to happen was slower than what we wanted.

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We figured the only way to solve this was to send a working prototype to the motor manufacturer in China to do the testing and tuning directly. We are happy to share that the tuning as far as we can tell has greatly improved. At this stage, we still need to do our own testing in house to make sure everything functions properly, but this seems to be a promising step forward.

This also does bring us to something of an impasse, as we believe that we are reaching the limit of the speed response we can get from a sensorless motor (which is what we are using here). Any further tuning improvements may not be able to be implemented without a sensored motor.

Doing this was no small feat, as we needed to create testing processes and a makeshift dyno in-house thanks to help from the students. This dyno can help measure the power output and speed of different motors.

Some of the main things on our list to figure out now is the complete mechanical design, cooling, and safety certification. We are currently starting production on a small batch of prototype parts to build some working test setups.

Johann with a 3D printed test prototype

April 2023 Production Updates

April fools

LongMill MK2

LongMills continue to ship out as usual. We received another batch of controllers after being out for another few days.

Batch 9 production continues and we continue to focus on getting some of the new things such as:

  • Spring-loaded anti-backlash nut
  • Injection molded feet
  • SuperLongboard

This also includes existing changes and improvements that already exist on the LongMills that are currently shipping.

  • Motor to leadscrew couplers using M5 hardware
  • New ACME locking nuts

To reflect the changes to the LongMill MK2, we will be calling this update the LongMill MK2.5.

We are expecting Batch 9 to start in June. At this point, we will increase pricing for the LongMill MK2 to the MK2.5 to reflect the addition of primarily the SuperLongBoard and other additions. Pricing for this new version is to increase by $150CAD/$110USD approximately.

LaserBeam and Vortex

LaserBeam and Vortex orders are shipping out as usual within a few days.

Ikenna and Abeku have been working on a magnetic mounting system for the LaserBeam to allow for faster and easier mounting and dismounting of the laser, and folks should expect more information to come out soon near the end of April. They also let me know that while the mount is suitable for the LongMill, they are continuing to work to improve the stability of the mount to work with AltMill and higher speeds.

The magnetic mounting system should work on all mounts either on the right or left side, or just on the front, depending on the version. More info to come soon.

Prototype magnetic mount

AltMill

The AltMill can now be ordered on the AltMill product page.

Check out the Launch live stream below:

A couple of things going on with production:

  • Due a random failure with one of the closed-loop steppers used in testing, we have started testing motors from 4 different companies to nail down the highest quality motor for the AltMill and ensure that we can understand the reasons for the motor to stop working.
  • The gantries for the AltMill are done and have gone through an anodization process to make them black. This should improve the aesthetics of the machine and make it look more polished
  • We are testing and manufacturing the dust covers for the linear guides on the Y-axis. Based on our testing results, this may become a standard included part of the AltMill
  • We are working on testing a 4KW spindle to push the limits of the AltMill
  • Testing on the relay and power distribution control board are being tested now. This control board allows us to distribute power from the power supply to the motors and kill power in an emergency setting, improving the machine’s safety

Additional parts for the first 50 AltMills are expected to arrive mid-April and we will start assembly as soon as they arrive.

Test fit of new gantries

Sienci Router

The Sienci Router project continues to move along. We have now received two controller boards, but have not been satisfied by the level of speed response we’ve gotten. For a bit of context, traditional motors will slow down when under load. In the case for CNC milling, we don’t want our router or spindle speed to go down, as it increases the chipload. If an end mill rotates at a set speed, each rotation takes a certain amount of cut per pass. If the end mill rotates slower, then each cut has to remove a large amount of material, which can overload the bit and cause a crash.

With the first two boards, because the motor slows down too much under load, it would not be optimal for CNC. We believe that there were some communication issues and misunderstandings with the motor manufacturer for this requirement, and so after a lot of back and forth and some group testing on a video call, we were able to sort everything out and are expecting to test the third version soon.

What is exciting is that the manufacturer has been able to get a response time of around 40ms, which is faster than the original Makita RT0701 and its brushless motor counterpart. Although in practice, this probably won’t make too much of a difference since users are not likely to load their motors to the extent we had in testing, this in theory means that the cutting speeds and loads will stay more consistent.

There are still some details to iron out for the motor, however, primarily in the additional tuning of the motor.

We’ve started doing some testing of loading the motor a certain amount and releasing the load quickly. You can see there is an initial amount of time where the motor slows down at first, and then when the load is released, it speeds up for a moment before returning to its original speed. The main reason we suspect this is happening is because the tuning of the motor was originally done using a motor without the larger shaft holding the collet. Because the final assembly of the router has more inertia, the tuning of the motor is not correct.

To fix this issue, we’ve sent one of our prototypes to the manufacturer to do additional tuning to reduce this variation.

We believe that there may be some limitations in the technology on how quickly the motor can react to changes in load, and so we are exploring other methods such as using an encoder or speed sensor in line with the motor. However, we do believe that with proper tuning, the motor will be able to perform within the scope of this project.

In the meantime, our co-op students are building a bit of a makeshift dyno to test the routers and spindles.

Dyno project
RPM logging

SuperLongBoard

Check out the completed SLB box, which will be the ones reaching the first 475 users soon! We have received our first batch of SLBs and are prepping them for shipping.

Due to some delays on the die for the box and the e-stop PCBs, there may be a few days we are waiting next week, but we are working on shipping the first 100 SLB before the end of the week if possible.

Testing jig for SLB

CO2 Laser

I’m excited to have witnessed the first firing and testing of the CO2 Laser currently in development. Ikenna will be making an update post soon so keep an eye out for that!

First burn tests and focusing on the UltraBeam

AltMill Launch and Production Schedule

Hey everyone, we’re excited to share our launch date for the AltMill.

The AltMill will launch on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at noon, EST. You can access the order page at https://sienci.com/product/altmill/ when the page goes live.

Our livestream will be happening on the same day at 1PM EST. Please join us at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QufxkgPRxCU

If you’d like to learn about the AltMill itself and the engineering behind it, please read our Everything You Need to Know about the AltMill article.

For more information about the AltMill project, please see https://sienci.com/altmill/. If you have any questions about the AltMill, please see the FAQ.

Pricing

The AltMill will come at a base price of $2950USD/$3990CAD, which includes the table legs.

Users can also purchase the Spindle and Dust Shoe Kit for an additional $515USD/$690CAD.

The first 50 machines

As noted in past updates, we’ve jumpstarted the process by starting production on the first 50 AltMills in December 2023. This allowed us to tackle some of the major unknowns/questions, such as:

  • What will it cost for us to make the AltMill?
  • How difficult will it be to manufacture certain critical parts, such as the rails, linear motion, and table that we were most concerned about?
  • What will our QA and assembly process look like?
  • What sort of performance and reliability should we expect from the AltMill.

As of the time of writing, the plan is to offer the first 50 machines directly to select users and for internal use before our “main batch”. The first batch of AltMills represents our trial-run for production and comes with a couple of you-should-knows, especially if you’re planning to be one of the users in this batch.

We also plan to collect comments and feedback from our first batch of AltMill users to improve the user experience and tackle any initial quirks and issues in the first part of the product launch.

Some parts are still in shipping and manufacturing, and we expect the first 50 machines to start shipping in May 2024.

The “main” batch

This is what we expect most users will be part of. We will begin taking pre-orders at the end of March. Please check www.sienci.com/altmill for more information and a link to the order page.

The goal for our first main batch is to build enough units to leverage economies of scale to make our relatively low price for the AltMill viable. This not only involves the unit cost of the machine, but the work and labour needed to build each batch of machines, which might include work done to set up tooling, packing stations, and the ordering of parts.

Please note that to place your order for the AltMill, the total amount must be paid to hold your place in our queue.* You may cancel your order at any time before your order ships for a full refund. Once your order is in the possession by the courier or arrives at your door, our standard store policies apply.

The number of machines we’ll make in the first batch is still undetermined and will be based on the number of orders we get at the beginning of the launch. 

We expect the “main” batch to start shipping in July 2024. However, we will ship orders based on when they were placed, which means that if your machine is in the later part of the batch, you will receive your order accordingly after July 2024.

Future production

If you feel that pre-ordering the AltMill now isn’t right for you, you will eventually be able to order and have an AltMill ship to you in a shorter amount of time, just like the LongMill. However, when this will happen is dependent on when our production capacity can meet the demand for the product, which is unknown at this point.

The goals for the future production of the AltMill is as follows:

  • Have a reasonable lead time for us to build and ship AltMills. For us, two weeks or less from when we recieve an order to when it gets shipped is a pretty good number to hit, but the lower the lead time the better.
  • Produce larger numbers of machines to leverage economies of scale and either reduce the price of the AltMill or invest our increased profits into additional resource development and R&D that benefits the CNC industry
  • Take our learnings from this new product, especially in the production and QA side to create variations to the AltMill, such as a smaller, stouter, more rigid machine focused more on metal milling, or a larger 4×8 machine.

The size of future batches will be adjusted based on demand once our main batch has completed.

How to get updates

We will continue to share and provide updates in our Production Updates which are released at the start of each month at www.sienci.com/blog

Additionally, we will write order updates as we currently do with our other products at www.sienci.com/order-status

For the most reliable way to get news and updates, please sign up for our email mailing list.

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March 2024 Production Updates

Hey guys, it’s Andy again with March 2024 production updates. I am currently writing this in China, where I am taking a bit of a “work-acation” but also to visit some suppliers and manufacturers that we work with. 

This also means we’ll film the typical production update video a bit later, probably on the week of March 11th when I get back.

March is expected to be a busy month, especially as we continue to make progress in our projects like the CO2 laser and Sienci Router, as well as prepare for shipping and launch of the SLB and AltMill.

LongMill

Last month we paused shipping for LongMills as we waited for more controllers to arrive. We expect around 100 controllers to arrive in the next week or so (shipped on Monday). Once these parts arrive we will continue to ship machines and clear the backlog. More controllers are expected to finish the first week of March.

Additional production is underway for the LongMill, with motors, power supplies, and fasteners in production now.

LaserBeam and Vortex

LaserBeam and Vortex are shipping as usual. Ikenna and Abeku have developed a riser mount for the LaserBeam which allows for easier use in combining LaserBeam and Vortex to do engravings with the Vortex.

They are also working on some different magnetic mounting designs for the LaserBeam to make removing and attaching the LaserBeam faster and easier, and should have more stuff to share in the coming weeks.

AltMill

This month we have finally put the machine together and started running it through the paces. Check out Daniel’s video on some more updates. I would have been there for the video, but I am currently away.

For more info and FAQ, please check the AltMill landing page.

Testing is showing some promising results. Here’s an excerpt from Daniel’s notes about the rigidity of the machine.

Also just finished doing some preliminary deflection testing of the machine with some pretty good results. This was done using the standard Sienci testing parameters/setup for the most part.

  • In the Y-axis, we have 0.003” of deflection at the tool with 80N applied 
    • This is 1.05 N/μm rigidity
  • In the X-axis we have 0.0025” of deflection at the tool with 80N applied
    • This is 1.26 N/μm rigidity

For comparison sake, here are some misc numbers of other machine’s rigidity:

  • 0.1515 N/μm in the Y-direction of the Shapeoko 3 XXL
  • LongMill MK2 48” Y-axis rigidity sits around 0.13 N/μm
  • LangMuir MR1 2.9188 N/μm in the X-direction, 4.3782 N/μm in the Y-direction
  • Onefinity (with added ‘stiffy’ rail) estimated to be 0.5 N/μm (realistically much less) based on one user’s measurement of ~1 N/μm at the bottom of the Z20 plate.
    • This pretty much only accounts for beam bending in the Y-direction, and not much torsion for which is the Onefinity’s achilles heel. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was even as bad as 0.3 N/μm.
    • This is mostly speculative, so not a fair comparison but worth mentioning.

I also checked the X-axis rail’s isolated deflection contribution. The rigidity of the X-axis rail assembly is ~3.75 N/μm. This is pretty good considering the rail was sized to be 4.9 N/μm and this is real life with extrusion and alloy defects and the like. 

  • For comparison sake, AvidCNC’s 8016 extrusion was estimated to be 3.8047 N/μm. Considering it weighs (I think) like 4 times more than ours, this is amazing.

In other news, we are continuing to put together the online ordering infrastructure to prepare the AltMill for launch at the end of March.

Sienci Router

At the start of the month, we received the sample motor we’ve been waiting on to do another round of development and testing. If you’re not up to date on the development here, make sure to check out the last post.

The new motor is much more powerful, and showing promising results. However, we are waiting on some improved motor tuning to happen as we have found some issues with the speed control to achieve a full 1KW of mechanical output. We are waiting on an updated control board expected to arrive in the next week or so.

Additional to this is that we’ve started exploring more spindle options for applications needing higher power past the 1KW the Sienci spindle can put out. If you saw Daniel’s update on the AltMill, the new machine is so powerful, that even the 2.2KW spindle ends up being the bottleneck in our ability to remove more material.

Eventually, we hope to provide several options, the standard Makita as a simple, powerful, and inexpensive option for routing, the Sienci Router as a step above with more features and power to run the LongMill at its full potential, and spindle options to maximize the AltMill’s performance.

Spring Loaded Anti-Backlash Nuts

I’m excited to say that the first set of the injection molded nuts has arrived. To learn more about this project, please see the long post about them here (put link here). While the T8s overall look good and function properly, unfortunately, we are still experiencing some warping and inconsistent threading on the T12 nuts. Since not all the nuts are affected, we’ve put on the store all of the nuts that are currently ok. We will work with our manufacturers to iron out the issues with the T12 nuts.

Demand for the new nuts has been super high, with all of the T8s already sold out, and with T12s expected to be close to selling out by the time this post goes out. Not to worry, however, we are working on making another batch of a few hundred sets and make sure we don’t run out.

It should be noted that existing LongMill kits will continue to ship out with the original style of nut. Once we catch up on orders sold for replacement, we will start moving to making them a default option for new machines. We currently don’t have a specific timeline for it, but likely in about 2 to 3 months, since production and assembly of the nuts can take a long time.

SuperLongBoard

We’re excited to share that the new SLBs have started production and should be ready to ship in the next few weeks. We are also waiting on parts for the controller and estops to arrive in the next few weeks.

Work currently being done with SLB primarily revolve around checking for reliability and making bug fixes. We’ve also sent the SLB for testing to key grblHAL community members for feedback.

gSender has now been updated to natively support SLB and it’s features. You may have seen a toggle when connecting your machine to allow for GRBL and grblHAL available.

Additionally work on building controllers for the AltMill to provide external driver support, higher voltage, while sharing the same features is also underway, with first versions of the design expected to be ready in the coming weeks. However for the full development cycle, we expect it to take till end of April to have production-ready designs and firmware ready.

In addition to this, we have continued to work on the computer side of the SLB at a bit of a slow pace. However, we have put together this proof of concept where we have attached a VESA mount arm to the threaded holes at the front of the machine to allow for use with a touchscreen, as well as a mount for the computer. This design was created by one of our engineering students working at the company this term.

February 2024 Production Updates

Hey everyone, welcome to our February 2024 Production Updates.

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Media Room and Workshops

Since we’ve moved into our new space, we’ve dedicated an area as a “media room”. The idea is to build a space that allows us to make content more quickly with dedicated space, lights, and machines for filming and education. Additionally, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in doing workshops, and so we’re now looking into planning workshops in the space as well.

If you’d like to provide some feedback and let us know what sort of workshops and content you’d like to see, please check out https://sienci.com/2024/01/10/fill-out-our-cnc-workshop-survey/

LongMill MK2s

Production for the LongMill continues to move smoothly. Orders are shipping out within one week, however we are running low on controller boards. Lead times may get longer this month.

Check out this new racking we got for all of the rails! It looks very visually satisfying.

Injection-molded middle feet that are used for supporting the rails have finally completed production and are on the way to us. We expect these feet to arrive in early Feburary. For those who haven’t been following along on this change, we decided to start injection molding these parts since we make a lot of them using the print farm and we crossed the point where it would be faster and more economical to injection mold them. It should be noted that this change is to improve production efficiency and reduce costs, but won’t make a difference to the LongMill’s performance.

Injection molded feet

The bristles that we use for the LongMill dust shoes have come in earlier this year but we have been dealing with quality issues. We have been able to use some of the good bristles, but we’re also working on sourcing a new manufacturer to improve the quality.

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We are now starting production on Batch 9 LongMill MK2s. We currently have around around 750 LongMills in stock, and expect to start shipping Batch 9 machines in the spring of 2024.

Spring Loaded Anti-Backlash Nut

Second batch of prototypes

I know a lot of people have been anxiously waiting for the spring-loaded anti-backlash nuts. While they seem simple, these have been a really fascinating but challenging project as we needed to make changes and considerations to the design and manufacturing process of the nut.

For more details about the process of design and making the nuts, I wrote another blog article. The first 200 sets of T12 and T8 nuts are expected to arrive in the first week of February. Please note that the blog article will include more updates once the first batch of prototype nuts arrives.

Vortex Rotary Axis and LaserBeam

Parts for the Rotary Axis have arrived and are being packed and assembled. We have another 300 units in stock now.

Ikenna and Abeiku are also working on a new magnetic mount design and also a riser mount to be used with the Vortex to allow for easier laser engraving on round objects soon, so make sure to keep an eye peeled for that.

AltMill

We have our major components arrived here and are working on putting together and testing the first prototype. Based on looking at the linear motion and extrusions, everything looks great and we’re excited to get everything in to start building the first batch.

AltMill table, Daniel for scale

If you’re interested in ordering an AltMill, make sure to fill out our form.

Here are some other updates:

  • While we have received one set of extrusions, the full batch of 50 sets have had some QC issues and are being worked on now. We expect them to be finished in the next 2 weeks and get prepped for shipping
  • We have received a few additional closed-loop stepper motors for testing and will be working on having them set up for testing
  • We are working with Andrew at Expatria to figure out what modifications we need to make for the SLB to allow for use with AltMill.

Also, check out this new logo that Leandro made for the AltMill.

We are tentatively looking at a launch date for the end of March. We’ll keep people updates so make sure to follow along on the development through the blog and such.

CO2 Laser

Ikenna and his team have been continuing to work on the CO2 Laser. Here’s a photo of the mockup in progress.

I probably won’t be continuing to put updates for this project on the production updates here because Ikenna will make a separate post as updates come. Make sure to sign up for the CO2 mailing list for all updates as they come.

Sienci Router

Testing with the 400 watt motor looks to show that using BLDC is a promising technology and shows that power output even at 400 watts is comparible to the Makita router. However, we feel that to bring the most value to users, having a bit more power will be beneficial since:

  • Cutting using larger bits, such as the surfacing bit causes the Makita router to bog down
  • Additional headroom allows us to run the LongMill faster alongside other future improvements to speed and rigidity
  • Potential to be a viable option for higher-end machines and the AltMill.
  • Creates a differentiation between our router and the Makita router

Having a larger motor is more expensive, but still within our budget. Pricing is still yet to be determined, but we believe that if we have an option around the $250 mark will allow us to provide a tool that sits somewhere between a traditional router like the Makita RT0701 and a 3 phase spindle.

A second batch of motor samples are expected to ship in the first week of Feburary. We are also in the design and sourcing stage for the motor body and bearings.

A section view of one of the router designs

SuperLongBoard

Development continues for the SLB and third version prototype is currently in testing. Here’s some news:

  • SLB resources continue to be developed ahead of shipping
  • E-stop injection molded case, buttons, and circuitry have arrived for testing, and have started on full scale production
  • Enclosure parts are getting prepared for shipping

Otherwise we are just working through general bug fixes and testing as usual.

Demand for the SLB has been strong, and we are expecting to sell out of the first batch before we start shipping, so we are working on

If you haven’t checked out Chris’ last update, make sure to read it here.

January 2024 Production Updates

Hey there, thanks for checking in on our January 2024 production updates!

A lot of info to share here, some of which are updates we talked about in the December 2023 update here, so if you haven’t read it yet, then make sure to check it out.

Holiday Break

Please note that our offices will be closed from Dec 23 to Jan 1st. We will reopen on Jan 2, 2024.

During this time:

  • Shipping of items may be paused until we return.
  • We may not have someone answering phones at this time.
  • Responses to emails may be slower than normal.

NEXUS taxes for USA

Due to the scale of the company and sales in the US, we may have to start remitting sales tax to some US States once we reach certain thresholds. Starting Dec 18, 2023 and going forward, we will be collecting and remitting sales tax for Florida.

We are continuing to work with our accounting and finance people to slowly figure out how all this tax stuff works, so keep tuned as things may change over the coming year.

Move complete

Our move is done! We are now completely cleared out of our 372 King St N, Waterloo location. For any appointments, mail, and packages, make sure to send things to our new address Unit 1B/1D – 120 Randall Drive, Waterloo ON.

LongMill Production

Production for LongMills continues to go smoothly, with most machines shipping out within a few days. With some people taking vacation at this time, it may be a little bit slower than usual, but we are also expecting to have a few new hands starting for packing and operations starting in the new year.

Vortex Rotary Axis and LaserBeam

Vortex parts are on the way and are expected to arrive around mid to end of January, at which point we will continue to ship Vortex. Orders are expected to take a few weeks to ship.

LaserBeam orders are shipping within a few days.

CO2 Laser

CO2 Laser development is now officially in progress! Check out the amazing video here:

Interested in following along development? Sign up for the mailing list here.

Want to help us understand what you’re looking for in a CO2 laser? Fill out the survey here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSffBHaWX0N8alf597e_5kbCjd_bsgglIzursC7rfZL8Pby68A/viewform

AltMill development

AltMill development continues to move along. We are now waiting for new parts to arrive for the AltMill. We were expecting parts to arrive by the end of December, but due to some initial shipping issues, we expect that it will be more likely to arrive by mid-January.

We’ve also started testing close-loop steppers with the AltMill prototype. With Daniel’s setup, we were able to achieve up to 17,000mm/min (around 670in/min) rapids on the X. We are waiting on a few more motors to come in to set up all of the axis, so that we can test them all simultaneously. For context, the max rapid speed set for the LongMill is 4000mm/min.

This is where things get a little dicey since the mass and inertia of the machine running that fast can definitely do some damage to a person. In practice though, having speeds that fast probably won’t matter that much without a spindle and bits that can handle it.

I have spent a few days in December working on a couple of personal projects with the AltMill prototype. Although this isn’t going to be the final version of the machine, I figured it would be a good way to start to understand the workflow of using a 4ft x 4ft machine. I also set up a Beelink computer and a touch screen for some testing of potential future interface for gSender.

Here are my notes:

  • I haven’t made anything that needs the full bed, but what I noticed was it is a lot more convenient to work with larger sheets because they need less processing
    • I can see myself wanting a 4×8 sometime down the line because you basically can buy one sheet and just keep cutting with it. I have been getting full 4×8 sheets and passing them through the back without cutting them down so far.
  • The machine is more solid and I have more confidence in pushing it harder. Because all of the defaults are set to the same/similar to the LongMill, everything seems slooooow.
    • Given this, I feel like going in the direction of close-loop zoomy steppers is going to make a big difference in the user experience
    • Having a chunkier machine does give a lot more confidence, especially not having to worry about stuff being adjusted correctly
  • Having the touch screen is actually mint
    • Controlling the machine is super easy, the keyboard and things pop up and disappear perfectly
    • The zooming sort of doesn’t work but you sort of dont really need it much
    • The networking to share files is basically seamless

We were expecting to receive the first set of parts at the end of December. However, due to some delays and issues with the shipping, we are now expecting them to arrive in mid-January. Once these parts arrive, we will be putting together the first prototype of the new design. It looks like the rails have actually come in but I haven’t gotten a chance to look at them yet.

If you are interested in getting on the list to order an AltMill sometime this year, make sure to fill out the survey and read the blog post here: https://sienci.com/2023/11/22/putting-the-altmill-project-back-on-the-burner/

A couple of people have asked us about the QA process. Here is my answer from the forum.

https://forum.sienci.com/t/altmill-cnc-update-whats-new/10369/9

I think that it’s hard to have a specific QA plan or process in place until we go into production. The fact of the matter is that the process depends largely on the actual scale of the production.

There are a few things that we learned from QA for the LongMill that carries over to the AltMill including:

  • Isolating parts and making them perfect, so that they can be eliminated as a source of error. For example. When we first started producing the LongMill, a lot of the parts were off the shelf, such as the coupler. What we found was that because the couplers from different manufacturers could be inconsistent at scale, we basically just designed and manufactured our own version at a higher level of specified tolerance. At this stage, nearly all of the parts that go into the LongMill are custom-made and redesigned internally, which has greatly improved the fit and finish as well as lowering issues that customers get with quality. The AltMill will almost certainly follow the same path, but likely even sooner because we have processes and manufacturer contacts that can make many of our parts.
  • Focusing on good design and ease of assembly will pay large dividends in production. There are many aspects of the AltMill that take the strengths and weaknesses in the accuracy of the manufacturing processes to ensure that the machines assemble easily and are to spec. For example, and something we mentioned in the AltMill update video, is that because while aluminum extrusion is generally considered a process that produces very high-accuracy parts, it also has a tendency to twist and warp during manufacturing, having machined faces and using a frame that self-aligns itself allows us to compensate for minor deviations to our specs.
  • The cost-benefit analysis of good quality always outweighs the cost of customer service. The result of having bad-quality parts and products is that we need to do customer service to fix the issues, which costs the company time and money. Some of these costs could be the part itself, shipping, the time from our technical support team, lower customer satisfaction, and lost time for the customer in using their machine. While the cost of the part might be a few dollars, after the time, troubleshooting, and shipping, the issue might cost us a hundred dollars or more. So basically in almost all cases, it’s a better cost-benefit to check our parts better and produce higher quality items.
QA report of the rails from the factory
Sample photos of the rail

I think generally speaking the AltMill will actually be easier to QA for, because we’re bringing more the assembly in house, which will allow us to make sure the machine works before we get it to the customer, and second, we are using more higher precision components around the AltMill so that there should be less issues that come from mismanufactured parts.

There are a few concerns we still need to test and address including:

  • Because the machine is running faster and experiences more forces, making sure that bolts don’t come loose over time
  • Tolerance for lack of maintenance, since components like the ball screw and linear guides need proper lubrication otherwise can fail prematurely

To answer some of the general questions we got in the survey…

Q: Any option to cut vertically?

A: I don’t think we are planning to build anything that would facilitate this, and the weight of it would make it much more difficult. It seems a bit impractical at this size, even though I feel pretty confident that the hardware could handle it.

Q: Will the AltMill use the SuperLongBoard?

A: Not exactly. The SLB doesn’t offer any outputs for controlling external drivers except the A-axis/4th axis. However, we are most likely going to make a new version of the SLB that has outputs for the drivers and no integrated drivers, so that we can offer the same functionality of the SLB and use external drivers.

Q: Will this support an automatic tool changer?

We don’t have specific plans to make a ATC right now, but with the IO on the modified SLB, you should be able to integrate your own.

Q: What is the overall footprint?

The AltMill will have a minimum cutting area of 4ft by 4ft (with some extra travel room to spare), with the ability to pass through the back of the machine. The footprint is approximately 59 inches by 59 inches square. Size might change slightly at production.

If you want to learn more about the AltMill project, expected pricing, and more, please check out the video and the blog here:

Sienci Router

After a bit of a mixup where we had the motor sent to the wrong address, we were able to get a new one and start testing. As we were discussing in the last update, we decided to dive into using BLDC motors because of the benefits we feel like worth getting over the universal motors we initially were exploring.

We found that for BLDC motors running at this higher voltage, there weren’t a lot of options we could find. We did find an off-the-shelf motor that are used in commercial grade blenders we got a sample from the manufacturer, and hacked together an old Makita router to build a sort of BLDC router frankenstein.

The motor that we got maxes out at 8100RPM, which isn’t the optimal speed for the type of cutting we want to do, but for the sake of testing, we tried to do some comparisons between the different routers we have here. We also have a power output limit of 400 watts.

Some notes and results from testing

Basically what is important is the torque of the motor at the given speed, since the motor can overcome the cutting forces on the bit. From Johann’s observations, at the lowest RPM setting on the Makita, the router stalls out at a torque of 0.47N.m, pulling 12.69A or around 1500 watts from the wall. The BLDC motor stalls at 0.45NM but only draws around 400 watts from the wall.

Additionally, the motor behaves the way we wanted it to, which is to run at the same RPM until it stalls. This is important because when a CNC machine starts cutting, there is a situation where if your RPM drops and your chipload and forces increases, it bogs the spindle or router down even more, eventually causing more issues.

It should be noted that based on our understanding of universal motors used in the Makita, the torque of the motor drops proportionally to it’s RPM, which makes sense because it is also partially limited by the amount of power it can draw from the wall.

The BLDC however is designed to keep the same level of torque through the whole speed range. We are specifying our second prototype to have a torque of 0.55N.m, which means that at 30,000RPM, it will draw a full 1500 watts, which in theory would match 1.5KW spindles. I think that in practice however, there aren’t much or any scenarios users would need to run their routers so fast, and we are focusing on having a max RPM of 24,000 instead.

We believe that if we modify the motor to run at the higher RPMs, the BLDC limited to 400 watts will run close to identical to the Makita router. However, considering that there are still situations where the Makita bogs down on the LongMill, if we can get a bit more headroom, that would be ideal.

Based on some general calculations, if we target a 0.55N.m spec on the BLDC, we can get about 1.3-1.5Kw of power, which may be close to on par of a spindle.

There is still a lot of testing and benchmarking to do, but we are continuing to make progress. The next sample will probably take 2-3 weeks to be made, so I would guess we’ll have them at the start of next year. In the meantime, Johann has been working on the mechanical design and housing for the motor.

gSender

Meeting to talk about the new features in gSender

The gSender team have been continuing to work hard to put together a new version of gSender which will merge features and functionality from gSender Edge to the main version of gSender. For complete list of features in gSender Edge, please check out the resources here.

  • Improvements and bug fixes for running the Vortex
  • Probing with touchplate on all corners
  • Communication, flashing, and additional features for the SuperLongBoard
  • Faster and smoother gcode visualization screen
  • Warning for zeroing
  • Improvements to the gamepad/controller functionality
  • Improvements to remote mode/pendant functionality
  • Maintenance warnings and tracking

All of our beta testers and myself have been using the latest version of gSender Edge to test the SLB and our machines and help with the bug fixes. So far the extra features have been amazing. You can also check out the latest version, V1.3.10, here.

We expect to have more updates and information come out around the middle to end of the month when the new version of gSender is ready.

December 2023 Production Update

Hey everyone, here’s our December production update! Many things happened in November.

On a side note, I just turned 27. I think it’s sort of crazy I’m in my “late-20s” now?

Holiday Break

Please note that our offices will be closed from Dec 23 to Jan 1st. We will reopen on Jan 2, 2024.

During this time:

  • Shipping of items may be paused until we return.
  • We may not have someone answering phones at this time.
  • Responses to emails may be slower than normal.

We will have a shipping cut off of noon on Dec 22. Please place your orders if you’d like to have it shipped before the end of the year.

Moving

Moving continues to chug along, with the final moving to be done before the end of the month. Please note that response times and shipping may be a little slower than usual.

Our new address will be Unit D, 120 Randall Drive Waterloo.

LongMill MK2 Orders

LongMill orders continue to ship as usual. We were a bit low on bristles for the dust shoe, which meant that some orders took a few days extra to ship.

Thanks to a grant from the government, we are getting a new CO2 laser cutter and CNC mill partially subsidized for prototyping and production use. We’re planning on taking the old CO2 laser which we’ve been using for the last 3-4 years and taking it apart for R&D use for our CO2 laser project.

We are now waiting on injection molded feet for the LongMill, which we expect will help reduce our reliance on the 3D printing farm by about 25-30%. This should help us free up more capacity for printing other parts, such as dust shoes and LaserBeam parts so that it will be less of a bottleneck for production in the future. Ron, our print farm manager, also started working with input shaping, which is a feature that allows for faster movements with less resonance by analysing the printer’s movements and adjusting its movements to cancel vibrations. This also is helping to improve print quality and increase print speed by 15-25%.

LaserBeam and Vortex

LaserBeam continues to ship as usual. We are currently waiting on a new batch of heatsinks, drivers, and cables to arrive in the next few weeks so that we can stockpile more units.

Vortex also continues to ship but we now have around 17 (at the time of writing) left. Probably by the time this post goes out, we probably will have a few less. There is another batch in production now for 300 units, which should be ready to ship early January.

SuperLongBoard

Chris just put out a update video about the SLB which can be found here:

I’ve taken a step back from helping Chris with the testing side of the board currently and working on some of the manufacturing along with Daniel, but it appears that the testing in the back room continues to happen at a blazing pace. I just placed an order for another 40 controllers to ship in the next few weeks for final testing.

The designs for the SLB controller case have now been finalized and in production. We expect samples from production to be ready in the next 3 weeks, and parts to arrive in the new year. One of the main differences for the new controller is that it is designed to mount directly to the Y rail on the LongMill, which allows it to take a bit less space on the workbench. However, users will still be able to mount their controller using the screw holes as well.

Design for SLB case

We are also wrapping up the design for the new E-stop buttons and macro buttons as well now and starting production for it this week.

Pre-orders are slated to come in December 4, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that! For more info about the pre-order, please check the Blog post here.

AltMill

As we were alluding to in the previous updates, we’ve started working on the AltMill. Kelsey and I are currently working on the shipping of the first batch of parts for the AltMill.

For the latest update, please see our blog article.

Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey. It looks like we have quite a bit of interest in the AltMill. We’ll continue to post updates here and prepare for pre-order availability as we move forward with production on the first batch. At the time of writing about 5 days after the survey went out, we have over 50 respondants, half of which are ready to put down money to get the new AltMill.

Initially I was expecting sales for the AltMill to start out pretty slowly, maybe 15 machines per month, however I feel pretty confident that sales will be much stronger especially given the lack of information we have out for the AltMill at the current time.

Sienci Router

Continued development on the Sienci Router has been fascinating, especially as Johann and I have been looking beyond AC universal motors found in most power tools like the Makita RT0701.

One of the main important things we’ve been looking at has been the efficiency and actual power output of the Makita router. Based on loading and testing the router, we see that the true power output of the router is much lower than the 1.25HP rating in some scenarios.

In theory, this means that a more efficient motor could use less power, but get the same cutting performance as a Makita RT0701.

This is where we’ve been exploring brushless DC motors (BLDC motors).

One of the main advantages of BLDC motors is that they are much more efficient than a universal AC motor. Based on the suggestions from the company we are working with on developing the motor, it may be possible to use a 400 watt BLDC motor in place of a 1200-watt AC motor.

Additional advantages of using a BLDC motor include:

  • Higher efficiency and lower power consumption means less heat, which also means a smaller fan that creates noise
  • A wider speed range, allowing the router to be used more effectively at slower speeds
  • No need for replacing brushes, which also lowers noise caused from the brushes rubbing
Sample motor with BLDC

BLDC does have a few disadvantages. The first is the price. We expect a production-ready motor to cost 3-4 times more than a universal AC motor. Second is figuring out the additional complexity in understanding the motor control systems and feedback loops we can implement to ensure that we have steady and accurate speed control.

That being said we believe it is possible to keep the overall BOM cost overall low to keep the router affordable and we’ll be able to use some off-the-shelf designs and external expertise to optimize the speed control for the router.

We expect to receive some motor samples in the next week or two, and we’ll start conducting testing to determine if BLDC offers an effective option for the Sienci Router.

CO2 Laser

I just talked to Ikenna to get an update about the CO2 laser development. The CO2 laser development team just finished filming an update video today and plan to release it in the next few weeks. There will also be a survey to help us direct the development for the new product. We expect to start purchasing prototype parts in the next week and expect to have a working prototype at the end of January.

November 2023 Production Updates

Hey y’all, Andy here with the Nov 2023 Production Updates. For past updates, make sure to check out our blog.

Some of the info we’re sharing here may refer to stuff we talked about in the October update, so feel free to read the last update if you haven’t yet.

This one is a super long update so…..enjoy.

We found a guinea pig

A few weeks ago (I was away), someone (I think Jen) saw a guinea pig run around in the parking lot and living under the shipping containers we have in the back. Eventually, we were able to capture it. What we suspect is someone let it go for some reason.

It appears that everyone has appointed it as the new CEO, and the team is looking for another guinea pig to keep it company (perhaps as the CTO?).

Moving

Getting stuff ready to move

As we mentioned in the last update, we’re moving! Moving has already started and we are working on putting in new plumbing and electrical. We should be getting a truck to move most of our stuff in the first week of November.

Because of the move, we may need to put shipping on pause for 2-3 days. We are working on planning this currently and we’ll put a note on the website when this will be the case.

There will be a video coming out soon so keep your eyes peeled!

LongMill MK2 Production

LongMill production continues to go smoothly, with most machines shipping out within a day or two, and the same day for Beginners Kits.

LaserBeam Production

LaserBeam also continues to move along smoothly. We are currently working on building a new batch and parts are trickling in.

Vortex Rotary Axis Production

The Vortex Rotary Axis continues to ship within a few days from stock. However, we are down to our last 30ish units. We are currently in production for the second batch, and expect to restock on another 300 units around the start of December. There may be a chance that lead times may increase once we run out of stock.

CO2 Laser

So it’s been a big passion project for Ikenna to develop a CO2 laser. For those who don’t know, Ikenna is the guy who developed the LaserBeam.

One of the main downsides of using diode lasers like the LaserBeam is that they are limited to how powerful they are, and thus limited to what and how thick of material they can cut. For context, while the LaserBeam offers a 7 watt optical output, most CO2 lasers can put around 40 to 100 watts of cutting power. A

CO2 lasers that exist on the market have some things we believe need to be addressed to make the technology more accessible to hobbyists. I won’t get into too much detail in this update, but look out for a video from Ikenna and Daniel soon that covers details about the project, as well as a survey coming to help us make some design decisions for the project.

Sienci Router

We’ve continued to work on the design for the Sienci Router. Thank you for everyone who participated in the survey to provide us feedback on the features and designs.

Split view of the casing with the bearing setup

One of the things we’ve been working on deciding over the last few weeks is the communication interface for speed control of the router, because at this current time, there are several different protocols used in hobby and industrial CNC controls, but the ones that we are addressing are RS485, PWM, and 0-10V analog.

GRBL, the firmware that the LongMill and many hobby CNCs run on, uses ATMEGA 328/Arduino hardware to do the motion control and run the functions of the machine. While this isn’t confirmed information, I suspect that GRBL-based machines primarily offer external control for peripheries like spindles and lasers using PWM because the hardware offers the support. PWM is basic, simple, and is generally fairly reliable for this type of application.

However, from my experience, while PWM is the primary interface for laser control, it’s rare to find on VFDs. More commonly, there is an analog voltage input, so in a VFD with a 0-10V range, sending a 5V signal would run the spindle at 50% of the rated speed. A lot of users plug their PWM signal into the analog input (which isn’t the proper way to do things), because the electronics in the VFD can sometimes average out the duty cycle of the PWM to a voltage. You can read a bit more about it in this previous article.

We also have been looking at different motor options and designs, some of which are here.

Different motors to test

Spring Loaded Anti-Backlash Nuts

We have now started manufacturing of the T12 Spring Loaded Anti Backlash nuts! Thank you to everyone who participated in our open beta of the T8 Spring Loaded Anti Backlash Nuts. We are also finalizing the design for the second iteration of the nut.

We are expecting production for the T12 nuts to take about 4 weeks. We’ll put out an update for everyone on the status and when they will be available for sale.

Roughing End Mills

We just received our first batch of 1/4″ Roughing end mills and are working on testing and checking the new design. For a little info, we wanted to make an end mill specifically designed for cutting guitar blanks. Cutting guitar blanks comes with a couple of unique challenges. The first is that guitar blanks are typically around 1.75″ thick. Most 1/4″ bits are usually designed to cut around 1″ to 1.25″ thick material, which means that most standard bits have trouble cutting through 1.75″ material from a single direction. The solution to this is to make a longer end mill, but longer end mills present a new challenge, which is that the longer the bit is, the more deflection is in the tool.

To get around this, we’ve made some specific design choices. First is to make the end mill stronger, we’ve gone with a 3 flute design, which means that there is more material in the flute area to give strength to the bit. The second is to add a serrated “chip breaker” edge to the flutes, which helps shear chips apart and prevent them from clogging up in the cut.

Overall we believe that this will be a great tool for guitar builders in general. And we also think that this will be a great addition to CNCers working with thicker materials.

We are currently doing testing and expect to have this available for sale in the next week or two so keep your eyes peeled!

Wanna see our video where we make a guitar body? Check out the video below!

AltMill

We are continuing to work on the AltMill. This project was put on pause since we had a lot of work we needed to get done in building our production and processes for the LongMill, as well as due to lack of space in our current workplace. Now that the LongMill has become more mature as a product and we are moving into a larger space, we feel its a great time to revisit the AltMill project. You can read about the initial launch here: https://sienci.com/2021/09/10/going-bigger-announcing-the-development-of-the-altmill-and-extended-versions-of-the-longmill/. We have just placed an order for the main linear motion parts and expect to have the rail manufacturing starting in the next week or two. Our plan is to build around 50 machines as a small test batch and build a larger batch based on interest.

For the uninitiated, the AltMill is our foray into larger format CNC machines using linear guides and ball screws. We are starting to work on forming the basis for upper-range CNC machines, while still keeping our core values of value and ease of use for hobbyist and small-scale production. These first units will have a 4×4 foot working area and offer an upgrade to the current LongMill. Prices are expected to be around $3000 to $4500 depending on the configuration.

We don’t have exact timelines yet, but I expect to see our first prototype units being built in the start of 2024.

SuperLongBoard

SuperLongBoard development continues to move forward. Chris will be putting out an update soon specifically for the SLB, so make sure to watch out for that. Progress feels like two steps forward, one step back sort of situation. Because the board is a lot more complicated than before, we’ve found that changing different parts of the board which depend on each other can cause things to change in other areas.

Additionally, the hope was that the second version of the controller would be our final version of the hardware, with features only needing to be implemented by updating the firmware. However, we’ve found a couple of mistakes and certain changes and improvements we can make to improve the board.

Brazil Trip

This past October, Leandro (our marketing manager) and I went to Brazil. Just for a bit of background, we were invited by one of the Canadian trade commissioners to do a trade mission in Rio Grande Do Sul, a southern province known for manufacturing. The goal of the trip was to establish relations between Canadian and Brazilian advanced manufacturing. We went to represent our company and the Canadian government and make connections with different organizations and companies in the region.

It was an amazing experience. One of the things that we got to do was visit and tour several large factories, including Randon, Tramontina, and Marcopolo, which are multibillion-dollar companies that employ tens of thousands of employees. There were a couple of takeaways that all the companies shared.

  • An emphasis on doing as much in-house as possible, with different departments that focus on making tooling, molds, robotics, and more for production, rather than outsourcing to other companies. Additionally, they have their own financial institutions, educational facilities, medical centers, and hospitals on the grounds where employees can get further support from their companies. I feel that this makes sense because of the scale of each company, and it is more efficient and effective to specialize their needs to the environment and employees that they have.
  • High volume production of commodity or commonly used items. Because all of these companies make products on such a large scale, they need to focus on making products that people use a lot of. For example, the Tramontina factory produces 20,000 pans and pots per day. Because they make so many and have the resources to optimize their manufacturing, they can make the pans cheaper than basically any company just starting out. This protects them against competition since other companies won’t be able to produce at the scale and efficiency they can.
  • The process for production and the departments are the same regardless of how big you get. In our company, we have people who work specifically in packing, engineering, QA, and customer service, to name a few. We need these different areas because it encompasses all of the different tasks that a company needs to do. In a larger corporation, it’s still the same, just at a larger scale. I think that once the company gets larger, the growth of certain departments, such as management and engineering, doesn’t grow linear compared to production and labor, because the products that are being made are the same, and you only need to scale certain areas to produce more.

I believe that there are many ways to take some of the things we saw and learned from this experience that we can apply to our own company as we continue to develop.

And also, the bbq in Brazil is incredible. Will return again soon!

October 2023 Production Updates

Hey everyone, here are the Oct 2023 production updates!

Ok so the marketing team asked me to do this in a video format, so enjoy.

Moving

A few months ago, we signed a lease on a new building a few minutes up the road on 120 Randall Drive. This space is not just double in square footage (around 8000sqft to 15,000sqft), we also get double high, 20ft ceilings, which will allow us to store a ton more materials as well as open up the possibility for new development space to help us build new products.

We now have full access to the building, and are starting some construction to outfit the space and get things moved over. Look out for an invite for housewarming in the next few months!

LongMill MK2 and Extension Kits

Production for LongMills and Extension Kits continues to move along smoothly. Shipments for these orders are generally shipping same day or within a few days.

We’ve recently made a small change to the laser-cutting process for the steel plates by switching to nitrogen from oxygen, which has shown to improve the quality of the cut edges on our parts. We expect the quality of the coatings and threading on tapped holes to improve because nitrogen reduces the impurities found on the edges of cut parts.

First batch of nitrogen cut parts

We don’t see a huge difference at this stage between the two different processes, but as we continue to work our way in processing all of the parts, we’ll be able to compare our QA reports to see if there is an improvement.

We’re also working on reducing our reliance on the 3D printing farm by experimenting with injection-molded feet. At the scale we are printing now, we believe that the cost of injection molding will save us money in just a few months.

Sample of injection molded feet

We did run into a small issue where the manufacturer applied the finishing for inside the part rather than on the outside. As you can see in the photo, the outside of the foot is shiny, rather than a matt finish. The manufacturer is currently working on refinishing the molds so that they will look in our opinion, better for the next batch of samples.

In other news, we are also working on improving the quality of our lead screws. In the previous batch, we ran into a lot of issues of bent screws, so we started looking for some alternative suppliers.

Mike checking in the screws under a microscope

This lead us down a pretty deep rabbit hole because we found that there are a lot of different types of threads and standards, some of which are country dependant. At this stage, we’re focusing on making the screws backwards compatible so that they are functionally the same as before.

Additionally, we believe that we can make the finish of the screws smoother, which may also lead to smoother motion and less wear and friction on the nut.

LaserBeam

LaserBeam orders are shipping out consistently and we have stock ready to ship. We are currently restocking some of our parts over the next few weeks.

Vortex Rotary Axis

We have now cleared the queue for the Vortex Rotary Axis for the pre-orders. We now have them in stock and can ship them within a few days. We only have around 70-80 units left, so make sure to grab one before we run out!

Production for the new batch is now underway, and we expect Batch 2 of the Vortex to be ready in about 3 months.

Sienci Router

Thank you for everyone for participating in our survey. If you haven’t participated and would like to, please check out the Sienci Router Survey which will help us learn more about what our users are looking for in a new router.

For the uninitiated, we’ve recently embarked on a new project exploring the possibility of building our own router or spindle system. Here are some reasons:

  • The Makita RT0701 which is the most popular router used in hobby CNC machines have gone up in price, and may continue to increase in price.
  • More people are reporting issues with the Makita RT0701, such as the bearings overheating, button breaking, and the speed dial losing its tension.
  • There are no inputs to allow PWM speed control, unless you use a VFD and spindle combination
  • Routers are loud

Our goal is to:

  • Provide an alternative to the Makita RT0701 of a similar form factor so that it can be easily installed in place of it.
  • Incorporate controls that allow on/off and speed control using gSender or in gcode directly, same as a spindle
  • Improve the longevity and reduce noise
  • Improve efficiency, power, and allow for a wide variety of bit sizes to be used

Additionally, we may incorporate features such as:

  • Grounding through the bit, so that touch plates and bit setters can be used without needing to attach a probe to the bit or collet.
  • Easier mechanism to change bits

There were a couple interesting things we found in the survey:

  • While we assumed people would comment that they wanted more power from the Makita, we found that most people were satisfied with the power that it already provided
  • We also assumed people would be more interested in using 1/2″ tooling, but it appeared it was not a feature a lot of people didn’t find useful
  • Another very popular request that we didn’t include in the survey initially was an easier way to change tools, such as an auto tool changer.
  • The majority of respondents told us that they would budget between $300 to $500 for a new router or spindle system, which is higher than we expected.

At this current time, we are in progress of researching some different motor options, as well as exploring different motor control options to validate that the basic functionality of the router can be produced. Once that is complete, we will be working on developing the mechanics and structure of the router. There is no set timeline yet, but I expect that we’ll likely have something ready to share by the end of the year.

Some interesting things we found:

First is a comparison of running the Makita without a fan, which means basically ripping out the one in there already. We found that there is a decent change in volume at higher speeds. In practice, it sounds quieter as well because the frequencies coming from the fan is more perceptible (lower pitched) than the other parts of the motor.

Johann also mentioned that he found NSK bearings in some routers and CW in some of the new Makitas we were taking apart. The hypothesis is that during the pandemic, there may have been supply chain issues with getting NSK, so Makita used CW in production instead, which coincides with a larger number of bearing failures or overheating issues that we’ve seen happen in the past year.

SuperLongBoard

SuperLongBoard beta testing continues.

We recently received the newest version of the prototypes, which we expect to be put into production after validation. We now have 25 boards we are working with to complete phase 2 of beta testing.

Prototype V2

Here’s a video of us testing the macro buttons, which allow the user to program a specific code or function into the buttons themselves, rather than just start, pause, and stop, which is hardwired into the current control board. In this case, it’s being used to move the machine to a specific position to assist with getting the machine out of the way for changing tools and materials.

We have received the version 2 of the SLB early last week and have been doing our internal testing before we prepare them for use. Here’s a bit of an update (this is the email I sent to the beta testers earlier).

– V2 has a couple of components that had issues and we are manually replacing parts and updating the design. This is minor surgery but a bit tedious working with small parts. We were hoping to start sending out the V2 version at the end of last week, but we are shooting for end of this week and the start of next to have the first 3 boards ready.

– The development team are working on testing and implementing features, listed in the attachment below. This is an excerpt from the main development notes we have. Thought I would share so you guys know what to look forward to them. Some have already been implemented but not tested.

– We also have a newly designed case that we are 3D printing and assembling, which allow you to install the case to the rail of the machine, or on the table or in another place. We are starting production of it now, which will be made from aluminum and acrylic. We should be getting them in Nov-Dec.

Chargeback/Fraud Instance

We recently ran into an issue with someone having placed a few orders for LongMills on our site using different aliases and charging the orders back after they had shipped. It appears to be done using stolen credit cards, but we are looking into this further.

Although this happens very rarely, it is a part of business that we can’t avoid. I just wanted to mention this to warn people to be cautious if they run across any LongMills for sale, still in the box, that seems suspicious, especially in the Montreal area…

September 2023 Production Updates

Hi everyone. It’s September, and we’re going into my favorite time of the year, the autumn. We have quite a few updates for this month.

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LongMill and Extension Kit Orders

Production for LongMill and Extension Kit orders have continued to move smoothly. We have very short lead times at the moment and most orders should ship within a few days, if not on the same business day.

We have received the controllers that we were waiting on last month and we expect them to last until the end of the year. Other parts are in stock and we hope to have shorter lead times over the next few months.

We also recently launched the Beginners Kit, which was designed to help package everything we believe someone getting started with CNCing should get. The idea was to be able to:

1) Package everything so that it offers a one-stop package for CNCing

2) Allow us to pre-pack a number of kits and ship them out within the same day or next day

3) Improve our efficiency in packing and shipping kits

This is an experiment to some extent for us, since our production team wanted to see if we can streamline our process. As a way to pass along some of the savings, we have been offering $100 for each kit as an incentive.

Interestingly enough, at this moment, we still have about a 50/50 split on Beginners Kit orders and regular machine orders. We’ll continue to see if we see any new trends here.

LaserBeam Orders

LaserBeam orders continue to move out slowly, and most are shipping within a few days.

Vortex Rotary Orders

We have continued to ship around 40 to 50 units per week and are expecting to complete the queue in the next 2 weeks. We are advising customers that the wait time is expected to be around 3-4 weeks, but I expect that after a couple of weeks, we expect the lead times to reduce.

We are nearing the end of the first batch of the Vortex Rotary Axis, with around 100 units left in stock at the time of writing. We are currently working on wrapping up this batch and have started manufacturing parts for the next batch.

We have started to see people using the Vortex in the wild! We are thrilled to see these new results.

Test piece from Colby Browing (Facebook)

Additionally, the gSender team has continued to improve the experience of using the Rotary mode on gSender. We are expecting a new version of Edge to come out in the next week or so. You should continue to see new resources and projects available for the Vortex on our Resources, and we are currently working putting out a few project videos and tutorials on Youtube soon, so make sure to subscribe to stay on top of that!

T8 Spring Loaded Anti-Backlash Nuts

Another recent launch was our T8 Spring Loaded Anti-Backlash Nuts. We saw a common issue with the LongMill was getting the correct tension on the original nuts, and some beginner users were making the mistake for overtightening their nuts and causing them to bind.

The idea for spring loading them was to make them self-adjusting, so that the user doesn’t need to touch them after they are installed. You can read the full article for more information.

We have continued to test our production nuts, which have overall worked well. However, we have noticed that to improve their long-term ability to reduce backlash, we can increase the force holding the arms together to further reduce backlash and allow for more variability of wear over time.

Currently, we are working on some new ideas using spring steel clips and circlips, as the size constraints of the nut create some limitations on the size and shape of the nut we can make.

Additionally, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people are also interested in a T12 version, and we are currently working on a design for this as well.

#image_title
Prototype designs for the V2 of the spring loaded nut.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be sending our surveys to our users to gather feedback.

SuperLongBoard Beta Testing

We have installed two SLBs with beta testers last week. One with Ian, who has a Onefinity, and Ed, who has a MK2 LongMill. The objective for the beta testing is to look for issues that we might have missed in the use or design, do real-life comparisons between the old and new board, and do real-life durability and performance testing.

We had really great results with testing on Ian’s Onefinity, which was our first installation. His former setup used the original LongBoard. Once we installed the new controller we noticed a couple of new improvements.

  • – We were able to increase the max feedrate from around 8000mm/min to 16,000mm/min
  • – The noise and hissing on the motors were significantly reduced

There are currently two issues that we are expecting to resolve in the second version of the prototype expected to arrive in the next 1-2 weeks.

  • – Wiring is not good for the homing switches, causing them to disconnect. The new plugs on the new version should eliminate this
  • – Powering on the 24V side before the computer signal can cause an error with the way that the MCU communicates with the drivers. We are expecting this issue to be resolved in the new board as well.

Since this is our first-hand experience with working with our electronics on a different machine, we’re excited about the possibility of offering the SLB on other hobby CNC machines.

For Ed’s testing, we also noted these improvements:

  • – The responsiveness and sensitivity of the touch probe has improved, which we believe is because the processing speed of the MCU is much faster, and so it takes less time for the touch to be detected.
  • – While inconclusive if this makes a difference, but we noticed that the inductive sensors with the original board were flickering at times, whereas the new controller showed the lights to be on bright. We suspect that because the power coming to activate those sensors are coming from the power supply instead of the computer, we should expect the reliability of the homing switches to improve. We tested the homing sequence and they both work
  • – We were able to increase the feedrate from 4000mm/min to 6000mm/min
  • – We were told that on the original board, turning on the vacuum and running the board on the same circuit would cause a disconnection. We tested the new board while sharing a circuit, and found that it did not have a disconnect.

We are also working through an issue where a skew in the y-axis causes binding at rapids (about 4mm of skew). We think that this may be caused by a few things:

  • – The skew itself causes more stress on the machine, so the motors are over-torqued.
  • – Since Ed is using the old version of the power supply which is rated for 10A, rather than 12.5A, the board needs more power.

Based on the motor tuning done by Andrew and his team, we are running the motors at around 3.5A peak, which is about 20-30% higher than the default setting on the TB6600 on the original boards. This means that if all motors draw power at peak simultaneously, the board could be drawing around 14A.

We have replaced Ed’s power supply with a higher-powered one and are continuing the testing.

After the testing, we found several different things that we can improve on, and Chris and the rest of the technical development team are making changes and updates to the gSender and firmware to add more features and improve the performance and settings on the board.

Newest version of the SLB

Assuming all goes well, we hope to have the new boards available near the end of the year.

Hamilton Woodworking Show

After a long hiatus due to COVID, we are coming back to the Hamilton Woodworking Show! Make sure to come join us, where we’ll be showcasing the LongMill, LaserBeam, and the Vortex! The event is on Oct 20 to the 22nd.

We’ll also have a few Beginners Kits available for sale so you can come check out our stuff and go home with a machine.

Sienci Router

Another new project we’ve started working on is our own router/spindle! The idea is to build something to replace the very common Makita RT0701 router with something similarly compatible. Although the Makita RT0701 is a very good option, we felt like there were a couple of areas that we could improve such as:

  • – Control over the speed with connecting with gSender
  • – Durability
  • – Precision
  • – Noise

We’re still in the early stages of development, so we’re still trying to decide on what sort of features and functionality we want to see in this new product.

We don’t have a specific timeline yet for this product, but we aim to have something available at the start of next year.

Want to provide us with feedback on what you want to see in our development? Please fill out the survey below, or use the link (https://forms.gle/LwLu7ydBKBnNcmDt5)!