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As an enthusiastic mountain biker and passionate skin diver Michael Lux is always in search of good equipment that withstands the outside conditions or those
underwater without difficulty. With his STEPCRAFT D.420 he produces individual parts that are not commercially available.
When the LED developed rapidly about eight years ago, Michael Lux saw all the advantages this illuminant offered for diving: It was almost indestructible and required only a small amount of energy.
“What a diver needs is a diving torch that is efficient. It needs to work with less power because power means weight. But most of all he needs a lamp that is robust,” explains the IT specialist. But as LED diving torches were not yet available on the market, Michael Lux decided on developing and manually producing one on his own. He published his results in the internet. “It did not take long until I was approached by other divers who wanted to have such a lamp, too, and soon after that I got contacted by different manufacturers of diving torches who wanted to add my construction to their portfolio,” remembers the skin diver. Unfortunately, the development of the prototypes was very time-consuming because it included the design of the respective parts in a CAD program and the transmission of these files to the producers in the USA where they were examined and milled before they were returned to him. As a prototype often requires further optimization, all these steps needed to be repeated for every new version making the process very lengthy.
The IT specialist started to search the internet for a CNC machine that would suit his needs optimally and that would allow him to produce prototypes on his own. “Then as now there did not exist a wide variety of hobby CNC machines and among these the STEPCRAFT was the most professional one for me,” remembers Michael Lux and continues, “I could go to STEPCRAFT, see the machine for myself and test it. I made use of this offer and it was an important factor why I bought exactly this machine.” But although the STEPCRAFT D.300 would have been sufficient in size for his diving torches, he decided on the STEPCRAFT D.420 because he wanted to be able to also produce larger parts at a later point in time. In order to prepare as good as possible, the former CNC rookie watched all the STEPCRAFT Youtube videos and registered in the STEPCRAFT forum. Here, he could not only gain valuable information but was immediately surrounded by thousands of like-minded people as well.
As expected, the assembly of the CNC System went very smoothly. Today, if Michael Lux wants to produce a part, he first of all constructs it in Autodesk Inventor which possesses an integrated CAM solution similar to Fusion 360. “This is amazing especially if I only need to make small changes. I only have to press the mouse three to four times and the file is automatically edited. It does not need to be completely rewritten,” states the IT specialist. Afterwards, the CNC machine processes the G-code file with the help of the control software Mach3. In this manner Michael Lux now primarily produces plastic components for his diving torches such as movable parts as well as housing elements for handles or for the lamp itself.
As a plastic prototype generally suffices for testing functionality, size and visual appearance, the skin diver strongly relies on the 3D Print Head. “This combination of 3D print and milling is the optimal solution for me. It is a killer feature that absolutely enthuses me and that I would not want to miss,” explains Michael Lux. Additionally, he can also print forms which would require more than four axes or which could not be milled at all. “Today, when I have an idea, I draw it in the CAD and if the part is printable I will hold it in my hands only two hours later. This saves me 99 % of time.”
While the STEPCRAFT was primarily meant for accelerating the development of the prototypes, it was soon applied for mountainbiking, being his second hobby, as well. “What I wanted did not exist on the market. This was the case with the diving torches and it was the same with my e-bike,” states Michael Lux and admits that “either I have too high demands or I simply like to tinker too much.” Because the performance, robustness and reach of the available models did not meet his expectations he decided on a DIY construction: “I thought that if I am building an e-bike on my own, I am doing it properly.” Thus, Michael Lux started with the selection of the frame according to strict criteria as it needed to be compatible with all the components the mountain biker had in mind. “I designed everything in the way I wanted it to be and how I thought it would be sturdy. Afterwards, I milled or 3D printed the respective parts,” explains the hobby biker.
The STEPCRAFT CNC system helped Michael Lux to produce everything that was required for the electronics which included a controller and a battery as well as the respective holder. He constructed and produced all these parts completely on his own and sometimes needed to find creative solutions as can be seen in the development of the battery. “This has once been a cycling bottle out of aluminum,” he remembers. The IT specialist designed the appropriate casing on the computer and afterwards produced it on his STEPCRAFT D.420 using the 3D Print Head. As he wanted to attach the battery to his bike in an easy and secure way, he additionally constructed a special rail system out of aluminum and attached the rails to the battery as well as to the frame. “The outside conditions destroy the materials and I wanted to have some peace and quiet for years,” states the mountain biker and explains, “this is why I wanted a solid aluminum rail but something like that is not available on the market.” He started to manually produce the first parts but was always unsatisfied with the inaccuracies that resulted from this manufacturing method. “Not until the STEPCRAFT was I able to produce a part in such a quality as I would expect it if bought ready-made – or even better,” describes the IT specialist and continues, “I could raise my hobby to a professional level which would have been absolutely unrealistic before.”
While the construction of the e-bike took many hundreds of hours, Michael Lux now plans to spend us much time as possible on it. “Or perhaps I am going to turn my attention to the diving torches again,” he suddenly thinks out loud and adds smilingly, “you never know what will happen.”