When Quitting Smoking Leads to CNC Machining

Jon Gohr was a pack-a-day smoker for more than 20 years until he quit three years ago, thanks to electronic cigarettes. Gohr is a software developer by profession.  Several years ago, he discovered the Maker community and was hooked. “Electronics were the first thing that brought me into the whole world and idea of making things. It just seemed to fit with my technical background and software development experience. I’ve been doing small projects with Arduinos for quite a few years,” he explains.

A couple years ago, Gohr found an article on a forum that detailed the process of building a variable wattage e-cig with a chipset from an Ohio company. Using an off-the-shelf aluminum project box, the process required the builder to drill and cut various holes in the box for the required buttons, connectors, and OLED screen attached to the chipset.

“I ordered all of the parts and bought a Dremel and built my first electronic cigarette. It worked but wasn’t much to look at, was a bit unwieldy in the hand, and the electronics were secured to the box with either epoxy or hot glue.”

Gohr knew there had to be a better way, so he called on 3D-printing and his drafting experience in the U.S. Army. “My drafting experience was all on the table with pencils, but CAD felt like something that wouldn’t be too difficult for me to learn with my computer background. This is when I discovered Autodesk Fusion360.”

After a few basic parts – brackets and mounts to hold the chipset – he developed a complete device, which he printed on a filament (fused deposition modeling) 3D printer.

“I wasn’t completely happy with the finish or tolerances which forced me to seek out other production methods,” Gohr explains. “I decided to try a commercial SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printing company for production of the parts.”

While Gohr was satisfied with what the 3D SLS printers could produce, he wasn’t happy relying on outsourcing for means of production, which was time-consuming and expensive. Gohr looked to Kickstarter to buy a desktop CNC mill, since the high-quality 3D printers needed for his work were prohibitively expensive.

“The particular machine I purchased was quite small and very limited in spindle power. While it helped me get familiar with some basic CNC concepts the machine had very little practical value for the types of things I wanted to build.”

After cutting some aluminum with the Kickstarter mill, Gohr realized it wasn’t up to the task, so he started searching the web for small CNC machines. Once he discovered John Saunders and John Grimsmo on YouTube, Gohr was enticed by Tormach and signed up for the CNC Fundamentals Workshop.

Gohr bought a PCNC 770 in April, 2015, and has been working on unique e-cig designs ever since. “My current efforts have been focused on machining custom electronic cigarettes, what we call ‘box mods,’ made from materials like aluminum, stabilized wood, and a composite metal material called M3 Mokume.”

Gohr continues, “My goals have always been focused on creating a ‘thing,’ and then doing the best I can to figure out how to accomplish that goal. I’m always up for learning a new skill or tackling a new challenge. Machining, and my PCNC 770, have opened up a whole world of capabilities and materials to me in pursuit of creating parts. Going from an idea to CAD/CAM to holding it your hand is something I hope never gets old or routine for me.”