General Updates

Recently I had the opportunity to compete at Robot Battles in Atlanta. When building with waterjet or laser cut parts, it is a challenge to make parts that fit together solidly without welding. My robot's chassis was mostly held together with t-nuts and tab-and-slot, but this wasn't adequate for the top cover of the chassis. You see, the top needs to be removable for quick access to swap batteries or do maintenance, and t-nuts just don't make that easy. With t-nuts, you have to keep the nuts aligned in their respective T's when installing them and you have to try not to lose the nuts when taking things apart.

There's a solution for this problem that I had been meaning to try out for a while.  This solution had been developed by Fingertech and recommended to me by Mike from Near Chaos Robotics: nutstrip. Nutstrip, shown in the top image, is square profile aluminum bar machined with tapped holes at regular intervals on two faces. Using nutstrip allows me to install and remove the top of the robot easily, as the nutstrip is held in place.

Nutstrip comes in four sizes, from a 3/16 inch square profile up to a 1/2 inch square profile. I chose the "Medium" size, which is 3/8 inch square with 10-24 holes tapped at 14.5 mm intervals. I had already chosen 10-24 screws for the rest of the hardware in the robot, so this made a good match.

Below is a closeup view of the clear polycarbonate top held in place with red nutstrip. The nutstrip was cut to length with a hacksaw to hold two screws on each face. One of these sections of nutstrip was used in each corner.

The diagram below shows how the parts were designed together in CAD to mate using nutstrip.

One potential disadvantage of nutstrip is that it occupies the entire corner of the chassis, reducing the space available for other components.

The nutstrip pieces held up well during combat and I had no problems with the quality or finish. Nutstrip is available from Kitbots and FingerTech.

Here's a behind the scenes peek at how many of our parts are bade here at Big Blue Saw. In this video, you can see custom parts being waterjet cut from 1/4 inch thick aluminum 6061 alloy, one of our most popular materials.

If you look closely, at 0:15 you can see a disc dropping into the catch tank. This region is a hole in the final part, so we wouldn't typically tab that part in place to prevent this.

This video shows the tremendous forces involved in waterjet cutting. A 60,000 psi stream of water and garnet blasting through an aluminum plate is a violent event.

By guiding this stream with servo motors under computer control, a waterjet cutting machine can make custom parts from metal, plastic, wood, and more.

You can read more about waterjet cutting or get an instant quote for waterjet cut parts on our website.



From Big Blue Saw customer Aaron comes the Royal E-field, an electric conversion of a 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 motorcycle.

Aaron talks a little bit about how he got started using Big Blue Saw:

I transferred the drawing into a program called Inkscape, a freeware vector graphics program.  The program loaded easily and a 20-minute tutorial video was enough to get me started.

 shelves design

Aaron also has some great info on accurately bending 5052 aluminum using only hand tools. You'll note that he cut reliefs along the bend line (as described in our article on bending metal), bend at 90 degrees to the grain of the material, and also used a special waterjet cut jig  to make the corners the right radius.

bent lr

 How does it ride? Take a look at the videos below to see:


Jay Doscher told us about another great project he's built with help from Big Blue Saw. Read more about it here. You may remember his previous projects from this blog 1 2.

I’ve been working hard on a project that allows me to take a Raspberry Pi 2 into the wild outdoors. While there are many cases out there that work fine in a cabinet or on a desk, I couldn’t find one that would work outdoors. I became familiar with weatherproof enclosures when I started tinkering with my Solarbot a couple years ago, but I needed more than a small plastic box this time. This time around I wanted something that would support my Solar Robot 7 (which is live on Twitter here), a Raspberry Pi 2- powered solar tracker. More on that soon!

Read more about the RPFU at Jay's blog.


Parts from Big Blue Saw:



 assembled components 800

We are often contacted by our customers about making custom enclosures for their electronics projects. An enclosure might be needed for a custom keyboard, Arduino based game machine, radio transmitter, or any of the hundreds of other electronic projects built by imaginative Big Blue Saw fans.

Occasionally we'll hear from people who feel that Big Blue Saw's waterjet and laser cutting services can't make a custom enclosure. But those in the know realize that you can use the stacking technique to build a custom three dimensional case out of parts cut from thin, flat sheet.

Take a look at the CAD layout of the parts below. These pieces are intended to be stacked together to make the final enclosure.


You can see this design cut from 3 mm thick clear acrylic below.

pieces layout noflash 800

 The pieces stack together so that the piece with the circular cutouts for the controls is on the top and the solid piece is on the bottom.

assembled 800

 The pieces in the center have slots in them so that there is an opening for wires or a connector.

rear connector 800

Components such as connectors, switches, buttons and indicator lights can be installed on the top piece. This panel can be customized with openings to match the components you need in your application.

assembled components 800

When you're ready with your own enclosure design, why not upload it to our quoting system for instant pricing and online ordering?