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mochinist
08-31-2005, 08:39 PM
Sorry if this is a repost but this was the first I have seen of it.
Think it will last and be succesful?

Article
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.09/fablab.html?tw=wn_tophead_5

The actual site
http://www.emachineshop.com/

littlelocos
08-31-2005, 10:37 PM
Hello,
I have used the software to price out head gaskets for a model airplane engine I am prototyping as well as for the side frames for my 2-8-0 Locomotive in 3-1/2" Guage. I work the designs up in TurboCAD, then export the 2-d information to the eMachineshop program. Works great, just haven't placed the orders yet.

Since we are a micro-business, ordering 50 or 100 of a part, then having the whole batch show up 3 weeks later works even better since the bulk prices are cheap enough that we can sell the parts, making a small profit while providing a service for folks who have bought our plans.

The set-up costs for one or two of a part make them too expensive to be practical (for us anyway). For Example: $189 for the first head gasket and $2.83 each if I buy a hundred of them (Using Chemical Milling). For the 3/4"-scale frames, the first pair is $139/pr and 15 sets are $38/pr (by Laser Cutting).

Works for me. I'd like to see them succeed.
Todd.


------------------
Todd Snouffer
Littlelocos Model Engineering

Paul Alciatore
09-01-2005, 01:40 AM
I downloaded their software a year or so ago and played with it a bit. Their prices are fairly high for small quantities but are better as that goes up. At that time I was looking at some gears in lots of about 10 so they were out of the running. I am looking at them again for a project where the numbers will be higher.

And yes, their software is fairly easy to use. Do their tutorial.

Paul A.

DR
09-01-2005, 09:25 AM
Time will tell on this concept.

As I understand emachine doesn't have their own machines, or maybe they have a few of them inhouse, but the majority of the work has to be farmed out from their shop.

Being in the machining business for 20+ years this seems like a total nightmare to me. First, they have to find reliable vendors willing to jump at a moment's notice for what appears to be fairly low shop rates.

emachine's prices include a middle man, themselves. So the actual shop's rates have to be low enough to allow the middle man's wages to be added. Now that the economy is "cooking" again how many good shops are willing to work for low rates and short turn around parts?

Can you imagine how many people use this service to price parts, but might or might not ever order anything? Who's paying in the end for that service...maybe the other customers?

Would I sign my shop up to be a vendor for emachine, not in a milion years.....

As I said, time will tell. It seems like a great idea, overcoming the hurdles of the arrangement may not be possible though.

It would be interesting to hear from some one who used the service and found the parts or service to be lacking.

Wirecutter
09-01-2005, 12:24 PM
I've been using the emachineshop software for nearly a year. It's ok, and pretty easy to use, but there are some things that are really annoying about it. For example:

Suppose you want to machine a bracket from a piece of aluminum angle. Can't do it. You'd have to "build" the angle, either by milling out or by bending. There is a pretty wide choice of materials to choose from, but it's almost all just simple stuff - sheet, bar, rod, block, etc. No shapes or "pre-processed" stuff, like angle or threaded rod.

Every time the SW is started up, it wants to "phone home". Normally, this is to get updates of the software, or more frequently, the pricing file. It can be a bit of a nuisance, and I generally don't care for software that does things like this - too much like spyware.

The lead times are kinda long, too, unless you're willing to bleed for speed. I didn't know until DR mentioned it that they have very little of their own machinery - perhaps that explains the long lead. The farming out also explains why the software (or emachineshop) won't allow certain combinations of operations. For example, you generally can't laser-cut a piece of metal and then have work done on the same part using a mill.

On the other hand, it's a great tool for quickly drawing up a part and seeing a 3D rendering. The drawing can be exported to a .dxf file, but all 3D info is lost. I credit the emachineshop software for forcing me to finally learn Autocad, which is no small feat. (Now Autocad, well, you can do anything, once you learn the secret.) I've managed to crash the software a time or two, and I've found that certain parts take forever to render in 3D or get pricing for. I built up a baseplate in the software with mostly drill/tap holes for mounting stuff. No problem. But when I "turned it over" and put holes and coutersinks on the bottom side, it suddenly took 5 times as long for the software to render or price. Stuff like that.

On the plus side, it's pretty easy to use, and banging out a part is quick. I've been using it at work to build up (and experiment with) mechanical packaging for the test equipment I design. It's great for getting an idea of what a certain way of doing things is going to cost, and emachineshop can still produce parts in quantaties of 10-50 much more cheaply than I can in my home shop. (Like if I stayed home from work and made parts.)

All in all, I like emachineshop - the software has its quirks, like nearly all software. For such a complicated software package, it's fairly good. It hasn't been around very long (like Autocad and such), and there are frequent updates of the software - I'd say about a revision per month. So it's not perfect, but they're constantly improving and ironing out bugs. But it's free, which makes it unbelievably good for the price.
When I get to that point on one of my current projects, I plan on ordering parts from emachineshop. I think it's a great idea, but I can't speak for how price-competitive they are with "regular" machine shops.

Incidentally, the same idea has been around for a while for printed circuit boards. I've been using expressPCB for a few years whenever I need any but the most simple PC board prototypes. It's simply cheaper and easier than breadboarding. They are quite good. Again, it's their software package, and the software can be a little quirky, but it produces files that the fab house understands easily. It's a lot easier to spec things out without having screwups creep in.

Finally, the usual disclaimers apply. This opinion is worth what you paid for it, blah, blah, and I have no affiliation with either emachineshop or expressPCB.

-M

DR
09-01-2005, 12:48 PM
wirecutter wrote: "It's great for getting an idea of what a certain way of doing things is going to cost"

Does the software produce the quote? I had assumed that a knowledgeable person would examine the print and make a quote.

If it's the software doing the quoting that could be interesting. Are the quotes firm?

Imagine yourself as a subcontractor to these people and you get an order for a complicatd part including the price the computer decided you will do the part for. As yet I don't think software exists to accurately quote parts.

Wirecutter
09-01-2005, 01:02 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by DR:
wirecutter wrote: "It's great for getting an idea of what a certain way of doing things is going to cost"

Does the software produce the quote? I had assumed that a knowledgeable person would examine the print and make a quote.

If it's the software doing the quoting that could be interesting. Are the quotes firm?

Imagine yourself as a subcontractor to these people and you get an order for a complicatd part including the price the computer decided you will do the part for. As yet I don't think software exists to accurately quote parts.</font>


Yes, the software does the quote. I can't imagine the criteria used, and you make a good point about surprizing the subs. In the Wired article mentioned above, the guy at emachineshop is able to tell how long the part will take on a given CNC machine. Maybe that's how they do it?

3 Phase Lightbulb
09-01-2005, 02:07 PM
I'm a big fan of eMachineShop. I haven't ordered anything, but I did play with their software quite a bit last year. I was disappointed to find out it was a privately held company because I wanted a stake in it.

-Adrian

JCHannum
09-01-2005, 02:24 PM
Some different opinions here;
http://www.practicalmachinist.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=014106

[This message has been edited by JCHannum (edited 09-01-2005).]

JCHannum
09-01-2005, 02:58 PM
.

[This message has been edited by JCHannum (edited 09-01-2005).]

JCHannum
09-01-2005, 03:09 PM
Whoops, second opinion.

Wirecutter
09-01-2005, 03:14 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">From the above link:
I tried them. After the order 120 days overdue I canceled. That was a real treat because there's no human involved; everything is automated. About two weeks after canceling, the order arrived (free, no charge). The quality was so poor I couldn't use anything. I didn't say anything to them as I had written them off. After another two weeks the exact same order arrived again (still no charge). The quality on these was worse than the first ones. In to the trash they went too.
</font>

Well, if so, that pretty much blows my idea out of the water. I'm going to try to find out more before ordering parts. At least the software is free and has some interesting abilities...

-M

3 Phase Lightbulb
09-01-2005, 03:44 PM
The software they provide is basically a job control tool and not a design tool so unless material selection, tool quality, or setup procedure was bad on their part, then I think it's going to be a case of garbage in, garbage out. I would want to see both the part, AND the job they submitted before I decided that the quality of the result is bad.

-Adrian