NY Times Article: For the Home Workshop, a GPS for Power Tools
Anne Eisenberg with the NY Times ask me to say a few words about development by Alec Rivers at MIT, a GPS for routers
. You can see my thoughts written in the article.
Here is my evaluation of the MIT development:
I do believe this is a great project and the device will find its place with the uses and applications that I mentioned on the phone (prototypes and inventions, small run batches, one off parts, crafts, art, etc.). A device that is hand held and provides near the accuracy of a CNC machine will find a home in many garages and workshops. The chief difference in my mind in comparison to a CNC machine is that this device does require human attention at all times where a CNC is best for large and repetitive runs and not needing the person to be in the mix. Although, a big positive for this project is that it can exceed the bounds of the typical CNC cutting area (this may require the user to get on hands and knees).
It wasn't clear on the project paper written by the student is if the qr code tape placement errors will cause a problem in accuracy (commanded input, design, matching the actual output, part). I could imagine putting the tape on the workpiece (not straight, or having off measurements) would cause a problem with how the workpiece/map is stitched together. I did appreciate the inclusion in the report about how the camera and stitching of the images would not be affected by the chips (wood dust, or metal shavings) covering the qr codes.
The chips did evoke another thought regarding safety. Having a close proximity to the router at all times does pose the issue of inhaling dust (the requirement of a dust mask) and end mill (bit) breakage. This is generally not a problem with CNC machines since the operator does not need to be in the area while the cutting is happening. The device could be enhanced with a simple addition of a vacuum hose holder on the back end of the device and the routing area covered, so no chips and dust evacuate to the air and into the lungs (generally masks are used in this application). Since all of the routing is done though a monitor, there is no need to have any openings around the router cutting area for viewing, so that area could be a completely enclosed causing that area to have negative pressure (vacuum) and all of the chips would be removed, increasing the accuracy of the camera and stitching. This could also help in the rare occasion that an end mill breaks, hopefully keeping the projectile within that enclosed area.
It was a pleasure sharing my view with this project. I love projects like these since they really move technology forward. We are definitely in a time where folks are getting the tools to foster further development and help get the future here quicker!