If you are maker, tinkerer, hobbyist or an inventor, chances are you are part of or have heard about FabLab. If you are still curious, a Fab Lab is a community space that provides its members—makers and hobbyists—with off-the-shelf, industrial-grade fabrication tools such as laser cutters, milling machines, scanners, 3D printers and software design tools. It lets them translate their ideas into real products and sometimes create products yet to be envisioned by the established manufacturer.
With over 1,200 Fab Labs now around the world, the access to these resources and technologies has never been easier. However, one of the challenges that makers face is that there is no common process. Each machine requires its own setup and users have to learn/familiarize themselves with various machine control software.
As users of SOLIDWORKS xDesign, makers and hobbyists will find that we have included a feature called FabConnect aimed to bridge the gap between design and fabrication modules. FabConnect leverages the MOD technology developed under the vision and guidance of Dr. Gershenfeld at MIT to streamline the process of connecting to machines in the Fab Lab.
Makers and hobbyists have the freedom to design anywhere with SOLIDWORKS xDesign and can use FabConnect to easily send the model to machines in the FabLab using MODS. The underlying technology takes care of converting the design file into the appropriate format and then generates toolpaths and control instructions. The following connect programs are currently available to through FabConnect:
- Laser cut svg connect – Sends laser commands through printer port with path and ammeters generated from selected face, material type and laser power and speed.
- Mill 2D svg array connect – Generates mill path for a milling machine with nested top faces pulled from xDesign in equal thickness
- G-code mill 2D svg connect – Generate G-code for milling from a selected face
Here is a simple example how to send a fidget spinner model to a laser cutter:
- On xDesign Action Bar, select Tools > FAB Connect. Mods program opens.
2. Select Open ‘cut svg connect’ from mods program under laser machine
3. Select a profile face in your fidget spinner mode
4. In the open print module, select material (3mm plywood) from laser module
5. Click on ‘calculate’ button from cut raster to generate the machining path
6. In Print module, select laser device and Click on ‘Send to printer’ button
Check out the quick video of SOLIDWORKS R&D Director Shawn Liu demonstrating using the FabConnect capabilities.
Want to join us? Sign up for the SOLDWORKS xDesign Lighthouse at: https://www.solidworks.com/how-to-buy/join-xdesign-lighthouse-program or just click on the banner below.