The FreeD hand held rotary tool appears to be the offspring of a CNC mill and a hand held dremel tool. This freehand modelling tool was developed by Amit Zoran and Joe Paradiso of the Responsive Environment Group at the MIT Media Lab for model makers and designers to easily create models beyond the constraints of CAD packages.
FreeD is computer controlled but allows users freedom in interpreting their 3D CAD data in their own particular way, rather than the gradual stepped cut that traditional CNC milling machines remove material with. The device’s creators describe how it works in that “The computer will intervene only when the milling bit approaches the planned model. Its interaction is either by slowing down the spindle speed or by drawing back the shaft; the rest of the time it allows complete freedom, letting the user to manipulate and shape the work in any creative way.”
FreeD uses the Polhemus fastrak motion tracking system sensors to monitor the position of the cutter in 3D space and the Rhino parametric plugin Grasshopper to control and guide the drill shaft and spindle speed as the cutter approaches the boundaries of the 3D model.
Hopefully, if and when FreeD enters production it will be a cheap or hobbyiest alternative to 5 axis CNC milling. I’ve already emailed Santa Claus, asking for one for Christmas and promising I’ll be very very good this year.
David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes a weekly article on personal fabrication for Ponoko. You can follow him on Twitter @dizymac