The End is Not in Sight — Grazer — Lukas

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Although this will be my last blog post for this school year, it does not mean that work will be slowing down.

Admittedly, it’s not like work has been that productive either. Burdened by an end goal that wasn’t entirely clear to begin with, time spent finishing something that didn’t really need  to be finished, having to learn how to use a new technology, and a spotty work ethic, I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have hoped. That being said, I was able to make some small progress with the CNC mill this week, however imperfect it may be.

I tried to mill the same, simpler, and smaller designs that I had came up with last week. Also mentioned in the last post, I broke the milling process down into two procedures: the first cuts a grove out of one corner, and the second shapes the resulting flange into a semi-circle.

On the first attempt, I successfully completed the first process (simple enough!), but a lost origin (every cutting process requires an origin to know where the machine is cutting, and can be lost by accidentally clicking the wrong button — oops) created some interesting results for the second process. I assumed it was due to the machine losing it’s place… No biggie, I’ll try again next time I get into the shop.

On the second attempt everything went wrong. I cut a new piece of stock, clamped it down in the vice, manually machined the face for a smooth finnish, and chose a new origin. I thought that choosing a different origin from the last time wouldn’t make a difference, since it’s a square part, but oh no, was I wrong. The “simple cut” turned into the machine bitting down into the part without actually removing any material, stalling the motor, and wrenching the part out of the vice. These occasional happenings (or rookie mistakes) are the reason why I’m still kind of terrified of the Tormach. THE TOOORMACH. It can be weirdly unpredictable at times, and seems like it’s a lot more powerful than me. It’s like a mild Decepticon, Terminator, or an evil Robocop. Brrrr. A lot of talk, I know, for what the resulting carnage looks like:

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My fears aside, I continued trying to mill the part. Again, same setup process, but this time, I chose the origin corner that worked on the first attempt. The first process worked great. Now onto the rounding process. I inputted the new G-Code (the language that CNC computers use to communicate movements), reset the Z-Axis distance for a new, ball-end 3/8 inch tool (new tool means new starting height), and ran the machine. From first glance, it looked like all was working well, but when the process completed, I realized that the flange was cut into, and the rounded contour was just made smaller:

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So it turns out that my “culminating piece” was somewhat of a failure. I didn’t meet my goals. In hindsight, I wish I would have spent more time focussing on things that actually amount to the final Grazer. A potentially beautiful, mesmerizing, and somewhat innovative art piece. By focussing more on the process of getting there (such as the PVC demonstration piece), I became somewhat lost in my own creative flow, and eventually lost motivation towards the final product.

Have no fear! I still have another year to complete this project, including a hopefully productive summer full of time to get into the shop and work. As for the rest of this year, I really hope to crank up that time and maybe complete a full aluminum leg, returning to where I began this semester, except manifested in a different material.

This is not to say that progress can only be measured with tangible things. I have learned so much in my work this year. Knowing how to operate a CNC mill is a very useful skill that will prove to be beneficial not only in the continuation of this project, but also where ever I end up going to college (and beyond maybe). I’ve also learned tons about myself: how I operate, how I shy away from hard work sometimes, and how I can better motivate myself for next year. As a part of this, I feel like after a full semester, I have finally arrived at a concrete vision that I can work towards. Hopefully I’ll be writing here again next year!

PS: In recent times, I feel like I have been growing away from art, completely enveloped in the world of a sloppy machinist. To draw me closer to my passion, and one of the true reasons why I’m actually doing this project, I went digging for some other kinetic artists. I found this video of the work of Jean Tinguely, a Swiss artist. I find the piece at 2:51 particularly intriguing.

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