Shapeoko Batch #2 Update

Shapeoko Batch #2 is in the final stages of production.  Here's a quick update on what we've been working on.

One of the critical components that makes the Shapeoko CNC Milling kit possible is the MakerSlide rails invented by Bart Dring.  These rails are an open source linear extrusion with a railing system built into it.  The aluminum extrusions are pretty common in industry and are made by big machines like the one below.  We took a tour of the factory where they make the MakerSlide for us.  MakerSlide starts as a huge aluminum billet.  Here is what the stack of aluminum looks like waiting to be made into extrusions.

The billets gets loaded on to a small conveyor and one piece is rolled into a track.  The billet is heated up to 800-925F (426.6 - 496.1C) and then it is pushed into the loading area where a thin film of lubricant is added.  Then a ram pushes it into the die. You can see the billet below about to be pushed into the machine.

The machine is really long and the aluminum starts to get extruded at the high temperature and pressure.

After it comes out the other end there is a system of rollers that help it stay flat as it gets pushed all the way down to the other end of the building.  The green things hanging from the ceiling are fans that cool the MakerSlide.

The building is about two football fields long and this is a view from the other end.  You can barely see the machine the MakerSlide went into.  Also you'll notice the pieces at the end are not straight.  Those get cut off and recycled.  The tolerance on this machine can create the MakerSlide at is 0.010" / .254mm.  To get tighter tolerances we will need to find a precision extruder.

Here is what the MakerSlide looks like when it's all done.  You can see the rail profile on the top left corner of the piece.  That is where the V-Wheels ride.

One of the big reasons we do Shapeoko in batches is the minimum order for aluminum extrusion is 1000 lbs (453.6kg) .  As you can imagine that's a lot of MakerSlide!  We place orders with the supplier and it can take 4-5 weeks to get it in stock because after they extrude it in 15' (4.57M) sections they have to send it out to get anodized and then it comes back and they cut it down to size for Shapeoko.  After all that they wrap it in plastic sleeves and ship it to us.

At the same time the MakerSlide is being extruded and anodized we have the end plates laser cut.  This time we made an improvement to the end plates.  In batch #1 they were painted red.  This caused some problems during assembly because folks had to chip the paint out in order to get the screws through.  For Batch #2 we went with polished stainless steel.  The implication is that Shapeoko batches 2 and 3 are going to have the slick stainless steel look like a DeLorean.  You'll notice when you get your shipment that there is a plastic protective film on the end plates and the motor mount plates.  You can just peel this off with your fingers.  If there is a bit of residue left on from the film you can wash it off either wish soap and water or some goo gone or acetone.

While the longer lead time components are being manufactured we order and bag up all the smaller shorter lead time components like screws, bearings, nuts, etc.  You'll see below how we bag each component and label it with its part number. This makes it easy during the assembly process to identify each component as your Shapeoko goes together.

Finally when all the components arrive we put them in a bigger bag labeled "Hardware".  On Wednesday we expect to take delivery of the last components for batch #2 and we expect to be shipping on August 9th.  Stay tuned for tracking numbers!