Outer space is fascinating, especially the far side of the moon with its extreme texture. We wanted to make a set of components that could be expanded upon and replicated to create either a thing of almost infinite size or a smaller project like our Moon Tiles. We milled wood to create a low-poly topographic map of the far side of the moon, and we milled the aluminum brackets to hold the tiles together.
Here we offer a high-level look at the process, our build notes. The instructions assume you know how to use the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine, as well as Fusion 360 and Rhino software. If you're just getting started, check out our collection of guides covering the basics and work through beginner projects to get comfortable.
Tools, Materials, and Files
- Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine
- Computer with Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software installed
- Fusion 360 software
- Rhino software
- Ball end mill, 1/16”
- Ball end mill, 1/8”
- Ball end mill, 1/32”
- Flat end mill, 1/8”
- Drill and drill bit, 7/64”
- Digital calipers
- Sandpaper, fine, 150 to 220-grit
- Teak oil
- Hardwood, maple or other, 3.5” x 3.5" x .75"
- Aluminum stock, 1.5" x 1.5" x 0.25"
- STL of the far side of the moon from the NASA website
- Center bracket G-codes
- Edge bracket G-codes
- Moon Tiles G-codes
Moon topography G-code reference diagram:
Set Up and Mill the Tiles
1. Download the STL file of the far side of the moon from the NASA website.
2. In Rhino, ReduceMesh to make the topography simple enough to split. This command will make a low polygon surface, which adds a faceted aesthetic to the piece in addition to making it workable in Rhino.
3. MeshToNURB the mesh to make it an editable polysurface. Select and split a square area away from the topography.
4. Split the selected area into nine squares. Measure your stock with calipers, and scale each square to fit within the parameters of your stock. Export each square as a step (.stp) file.
5. In Fusion 360, enter CAM mode and create a new setup. Enter your stock dimensions and offset the model 0 mm from the stock top.
6. Create a 3D pocket toolpath. Download the tool library if you haven't already. Select the 1/8" ball end mill from the tool library.
7. Enter the appropriate speeds and feeds for the type of wood you're using.
8. Check Manual Stepover and set the Maximum Roughing Stepdown to 1.27 mm.
9. Simulate the pocketing toolpath to avoid collisions preemptively.
10. Create a 3D morphed spiral toolpath and select a 1/16" ball end mill.
11. Check Axial Offset Passes and enter a 0.5 mm Maximum Stepdown.
12. Simulate the morphed spiral toolpath to avoid collisions preemptively.
13. Post-process each toolpath using the Othermill.cps post processor.
14. Open the Pocket G-code in Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine software and set up the file for milling, ensuring there's a z-axis offset for any fixturing material under the stock. Mill the file after entering the correct stock dimensions and fixturing your stock to the spoilboard.
15. Open the Morphed Spiral G-code in the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software. Make sure to change the tool to a 1/16" ball end mill before milling.
16. Run each tile, cleaning the end mill between each tile.
Beginning of a pocket pass:
Beginning of a morphed spiral pass, completed pocket pass:
All nine tiles milled with no finish:
17. To finish the tiles, sand any rough edges with medium to fine grit sandpaper (150 to 220).
18. Apply one coat of teak oil, wait 15 minutes, and wipe away excess.
19. Repeat with a second coat within 24 hours.
Set Up and Mill the Brackets
1. Model the bracket in Rhino.
2. In Fusion360, enter CAM mode and create a new setup.
3. Measure your stock with calipers, enter the dimensions, and offset the model 0 mm from the stock bottom.
4. Create a 3D Pocket toolpath with a 1/8" flat end mill using the settings for Aluminum Advanced.
5. Set the Maximum Roughing Stepdown to 0.05 mm.
6. Preview and simulate the pocketing toolpath to avoid collisions.
7. Create a 2D Facing toolpath with a 1/8" flat end mill using the settings for Advanced Aluminum milling.
8. Select the top faces of the four protrusions in the geometry tab.
9. Check Multiple Depths and set the Maximum Stepdown to 0.05 mm.
10. Preview and simulate the facing toolpath to avoid collisions.
11. Create another 3D Pocket toolpath using a 1/32” ball end mill using the recommended settings for a 1/32” aluminum flat end mill (NOT the advanced settings) to make pilot holes for screws. Select the bottom circle of each hole in the model for the geometry.
12. With the bottom circles selected, change the Maximum Roughing Stepdown to 0.08 mm and check Manual Stepover.
13. Set the top height of the toolpath to slightly above the height of the stock where the holes will go (we chose 3.5 mm from the stock bottom).
14. Set the bottom height slightly above the stock bottom (we chose 0.75mm) to avoid the shaft of the end mill colliding with the stock.
Note: These are pilot holes and do not need to go completely through the stock.
Preview and simulate the pocketing toolpath so as to avoid collisions.
15. Create a 2D Contour toolpath using a 1/8" ball end mill and the respective settings for Advanced Aluminum milling.
16. With the bottom outer rim of the bracket selected, check Multiple Depths and set the Maximum Stepdown to 0.05 mm.
17. Preview and simulate the toolpath to avoid collisions.
18. The ball end mill will leave excess material on the bottom of the stock. Remove it using a few finishing passes with a 1/8" flat end mill using the same 2D Contour toolpath, only with a top height of 0.75 mm so there aren’t an exorbitant number of unnecessary passes.
Tip: The benefit of using the ball mill before the flat end mill is that the ball end mill is better and safer upon initially going into a material, especially one as hard as aluminum. The flat end mill, however, will give a clean bottom edge that the ball end mill can't reach safely.
19. In the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software, open each Bracket G-code file in the order shown above.
20. Begin milling, ensuring that there's a proper offset for any fixturing material and that you're using the correct endmill with each file. The program will prompt you to change the bit when necessary.
21. Clean the end mill between each bracket.
Complete pocket pass:
Pocket pass for the pilot holes:
Both brackets milled with pilot holes drilled through with a 7/64" drill bit and no finish:
22. To finish the brackets, countersink the back side of the holes after drilling them through.
23. Sand-blast for a clean matte look.
Finished assembled piece:
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help. And if you do make the Moon Tiles, be sure to share with us. We’d love to see it!