Big  Blue Saw


General Updates

As you may know by now, Big Blue Saw regularly offers discounts on materials. But since it takes time to get a design ready for a particular stock material that's on sale, it can be tough to take advantage of the reduced prices.

That's why I thought I'd give you a heads up: starting Monday, August 21, Big Blue Saw will be having a sale on the following materials:

  • Aluminum 6061 in 0.05 inch thickness
  • Stainless Steel 304 in 0.06 inch thickness

You've got a week to get your designs ready. Remember: the sale starts the day of the solar eclipse in North America.

Partial Eclipse of the Sun - Montericco, Albinea, Reggio Emilia, Italy - May 1994 01

1336 Technologies is creating the future of energy electric power by reducing the cost of solar cells. A large portion of the cost of solar cells comes from the cost of the silicon wafers needed for their manufacture. And 1336 Technologies has figured out a way to reduce the cost of silicon wafers by a whopping 60%.

Big Blue Saw recently helped 1336 Technologies with a few waterjet and laser cut parts for their process control systems. Holly Gates, Principal Engineer, recently wrote to us about the parts shown in the image above.

The instruments with the pogo pins and magnetic retention (which we also design and make) are for measuring process parameters inside our >1400C silicon solar wafer making machines. There are many of them on a single furnace, and they need to be easily removed for cleaning and recalibration. Hence the pogo pin and magnetic coupling: each instrument can be removed and replaced quickly without connectors or fasteners. In past versions we did the magnetic retention with a magnet glued into the baseboard but this had some issues and was tedious to assemble. The new design flips all the components on the baseboard to the inner side for better environmental protection and uses the 400 series stainless plate on the outside for mechanical shielding, earth grounding, and to act as the magnetic target.
Why is this important? 

1366 has developed a technology for making solar wafers directly from molten silicon. The usual process uses a string of machines to melt silicon chunks, solidify a block, then saw up the block. That method wastes about half the silicon as non-recoverable sawdust carried in slurry. Our process results in a wafer at almost half the cost of the standard process, and presents unique opportunities for pushing efficiency higher in ways not possible with sawing. The solar market right now is about 15 billion wafers/year and growing rapidly.

Gates has a few tips for finishing the (special order) 400 series stainless plates.
For finishing waterjet parts, here is what I do:
- countersink for flat head screws (which I love, but are viewed with righteous hatred by my mechanical engineer colleagues). Nothing says you did it right like perfectly countersunk flat heads. On the other hand you feel like an idiot full of hubris when something needs to be scootched a little or doesn't align perfectly and you can't adjust it :)
- orbital sand all sides with 220 grit paper
- scotch brite pad edges and surfaces which will be visible
- wash with simple green and hot water, dry
- spray with metal cleaner/protector

Gates also commended Big Blue Saw's work.

Thanks for the great service. Having BBS around lowers the barrier to doing projects to test new ideas to such a degree that I have launched many more of them than I could before. The online quote/order system, low prices with material included, and short lead time is a breath of fresh air compared to the traditional quote back and forth, PO order, high minimum pricing, and lengthy and unpredictable lead time seen at regular shops. I really want your business to succeed because now BBS seems like an indispensable tool in my kit! 

Check out 1336 Technologies website, or follow them @1366tech on Twitter or 1336 Technologies on Facebook.



From Team Doom Robotics and Tyler Nguyen comes Commander Doom 2, an antweight (1 pound) fighting robot that really packs a punch.

Based on the Algos design, Commander Doom 2 was built using waterjet cut parts from Big Blue Saw. Here's a sneak look inside from during the build:

Commander Doom competed at Bot Blast 2017, winning 2 matches before the weapon caught on fire, leading Tyler to forfeit the next match.

Here's a look at Commander Doom defeating an opponent:

Tyler did end up winning the Sportsmanship Award. Congratulations!

The armor and frame panels were waterjet cut by Big Blue Saw from grade 5 titanium, while we made the disc weapon from chromoly steel.

Team Doom will be back at Hickory Bot Battles 2017 in Hickory, North Carolina on August 19, 2017. Be sure to catch them there. They'll have a few new surprises for their opponents, made with help from Big Blue Saw.




Alex Bell wrote in to tell us about a unique bicycle he built using Big Blue Saw.
From Harlem, NYC comes my latest project, the Bellcycle. Growing up in NYC I always wanted to build things like my own bicycle from scratch, but living in an apartment makes that tricky. So last year I started experimenting with making a cycle that someone could assemble in their living room. While I was at it I thought, what the hell lets make it weird. So I made it front wheel pedaled and added some springs and pivots to make the riding experience fun. 
For version 1 of the bellcycle I used a hacksaw to cut out some aluminum bar and a drill for the holes. But of course this was exhausting, inaccurate and unscalable. After I found out about Big Blue Saw I was hooked. Within a few days of finished a design I would get a package in the mail with all the parts ready to go.
I have found the waterjet parts to be of surprisingly good accuracy and a great basic finish. I suggest that more makers/engineers/designers take a look at building with waterjet cut parts and inexpensive round metal tubing. If you drill and tap a pinch bolt into the side of the part you can create rigid and strong products with just Big Blue Saw waterjet parts, tubing and some bolts. I can imagine the same process would be great for custom furniture, vehicles, etc. I will be releasing design files and guides to building with the waterjet parts on the blog at soon, so head over and subscribe. 
Alex also posts updates to this project @Bellcycles on Twitter and @bellcycles on Instagram, so you can get the latest updates there as well.
Here's the Bellcycle version 1.2 in action.
Alex is a hardware and software engineer, but this is his first creation using waterjet cut parts. All of the Bellcycle's waterjet cut parts were made from aluminum 6061 in 0.375 inch thickness. Here's a peek at some of the designs. See if you can spot how they're used in the finished bike.
A few closeups of the bike:
To learn to create your own designs with waterjet cut parts, read our articles on designing for waterjet.
Have you built anything with Big Blue Saw that you'd like to share? Let us know!

Image of Aluminum CC BY 3.0

Look around you and you'll probably find a dozen things made from aluminum. Its weight, strength, thermal and electric properties all make aluminum the most widely used metal in the world, next to iron. You'll find it as a primary component in everything from spacecraft to drink containers.

But in the 1800s, aluminum was a precious metal. Despite aluminum being the 3rd most common element on earth, aluminum was hard to extract from ore. This made it so valuable that emperors and nations used it to display wealth and technological savvy. Emperor Napoleon III of France served honored dinner guests with dinnerware made from aluminum. In 1884, the Washington Monument was capped with a 6 pound aluminum pyramid, the largest single piece in the world at the time.

At this time, world production was only 3.6 metric tons, far short of the 2,800 metric tons of silver produced in that same year.

In the momentous year 1886 all of that started to change. Charles Martin Hall in the USA and Paul Louis Toussaint Héroult of France each independently came up with a method for extracting aluminum from ore using electricity. The Hall-Héroult Method dramatically decreased costs and production soared. 

By 1900, 8,000 tons of aluminum were being produced per year. Prices had fallen to around 25 cents per pound. Aluminum was no longer a material reserved for kings and monuments, but a practical metal for everyday use. A staggering 58 million tons were produced worldwide in 2016.

From Monday, July 17, through Wednesday, July 19, Big Blue Saw is doing its part to reduce prices on custom aluminum parts. When you order parts waterjet cut from aluminum 6061 in 1/4 inch thickness (that's 0.25" or 6.35 mm) through our online quoting and ordering system, you'll automatically receive a quantity discount. Here are a couple examples:

This 21x21 inch robot baseplate normally goes for $172.20 when waterjet cut from 0.25 inch thick aluminum 6061. During the sale, you can quantity 10 price even when ordering as little as 1 piece. That brings the price down to $125.20, or 27% off.


For smaller parts, the deal is even better. This gearbox plate at 4.7x4.4 inches would be $92.10 when ordering 1 normally waterjet cut from aluminum 6061 in 0.25 inch thickness. But during the sale, you can get it for $12.60, the same price as if you had ordered 10. That's 86% off the regular price.

Upload your design to our online ordering system, save on custom parts, and live like royalty!