Sienci Mill One - The Desktop CNC
While 3D printing is all the rage right now and has been for a good couple of years, there are other desktop fabrication technologies that offer a diverse feature set for the enthusiast looking to make amazing things at home.
3D printing is well known as an additive manufacturing process, laying down layers of material until an object is formed, but CNC routers work a little bit differently. CNC routers use a rotating cutting bit and carve away at a block of material until all that is left is the object you want. While a somewhat messy process, using a desktop CNC router allows for the use of materials like wood, leather, foam, PCBs, and composites that can’t be extruded from a nozzle.
A group of mechanical engineering students from the University of Waterloo taken to forging a new market into desktop CNC routers that 3D printers can’t fill with their first product, the Sienci Mill One. Their goal is to focus on creating a low cost device that is simple and easy to use, while being powerful enough to create useful parts.
Machines like the Othermill, Nomad, X-Carve, and Shapeoko (other desktop CNC machines) slowly become more commonplace in the workshop, but desktop CNC routers since have been plagued by two main issues cost and ease of use. Machines on the market cost thousands of dollars, and the ones that come in kit form take hours to put together. With a price tag starting at $400US, simplified design, and partnerships with some of the most innovative software companies in the world, lets take a look at what all the rage is about.
The Sienci Mill One comes both as kits or assembled units. While the assembled units are still pretty affordable (around $530), for those who are wanting to save a little bit of money, the kits are a great option. According to Sienci Labs, these kits typically take two to three hours to put together, but the creators also mentioned that it takes them about 45 minutes to assemble with a set of bits and a cordless drill. Assembly is a breeze, since many of the parts are identical and come together intuitively, and since all three axis are nearly identical, figuring out how to put one part of the machine means you’ve figured out how to put all of the axis together. Assembly instructions here: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Assemble-the-Sienci-Mill-One/
SIENCI MILL ONE - OPEN SOURCE
It’s worth noting that the machine is an open source project, which is great to see. This makes it easy for users to take the design and modify it to suit their needs, or even build their own Sienci Mill One. The creators have in fact made it possible to make your own machine from 3D printed parts, a saw, a drill, easy to source off the shelf parts and a bit of careful measuring. The actual machines however are made with larger CNC machines and other automated tools.
Using the Sienci Mill One is quite a bit different to using a 3D printer, with a whole new set of programs that are used to create gcode. Instead of creating their own “slicers” (or for CNC machining, referred to as CAM software), Sienci Labs has partnered with Onshape (onshape.com) and Kiri:Moto (grid.space/kiri) to offer a software package that lets you design and generate the gcode on your browser on virtually any device. No downloads, no updates, lots of tutorials and free to use!
3D printing can take hours, especially for large parts but CNC machining is fast because it can remove material significantly faster than a 3D printer can add, and most projects only take 20 - 30 minutes to complete. The Sienci Mill One is compatible with routers up to 1-¼ HP, and can also use other tools like dremels and grinders, so that the right tool can be matched up for the right job.
Final thoughts: The Sienci Mill One is an exciting tool sure for makers everywhere and great product to add to your arsenal. It’s simple, easy to use, designed well, and a lot of fun. And at the price point it offers right now, it’s definitely worth getting to compliment your 3D printer. With the growing maker movement it’s exciting to see where new types of desktop manufacturing will take us!
Sienci Labs is running a Kickstarter now to raise money to mass manufacture the Sienci Mill One.
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