Vote to Buy a new CNC Plasma Machine

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Ron Olson


  • First Draft of Proposal: 1/16/2021
  • Mailing List Announcement:
  • Officially Proposed:
  • To be Voted on:


PS1's existing CNC Plasma Cutter's control box completely shorted out due to coolant splashing into it, along with a massive short circuit that occurred due to improper wiring. Because of this, the controller (the electronics that drives the machine) need to be completely replaced. There are also a number of issues the machine had before this event occurred:

  • The limit switches are broken; these switches prevent the gantry from running off the end of the table
  • The table flexes. That seems odd given how big and heavy it is; the gantry can torque the table enough that it can produce lousy cuts, especially doing smaller cuts
  • The water table is warped and because of this larger pieces will not lay completely flat.

There have also been ongoing issues with the torch not finding the material and plunging into the water, or not properly detecting the material and driving into it. Every user of the machine has run into this issue at one time or another and troubleshooting is extremely difficult.

Member Expectations

The existing machine was built by members and it's to their great credit that the machine, as was initially delivered, worked at all. As it stands, the machine was always more difficult to use for a member who just wants to cut their parts and has minimal troubleshooting skills; PS1 members want to use the machine to cut their parts, not participate in a CNC science fair experiment.
PS1 members have come to expect tools to work; its history may be one of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to whether anything is operational, but this does a disservice to both the numerous volunteers who struggle to keep the equipment up and running, and the members who joined to work on their own projects and who may not have the time or inclination to learn the intricacies of stepper motors and torch height controller programming.

Wait, why not just fix the existing machine? It'd be cheaper, right?

This is one of those examples of "penny-wise, pound-foolish". The 2022 Hot Metal budget would take a huge hit paying for all this, which would directly impact being able to pay for other things, like welder repairs, supplies, etc. As it stands, the 2021 year ended with only $60 left in the Hot Metals budget. Yes, we can replace all the electronics, weld cross-bracing to the table, fix all the broken parts, and perform the massive deep-clean the machine requires. At the end of the day, if all went well, we'd still have a homemade, artisanal CNC machine that has no documentation other than a wiki page that many aren't even aware exists.

Have a Particular Machine in Mind?

Wait, why this machine?

It's 2022, there's, uh, a lot going on in the world, and PS1 doesn't exactly have unlimited dollars. Why Should We Get This?

The CNC plasma machine gets used more than a lot of people may think; it's likely not at the same amount of usage as the ShopBot, but I'd argue that, over the past couple of years, it's come pretty close. People expect certain tools to

Look, I totally understand this is a really lousy time to be asking for money for a large tool, and this vote has been created very reluctantly, because, well, really, how badly damaged is the current table? Come on, it can't really be that hard to fix, can it? The answer is, maybe not to someone who knows what they're doing, but that is not the case here, in addition to the amount of time that I can reasonably spend on it, with limited participation from others because of schedules, covid, and life in general. In other words, the existing table ain't getting fixed anytime soon. And assuming everyone was cool with waiting, and the machine eventually got fixed (this being a nebulous term), we'd likely still have a quirky machine full of gotchas that maybe some people know about, and others don't.


We authorize the board to spend up to $$$$$ accessories.