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Many of our customers' applications demand lightweight thin material such as the popular 1/8 inch (~3mm) thick aluminum 6061.

What do you do if you need to attach something with a screw to a plate of that thickness? You could just use a nut, but what do you do when the nut needs to be on the INSIDE of the thing you're screwing onto?

How about tapping threads? At 1/8 inch thickness, it can be difficult to tap threads: it yields only 3 threads when using a standard #10-24 machine screw. This isn't a lot of meat for screw to hold onto and could lead to the screw stripping the threads.and  assortment of thread sizes.Using nutstrip can solve this. Another possibility to use rivet nuts. Rivet nuts are threaded inserts designed to be crimped in place in thin material. Rivet nuts come in an assortment of thread sizesand variety of styles to work with a range of material thicknesses, from 0.02 inches to 0.3 inches.

Two plated steel rivet nuts. The left one has a 1/4-20 thread, and the right one a #10-24 thread.

I happened to get a good deal on a bunch of steel rivet nuts a few years ago. I keep them in a gallon container.

Rivet nuts do require a special tool to seat them properly. I bought one made by Marson that came with accessories for riveting several sizes of nuts in place.

Here's a rivet nut installed into the chassis of my fighting robot Jaws. You can see that on the inside, the thread starts a little way down inside the rivet nut.

Note that when correctly installed with the crimping tool, the ribbed section expands to bite into the sheet material and hold it to prevent it from falling out or rotating in place. When they're subjected to extreme loads or shock, as can happen in robot combat, rivet nuts do tend to come loose. That's why if I'm installing a rivet nut in that kind of situation, I'll put a little retaining compound around the head of the rivet nut before crimping it.

Note that the waterjet was used to make the hole in which the rivet nut sits. This is faster than drilling them by hand and allows  you to position the hole more accurately relative to the other holes and to the overall part. I would suggest making the hole 0.01" oversize in diameter to make sure that the rivet nut can fit.

Rivet nuts are available in a variety of thread sizes and materials from the major industrial suppliers: McMaster-Carr, MSC, Grainger, and the like.

Let us know: have you used rivet nuts with waterjet or laser cut parts?


Regularly I get emailed by individuals, groups, teams, and events seeking sponsorship for their project. Typically Big Blue Saw's sponsorship comes in the form of free waterjet cutting or laser cutting services or as gift certificates.


Big Blue Saw has sponsored or is currently sponsoring a number of things:

Plus we've done a number of stealthier sponsorships: Big Blue Saw has helped people with their projects with the knowledge that they would give us a shout out in social media or on their web sites.

Given the amount of sponsorship we've done, I thought I'd let people know what we're looking for when we sponsor. We're looking for the same things as many other businesses, so these tips will also help you when searching elsewhere for sponsorship.


The #1 most important thing we're looking for is an existing following or fan base. This could be via social media like Twitter or Facebook, through online forums, a YouTube channel, mailing lists, or through your own website. Nearly all of our business comes through our website, so getting an online audience is absolutely critical.


For you, as a potential sponsored party, the great thing about this is that none of this costs you money. Social media profiles are free to create and so are blogs. Use those to build a following with people in your community. Similarly, if you're the one in a community forum who's the go-to person for getting help, we'd love to hear from you.


The #2 thing we look for is exposure in traditional media like television, magazines and newspapers. This type of exposure can be valuable if the audience is right: getting the name Big Blue Saw in front of people who are likely to need our services.


Sponsoring the winning robot on ABC TV's BattleBots brought us a little bit of national exposure, but it was really the social media work of the Aptyx Designs team that brought people to the website. Keep in mind that traditional media can be hard to count on as you're at the mercy of TV producers, editors, and so on. With social media YOU are in control. Also it doesn't bring the immediacy that most web exposure or social media bring; people are typically watching TV or reading magazines in a passive mode, not ready to jump on the Big Blue Saw website.


#3 is exclusivity. We'd rather NOT have our logo drown among a sea of other sponsors logos. Offer us something that no other sponsor gets.


Factor #4 is having something interesting for us to sponsor. Overemphasizing this factor is the top mistake that most people make when looking for sponsors. If you're passionate about your project, it's only natural that you would want to talk about it.


But there's a whole world of cool stuff out there, so why would we want to sponsor you in particular? Let us know what you can do for Big Blue Saw.


If your project makes good use of waterjet and/or laser cutting, that's something we can show off to potential customers via our own social media and website. If your event is dedicated to a popular meme, great!


Finally, #5 is live event exposure. Like traditional media exposure (#2, above), people who see Big Blue Saw's logo at the event aren't necessarily in a mindset to come to our website and get an immediate quote. Also, if you only control a small portion of the overall event, e.g. your own robot, putting our stickers where people in the audience or passersby may be able to see them doesn't do much for us. Putting a giant banner across the top of the stage where everyone will be looking is much better. Talking to hundreds of people and getting them to sign up for our mailing list is also very nice. Having the right audience at the event is also critical here: people with a need for custom machined parts.


Now, working on some of the factors above might not overlap with your skills. If you're visiting the Big Blue Saw website, chances are that you like building things a lot, and there's a good chance you don't care so much about having Twitter followers or documenting your build process with slick YouTube videos. And that's perfectly understandable. So if you don't yet have a solid online or media presence, you should consider adding to your team someone to be your media director.


Finally, when reaching out to us for sponsorship, make sure you're clear about what exactly you need. If you need waterjet machining and have DXF files ready for us to cut, it makes our decision much easier than if you don't have a design ready. Similarly, if you want gift certificates for prizes, let us know the exact amounts and quantity you require.


We're always on the lookout for great events, teams and even individuals to sponsor. Now that you know what we're looking for, you can e-mail us and let us know how we can work together to help each other: .



I wanted a steel multitool to show off to customers and potentially use as a giveaway. I found this clever design by seanmichaelragan on Thingiverse. The original design "incorporates 21 distinct wrenches for metric and SAE nuts, 3 flat screwdrivers, a serrated cutting edge, a can opener, a wire breaker, a centerfinding tool, and a lanyard loop hole." The design, available on the download page, included a DXF version, which made it much easier to work with for waterjet cutting.

I did have to clean up a few typical problems with the file: unclosed contours, overlapping lines, and the like. If you're familiar with Big Blue Saw, you probably already know what the final DXF should look like and how to clean up a problematic DXF for waterjet cutting.

After a little scrubbing in QCad, the design was ready for waterjet cutting.

There were a couple issues with this design, however. One was that the smallest wrench holes were too small to be useful after cut on the waterjet due to the waterjet's kerf of 0.04 inches (1 mm). The other was that there needed to be a place to put the Big Blue Saw logo. So, with some reluctance, I eliminated a few of the features.

The final piece, cut from 1/4 inch thick 1018 cold rolled steel, came out great, and has a nice spot for a Big Blue Saw sticker.

Using carbon steel instead of stainless gives it a sort of steampunk look. I can imagine Captain Nemo using one of these to repair the Nautilus.

If you have a multitool design you'd like us to waterjet cut, read our FAQ on CAD files, then upload your design to get an immediate quote and order online.

I recently came across via a Hacker News post. It's a nifty tool for showing animated gear trains and producing SVG gear outlines. I found it can work with Big Blue Saw to make custom gears out of aluminum, steel, plastic, or other materials. Before reading this, you might want to review our article on waterjet cutting gears to get an idea of what to expect when waterjet cutting gears.


In addition to allowing you to change the pitch diameter, number of teeth, and pressure angle of each gear, the website will send you a gear outline if you click the "Download SVG" button.

Here's what the SVG looks like when opened in Inkscape. Most of this stuff isn't used when making the gear, so you'll need to delete all of the unnecessary text, the pitch diameter outline, and the filled area so that you're just left with the outline of the gear.

img-polaroid img-rounded

Once you have the plain outline of the gear, you can use Big Blue Saw's DXF Export for Inkscape or pstoedit to generate a DXF file.

The vector outlines produced by are fairly clean, so once everything but the gear outline is deleted, the resulting DXF file works well with Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.


If you need advanced features like rack-and-pinion or internal gears, there's another tool which I discovered. Dr. Rainer Hessmer's Involute Spur Gear Builder offers many more options.

What's your favorite tool for creating gears? Let us know in the comments.