Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 2nd Apr, 2007

How hard can it be?

My "wooden laptop case cover" project hit a snag last week. I'd spent some time the previous weekend using Qcad to draft up plans for the metal bits that I need for my laptop case cover so that it can clip onto the case and not fall off. I'd drafted them in a CAD program so I could send them through to a metal fabrication company. I sent the plans in DXF and PNG format, and asked them to email me if they had any problem reading the plans. Not hearing anything back, I assumed it was all OK and drive all the way out to the edge of Queanbeyan to talk with them.

First disappointment: they hadn't read either of the files, they said they didn't recognise them, but they hadn't let me know. Luckily I had thought of this eventuality and brought my laptop, case and plans. Second disappointment: they couldn't make anything even vaguely like what I needed. This was made even more bitter by the fact that if they had let me know about their inability to read the plans beforehand, I could have converted them to some format that they could read and then they could have told me over the phone that they weren't able to manufacture them and thus saved me a trip. There must be a certain point that businesses reach where they just get so used to working with their regular customers that they simply don't care whether or not they piss anyone else off. A pity.

There are a couple of alternatives that I thought of on my drive home. The most expensive was finding a company that could do this kind of intricate metal fabrication. It would probably require a custom-made metal folding jig to be made up, probably costing in the order of a thousand dollars or so. The companies that do this are in Sydney, so it'd be long-distance correspondence and long trips to inspect. Let's scratch that option from the list right now.

The rest of the alternatives roughly translate into "make it myself". I can either make a suitable mould and cast the things, make up my own metal jigs to press sheet steel, work out some CNC thing to carve the pieces out of larger blocks of metal, or talk to Vik Olliver to see what RepRap can do. The fundamental criteria are exact measurements, hardness of the resulting material, and resistance to wear and corrosion.

Time to do a bit more research. I'll post the CAD files of the parts up at some stage, I suppose...

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