For hardcore makers, an at-home CNC plasma cutter

Hardware development is coming home.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Industrial processes are becoming more and more accessible to hobbyists and engineering renegades, those unaffiliated with research institutions or patent-churning corporations.

Case in point, as of this week you can buy an automated plasma cutter for your garage for less than a grand.

Computer Numerical Control cutters--more commonly called CNC machines--are a staple in parts manufacturing.

A torch is a useful tool for cutting metal, but making precision cuts by hand is impossible. CNC systems carry a plasma torch over a table based on programed X-Y axis coordinates.

The new at-home plasma machine, the CrossFire, is the brainchild of brothers Mike and Danny Downs. Their father was a classic car builder, which inspired a lifelong affinity for DIY shop culture.

During a late night conversation, according to the company, the brothers were talking about CNC plasma cutting and the distinct absence of a machine for the home builder. Soon after, Langmuir Systems, the company responsible for the CrossFire, was born.


As an example of what a plasma cutter can do, this aluminum skateboard deck was cut from a 3/8-inch sheet of aluminum.

It's hard to predict the impact a metal-cutting machine that costs $995 will have. But taken in concert with additive manufacturing tools like 3D printers, the potential is there to open up hardware development, until recently a notoriously cost-intensive process, to the masses.

When the weekend furniture builder becomes a hobbyist robot designer, innovation is likely to abound.

That's not such a far-fetched idea with the concurrent trends of falling sensor prices and open-source development in robotics.

The proliferation of hardware projects on crowdfunding sites is just one indication that we're now in the age of democratized hardware development.

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