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Online Vendors with Cool Tools for Builders?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the putting-it-together dept.


fwc asks: "I've been using ExpressPCB for quite a while to make smaller printed circuit boards various projects. They provide a free (beer) schematic capture and PCB layout software which makes it very easy to design your board and order it online. There are of course other vendors that do this for PCB's as well, along with vendors which make stencils for Surface mount devices, Front Panels and foam inserts for plastic cases. Recently a friend told me about eMachineShop which has a very cool design tool which allows you design, price, and order almost anything a machine shop can build - brackets, gears, molded products, etc. - and out of almost every material you can imagine. What other cool resources of a similar nature are out there?"

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FP? (-1, Offtopic)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995029)

Fristage Postage?

Re:FP? (1)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995367)

Yes, you now owe me $0.39 for every person who reads your post!

emachine (1)

alephdelta (623512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995078)

Man, i have never heard of this. I think i can make a beautiful aluminium mini ITX case.

Re:emachine (2, Informative)

fwc (168330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995264)

After I submitted this article, I also discovered protocase [] which is specifically for equipment cases.. I haven't had a chance to play a lot with the software, but I do see ITX cases on their website.

Re:emachine (1)

bjpirt (251795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995573)

thanks. That looks like quite a useful link. We are in the market for a custom (ish) mini-itx case.

Looks like this could be one of those great threads where lots of people thank eachother for telling them about some cool yet unknown manufacturing company.

Re:emachine (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14996693)

I brought up Protocase to TPTB at work a while back, after I had spent the better part of 2-3 weeks customizing off-the-shelf 3U cases for one of our products. We placed an order recently when we needed more of them. For not much more than we spent in parts and materials for the first run, Protocase built cases with mounting points and holes where we needed them, a silkscreened logo, and overall much better fit and finish than I could manage. It also speeded up our assembly time considerably. They did a good job. I'd recommend them (for whatever my recommendation is worth).

Re:emachine (1)

TechAdd (963866) | more than 8 years ago | (#15003077) [] Protocase has a very good service. I faxed them the design and after some communications i got the case in few days. It was wonderful and most, its my design. I bet custom manufacturer will go way ahead, among some of us.

marketing (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995126)

Man, these places need some marketing. I'd be making a lot more shit if I'd known about this Machine Shop website. I suggest advertising on Slashdot and in Make magazine. :)

Re:marketing (2, Informative)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995185)

The eMachineshop was on here a long time ago. Cool stuff, but very expensive to have done even for a simple bracket.

Re:marketing (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995358)

Yeah, someone that could do affordable one offs would be pretty awesome. For example I have a custom laptop design I've been working on. If I could crank out prototypes of the casing for around $100 each that'd be awesome. Part of the design calls for the keyboard and mouse to be usable either in normal fashion or able to be pulled away from the rest of the laptop and used (bluetooth w/ own batteries). Little things like that need to be worked out to get the details right and prototypes get expensive for something I'm not planning on resale for.

Re:marketing (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995684)

$100 would be about 3 orders of magnitude cheaper than the going price for this kind of service. While mass production is an extremely profitable business, there is little money to be made by making one-off designs. The economies of scale just aren't there. Even simple sheet metal work is a lot more expensive than $100. Not to mention, the software used to design things like laptop casings (Solid Edge and competitors) costs hundreds of thousands of bucks. If you wanted it milled out of a chunk of aluminum, just the material would cost more than $100. Injection-molded plastic is cheap, but the NRE is very high, and it only makes sense for mass production.

In short, unless you have at least a $5 million dollar budget, you really have no business developing laptops. That's the price if you use mostly off-the-shelf parts. A fully custom design can be 10x to 20x more expensive. Just look at the balance sheets of computer companies and check out how much money they spend on R&D. Custom work requires an extensive investment of time and money.

Re:marketing (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14996608)

I just need to be able to rent a machine shop for an evening now and then. In school I had free access to the machines needed but now I certainly can't afford to buy them so it means putting a lot of things together by hand with small tools.

It doesn't cost millions to design a laptop casing but it can cost a couple thousand. If you're spending millions you're doing something very wrong. Other than that you can use mostly existing electronics to build the laptop so it's not that big of an investment. A mini-itx or possibly nano-itx (now that they're finally coming out), standard screen, normal laptop parts, etc. The only real difference from building a normal small form factor computer and building a laptop is the casing and the need to include a battery/recharging system. Don't make things to hard. ;) Of course it adds up quicker if you pay other people to do all the work. I'll agree that the lack of proper tools is a drag but the same things can be done without the fancy tools - it's just more work.

Big Blue Saw (4, Informative)

autarkeia (152712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995184)

After reading this article in MAKE [] I found out about Big Blue Saw [] , which is similar to eMachineShop. They'll take a DXF file and will produce machined parts in a handful of materials (plastic, steel, etc) and thicknesses. They even provide & promote links to a bunch of Open Source CAD software. Good stuff.

This is the Trend of Things (2, Interesting)

Psiven (302490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995199)

According to Neil Gershenfeld and Ray Kurzweil, what ammount to basically "3D" printers are set to revolutionize the way we interact with the world. Essentially the same types of repurcussions we're facing with digital media distripution will be met in the physical world. No more then what many people already know as "replicators" from Star Trek, "fabricators", a printer that assembles matter at the molecular level, will drastically change the way the world operates. eMachines and other businesses, although addressing the problem of 3-dimensional printing from different angles, are slowly converging into this new industry.

One book that discusses this field directly is called "FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop." The author makes a comparison to the PC "revolution" from the 90's to the "Personal Fabricator (PF)", estimated to occur in line with the rest of development in nanotechnoligies, starting around 2015 and culminating in 2025.

Re:This is the Trend of Things (1)

bjpirt (251795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995598)

These guys [] are working on something like this now. It's a first step, but it is a step nonetheless.

Re:This is the Trend of Things (1)

st1d (218383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14998677)

No more then what many people already know as "replicators" from Star Trek

Never been much of a trekkie, but aren't replicators from Stargate-SG1?

whoa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14995314)

My dream of a stainless-steel dildo will be realized at last!

You see, it's for my girlfriend.

My robot girlfriend.

Laser Etching (2, Informative)

lockefire (691775) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995399)

Hyperkore [] does some nice laser etchings [] for pretty cheap.

Resources for Makers/Builders/hightech DIYers (4, Informative)

plcurechax (247883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995431)

The first thing to realise there are plenty of technology related hobbyists around the world, although most are not high profile and some may be different very different demographics than yourself.

Some (hobby) groups to consider looking towards for ideas and help include: woodworkers, metalworkers (hobbyists using micromills and mini-lathes from TaigTools and Sherline, etc.), model railroads, model aircrafts (static and RC), robotics, amateur radio (ham), 2600, LUGs, and Artist Run Centres/Communities

Random list of some I use or know of:
  Make magazine []
  Instructables []
  ARRL [] [] (check out their tutorials) [] / []
  GQRP [] [] (cheap stencils laser cut, e.g. 3x4 for $32) [] [] (if you're still buying electronics from Radio Shack, get these 3 catalogs now!) [] []
  the ton of various surplus/NOS dealers online [] [] []
  DorkBot tools []
  MIT CBA FAB [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Re:Resources for Makers/Builders/hightech DIYers (1)

bjpirt (251795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995606)

That's a good list - I'll have to spend a bit of time going through that. Thanks.

finally... (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995473)

... I can build a custom copper heatsink for my machines. :-)

Services outside the US? (2, Insightful)

waleedk (603557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995896)

If you check some of these services, you'll find many of them ship to the US. Even if they do ship outside the US, you have the usual problems with customs, credit cards, and who knows what else. Are there others that operate in different countries, e.g. Australia or Europe?

One step above - low cost plastic injection molds (2, Informative)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14996126)

Once you've got a design that you like, and want to do short runs, you'll want to have a low cost injection mold... These guys look really interesting:

Re:One step above - low cost plastic injection mol (1)

Paul Carver (4555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14998438)

Doesn't look too interesting to me. All I see is a page full of ads. Are you sure that's the domain name you intended to post?

Re:One step above - low cost plastic injection mol (1)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14998987)

arrgh - sorry, (not protomolds, plural!)

Re:One step above - low cost plastic injection mol (1)

metaomni (667105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15013308)

They even do low cost domain parking!

Wiki? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14996187)

Is there a wiki for this sort of information? if not, maybe someone would be interested in starting one? I would, but I don't have the webspace to do it right now.

There are some excellent links and information in the comments here, unfortunately we can't efficiently keep it up to date over time. A wiki dedicated to this kind of thing would be great.

Or perhaps someone could create a page on wikipedia as a starting point

Lead Times (1)

ddewey (774337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14997934)

Emachineshop looks like a really awesome and reasonably-priced service, although some of our customers have complained that their quoted lead times are way too long. Perhaps it's because business is going really well for them, so they have more customers than they can handle in a timely manner.

We do plastic injection molding [] in China, but we often machine metal or plastic prototypes for our customers as well. Lead times for prototypes are often as short as 5 days, plus 2-3 days to ship to the customer by FedEx.

ExpressPCb or PCBExpress (1)

TechAdd (963866) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018469) [] or http://www.expresspcb/ [www.expresspcb] :

We have both.
Have a look at [] .
For more stuff look at free CAD tools in the market:
For Windows:
- / []
For Linux:
- []
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