What’s the best way to help a nation sidestep the industrial revolution? I figure it’s to introduce tools that allow people to create technology, instead of just consuming it. With that goal in mind I’ve been collecting odds and ends that I can travel the world with while teaching and prototyping along the way. That’s why I’m so excited about adding the Othermill to the tools I’m bringing to Uganda. With the Othermill I’ll be able to teach people how to create electronics as well as program and fix them. This post documents the first day that the Othermill showed up on my doorstep. What exactly is the Othermill, you ask? It’s awesome, that’s what it is. Oh. You want a more technical description? Ok.

othermill photoBehold, the Othermill

According to Othermachine, the company that produces the Othermill, “the Othermill is a small, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specificially designed for use at home or in a small workspace.” For me it’s perfect because I’ll be able to bring this CNC router just about anywhere I go. I’ll be able to teach people how to create PCBs in Eagle and then we can actually create the physical boards using the Othermill. But it’s not just for electronics! I’ll be brushing off my 3D skills as a part of the curriculum I create and teach. Anyone can make a wide variety of objects using this machine, including stamps, 3D mazes, gears and possibly even DNA amplification thermal cycling plates. I’m really interested in hearing about the possibilities for creating various channel designs for use in chemistry and biology research. Chemistry and biology are two realms I know fairly little about so I’d love to hear it if you have any ideas!

DNA side note- People often think of DNA thermal cycling as something that should be done in sequential steps. I’ve seen routed channels that performed the same function in a more efficient manner with the heating and cooling combined into one step. Basically the DNA flows through a squiggly line (super technical terms, I know). One side of this squiggly line passes over a heating mechanism while the other side passes over a cooling mechanism. The squiggles of the line forces the DNA to pass first over one, then the other and repeat. Additional channels for oligonucleotide primers and DNA polymerase are also present at the proper stages. Creating a channel system decreases the amount of equipment needed, standardizes the amount of amplification and further automates the process without involving motors or a human being. Sorry, had to geek out on that real quick. Back to the Othermill!

Here’s a brief video of the day the Othermill first showed up on my doorstep. The Pelican case is a little bit bigger than I anticipated, but it’s mobile enough for me. Especially since they put roller caster wheels in with the rest of the hardware. Also, please forgive my momentary excitement about the magnets. I tend to kind of freak out over magnets in any form. As for the camera work, you’ll have to wait until I get some funding before that improves, for now it’s just me using my smartphone, which explains a lot.

This post is just to introduce people to the Othermill and explain what it’s doing in my tool chain. As I get more comfortable with it I’ll be showing you how it works, what I’m doing with it and discussing the various materials you can use in it. Complete non-sequitur that just popped into my head- I wonder if I can inscribe mangoes and jackfruit with it?

As you can tell from that last sentence I’m trying to figure out what else I want to mill with this thing. The only limitation is the size of the mill chamber, 14 cm x 11.4 cm x 3.2 cm. The Othermachine suggest chocolate molds and jewelry as other possible pursuits. I wonder about the possibility of making customized chess pieces. I know a wood carver in Uganda that will most likely be excited to try using this thing.



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