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The SMEE Digital Group

The Digital Group is a sub-group within SMEE which welcomes all those whose interests include the use of digital techniques in the model engineer’s workshop. For some this means CNC machining and the use of appropriate software.  For others it may be designing and making CNC machines such as wire eroders and digital tachometers from scratch, learning basic electronics and programming or discovering the possibilities of Arduino-programmed control of small devices. What we have in common are curiosity and a willingness to share and to learn. Some members bring expertise, others are at the beginning of the road; if you join us you would not feel the ‘odd-person-out’ and we work hard to include members remote from London using web conferencing and recorded video.

All SMEE members are welcome to join in with Digital Group activities.

Digital Group meetings

To give as many members as possible the chance to join in meetings, we now “meet” online. We have two main types of online meeting.

Generally, we have a monthly Monday evening meeting which is informal and a chance for anyone to bring up any relevant question or discussion topic. Occasionally we might have a specific theme, but think of these meetings being rather like a show-and-tell at your local ME society, or a virtual chat over a cup of tea. In fact, quite a few members appear on screen with coffee mug in their hand!

Our monthly Saturday sessions generally have a speaker for the morning who will talk to us on a specific topic. These have ranged from updates on current group projects to tutorial sessions on things like 3D CAD/CAM software. We have had briefings on what is going on in industry these days, drill-grinding techniques, a robotic arm project on which one of our members is working, and getting going with CNC hardware, software and electronics. A mixed bag, reflecting the wide range of interests of our members.

We usually record Saturday sessions and other sessions as appropriate, and all recordings are made available via the SMEE web site.

Digital Group news and information

The DG Coordinator sends out more-or-less regular email newsletters with announcements of forthcoming sessions and other information which might be of interest to members. All SMEE members are able to sign up for these.

Digital Group projects

From time to time, a small team of DG members will get together to work on a joint project. Some past projects have included:

  • Learning to use the Arduino
  • Building a digital tachometer
  • Designing and building a wire eroder
  • Building a CNC Milling Machine from scratch

Again, the teams communicate mainly online which allows geographically-distant members to contribute. You can join in with a project no matter how far away you live – distance is not a problem on the Internet! Each project will usually have a project leader to coordinate activities, but the organisation is informal and each team will work in a way that suits them. There are no rules, except that we would all like reports from time to time on how the project is going! The wire eroder project has now come to a natural conclusion, but new projects which are likely to start soon are:

  • 5-axis CNC milling machine to fit on a desktop
  • A maze-following mouse. Will it be autonomous or need a connected PC? We’ll see what the design team comes up with!
  • Enhancements to the digital rotary table project

Training and tutorials

From time to time, largely based on member demand, we have run various training and tutorial sessions. These have mainly covered CAD/CAM software, both 2D and 3D, various sessions on the components that make up a CNC machine (hardware/software/electronics), and demonstrations of all these in action to give a feel to how all the parts work together.

Please contact the Digital Group Coordinator at digital@sm-ee.co.uk for any further information about the Digital Group and its activities, or if you have any questions on anything above.