Topographic relief maps are endlessly fascinating, offering a miniature window into the peaks and valleys of a region. They're even more enthralling when they depict faraway lands, like the surface of the moon. Architect, designer and educator Sebastian Misiurek recently collaborated with design student Abby Klein, both based in Brooklyn, N.Y., to create the intriguing, wall-mountable Moon Tiles, milled out of hardwood on the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine. They even milled the aluminum brackets that hold the nine individual tiles together and wrote up their build notes, along with all their design files, to share with the community. Now you can make your very own Moon Tiles!
Using an STL file of the far side of the moon from the NASA website, they employed Rhino software to tweak the STL and design the brackets and Fusion 360 to create toolpaths. What's more, Sebastian and Abby have only been using the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine for about two months now, plus they're new to Fusion 360 and had only basic Rhino knowledge. It's inspiring what they were able to accomplish.
We chatted with Abby (pictured below) to learn more about their design process and learning curve.
What inspired you to design the Moon Tiles project?
Outer space is always fascinating, especially the far side of the moon because of 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 ours.
Tell us about your R&D process. How do you collaborate?
From the start we knew we wanted to create a milled project that incorporated NASA’s moon textures. From there, our workflow was all about testing various Fusion 360 toolpaths to find the look we wanted. Much of our collaboration happened digitally through Dropbox and a workspace application called Trello, which is great for allocating and scheduling tasks.
What was the most challenging part of the design/build?
The most challenging part was probably having to go back and forth between Rhino and Fusion to achieve the optimal toolpath for the smooth texture we wanted. After a slew of tests, we settled on the Morphed Spiral pass after a Pocketing pass for the wooden tiles.
Here's a picture of a few of the original tests for the Moon Tiles. Initially we weren’t getting the depth we wanted, but with a little 3D modeling work and some more quick tests on the mill, we settled on a system that would allow for both enough height variation and smoothness.
Once we got past this slight learning curve, however, the process was quite simple. The Bantam Tools software interface was very intuitive, and we felt confident with the software within a day or so of doing CAM and milling.
Did you learn anything new from the build?
We learned quite a bit. Having no prior Fusion 360 knowledge, no previous milling experience, and basic Rhino skills, it was great to be able to learn several different skill sets at once. What was most exciting was the ability to model something on the computer and have the same object in your hand in wood or aluminum shortly thereafter.
What’s your favorite thing about the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine?
Its interface and portability are extremely beginner-friendly, but it’s also powerful enough to mill larger, more complicated pieces. Our machine has been working extremely hard to crank out all of the iterations of the wooden tiles and several iterations of brackets, and it’s still going strong (with proper cleaning of course).
Do you have other projects in the works? What’s next?
Right now we’re working on a project of new topographies and textures. We’re excited to explore acrylic as a milling material, as well as to see more of what we can do with wood and aluminum.
Any pointers or tips for folks going through the build?
Clean your machine after each milling job — it makes a difference!
Thanks, Abby and Sebastian!
Be sure to check out the full build notes and design files to learn how to make your own Moon Tiles. And if you do make your own, be sure to share it with us by adding #bantamtools to your social posts. We’d love to see it!