Tiny Tools Tiny Parts

One the things you have to deal with in engineering design is if a part can be made. This is especially true in instrument design where the requirements tend to call for very small parts. Part so small that the tools needed to make them enter into a new realm.
Consider this blog post with an old article about drilling holes through human hairs. Strangely enough I’ve had to design parts that almost required that level of precision. Fortunately the tools to do that are becoming more common. This website has been very helpful in finding resources for microparts:
From this website I was able to find this guide for small desktop machine tools.

Long before I discovered the micro machining website, I purchased a Sherline Mill and lathe with most of the accessories in the what they call their “ultimate machine shop package.”
Of course time and use has proven to me that ultimate does not mean complete and that there’s always that tool you need to get. That’s part of the learning curve.
I will note that the part in the mill is a fixture for the lathe and that my design did not work on the first go around. I’ve changed the design, but there still are some issues to resolve. I also need to buy some parts, but that’s not a big deal.
There’s also learning how to cut materials and what you need to do to prevent the tool from wrecking the part or worse. Again, that’s part of the learning curve. One thing I have learned is that I have a long way to go. Fortunately there are resources to help. One is youtube with the groups of machinists putting stuff up. Stuff like this:
And the videos of Tom Lipton, which are both entertaining and useful.
In the end though, there’s nothing like learning through experience. In engineering you can’t be too afraid to fail. Those surprises happen and you have to work past them. Taking a hands on approach, learning how to make your own stuff and moving beyond the Solidworks model is all part of the job.

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