The appeals of Kickstarter campaigns are many. There are the rewards for backers, frequently taking the form of either deep discounts on the final product or unusual items that can’t be found anywhere else. Pledging to support any crowdfunding campaign is a gamble, but it’s an exciting gamble; just browsing Kickstarter is pretty exciting, in fact, especially in the technological categories. Inventive individuals and startups offer new twists on machines like 3D printers and CNC machines – often for much less cost than others on the market.
CNC machines, like 3D printers, are pricey investments for the average person. While less expensive models have been appearing in both markets, high-quality rapid prototyping machines are still often unaffordable for many. Andy Lee would like to change that. The mechanical engineering student is in his second year at the University of Waterloo, and he already has pretty extensive experience in the design and manufacture of robots, as well as in steel design and manufacturing. Over the past year, he used the knowledge and skills he gained in his previous jobs to launch his own venture called Sienci Labs.
“Sienci Labs has its roots in research and development of linear motion systems that make up the majority of the cost of rapid prototyping tool, and creating low cost, high performance mechanisms for consumer applications,” says Lee.
Along with fellow Waterloo mechanical engineering students Tim Thompson and Chris Thorogood, Lee developed and built a powerful desktop CNC mill for a small fraction of the cost of comparable machines. The Sienci Mill One, now on Kickstarter, starts at under $400, whereas the cost of similar desktop CNC machines can run into the thousands.
The campaign, which is running until September 17, is already more than halfway to its goal of $60,000 CAD (about $46,631 USD). The 3-axis desktop CNC mill is easy to use and versatile, capable of machining wood, aluminum, brass, PVC, polycarbonate, acrylic, leather, polystyrene, printed circuit boards and just about anything softer than aluminum. The work area is about 250 x 200 x 100 mm, and the design is open source – the Sienci Mill One can be easily built with a 3D printer and some basic hand tools.
The campaign’s early bird rewards have already been claimed, but there are still some good deals for supporters. For a pledge of $519 CAD ($403 USD), backers will receive a kit containing all the components needed to assemble the Sienci Mill One, except for the router, but the generically sized mount allows for most personal routers or rotary tools to be easily attached. A contribution of $539 CAD ($419 USD) gets you the same components with a nice black finish to the frame, while $659 CAD ($512 USD) gets you a full kit with spindle ($679 CAD or $528 USD gets you the black version).
A fully assembled mill, sans router, is available for $699 CAD/$543 USD ($719 CAD/$559 USD for black), and a pledge of $829 CAD/$644 USD gets you a fully assembled mill with spindle ($849 CAD/$660 USD for black). The first rewards are expected to begin shipping in February 2017. Sienci has partnered with Onshape to create free, browser-based CAD and CAM software for the machine.
“Our goal has always been to make tools like these more accessible, and we’re proud of our achievement,” says Lee. “Our machines come with premium features, like an semi-enclosure that keeps dust in and lead screws on all (axes)…The Sienci Mill One is finally a great machine for people who want to dive into CNC machining, and allows makers, hobbyists, and small businesses create amazing things without having to put in the time and money investment they used to have to.”
Check out the Kickstarter video below, and discuss further in the University of Waterloo All-in-One 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.