Thursday, March 15, 2018

We told him he couldn't leave until he cut the perfect cube

A couple of days ago we locked Andrew up in the workshop. We told him he couldn’t leave until he cut the perfect cube. Material: stainless steel 316L grade, the same stuff the Swiss watch cases are made of.  Luckily, Andrew didn’t bother asking us to clarify what perfection meant to us. To ask a watchmaker’s apprentice to cut the perfect cube on a Makino U32J is like giving the keys of your brand new Ferrari to a teenager and asking him to find out how fast it can go.

Oh, yes, the first few attempts were rather disappointing but he just kept pushing that pedal harder. On the second day he finally got his parameters right ("I was so excited I almost hugged Josh!") . 

So what is perfection? The short answer is:  We really don’t know. Once again, we have reached sub-micron levels where actual dimensions of a metal cube are no longer stable; where metal expands and shrinks purely due to the change in room temperature; where the measuring machine itself influences the piece measured; and where human error in acquisition of parameters is greater than the machine’s ability to measure the part.

Once again on a 10mm-side cube, to his shock and horror, Andrew has reached sub-micron precision. In Brookvale! 

So what’s next? We are now ready to go to the next level: integration of CAD and CAM software so we can finally start prototyping the most intriguing, irregular shapes. Like, for example, levers and springs pictured below. By the way, these springs come from a junk box of American pocket watches from around 1890-1920.  They do look scary - like an arsenal of inquisition/torturing tools! For us, they are highly motivational - if Americans could make such delicate high precision watch parts back then using 19th century machinery, surely we should be able to at least do the same today.

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