Frequently Asked Questions

Can I stop in sometime to look around?

DO NOT JUST DROP BY!  If you’re a school group or other educational group and need to stop by at another time please use the “contact us” button at the top right to schedule a tour for your group. Tours are also hosted at the end of every monthly meeting (always the 1st Tuesday of the month starting at 7PM), for some special events we’re also open (Gallery Night, etc – check the calendar page).

How do I sign up?

DO NOT JUST DROP BY TO SIGN UP! Unfortunately we don’t have the staff capacity to handle drop in sign ups, the way to get started is to send an e-mail or use the “contact us” link at the top right on this page. If you have a project in mind to get started with, please send as much information as you can about what you’d like to do and what instructions or otherwise you’ll be working from, it’s also helpful to include a little context about your background or experience so we can sort out the best way to get you started and running on your project. If you’re on a time crunch or in need of expedient help please note it in your first contact, as this will likely mean you may have to approach the project from a different angle to get it done on time. Again, *do not just stop by*, it takes time to get you familiar with tools, safety, and other procedures around the shop which means we need to schedule a time to meet and get you started. If you have other questions please feel free to get in touch via e-mail or the “contact us” link. If you don’t have a particular project to get started on that’s fine too!

Do I have to pay to be involved with Sector67?

NO, you do not have to pay. We offer events that are open to the general public and are free. Check out the calendar to see what’s going on. We are similar to a gym membership, though, so to use any tools or equipment you’ll have to be a paying member. We have varying levels of membership to suit you. There is no obligation to sign up for an extended period of time, so if you have a short project, you can become a member for as little as 1 month.

What if I’m nowhere near Madison but still interested?

Use the Google forum to keep in touch and talk about your projects. We have lots of members who don’t live in Madison but love the space and still make an effort to come regularly, and our members mailing list is very active.

I’m XX old, can I still get involved?

Yes, we’re open to all ages. If you’re under 18 your parents will have to sign some forms and be present when you’re working here, if you’re over |/ censored/| we’d love to have you by as well.

Can you help me with my idea?

We’ll do our best to help you; if it’s a scheme to build a perpetual motion machine, some thing with magnets, some thing with ceramics, some thing with nano-particles; or something combining these into a perpetual-magnet-powered-ceramic-bearing-nano-machine we might shake our heads a little longer but we’ll still try.

We will NOT do your project for you and we do not work for free unless we want to. There are some members who will work on contract, please contact us directly with specific information about your project and we can make appropriate referrals.

Does anybody know anything about . . .

Yes 🙂 Post to the Sector67 google group and I’m sure someone would be happy to help! The chances are very good that there is someone in this group who knows about your problem. We have experts in software, electronics, tools, metal work, wood work, plastics, physics, math, and lots of other fields.

Can I leave my kids here?

No, unless it’s for a scheduled class. There are dangerous tools around and we aren’t paid enough to be babysitters.  However, the workshop is open to all ages, you can work with your kids here, but they are your responsibility and must be supervised.

What does membership include?

There are a few levels of membership.

  • Co-working or contributing membership is the most basic.  It allows you to hang out at the space and use the wi-fi. It doesn’t include a key for 24/7 access, so you are at the mercy of regular hours and whenever other members are around. It also doesn’t include access to use any tools.  This membership is most common for programmers and folks interested in the community, but not the equipment.  It’s also used by supporters of Sector67, who want to be invited to members-only events and other activities but aren’t interested in using the equipment regularly.  Cost is $30/month.
  • Regular membership includes 24/7 access with a key, the use of tools (some tools require skills checks and classes from staff to ensure you use the tool correctly and safely), as well as wi-fi.  High School and College students get a discount on their membership when they show proof of current enrollment (NOT a student ID, must show current transcript or other proof of registration for the current semester).  Cost is $100/month, $50/month for college students, and $25/month for high school students (anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult).  If you sign up and pay for 6 months in advance  you’ll receive 1 month for free, if you sign up for 12 months you’ll receive 3 free months of membership free.
  • Basic desk space includes a dedicated 4′ wide desk section in the co-working section of Sector67.  It has all the other benefits of membership as well.  Cost is $150/month.
  • Dedicated office space is similar to desk space, except that you get a 7’x7′ area instead of a desk section. You can use this space for quiet activities related to office-type work – you cannot use the office space for anything that generates noise, dust, smells, etc.  Cost is $200/month.

I want to laser cut something

Sector67 has a CO2 laser cutter, they can cut a variety of materials up to about 6mm or 1/4″ thick (unless it’s foam or other low density material then we might be able to swap lenses and cut thicker with larger kerf). For a great list of materials, check out the page at Pololu, who also cuts with a similar power CO2 laser cutter. Anything they list as “melts” or “melts badly” means that the material needs to be *very thin* to be successfully cut or it will remelt together after it’s cut apart. Laser cutters cannot cut polycarbonate or anything with chlorine in it (PVC, vinyl, etc), therefore if you’re providing a plastic or rubber we need to have a proof of origin or the ability to test it for chlorine when you bring it in (meaning we’re going to destructively test a sample). If you’re trying to cut something from wood or plastic that’s thicker than 1/4″ we’ll likely use the CNC wood router rather than the laser cutter. If you’re trying to cut any type of metal the CNC plasma cutter or CNC milling machine are the correct tools for the job (or cutting it by hand is usually faster depending on required precision and complexity). The absolute maximum cut size on our larger laser cutter is 1200mm by 900mm, the machine will accept 4′ wide materials but can only cut 1200mm of them.

The first thing to understand is that our machines are not intended for production use, so we may reject your use if you’re going to disrupt normal access to the machine because your jobs take a long time (many hours) or you’re running many parts that result in long run times (many hours). For production runs, we’re happy to make recommendations for local services that are available as well as alternative methods of higher volume manufacturing. Our machines can certainly be used for low volume runs or prototyping and you’re welcome to sell the things you make, but we can’t have the expectation that we’re a production or manufacturing solution for your product.

What you need to provide:

  • Material to be cut, or plan to purchase material we have available by the laser cutter (typically wood and acrylic) – if you’re purchasing material please check with us *before* purchasing something as it very likely not the right material if it’s wood and it’s from the hardware store
  • For cutting or vector engraving – a clean vector file (usually created in Inkscape, Corel Draw, or Adobe Illustrator), this means no overlapping lines (either on top of one-another, or sections that overlap), also check any traced graphics for errant tiny circles and other unwanted dots.
  • For raster engraving – you can also use a clean vector (preferred) or you can flatten your image into a 1-bit bitmap (or dither it from grayscale) for engraving.
  • We’re going to end up running your file through Corel Draw to format it correctly for the laser cutter, so make sure you bring a SVG or DXF (or other native file formats) that are openable in Corel Draw

I want to 3D scan something

Sector67 has a few ways of 3D scanning things. The first good step is to read a recent by HP on 3D scanning and their efforts at testing the latest implementation of structured light scanning using David’s Laser Scanner (camera and a projector). The most common methods employed here are with an X-Box Kinect (which is useful for finger-sized objects or larger at human scales) using Skanect or other Kinect based scanners. We also have a Next Engine 3D scanner which has a claimed maximum precision of 0.0001″, the scanner uses a set of stereocameras and a line laser to generate objects. The scanner is limited by weight on the platform and object size, watermelon-sized objects and smaller are pretty standard, you could likely go a little larger but not much. Another option is the use 123D Catch from AutoDesk to create a 3D model of an object using a regular camera – this works well for immovable objects or large objects like buildings/etc. The problem with all 3D scanners is the post processing/cleanup step after scanning. A typical turnaround time for a usable model is about 8 hours the first time you try it, and working it’s way down to about 4 hours from there with more experience. Scanners cannot image anything that’s mildly reflective at all, so you’ll need to paint or powder the surface of an object to be scanned – otherwise try 123D Catch

I want to machine or cast something

Read this.

What’s the best modeling software?

There’s a whole bunch of options out here, we occasionally teach an intro to 3D modeling class that instructs on a few. There’s a big list here, that may or may not be helpful. In the commercial realm, popular art/design (organic shape) software is 3D Studio Max, Maya, Rhino, and Sculptris (commercial but free), the open source alternative is Blender . For commercial CAD packages, Solidworks and AutoDesk are the most popular packages, the free (not necessarily open source) alternatives vary heavily but include OnShape (online Solidworks clone), AutoDesk’s Fusion 360AutoDesk’s 123D TinkerCAD, open source FreeCAD, open source OpenSCAD. For 2D design Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator are very popular, otherwise you can use open source LibreCAD and open source Inkscape. Lots of options, at the end of the day you’ll want something that can save DXF or STL files for our machines.


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