Welcome to Section View! A (mostly) weekly newsletter focused on prototyping and R&D for mechanical and electrical engineers. We’ll be sharing our favorite tools and techniques for designing and building better prototypes, along with an equal dose of inspiration and a pinch of silliness. We hope you learn a little something with each issue while having some fun. Subscribe here.
In our latest Engineering Guide we go deep into design for manufacturability and assembly. It’s full of practical advice you can apply to your next designs.
Tool of the week
Our inaugural tool of the week is a personal favorite, the Noga CR-3000 ceramic deburring tool.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the typical swivel tip deburring tool (also by Noga). It’s a workhorse in every machine shop. By now you’ve probably scarred up and gouged a handful of your beautiful aluminum or plastic parts when the tool slips suddenly or changes angle throughout the edge breaking process. Give this convex blade a try and I promise your soft parts will be deburred perfectly. I’ve also used this blade to scrape 0.001” of material off sliding plastic interfaces to ensure a nice running fit. It's a life saver. Kudos to @yetiman01 for giving me my first ceramic deburr for free with a batch of Delrin AF parts a few years ago.
Blind fastener fishing no more. If you’re building an 80/20 project with custom brackets, you can save yourself a bunch of time in assembly by designing in keyhole slots for your fasteners, instead of through holes. No more blindly fishing around for t-slot nuts, just pre-assemble your screws and slot on your brackets. This one is great for maintenance and service disassembly as well.
3D Printed sheet metal tools. I love this video from Proto G Engineering on using 3D printed press brake tooling for bending sheet metal parts. It really got me thinking about how much you could do in a small shop setup with a bottle jack press, or even a basic machine vise. Rainbow Aviation did a brilliant and simple conversion of a Harbor Freight 3-in-1 roll, press, shear that allows them to adapt printed tooling and make awesome parts.
With so many quick turn CNC and 3D printing vendors, sheet metal is often the longest lead item on a build so I’m definitely eager to find ways to make high fidelity sheet metal parts in house. Hat tip to Josh Schacter and his Wheelhouse newsletter for pointing us to this one.
Templatemaker.nl is a free design tool for building packaging from 2d paper or cardboard sheets. I personally love purpose built design tools like this and hope that more and more basic mechanical engineering design problems can be solved with similar parametric approaches. If you’ve ever spent hours on McMaster looking at NPT fittings and trying to make sure everything mates correctly you understand where I’m coming from.
Mars Rover Timeline. The Five Flute team loves this interactive tool that NASA built to follow the Mars rover Perseverance on its journey.
In many ways, Mars Rovers are the ultimate expression of prototyping. One high stakes design iteration that either works or it doesn’t. Super inspiring stuff to see them in action.
We've got a new magnetic drill and tap chart that you can stick on your toolbox, your drill press, or anywhere you find useful. Just email us at email@example.com if you want one, and we'll send it your way.
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