Milling Machine Design

Milling Machine Design

2021, Dec 03    

This project consisted of designing an entry-level professional milling machine. The project lasted the whole semester of fall 2021, where I and 3 others formed a group to take on this task. I was the leader of the group and that came with a lot of struggles and lessons. I would like to talk about some highlights that I believe are of value such as being rigorous, audience, and leadership.

Being rigorous:

Personally, I consider myself as mostly an analytical person. Someone who wants to analyze all options before deciding, goal-orientated, and set high standards. During the summer of 2021, I joined a 1 month engineering course led by Mark Rober. Mark Rober is known in the Youtube community for being a brilliant mechanical engineer and storyteller. After finishing the course, what I learned the most from it, is exploring your options rigorously.

Mark Rober explaining the only way to come up with the brilliant design is to come up with lot’s of ideas; every idea is like a point on the 3D surface, but not all the points leads you to the highest tip

I believe in facts and research. In this milling project, we made sure to choose an audience that had real objectives and constraints rather than having no audience. Moreover, we wrote the specifications rigorously. We had high-level and low-level objectives; we had metrics, criteria, and constraints for all the objectives.

One of the low-level objectives for the milling machine design


I am very proud of the audience we had for our project. One of our struggles during the very early stages of the project was having no constraints and we were in a stage of analysis paralysis. I love constraints. Usually, constraints are thought of as a negative, I believe in the opposite. Imagine the constraints for the Apollo mission, they must have had thousands of constraints.

The audience for our project was NASA. NASA as part of their In-Space Manufacturing program has been progressing toward taking manufacturing to space, and their motto being “Make it, don’t take it!”. If we want to live in space we need to be sustainable and manufacturing is a big part of that.

Therefore, NASA after successfully using a 3D printer in space has published a proposal for a more complicated machine capable of machining metals. I was extremely delighted with this project since I felt I was part of a big mission with a big purpose, even though we were not an official contractor.

NASA proposal is available here.


Leadership is about having a vision and driving others toward it. Leadership is a hard concept to talk about since there is confusion about being a leader and being a manager/boss. I believe leaders motivate others toward a common goal of excellence.

During this project, I was responsible for making sure we meet the deadlines with high-quality results. I was responsible for making a roadmap, scheduling meetings and making agendas. The biggest lesson I learn is if you want to make someone do something, you need to make them want to do it.