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Big Blue Saw Blog General Updates

Big Blue Saw Lets You Be a Superhero

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Greetings, Big Blue Saw true believers.

I've got the most exciting news ever in Big Blue Saw's brief history. It's got me so wound up that I couldn't even sit still to write this blog post: it took several of the Big Blue Saw merry machining minions a minimum of 5 days just to chain me to a chair so I could tell you the wonderful news.

What could get your ol' pal Simon so juiced, you might ask? Well, just this: our good buddy Jamison Go has figured out how to use Big Blue Saw to give himself the powers heretofore possessed only by one Tony Stark, known to most mundane mortals as the invincible Iron Man! Yes, while ol' shellhead is tearing it up in Hollywood, Jamison is battling the bad guys right here in the ATL.

If you want to follow in Jamison's heroic footsteps, take a look at his step-by step instructions for putting together a dashing superhero ensemble over at Instructables. And if you can't get enough of the gallant Mr. Go, take a look at his blog.

Make your own custom parts with Big Blue Saw today, and help convert all your friends to allies in Big Blue Saw's Big Battling Slam on Banal Boring Sameness!

Excelsior!

How to Design Parts for Big Blue Saw Using Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup Part for DXF Export

Many of our customers design parts using Google Sketchup, and with good reason: it's a powerful, easy to use tool for 3D modeling with a basic version that happens to be free to download and use. But the basic version of Google Sketchup has a serious shortcoming: it locks you in to Sketchup's proprietary file format.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to generate standard SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files from Sketchup, which can then be converted into DXF files for CAD software and Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

The key is to use a free plugin for Sketch up called sketchup-svg-outline-plugin. The download page has a link to a ZIP file containing the plugin. Once you have downloaded the plugin's ZIP file, install the plugin by unpacking the file in the Sketchup plugins folder. On my computer, this folder was "C:\Program Files\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins". Read the official installation instructions if you have trouble with this step.

To demonstrate how to use Sketchup with Big Blue Saw, we will first need a part that can be created using waterjet or laser cutting.

The techniques for creating such a part should be familiar to any Sketchup user. We start with a rectangle with a few circles inside of it.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

Then we can use the Push/Pull tool to give the part some depth.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

To start the vector export, you will need to select the face to export by using the Select (arrow) tool. In this case, we are selecting the top face, which looks like a drawing that can be used by Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

Designing a Google Sketchup Part

By right-clicking on the face you have selected, you will see the context menu for this face. The sketchup-svg-outline-plugin adds a new option to this context menu: "Export to SVG File".

Selecting a Face on Google Sketchup Part for SVG Export

Choosing the "Export to SVG File" menu item will cause the dialog box shown below to appear. The default options should be good enough for most purposes. When you see this dialog, be sure to enter a useful file name and location for the output file.

SVG Export Options In Google Checkout

At this point, you will have an SVG file which you can open in Inkscape. Inkscape can create DXF files using Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape. If you don't have Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape, you will need to install it.

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Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape needs a little extra help to create a good quality DXF file from an SVG generated by the Sketchup plugin. You will need to ungroup all of the elements of the file and convert them to curves.

Select any element of the drawing. Since the entire drawing is a single group, everything will be highlighted when you click on any one part.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Ungroup the elements of the drawing by choosing Object | Ungroup from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-G.

 

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Modifying SVG Drawing

 

All of the elements of the drawing should remain selected at this point. Convert them to curves by selecting Path | Object to Path from the menu or by pressing Shift-Ctrl-C.

Modifying SVG Drawing

Finally, save the drawing as a DXF by choosing File | Save As from the menu. Be sure to select Big Blue Saw DXF output from the drop-down list of file types.

 

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Saving SVG Drawing as DXF

 

Congratulations. You now have a DXF file which can be turned into a real part made of metal, plastic, or a variety of other materials using Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

Rubber Stamping

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If you've ordered from Big Blue Saw recently, you may have noticed that our logo is stamped on many of the boxes we ship. What you may not have realized is that the stamp that created this logo was itself created using Big Blue Saw's laser cutting.

Here is the laser cutting and engraving the 2 by 4 inch stamp from a sheet of red EVA foam. The stamp measures 2 inches by 4 inches. Our laser has a special setting for cutting stamps so that it leaves a "shoulder" to support the lettering and logo.

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I also cut an identically sized piece of white acetal plastic on which to mount the foam.

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The plsat

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After assembling the hardware, the foam was attached using hot glue.

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Finally, here's our resulting image made using blue ink.

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Announcing: the World's First API for Makers

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I created Big Blue Saw based on the idea that inexpensive, customized manufactured parts should be more widely and more easily available to everyone. So I'm happy to announce today there is a new way to access Big Blue Saw's services.

I was recently contacted by the founders of a startup who wanted to add Big Blue Saw quoting to their website. (Watch the blog for details of the arrangement.) To do this, they needed a way to access Big Blue Saw's online quoting information. My solution was to create an easy to use web based API which gives them pricing and other data they can embed in their website.

Now the same API is available to everyone. Where and how it's useful will depend entirely on our users. Here are some suggested applications that make good use of the API:

  • A "Get Quote" button on a CAD drawing package that lets you instantly receive a price for the part you're designing.
  • A software package that helps waterjet shops quickly estimate quotes.
  • A price comparison website which allows customers to easily get competing quotes for custom parts, like Google Shopping does for consumer goods.
  • A website that lets you customize parts like, say, gears, electronic enclosures, or licence plate frames and gives you an instant quote for the price.

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Continue reading for the technical details of how it works.

Read more: Announcing: the World's First API for Makers

CAD For the Incredibly Lazy

Getting started is often the hardest part of creating a design for a custom part. I often have customers come to me looking for a particular mechanical part that they just want tweaked a little bit. I often tell them that their best bet is to find a CAD file that's similar to what they need, and make the changes that they require. My two favorite resources for CAD files for mechanical parts are McMaster-Carr and SDP/SI. In this article, I will show you how to use these incredible free resources to jump start your project.

SDP/SI

SDI/SI is one of my favorite sources for parts for my robots. They sell a variety of mechanical drive components including bearings, gears, pulleys, and the like. Their online catalog also lets you download CAD files in a variety of formats for almost everything that they sell. From their home page, you can click the "BUY ONLINE" tab to get to their online store where the CAD drawings are located.

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For example, let's suppose we want find the CAD drawing of a gear. Their online shop has an expandable list of items that they have for sale. First we can click on "Gears" to see the different types of gear.

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Then under "Spur Gears", we can select "Metal".

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On the right hand pane, a list of all the metal spur gears will appear. We can click on the part number to show the details of that item.

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The product details will appear in a new window. There's a link that says "AutoCAD Drawing", but this link didn't work for me. However, I was able to get the drawing via the "3D CAD Models" link.

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SDP/SI wants you to register before they will let you download any CAD files. You can use your existing SDP/SI login or click the "Click here" link to create a new account. The new user registration page (not shown) is easy to fill out and doesn't require you to jump through any hoops like a confirmation e-mail before allowing you access to the CAD models.

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After you register, clicking the "3D CAD Models" link will now show you a download page like the one shown below. Before you download, you need to set the file format in the drop down list, as well as any dynamic attributes for the part.

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For most of my CAD work involving waterjet or laser cutting, a simple 2D DXF file is quite sufficient to model my final parts. This is one of the formats that SDP/SI can provide.

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SDP/SI can provide a simplified drawings using the "Dynamic Attributes" feature. This may help with rendering performance in your CAD tool. In this case, I want to get a model of the whole gear, so I enter 8 teeth for the "# of Teeth to Display on CAD Model".

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After clicking the "Download 3D Model" button, the web page will indicate that the CAD model is being generated. When it is done, you will see a link that lets you download the CAD drawing. When you click the link, your web browser will begin downloading a ZIP archive file containing the CAD drawing.

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Here's what the downloaded file looks like in QCad.

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McMaster-Carr

Mc-Master-Carr is legendary among makers. They carry nearly half a million products of every sort, including nuts and bolts, raw materials, hydraulic components, cleaning supplies, and tools, just to name a few things. If you haven't seen their website yet, take a look.

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Their website does a good job helping you sort through the giant variety of stuff that they sell, but getting to a particular part might mean selecting 5 or 6 different parameters. For instance, for machine screws, you have to choose the material, head type, thread size, length, and so on. I'll spare you all of that and just choose a particular screw with McMaster-Carr part number 91241A083. To get to this part on the McMaster-Carr website, just enter the part number in the search box on the home page and click "Find".

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This will bring up the product detail page for the part, a type of socket head cap screw. You will notice that this page has a link on the left-hand side for a "Technical Drawing". (Note: this link will not be present if McMaster-Carr doesn't have a CAD drawing for the item).

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Clicking on the "Technical Drawing" link brings up a measured drawing in your browser. This is nice, but not quite a useful as a CAD file. You can click the "DOWNLOAD" link at the top of the page to select a CAD format file to download.

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In this case, I want a 2D DXF file, so I will select that and click the "SAVE" button. This starts the download process.

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Here is the drawing from McMaster-Carr as shown in QCad.

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Big Blue Saw
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Waterjet and Laser Cut Custom Parts.
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3522 Ashford Dunwoody Rd NE #145
Atlanta, GA 30319
Phone: (678) WAY-SAW4 (678) 929-7294