The rocket body indexing machine was developed as a means to cut precise, repeatable holes into rocket airframes for the RIT Launch Initiative. Historically, holes and slots were cut using either an Exacto-knife for weaker materials, or a Dremel for stronger materials.
The project was shelved in 2019 when the team was unable to secure funding for construction. As the complexity of rockets designed continues to increase, it is predicted that the need for the machine will arise again with the next few years.
The body tube can be rotated a full 360 degrees, using three rubber wheels connected to stepper motors. The stepper motors could not be moved on their plates, so a new set of plates would have to be made for each nominal body diameter. This design offered the advantage that tubes can be extended past either end of the machine, for cutting slots and holes in the center of a longer rocket.
The rocket body indexing machine uses a 3-foot linear actuator, designed around OpenBuilds V-slot and Acme threaded rod to move the carriage, which is comprised of a smaller actuator of the same construction. There is a mount on the top of the actuator to hold a router spindle. Its position on the actuator can be adjusted to compensate for smaller diameter bodies.