A visit to Lane Tech High School's Innovation & Creation Lab

A little while back we helped high school Computer Science teach Jeff Solin spec out a maker lab for his school. Many months and lots of sweat later, the Innovation and Creation Lab is up and running and Jeff's students are making a lot of awesome projects.

Here's a vent cover one of the students designed with Jeff's face on it:

The first part of this year's curriculum focused on the laser cutters, with students starting out making cubic boxes and moving to freeform projects from there:

Phase II involves each student designing a 6"x6" tile in Easel and then carving it out on a Shapeoko:

 Inventables' Tait Leswing was on hand to make sure all the machines were in good working order.

Here's Jeff showing the first completed tile to the class. Once all the pieces are finished, they'll be assembled into a grid and displayed in the room. As you can tell, he was pretty excited about it:

We're looking forward to seeing more as Jeff and his students get comfortable with the machines and really start to dig in.

Edit: The class's twitter account just posted a photo of the first batch of completed tiles and they're looking awesome!


DIY Gift box roundup!

We all would love to make every holiday gift from scratch, especially for family and loved ones. But there isn't always time, you may not have the right tools or materials or skills, and then all of a sudden there's two weeks left and what to do?

If you have a 3D Carving machine on hand, there's an easy way to put a personal touch on a thoughtful gift: make a wooden gift box!

Turns out it's pretty easy to do and there's a couple of different ways to go about it. A few strategies, with examples:

Boxes with mating halves

A box with mating halves is one of the easiest to make, because there's only one joined edge, and you can just glue the pieces together. Adding a nice detail like an initial or icon adds that extra bit of fancy and earns you major bonus points. This one was made by Tait Leswing, click through for the project details:

Here's another example from our programmer Jim Rodovich using a more complex shape as the outline:

Parametric box generators

There are some great online tools for generating laserable and carveable box patterns. Here's a few example made by our own Paul Kaplan, click through for the project files:

To make your own box like this, consider using Makercase or Makeabox.io. Both are web-based parametric box pattern generators that allow you to specify dimensions, material width, kerf and etc to make a perfectly laserable or carveable box pattern in vector format.

Protip: set the "kerf" width to the width of your cutting bit for a perfect fit. This won't solve the need for "dog bones", but it'll get you pretty close. I find that using a 1/16" bit makes the parts fit well enough to knock together with a rubber mallet. A little glue for insurance and you're set.

Add a sliding lid!

Another nice touch is to take the above example and add a sliding lid to one of the faces for more secure opening/closing, like this example from Paul Kaplan:

There are a whole lot more ways to go about this, but that should be enough to get you started. Have you made your own boxes and have some projects to share? Hit us up in the comments and we'll feature everyone in a future roundup.


Snowflake Generator

We used to love making paper snowflakes, folding a piece of paper into quarters and snipping little pieces out, then unfolding it into a radially repeating geometric shape.

Then, our software engineer Paul Kaplan showed us this and we all put down our scissors and started using it instead.

It's an online snowflake generator! You create shapes in the same sort of repeating way as the folded paper method, but with more control and variability. Originally created as a Processing sketch by Windell Oske at Evil Mad Scientist, Paul ported it to the web and added the ability to download SVG files.

Play around adjusting the handles to make the perfect unique snowflake, then you can download an .svg of the design and bring that into either Easel or your favorite lasercutting or papercutting software and let your Shapeoko, laser cutter, or paper cutter work its magic.

We like glitter acrylics. But maybe you like wood veneer, or just plain old adhesive paper. Or just paper.

Try it out for yourself:

Then import that .svg into Easel and get wild with the snowflake-making. You could even add a little hole into one of the edges to tie a piece of yarn through, like this:

Have fun, and please tweet a photo at us if you make one!


Holiday ornament projects to make at home

In giddy anticipation of the impending holiday season, our own designer Alex Berger created a handful of fun projects to share. These simple ornaments can be cut on a Shapeoko or a laser cutter, which means you're free to use all kids of materials- natural woods for a more traditional, rustic look, or even glitter acrylics to add a twinkle to your home.

Take a look through our materials section for inspiration:

All of these projects have an "Open in Easel" link for you to resize and customize to your heart's content. Have fun! And send us your re-makes!


Weekend project inspiration

The weekend is finally here so it is time to get making! Here are a few awesome projects from the last couple weeks that you can open and mill directly from Easel. Have something awesome to show off? Post it as a project and we'll feature it! 

Learn how to make bevelled edges using a V bit.
DIY a colorful clamp set

Get started with milling circuit boards
Community Project: Servo controlled robot eyes


Bonus Rewards for the Carvey Kickstarter

The speed we reached our goal was incredible and your energy was electric. We can’t thank you enough.
Thanks to your ongoing support and for helping us make this happen, we want to give each Carvey backer a bit extra. You've been so incredibly supportive so far in the campaign. We want everyone that gets a Carvey from our Kickstarter to have an amazing experience.

Getting started Kit! 

Today we are adding a few new things to the Early Bird Carvey and Carvey levels. There are a lot of backers that are new to 3D Carving and this will be their first time carving. We want to make sure that your first experience is magical.
To that end, we will be adding a piece of Expanded PVC foam material into the box, so you’ll be able to make something as soon as you open the machine. The incredible thing about Carvey is its versatility. The milling bits it uses are like lenses in a professional camera: new bits expand your creative abilities. We started you with a ⅛” 2 flute spiral end mill (grey) ideal for carving plastic or materials like the expanded PVC. Today we’ve added a second ⅛” 2 flute straight (black) end mill for cutting wood and a 1/16” fish tail bit (blue) for doing detail work!  Our bit system is color coded and integrated with the Easel software making selection easier.

50% More Material 

Thanks to everyone that backed at a level that received the Ultimate Maker pack. We have some good news for you too.
First off, we’re going to give you all the bonuses mentioned above.
In addition to the 3 starter projects and 20 materials included today, we are adding 10 more materials. With these materials in hand you’ll be able to carve all sorts of cool things like jewelry, signs, coasters, and christmas ornaments - we can’t wait to see what you create. Below is a full list of everything you’ll get in the pack. The 10 new materials are highlighted in green.

As always thank you for your support, and we hope this goes some way in showing how grateful we are that you’ve made Carvey a reality.
Remember you can also keep in touch on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


Carvey carves aluminum!

We are really excited that there has been a ton of interest in carving soft metals with Carvey. We're going to do a series of videos demonstrating how Carvey performs with a number of different soft metals. For the demo today we grabbed a 6" x 6" x .025" piece of black anodized aluminum from the Inventables warehouse. The project took about 35 minutes. Easel told Carvey to step down 0.001" per pass and to move at 15 in/min. Stay tuned next week for demonstrations on thicker metals and circuit boards!


Pumpkin Carving with Easel and Shapeoko

Shapeoko 2 owner Winston Moy made an awesome video of how to use your Shapeoko to carve a pumpkin using Easel, our web-based CAD + CAM + machine control software. 

The key is to remove the wasteboard and prop the Shapeoko up on stilts, giving you enough clearance to carve into the pumpkin. I think the most clever part is using a big coffee can to hold the spherical-ish pumpkin. Standard clamps don't work so well on pumpkins, as you might expect. And major props for giving a great introduction to using Easel!

Check out Winston's YouTube channel for a bunch of other awesome CNC projects. Also check out our projects section for more Shapeoko project ideas that you can open directly in Easel.

Keep it spooky.


Carvey: The 3D carving machine for the maker in all of us

On Tuesday October 21st at 8am CST Inventables launched a Kickstarter campaign for Carvey a new, remarkably easy to use, tabletop 3D carving machine for making ideas into real objects. I'm proud to say we hit our goal in 1 hour and 26 minutes!

The response for the community has been beyond belief.  Thank you so much for all of the support for the Carvey project.  We are so grateful.  There have been some technical questions in the comments section about how precise Carvey is.  We want to be as responsive as possible to the questions.  In this video Chief Engineer Bart Dring uses a dial indicator that has 0.0005" accuracy. The dial indicator was bolted to the waste board on Carvey. He measures the X, Y, and Z axis to determine the precision and repeatability of the machine.  
In the technical specifications we promised:
  • Run out .0006"
  • Resolution .001"
Our measurements on the actual machine are:
  • Run out .0004"
  • Repeatability on X: 0.0005"
  • Repeatability on Y: 0.0005"
  • Repeatability on Z: 0.0005"
*In the original post we stated repeatability on X and Y were 0.  The use of significant digits was wrong.  If you measure something with a wooden ruler and it is an inch wide you say 1 inch.  If you measure with a caliper you might say 1.000 inch. Saying "0' implies it could be rounded by as much as 0.500" 
While the eye can see the pointer only moved about a 1/5th of a tick on the scale, that does not mean the tool is that accurate.

The accuracy number I always give is 0.001 to 0.003.  We do not guarantee all units will leave the factory at 0.001 on all axes.  

There are also some questions about how well Carvey cuts soft metals like Aluminum.  In our next update, we're going to film a series of videos to show this process so stay tuned!  Thanks again for all your support and keep your questions coming!

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