Gary Rinsem

CNC Plasma
by Gary Rinsem

I did a bunch of edits to make the antique website work in modern browsers, big screen only.

Website from 2000, here for nostalgia.

A friend who owned a small machine shop, asked if I could design a CNC machine to operate a plasma torch. That's a great deal of work, mostly developing the electronics to control the machine and writing software to control the electronics. I agreed to do the project, but only if we made it a commercial product. I saw business potential in it as a product, and a giant waste of my time as a machine for his shop only.

Times were different in the year 2000. We borrowed a giant digital video camera, the best we could get, it used a 3 ½" floppy disk as it's only memory. That means video files had to be less than 1.44MB (a big file back then).

With the camera mounted on a tripod, the first video was taken in my living room. It was recorded a couple days after I got the hardware and software complete enough to run the machine. There was still a lot of work to do before it was done.

The second video was taken in the shop a few months later. That's the only production version of the machine.

It took months of hard work to get the prototype running. We began marketing right before 9-11. The economy took a dive. The project failed. One machine ran in his shop for about ten years. Another machine was sold, who knows what happened to it. You must have some odd interest to have scrolled down this far, so I'll give you three more pictures. Two in my living room, one with Sam laying by the door, always patiently waiting for my attention. The third pic is a very thick hunk of steel that shows how well the machine could cut. Getting an inexpensive plasma torch to cut steel this thick with a cut this perfect, was unthinkable at that time.