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  1. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Sep 30, 2014, 10:32 PM - Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #1

    I've been working with the leadership at the Artisan's Asylum maker space in Somerville, MA (short biking distance from the heart of Boston/Cambridge) on building a prop/model shop in addition to their woodworking, machining, welding, and rapid prototyping shops. I want to attract fellow RPF-types in the area to come and be a part of a like-minded community interested in doing cool stuff with good tools that might otherwise be hard to have in the tiny apartments that tend to be common in our metro area. We hope also to build a presence online to do things like prop-making tutorial videos for the good of everyone on the web. There are a number of professional prop replica fabricators already in residence at the Asylum (including an amazing R2 that lives at the Asylum); we just haven't organized ourselves much yet. I'm trying to fix that.

    So my question for the RPF is this: what would you put in your dream prop-making shop?

    We've already got all the standard machining, woodworking, CNC, etc. tools a person could want. We have a massive laser cutter, and a fancy 3D printer. We have a paint/hazmat room with ventilation, and we're working on a lab-grade fume hood. We have an acrylic bender, and we're working on setting up a huge professional Paasche airbrushing paint booth.

    What else do we need, and what specific items would you recommend (brands and models are welcome). For example, do we need both a vacuum chamber and a pressure pot for resin casting? What sort of airbrushing compressor should we provide for community use? (I'm assuming it will be best to let individuals bring in their own airbrush heads themselves?) What route should we take for a vacuformer? What other essential tools am I overlooking?

    We don't have a huge budget, but I am looking to buy and donate some stuff, and we have lots of talented makers available to help us home-brew rigs as needed.

    Also: if you're local to Boston/Cambridge/Somerville and would like to get involved, please PM me. I'd be happy to take you on a tour of the Asylum and to get your help/input on what we're doing.

    In the meantime, I hope to use this as our "build thread" for a community prop-making space. I hope it will be interesting and informative to all.
    Last edited by norbauer; Sep 30, 2014 at 10:41 PM. Reason: clarified title
  2. RPF Premium Member brandomack's Avatar
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    Sep 30, 2014, 10:51 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #2

    For the compressor, go with a rotary screw. If you have multiple people using air tools, it will be a necessity.
  3. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Sep 30, 2014, 11:07 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #3

    brandomack said: View Post
    For the compressor, go with a rotary screw. If you have multiple people using air tools, it will be a necessity.
    Thanks. Can you help me understand the difference compared to the more conventional shop type? Why is it better for multiple people? I would imagine that we'd only have one person at any given time using an airbrush, given the size of our paint booth.
  4. RPF Premium Member brandomack's Avatar
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    Sep 30, 2014, 11:41 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #4

    I would recommend the screw type for two reasons.

    1. Theres a good chance you wont just be using the compressor for airbrushing. Pneumatic sanders, drills, grinders etc are extremely versatile in a shop environment as the batteries dont die. By having this type of compressor, you can run all of them at the same time.

    2. By using a conventional tank compressor, you will run into condensation issues where you will regularly need to drain it, if you dont, the tank can rust. If the tank rusts, it can damage the tools. Also, it can be unnerving to be airbrushing and concentrating on a particular detail only to have the compressor kick in and start a charge cycle, thus scaring the bejesus out of you and ruining your hard work.
  5. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 1, 2014, 12:03 AM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #5

    brandomack said: View Post
    I would recommend the screw type for two reasons.

    1. Theres a good chance you wont just be using the compressor for airbrushing. Pneumatic sanders, drills, grinders etc are extremely versatile in a shop environment as the batteries dont die. By having this type of compressor, you can run all of them at the same time.

    2. By using a conventional tank compressor, you will run into condensation issues where you will regularly need to drain it, if you dont, the tank can rust. If the tank rusts, it can damage the tools. Also, it can be unnerving to be airbrushing and concentrating on a particular detail only to have the compressor kick in and start a charge cycle, thus scaring the bejesus out of you and ruining your hard work.
    Cool. I had never thought about these issues. Most appreciated.
  6. xl97's Avatar
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    Oct 1, 2014, 2:53 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #6

    IMHO.... more laser cutters (at my local Makerspace we have like 4... and usually one of them is down due to 'something 'er other').

    I say the same for 3D printers... printing anything but trinket sized stuff takes time.. and keep a 3d printer occupied.. if your 'space' takes off.. and you have many members there at the same time.. having to wait a day or so to use equipment can be a bummer.

    Vinyl cutters..... good for making stickers, decals... cutting card stock.. and even cutting pep files.


    also.. no prop is complete (to me at least) without electronics....

    do you have dedicated soldering stations? toaster ovens/skillets for reflowing pcb/components?

    what about molding/casting equipment? stuff to make mold boxes/frames from? what about the medium of choice? supplied at your place? or the users responsibility? (its nice to be able to just pay/buy it from the place you are working at)


    how about some home-made vacuum formers? Fairly cheap to make..and get help with prop making..


    Welders? (for aluminum too)


    Question:

    At my local makerspace.. we have many prop builders.....

    what is going to make your space different/more appealing then just joining a regular makerspace in the area?
  7. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 1, 2014, 11:05 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #7

    Thanks for all these suggestions, xl97!

    xl97 said: View Post
    IMHO.... more laser cutters (at my local Makerspace we have like 4... and usually one of them is down due to 'something 'er other').

    I say the same for 3D printers... printing anything but trinket sized stuff takes time.. and keep a 3d printer occupied.. if your 'space' takes off.. and you have many members there at the same time.. having to wait a day or so to use equipment can be a bummer.
    We have two popular laser cutters, but we don't really have the traffic right now to make overcrowding a problem. I would consider this a good problem to have.

    xl97 said: View Post
    Vinyl cutters..... good for making stickers, decals... cutting card stock.. and even cutting pep files.
    Interesting. I hadn't thought of including this with the prop stuff, but it turns out we do have vinyl cutters around that are currently seeing little use. It may be a good idea to put that with the rapid prototyping/prop stuff.

    xl97 said: View Post
    also.. no prop is complete (to me at least) without electronics....

    do you have dedicated soldering stations? toaster ovens/skillets for reflowing pcb/components?
    We have a full service electronics area.

    xl97 said: View Post
    what about molding/casting equipment? stuff to make mold boxes/frames from?
    I was actually thinking that our first piece of new prop-relevant equipment would be a vacuum degassing station. Any advice on what type to get?

    We have a full woodshop for making mold boxes (my preferred method), but of course plenty of people just use foamcore.

    xl97 said: View Post
    how about some home-made vacuum formers? Fairly cheap to make..and get help with prop making..
    This is something everyone seems interested in. Any advice on what route to take?

    xl97 said: View Post
    Welders? (for aluminum too)
    Yup. Got that aplenty.

    xl97 said: View Post
    Question:
    At my local makerspace.. we have many prop builders.....
    what is going to make your space different/more appealing then just joining a regular makerspace in the area?
    We are just a regular makerspace in the area. We simply want to expand our offerings to be more friendly to people to doing prop work. There are no other local competitors that I'm aware of.
  8. RPF Premium Member Bronson BB's Avatar
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    Oct 2, 2014, 10:16 AM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #8

    Drafting tables, projectors, WI-FI?
    To my mind, it's hugely important to be able to sketch out you project, and be able to, say, freeze-frame on that prop you want to build, so you can get really see the details on it.
    Having that ability near your workspace is the bees knees.
  9. RPF Premium Member
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    Oct 2, 2014, 2:12 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #9

    What about software? Autodesk made a sweetheart deal with TechShop -- their workstations have everything on them. They might cut a deal with another hackerspace -- has to be worth giving them a call.
  10. Rnc88's Avatar
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    Oct 2, 2014, 4:04 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #10

    This seems like a great idea! Planning on going to college in the cambridge aria next year, this is something I can really get behind. About vacuum forming, the cheapest way would be to create a large rimmed table, with some internal struts, and top it off with pegboard Many people scavenge old ovens, heat laps, toaster ovens...etc to a folding (or lowering) heating asymbly. I once made a small one and was able to use able to use a shop-vac, however, larger ones often implement some form of vacuum cylinder. that would without a doubt be the most costly part of a vacuum former. I'll look out and see how to cheaply make one. Best of luck,

    Rnc
  11. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 9:12 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #11

    Rnc88 said: View Post
    This seems like a great idea! Planning on going to college in the cambridge aria next year, this is something I can really get behind. About vacuum forming, the cheapest way would be to create a large rimmed table, with some internal struts, and top it off with pegboard Many people scavenge old ovens, heat laps, toaster ovens...etc to a folding (or lowering) heating asymbly. I once made a small one and was able to use able to use a shop-vac, however, larger ones often implement some form of vacuum cylinder. that would without a doubt be the most costly part of a vacuum former. I'll look out and see how to cheaply make one. Best of luck,

    Rnc
    Awesome! Come check us out when you're in town.

    We are seriously considering making our own vacuum former, but we want it to be as high-end and professional as possible so we won't immediately be dreaming of building a bigger and better one. I was thinking something like the ones Harrison Krix of @Volpin Props recently demoed at the end of this excellent video. There are plenty of talented people at the Artisan's Asylum who would help make it.
    Last edited by norbauer; Oct 3, 2014 at 9:15 PM. Reason: fixed bbcode
  12. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 9:18 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #12

    nomuse said: View Post
    What about software? Autodesk made a sweetheart deal with TechShop -- their workstations have everything on them. They might cut a deal with another hackerspace -- has to be worth giving them a call.
    Autodesk is actually one of the sponsors of the Artisan's Asylum. There are free copies of their software on all the facility computers, but alas they don't have portable licenses for members to use at home, which is a little annoying. Personally, I'm doing most of my work in Illustrator with the CADtools plugin, but would love to learn AutoCAD if I could get it on my home computer (legally). =\
  13. RPF Premium Member stormtrooperguy's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 9:45 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #13

    I talked to Artisan's Asylum years ago about building a protoform vac table there. We had some crossed wires though... it ended up they wanted me to pay for the build, which wasn't something I was interested in.

    I'm not far from Somerville... the Asylum is about 30 minutes' drive. The big killer for me was price... it just costs too much to be a member.
  14. RPF Premium Member
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    Oct 3, 2014, 9:52 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #14

    norbauer said: View Post
    Autodesk is actually one of the sponsors of the Artisan's Asylum. There are free copies of their software on all the facility computers, but alas they don't have portable licenses for members to use at home, which is a little annoying. Personally, I'm doing most of my work in Illustrator with the CADtools plugin, but would love to learn AutoCAD if I could get it on my home computer (legally). =\
    Not to hijack, but give a look to Autodesk's new low-end "Fusion 360." Seems to have some good functions and the price is really really nice.
  15. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 11:49 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #15

    stormtrooperguy said: View Post
    I talked to Artisan's Asylum years ago about building a protoform vac table there. We had some crossed wires though... it ended up they wanted me to pay for the build, which wasn't something I was interested in.

    I'm not far from Somerville... the Asylum is about 30 minutes' drive. The big killer for me was price... it just costs too much to be a member.
    That's a bummer; we could use the expertise of someone like you. I agree with you that the cost is pretty high, but it's a non-profit that only charges what they have to in order to keep the lights on (and that still doesn't cover it)/ Admittedly, that doesn't make it any less expensive, but it makes me feel a little less bad about the monthly charge. FWIW, they also have day passes that can use at anytime and that never expire. That is a fairly low-cost/low-commitment way to work there, and it's how I got started.
  16. Very Dull Infected Person RPF Premium Member asalaw's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 11:52 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #16

    How are you set up for metal machining? At a minimum, you should think about a metal bandsaw, a finger brake, and at least a mini-lathe and mill. If you want to go CNC, a Tormach PNC 1100 milling machine should run you about $8K new (no idea what the 4th axis and lathe attachments would cost). Also, a sandblasting (really, "media blasting") booth is a big asset for prepping metal. Aluminum oxide for mild steel and harder metals, glass beads for softer metals like brass and aluminum. And definitely at least a TIG welding setup. If you're going to add MIG welding for heavier steel, you'll absolutely need a horizontal band saw, a cold saw, and (if you can swing it) an Ironworker. Well, not absolutely. Just if you want to cut thick steel in less than a century or with any precision.

    And see if you can find a donor (or several, or Kickstarter) to add a Water Jet. It will take some fundraising, since those run into six figures.
  17. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 3, 2014, 11:58 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #17

    nomuse said: View Post
    Not to hijack, but give a look to Autodesk's new low-end "Fusion 360." Seems to have some good functions and the price is really really nice.
    Wow. I have never heard about this, but it looks really promising—something a little more robust and professional than 123D (which is free) but not completely off-the-wall expensive either. I would love to hear from anyone who has used this.
  18. RPF Premium Member
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    Oct 4, 2014, 12:18 AM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #18

    norbauer said: View Post
    Wow. I have never heard about this, but it looks really promising—something a little more robust and professional than 123D (which is free) but not completely off-the-wall expensive either. I would love to hear from anyone who has used this.
    30 day trial is free. I've put about six hours into it and haven't crashed it yet. On the other hand, I also haven't managed to finish a model yet -- so I haven't gotten even close to checking for the mechanical function and g-code stuff.
  19. RPF Social Media Team Westies14's Avatar
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    Oct 4, 2014, 9:06 AM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #19

    How about a rotocasting machine? I'm in Shrewsbury but do a lot of work in Boston. I went to the Museum of Fine Arts School and still miss having access to those facilities... Looking forward to learning more about your endeavor!
  20. Ryan Norbauer RPF Premium Member norbauer's Avatar
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    Oct 4, 2014, 1:05 PM - Re: Building a community prop/model maker space in Boston advice please. :) #20

    Ever & Oak said: View Post
    How about a rotocasting machine? I'm in Shrewsbury but do a lot of work in Boston. I went to the Museum of Fine Arts School and still miss having access to those facilities... Looking forward to learning more about your endeavor!
    I was just researching those yesterday! I was thinking of asking some of the welding people to help with that (or using building one as an excuse to take a welding class myself). There are some blueprints available online using wood frames, but I don't think those would be hard to translate to steel. I'm planning on starting work soon on building a whole "casting corner" in what is currently our paint room, and after the vacuum degassing and pressure stuff, rotocasting would seem to be the next step. I'm currently working on a project (a Kurlan Naiskos from Star Trek TNG) that, when finished sculpting, would probably be a good candidate for rotocasting.

    If you would like to come down and have a tour of the Artisan's Asylum, feel free to send me a PM. The TMNT project in your signature is amazing. We could use more people like you around in the community.

    One thing I've thought about proposing is a "prop night" where people could come in and discuss their projects, swap tips, use equipment, etc. without having to be members. I know that the electronics workshop does a similar open community "circuit night." It might be a good way of letting people sample what it's like to use the Asylum's facilities without having to outlay any cash. And it could serve as a kind of rotating local Boston-area meetup for RPF members.

    - - - Updated - - -

    asalaw said: View Post
    How are you set up for metal machining? At a minimum, you should think about a metal bandsaw, a finger brake, and at least a mini-lathe and mill. If you want to go CNC, a Tormach PNC 1100 milling machine should run you about $8K new (no idea what the 4th axis and lathe attachments would cost). Also, a sandblasting (really, "media blasting") booth is a big asset for prepping metal. Aluminum oxide for mild steel and harder metals, glass beads for softer metals like brass and aluminum. And definitely at least a TIG welding setup. If you're going to add MIG welding for heavier steel, you'll absolutely need a horizontal band saw, a cold saw, and (if you can swing it) an Ironworker. Well, not absolutely. Just if you want to cut thick steel in less than a century or with any precision.

    And see if you can find a donor (or several, or Kickstarter) to add a Water Jet. It will take some fundraising, since those run into six figures.
    I believe we have everything you mentioned except for a Water Jet. The only thing I wish our machine shop had is a CNC lathe. We do have a CNC mill and two manual ones though.
    Last edited by norbauer; Oct 4, 2014 at 1:06 PM. Reason: typo

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