Shapeoko Batch #4 - An update

Hi All, This is Edward! Inventables' newest employee. I started working full time on October 1st. It's been an amazing couple of weeks, and I thought I'd drop in and give everyone an update on Shapeoko batch #4.

On Thursday of last week, I made my way (with Phil) over to the factory where Shapeoko is being packaged. It's a 40 minute drive from our office downtown to the factory. I was excited to get out there and see the progress they had made since my last visit a few weeks ago when they were just getting started.

The factory is a cool place. Non-descript from the outside as just another building in an industrial park, but once you get inside it's a different story. High ceilings, modern furniture, and lots of wiz-bang stuff going on all around, from guys wiring up enclosures, to engineers modeling with 3D CAD software. You sort of feel like you're walking through NASA.

After a short visit, We made our way from the office out onto the shop floor, where they had all of the Shapeoko inventory setup and ready to be packaged.

Shapeoko Kanban at the factory

They had already gone through and packaged up one kit, which, after all, was the reason I was there. Before packaging up the rest of the kits, we really wanted to do a 'QC build'. That is, double check their work and make sure we had communicated the Bill of Materials Correctly. The best way we could figure out to do this was to just go ahead and build a shapeoko from the packaged box!

I quickly got to work and unpacked everything:

Electronics, Tools, Hardware

All the goodies, spread out for all to see.

It still delights me each time I see the kit packaged up nice and organized like it is, with each item in it's own bag, individually labeled. It makes me think of the drastic improvements we've made since moving the operation out of my garage and into a proper setting.

I set out to work by separating the packages and finding the parts I needed. It was like riding a bike! Yeah, I hadn't done it in a while, but the process came back to me quickly as I started snapping the v-wheels together. I was having a bit of nostalgia remember the evening I spent putting together 100 v-wheels!

v-wheel assemblies

After the v-wheels were assembled I put together the motor mount plates and the standard carriage. Do you notice anything different about the motor mount plates? It's subtle, but important:
motor mount plates, assembled.

1.) We did away with the stainless steel plates. In their place, we are using regular mild steel, but this time, instead of painting it, we had everything zinc plated! It looks awesome! Goes really well with the zinc plated hardware, and looks sharp in contrast to the black metric fasteners. We also added .2mm to the diameter of each through hole. The other change to the holes is the vertically slotted hole at the top of the plate. This was put into plate in order to accommodate the tolerance of the MakerSlide end holes. Instead of enlarging the holes all around, we made a single 5.2mm slot that runs 25mm long. Problem solved.

2.) See the hole in the middle of the plate? Yep, it was *finally* enlarged to the point that the nema17 face will fit nicely right into it. That means no more stand off spacers! it also means that the hole helps to locate the motor during assembly. It's something I should have changed months ago. Thanks to everyone who made that suggestion!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the build goes once the motor mounts are assembled. After tapping the rails, I bolted everything together and ran the belting. With everything bolted up, and the electronics test fitted onto their stand, I gave the thumbs up! Batch #4 started shipping the next day.

So, at this point we're still shipping out Batch #4 kits, but already looking forward to shipping batch #5! Once batch #5 is done we'll have a surprise.

Colored Acrylic Sheets

Inventables has added some new colors of acrylic to our selection.  We now have over 100 colors of acrylic sheets in stock ready for same day shipping.  Since we have such a large number of colored acrylic sheets we are seeing folks that design products and sell them on ETSY using them to differentiate their products from others.  We understand it can be hard to chose between 14 different shades of blue on the internet so we created an acrylic sample kit.

Acrylic Sample Kit
Acrylic Sample Kit
The sample kit offers 61 of the colors we have.  We added another 40 colors since making the kit and plan on making a second kit that will include the additional colors.  We have a few more colors to add to our inventory before locking down the design for the second kit.

To make it easier to shop in our store we created a tool on our website to narrow down the colors and styles.

Colored Acrylic Sheet Selector

As of October 2012, our colored acrylic sheets come from 7 families including, opaque, translucent, transparent, fluorescent, glitter, 2 color, and radiant.

Digital Fabrication Contest

Instructables is teaming up with Inventables to run a Digital Fabrication Contest. Any Photo, Video or Step by Step Instructable that was made by any kind of tool that runs from a computer is eligible. That means anything you make that involves a laser cutter, a 3D printer, CNC mill, CNC lathe, CNC plasma cutter, embroidery machine and more can be entered in this contest. This contest only runs until the end of the month so document your entry as soon as you can.

The first prize winner in this contest will receive the "Full Kit" Shapeoko to build a small footprint CNC Mill capable of cutting wood, plastics and metal. The Shapeoko mill has been in the works since 2004 and was just made available a few months ago - we're excited to see what this mill can do.

Now listen up because here's where it gets interesting... Inventables is also offering a $20 gift certificate to anyone who enters an Instructable in this contest. With a guarantee to win the $20 gift certificate simply by publishing your project and entering it in the contest, there's no reason not to get started on your Instructable today!

Jewelry Designer Interview - Stacy Hotchkiss

As part of our ongoing interview series with designers that use digital fabrication tools today we talked to Stacy Hotchkiss.  Stacy is a designer that sells her jewelry on ETSY.

Inventables: What is the name of your company and what do you do? 

Stacy Hotchkiss: My company is called Running With Scissors and I create edgy, punk rock, and kitsch jewelry using various mediums, the newest being laser cut acrylic.

Inventables: Founding a company takes courage, what inspired you get started?

Stacy Hotchkiss: Since I was in second grade I had always planned on being a teacher when I grew up.  So, I went to college and got a teaching degree.  My plans changed when I had my first daughter.  Once she was in my arms I knew I would do whatever I could to be at home with her.  I have always been very crafty and creative and I found a way to turn my hobby into a business that I could work from home.  So I guess it was the flexibility to be with my family that inspired me to start Running With Scissors and I also love the fact that I get to do what I love everyday.  I consider myself very lucky and I encourage other stay at home moms to start home based businesses too.

Inventables: From a quick look at your ETSY store it looks like you focus on designing products for the wild girls out there you might call it a focus on rockabilly. Please tell us the story about the product you're most proud of. 

Stacy Hotchkiss: Yes, I definitely have a very niche target audience.  I like to mix cute and sparkly things with dark and evil things to create something different.  I like the shock value of it.  I refer to it as jewelry for the sweet and evil side of every girl.  One of my favorite pieces is my logo necklace.  My logo is a skull and crossbones with a pair of scissors as the crossbones.  It's great seeing my company branding come to life as an adorable accessory.  Because it incorporates scissors, many hairdressers and seamstresses like these necklaces and they are one of my best selling pieces.

Inventables: Tell us about some of the more interesting customers you have.

Stacy Hotchkiss: Man!  Some of the custom requests I get are pretty insane!  From obscenities, to inside jokes, and even the funny pictures that people want casted in resin, I really get a good laugh once and a while.  I have also met some of the greatest customers and also fellow business owners that are always great for advice and cross promoting each others companies.

Inventables: What kind of tools or machines do you use to create your products? What kinds of materials do you use?

Stacy Hotchkiss: I have a laser engraving machine from Universal and I love having my own machine so I don't have to outsource, which keeps my costs low.  It also allows me to create items in a day instead of having the turnaround time of using a third party company.  I love to use the sparkly glitter acrylic sheets and the different colored mirrored acrylics.  I like to layer different colors on top of each other for a 3-dimensional look.  I am constantly experimenting to keep my jewelry line stocked with new items.

Inventables: These new low cost digital fabrication tools like laser cutters are pretty exciting. How do you see this changing the jewelry design in the next 5-10 years?

Stacy Hotchkiss: I think it's really awesome that these types of tools have become more affordable to small businesses.   It has already broadened the spectrum of the jewelry selection on the market today.  It opens the door for jewelry designers to create custom pieces that make great personalized pieces.  With more and more businesses creating their own designs there is sure to be much more competition out there.  I'm sure it will keep me on my toes to come up with more cutting edge designs.

Inventables: Before we sign off today, tell us what you are most excited about.

Stacy Hotchkiss: I am currently excited to see the growth in my company.  I have more and more repeat customers and also more first time customers coming to my shop daily.  I'm really looking forward to the future of my company and seeing where it will take me.