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Internet Machinists' Club

Remote, safe operation makes machinist club possible.
  [vote for,

Hobbyists often join together to pool resources and comaraderie, but some things are dangerous, and the safety and liability of members greatly hinders forming such clubs. Machining is one such hobby, woodturning is another.

I believe that, say, a metalworking lathe with bar feed and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) could be modified such that users could stand in a separate room (or via net connection) and still operate the lathe themselves to turn, bore, cutoff, etc. to make their own parts. One or more video cameras would allow observing the work.

No, it wouldn't be as flexible as being able to easily measure and observe the finish close-up, but it would be safe for the operator. You would still need somebody to load the machines and maintain them, but that could be a person who knows machines and is no more at risk than a machinist at any business. Of course, extra safety interlocks would be needed to prevent disasters due to reckless remote operators.

I recently looked into what machinists' clubs existed and found very few and only two that actually had equipment that could be used by members. One was a group in Canada that had restored a stationary steam engine and still had access to the lathes and so on. The other was a common workshop at a retirement community in Arizona.

Feedback from inquiries I made, mostly on the very active newsgroup rec.crafts.metalworking, was that the lack of control and training of members made such clubs hazardous, and logically, liability insurance very expensive or unobtainable.

The other problem is that there aren't enough people interested in a machinists' club in a given geographic area to pay for a shop that is near enough to members to use.

Remote, yet hands-on operation seems a solution to both problems. Users would pay for material used and for shipping completed parts.

I realize you can always pay somebody to make parts for you. I'm suggesting an alternative which would be for machinist club members who want to do it themselves to learn how and experience the process. There are many obstacles to having your own machinery. Zoning, space and power requirements, and cost are examples.

Yes, there are many limitations on what you can easily do remotely. I suppose you could have manipulators to help move objects. It would be desirable to include milling machines, sheet metal nibblers, metal casting operations, for example.
flypaper, Nov 22 2003

online machine shop http://www.emachineshop.com/
[beanangel, Aug 23 2005]


       I like to machine things myself for projects, but no shop will let me in because of the "liability issues" (my employer will let me in, but won't let me machine my own stuff). Having such an internet service would be very nice.
kbecker, Nov 23 2003

       I like the idea, but fear it would be too difficult to realize. Lord knows I wish I could access what I need more often.
Maybe instead of remote control, an over the internet club that buys the equipment and has it placed in a central geographic location that all members can access? I realize this would require possibly more than one location and some planning on the part of members.
Either way an expensive proposition, but a bun for a novel solution to the problem.
soundman, Nov 23 2003

       Wow! if someone could materialize this they would be a billionair. I completely agree with you. I am a cnc programmer and machinist. what we call the guy that runs a cnc machine is a machine operator.. he does nothing more than push the start button and follows careful instruction on changing parts and pushes the emergency stop button if something unusual happens.. this mans job is possible the safest job in the shop there is a greater risk to this man by getting "run into" by someone else in the shop or getting a metal chip in his eye while cleaning off a table. the difficult and time consuming (expensive) part of a cnc machine is the setup. and also the programming this would require an experience man. that is why when parts are ordered one may cost as much as 500 pcs.   

       It would be possible to set machine parameters that would eliminate the possibility of crashing the machine but would ultimately be less expensive for a machinist to make your part.
shad, Nov 23 2003

       Darn, I wanted to watch how long my rented 'shop-bot' could hollow grind on a piece of old Chevy spring steel before dropping it...
Tiger Lily, Nov 24 2003

       An interesting idea. Realistically it is hard to imagine this working on a cost basis, but if it did I'd use it - if only for the novelty value.   

       The theme could be developed further to include various other potentially-unsafe activities which remote users could get a taste-for - such as demolition! I would pay good money to be the one to (remotely) press the button to blow up an old disused building. Wheeeeee!
dobtabulous, Nov 24 2003

       [sloopjohnb] and [dobtabulous], yes, speaking of remote operations, and getting a bit off topic, why is it that we don't see convenience stores with a remote cashier, completely safe from gun-wielding robbers? They could be miles away, or actually be somewhere on the premises hidden in a back room. To replenish stocks, close the place, lock front door while doing it. Knowing there are surveilance cameras should be enough to prevent people from trying to walk in and steal Twinkies. Or you could threaten to remotely lock the front door, trapping them. That might be illegal, though, but might at least bluff them, and certainly could call security or police.
flypaper, Nov 24 2003

       Boy, I dunno...
galukalock, Nov 24 2003

       ...and hyper expensive. Looks nice, but you try ordering a simple part; they'll charge you the earth. Probably realistic, to cover their costs, but a lot for what you get.
david_scothern, Aug 23 2005


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