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Big Blue Saw Blog General Updates

Steal ideas, don't borrow them

In an essay by the potter Dick Lehman, he makes the point that if you are inspired by someone else's work, you should steal their ideas, not merely borrow them. You see, when you steal something, you make it your own, whereas when you borrow something, it still belongs to the original owner. Borrowing is mere plagiarism. But stealing, standing upon the shoulders of giants, is critical to the creative process.

From the original essay:

If, as some have suggested, there are no new ideas in the ceramics world - only discoveries of new ways to develop or assemble the old ideas - then may we all discover much and be indebted more. Of all our artistic vices, "stealing" is among the least. A more telling character flaw is the laziness associated with "borrowing." May we all pledge to borrow less and steal more.

3 useful tools for choosing materials for your project

We often help our customers figure out which metal alloy or plastic will best suit their design. While we are making steady progress on our FAQ's on materials, I thought I would share a few of the great resources we use to help track down data such as density, strength, and thermal stability. screenshot

First, we have, a website that lets you compare two materials side-by-side, with useful bar graphs to illustrate the differences. For instance, take a look at their page which compares 6061 aluminum vs. acetal plastic.

Machinist-Materials screenshot

Next is Machinist-Materials which contains a lot of good information about materials, including this comparison of various kinds of plastics.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha screenshot

Wolfram Alpha caused a big stir when it launched almost exactly a year ago. While it's not the omniscient machine that many had hoped for, it does have a lot of great information about a variety of metal alloys, as well as polymers.

I did find myself struggling a bit at first, trying to figure out how to look up the properties of various alloys. The best approach I found is to begin by entering the general type of thing you're looking for like "aluminum alloy". Wolfram Alpha will then let you choose from a list of various aluminum alloys. From that list, you can find out that Wolfram Alpha refers to 6061 T6 aluminum alloy as "AA6061-T6", in case you want to look it up again later.

4 new kinds of plastic: polypropylene, ABS, UHMW-PE, and white acetal

We're proud to announce 4 new engineering plastics available for ordering immediately on the Big Blue online quoting and ordering system.

Here's a quick rundown of the new offerings:

  • Polypropylene: A moderately tough, durable plastic. It has the unique characteristic of not fatiguing when repeatedly bent back and forth, so it can be used to make a hinge. The edges get a little bit of melted plastic reformed on them when cut with the laser, but other than that, it cuts cleanly.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): A stiff, strong plastic with good surface hardness. It is suitable for structural applications where a plastic with good dimensional stability is needed for non-moving parts. Laser cutting will leave ABS plastic with a slightly charred edge; we can optionally remove the charring or give you guidance on how to do it yourself.
  • UHMW-PE (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene): A plastic with outstanding impact resistance and good chemical resistance, and excellent lubricity. This material is similar to the High-Density Polyethylene used in kitchen cutting boards, where it is used because it can take a lot of abuse and still clean up easily. Its high lubricity means that it makes a good guide for roller chains or conveyor belts. When laser cut, it also leaves a slightly melted looking edge, much like polypropylene.
  • White Acetal: this is like our black acetal, but in a different color. Acetal's high strength and excellent wear characteristics make it an ideal choice when you need a plastic for things like bearings, gears, and slides.

Upload your design now or design your part with the Big Blue Saw Designer to try out these great engineering plastics.

Now available: copper parts

One of our most frequently requested non-stock metals is copper. Our customers love copper for electronic components like bus bars and terminal connectors, as well as for decorative applications like sculpture, jewelry, and picture frames.

We're happy to announce that copper is now available for online ordering. The copper alloy on the website is alloy 110, which is 99.9% pure copper, with excellent electrical conductivity. It is also considered excellent for forming and working operations, such as bending and rolling.

Upload your design now to try a copper part.

Tinkertoy Clocks

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you some fun clocks that clever makers built using construction toys.

First up is a simple pendulum and escapement mechanism built using the modern plastic Tinkertoys. My son and I made one of these based upon this video, and it's a lot trickier than it looks to get everything lined up and running smoothly.

Next is a two handed clock made from the classic wooden Tinkertoys. I dig the horizontal pendulum, but wish that the video showed more detail so that you could build your own.

And finally, here's the greatest achievement: a K'nex clock that's designed to keep accurate time:

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Waterjet and Laser Cut Custom Parts.
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3522 Ashford Dunwoody Rd NE #145
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Phone: (678) WAY-SAW4 (678) 929-7294