All Shapeoko Batch 1 Preorders Have Shipped!

As of December 21st 2013, the first 495 Shapeoko 2 preorders have shipped out!

It took some effort, but we got them all out. To paraphrase Tom Cargill's Ninety-Ninety rule, the first 90% of a large shipping job accounts for 90% of the work. The second 90% account for the other 90%.

Huge props to our warehouse team for getting everything assembled, packaged and out on the target date. Our crack team of specialists stayed late into the night to make sure every order was taken care of.

As proof, we'd like to offer this photo of the pallets that all the Shapeoko 2's came in on. Now they're empty and stacked, awaiting repurposing. That's a photo of a job well done.

In related news, we've worked out some of the small hiccups that arose during the first batch, and are totally on target to nail our January shipping date for the second batch orders. Watch this space for updates as we move along.

The Chicago Children's Museum Tinkering Lab is looking for volunteers

For our readers in the Chicago area, we'd like to pass along this call for volunteers at the Chicago Children's Museum Tinkering Lab. If you're interested in volunteering, please get in touch with Sarah at the museum: SarahG@chicagochildrensmuseum.org


Thank you for your interest in the Tinkering Lab exhibit at Chicago Children's Museum!

We are currently looking for individuals who would like to get involved with Tinkering Lab through volunteering. This is a great way to lend a hand and begin your collaboration with the museum and the exhibit.

As a Tinkering Lab volunteer you will work side by side in the exhibit with museum staff to encourage visitors to tinker, design, build and test and also to assist visitors using a variety of tools. It is our hope that volunteers will also share their knowledge and passion with our visitors. You will be assigned to work at the Tool Bar, helping visitors use a variety of tools and you will also help lead drop-in programs, such as taking apart old toys, exploring circuitry/electronics or large-scale communal building projects.

If you would like to become a Tinkering Lab Volunteer, please review the attached description of responsibilities and requirements and complete the volunteer application form. Once completed, please email the form back to me to begin the process of becoming a volunteer. The process of becoming a volunteer includes attending a mandatory training of the exhibit. The museum holds trainings every 3 months and 2014 training dates have been scheduled for:

·         January 7 from 5:30pm-7:00pm
·         March 11 from 5:30pm-7:00pm
·         May 13 from 5:30pm-7:00pm
·         August 19 from 5:30pm-7:00pm 
Once you have turned in an application, you can choose which 2014 training date you would like to attend. Please also feel free to share this information with anyone who may be interested in volunteering with us.

The Chicago Children's Museum is looking forward to working with you!

Kind Regards,
Sarah Gritsonis
Manager of Volunteer & Intern Resources

Shapeoko 2 Behind The Scenes - Ahead of Schedule!

Shapeoko 2 production is ahead of schedule!  

Today I'm going to give you a detailed update.  We promised the first 495 kits to ship by December 21st and 496 to 1500 to ship by January 19th.  We have some good news that we'll share today in this blog post.  As we saw all the boxes on the pallets and everyone in our warehouse rushing around we thought; let's take a moment to reflect. How did we get here?  

A few years ago in a little garage in Dixon, IL, Edward Ford had an idea to make a low cost CNC Milling machine that anyone could build.  Years of experimentation and prototypes led to a Kickstarter campaign with a modest goal of $1500.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for his dream Edward cleared out his garage and delivered each person a CNC kit.  It was a blessing and a curse because his dream of having some beers with friends and playing around with a CNC machine turned into a factory at his house.

Worn out from this experience but excited about the potential for where this little machine could go Edward had a few discussion with me, Zach Kaplan, founder of Inventables.

When I first heard about the Shapeoko and saw the picture of the machine I fell in love.  I first used a CNC milling machine in high school to make the car for a model roller coaster.  That machine also sat on a desktop but cost closer to $50,000.  This machine and Edward's enthusiasm struck me as the right combination of everything that was good in the world.  Edward is a purist.  He had a clear vision for what the machine was and what it was not.  He had a clear vision for who it was for and who it wasn't for.  The way he described it was "dead simple, no frills." The first version of the Shapeoko I saw wasn't the one above, it was this:

Shapeoko is an open source project that has a very passionate community of people that are eager to help newcomers and are very friendly.  There are no n00bs on this forum, everyone has a seat at the table and we're all working on the project together.

Shapeoko Forum
Shapeoko Forum
That's a big part of what makes the Shapeoko awesome.  When you use it you're not alone, you've joined a group of people that have taken CNC Machining into their own hands, into their offices, and into their homes.  A group of people that love rolling up their sleeves and making stuff.  Real stuff.  A few of the folks on the forum have emerged as super helpful leaders like ImprobableConstruct and Will Adams.

Working closely with Edward, Inventables launched the Shapeoko on our website and to our surprise it became the fastest selling CNC Machine in the history of the world.  Over the course of 2012 and 2013 the user base started growing exponentially and feedback started pouring in. People in the community shared their build notes and design suggestions, improvements, and hacks and soon enough there was a large body of knowledge built up.

Edward was the most active person on the forum with thousands of posts and took just over a year to figure out what the next version should look like, what functional changes had to be made, and how it could be improved.  At Inventables we hired a team of people to help support not just the Shapeoko but a full category of Desktop CNC milling, in addition to making improvements to our inventory, fulfillment and shipping departments.

So you're probably wondering where is my Shapeoko2?

This an open source hardware project.  I think we should start by explaining a little bit of the process Inventables uses to source and assemble the parts for these kits.  This whole project is a community effort so I want to share a bit about how the sausage is made.

First, Edward finalizes his design. Which is itself a whole universe of prototyping, CAD, experimentation, and revisions. Once that's done, we take his BOM (bill of materials) and go about finding the best quality/lowest cost sources for all those parts. Some of the parts are standard and known, and some of them are a little more specialized and require research to find the best supplier.

Inventables works with a "kitmaker" who handles counting out all the proper number of motors, makerslide, etc. in to the parts bags and assembles those all into boxes. Some parts are counted out manually, and some of the smaller parts like washers and socket head cap screws are parceled out according to weight, which is a little faster but may account for "extra" parts left over when you've finished assembly. However, the kitmaker doesn't start working on assembly until all the parts have arrived, so the entire process is dependent on the part with the longest lead time.

One other important note here is that the kitmaker puts all the MakerSlide and big parts into the boxes, which is why it's logistically difficult for us to swap out custom sizes of MakerSlide on individual orders.

Here's some photos of the kitmaker's warehouse. Those are all the Shapeoko parts, waiting to be sorted.

The kitmaker assembles a few test kits for Inventables to use for Quality Control. We received the first couple of test kits and sent one to Edward and Will from the forum to get feedback, and checked through a few ourselves. We're looking to see that the correct amount of all the parts are there, and also we're looking at how they're arranged in the box and packaged to minimize damage during shipping, as well as making sure it's all organized and all the parts can be easily found so that the end user has a nice experience.  Will and Edward also used these kits to write the build instructions.

For all the kits that get the preorder perks, we're also working out a process to add the correct t-shirt sizes and other bonus items to the boxes before they're sealed for shipping.

We also add certain parts to the kits ourselves that come from our warehouse, which is its own whole separate process.

When items are delivered to us, they go through an Inventory Check-in process to make sure that the right parts have been delivered, that they're within allowed tolerances, that there's no damage, and that we received the correct quantity. This is true for every item we sell whether its flat washers, MakerSlide, acrylic sheets, you name it.

Lucy is one of our warehouse operations  team members who handles check-ins, and she's awesome at it!

Once everything's checked in, we organize all the parts so they can be easily found and placed into orders. 

We then pack all the required pieces carefully into the shipping boxes, trying to keep it all nice and tidy and well-organized. Here's team member Tait putting the finishing touches on a test kit.

We also test sending a full kit around through the mail to see if any shifting or damage occurs. Based on the results of those tests, we may engineer a packing solution or change how it's all arranged in the box to protect things better. No one wants a dented piece of MakerSlide or a smashed Arduino.

Here's our warehouse manager Joanne doing her best Vanna White impression for a stack of test kits about to be sent out:

And last but not least, our customer support team including John Hayes are on hand to answer questions (such as "When is my Shapeoko 2 shipping?") and other technical matters through the help@inventables.com email address and the question function on our product pages.

We set up and started the final Q/A and packing assembly line yesterday at Inventables HQ.  We are on pace to ship the first 495 all ahead of schedule.  A good chunk of them will go out this week and we expect the remainder to go out next week.  When we ship your order you'll get a tracking number.  Here's what they look like on the skids.

The first 5 shipped out yesterday.  You can see the white boxes sneaking through in this picture.

Today another much larger wave got sent, so keep your eyes on your inbox for your tracking number.  We aren't able to provide exact timing of when your box will ship or if you are in the first 495.  However we will do an update when all of the first 495 have gone out.

Thanks for all your support.

Zach and the Inventables Team

Inventables Holiday Gift Guide

or our holiday gift guide this year, the Inventables team decided to take a look at inspirational and fun designs from elsewhere, in addition to favorites from our own shelves. We hope you find something perfect for that maker in your life!

From our catalog:

A good hobby knife set is used nearly every day by some makers, and this kit is intended for just that. You get two grips, one larger and one for precision work. And a wide assortment of blades for pretty much every type of job- cutting paper, whittling wood, cutting traces on a circuit board, fabric and leather work...

These conductive paint pens allow you to draw circuits on paper, fabric or skin, cold-solder components, and repair PCBS. Yes, for real! They're great for teaching and playing with electrical principles or quick prototyping of simple circuits.

Plus, it's skin-safe and water soluble. Works with electrical components, e-textiles and conductive thread, microcontrollers like the Arduino or LilyPad, paper, plastic, and fabrics.

The CAMEO looks like a desktop printer, but it does something very different- cutting flat materials very precisely, from a digital design. Make pop-up holiday cards, cut your own customs stamps, create all kinds of engineered papercraft, cut adhesive stickers and magnets and chalkboard decals. You can seriously do a lot with these and the software is very easy to use.

This comprehensive screwdriver set comes with two different size handles and a wide assortment of interchangeable bits including Flathead, Phillips, Hex (Allen), Square, Torx, and Socket. The handles are ratcheting for easy tightening/loosening in tight spaces.

From Other Sources:

This walking robot tiger is easy to assemble, but lets you see and understand exactly how all the mechanical linkages work together to produce a loping gait. The Japanese company that makes these, Tamiya, has a ton of different robot designs that mimic the movement of the animal in a fairly realistic way.

You solder together and assemble this toy ray gun, which makes all those awesome/cheesy ray gun noises that dominated the toy industry in the 80's and 90's. So much laser. How future.

This kit by designers Mick Kelly and Sue Williams uses very simple materials to achieve rather complex results. Once assembled, the contraption can be "driven" by differentially controlling the power to each propeller. Pretty cool.

This kit is a great way to get started with both programming and electronics hardware. You get one Arduino, plus a bunch of sensors, motors, buttons, knobs, and a display. Pretty much everything you need to prototype an idea.

This convenient lens turns your smartphone into a much more capable photography tool. Get wider shots in interior spaces, take ultra close-ups of your projects, take in larger vistas during your travels. The lenses are very high quality and hold very firmly to the phone, and it's easy to flip the lens for different shots.

The colors and textures on this Etsy seller's stuff is amazing. These are made from recycled skateboards laminated together and then milled and finished. Good design doesn't have to be high-tech.

Best wishes from the team at Inventables and a happy holiday season to you all!

New Cool Tools Catalog Out!

If you're not familiar with the Cool Tools blog, I recommend you check it out. It was started ~10 years ago by Kevin Kelly, who was the founding executive editor of Wired magazine and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth catalog.

They just published a printed catalog and it's a great compendium of the last 10 years of the blog. The tools are all recommended and reviewed by people who use them, and there's inspiring projects and useful tips and tricks on every page.

Covering topics from hand tools to adhesives, organizational oddments, bicycles that double as chainsaws, beer brewing, mushroom growing, milling and fabricating, and so much more, it's enough to make your brain hurt with all the ideas for projects.

Inventables has a very nice shout-out on page 18, much thanks to our customers who wrote the reviews!

You can get the printed catalog here (highly recommended!) and submit your own reviews and recommendations for tools on the Cool Tools blog.

Shapeoko 2 Shipping Dates

Shapeoko 2 Shipping Update:

Our kitmaker is reporting that everything is on schedule and looking great for our projected December 21st shipping date on the first 495 pre-orders!

For pre-orders 496 and above, we've got a projected date of January 19th. The reason for the slight delay on the second batch is that we didn't foresee how excited everyone would be over this little kit, and that  we honestly thought it would take longer to sell out of our first batch. We're happy to be proven incorrect on that and have launched into action to make sure there's as little delay as possible.

As soon as we realized Shapeoko 2 was going to way more popular than anything we've ever done before, we placed an order immediately for another, larger batch of Shapeoko 2 kits. And since we've got the whole process figured out from the first batch, we're keeping our fingers crossed that there are zero shipping or out-of-stock part hiccups on the second.

Regardless, we'll continue to keep everyone informed as to the ship dates and availability as things come into focus. Inventables would like to thank everyone for their huge support and for making Shapeoko 2 an enormous success!

New Kits And Tools For Clean, Easy Wiring

I am a huge fan of good wiring and doing it right.  We thought it would great to get some affordable starter kits that contain all the basic stuff you need to do great wiring job. We have selected the some of the most popular items and put them in well organized kits.  We also sell refill packs if you run out of one of the types.

Header Connectors

Header connectors are all over the place.  Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beagle Bone and just about every CNC controller has them.

Often projects come with connectors and contacts, but how does the average person use these?  A lot of people try crimping with needle nose pliers.  With practice you can get a reasonable crimp that way, but often the shape is distorted and the pin does not fit or latch in the connector well.  To do it right you need a real crimper

Header connectors come in pin (male) and socket (female) varieties.  Most controllers primarily have female connectors.  These work well with shields and jumper wires.  They also don't have exposed pins that can easily get shorted.  Many shields have male contacts.  With this kit you can make mating connectors for both types.

The header connector kit contains the following items in a well organized container.
  • (100) female/socket contacts
  • (100) male/pin contacts 
  • (25) 1 x 1 Position Connector (Great for making single wire jumpers)
  • (25) 1 × 2 Position
  • (25) 1 × 3 Position
  • (25) 1 × 4 Position
  • (25) 1 × 5 Position
  • (25) 1 × 6 Position
  • (25) 2 × 2 Position
  • (25) 2 × 3 Position
  • (25) 2 × 4 Position
  • (25) 2 × 5 Position
  • (25) 2 × 6 Position

How to Crimp Header Connetors

Crimping is a skill learned through practice.  It takes a few tries to master it, so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't work so well.  After a half dozen crimps you should be quite good and productive at it.  Here is the basic process.

Step 1 : Trim the wire to the right length.  This is, by far, the most important step.  A crimp gets nearly all of its hold on force by clamping to the insulation.  If you strip to much, you will crimping on more wire than insulation and your contact will pull off the wire.  You can use a pin to gauge how much to strip.

This is what you want it to look like when you are done.

Step 2:  Insert the contact into the crimper and ratchet it down until it is held in the crimper.

Step 3: Push the wire into the contact

Step 4: Crimp the contact.

Step 5: Test the contact grip by giving it a gentile tug.  It should not pull off the wire.

Step 6: Insert into the connector housing.  The crimped side on the contact faces the side of the connector with the opening and plastic tang.

How to remove a contact.

The pin can be removed from the housing by lifting the plastic tang slightly and pulling out the contact..  If you lift it too much it might permanently bend and not be reusable.

Wire Ferrules

Ferrules should be used when stranded wires are used in terminal blocks.  Ferrules keep the wires together and provide a little extra strain relief.

A common failure occurs when one stray strand on a wire comes loose from the terminal block and touches another terminal or circuit.  Another failure can come from the small amount of exposed wire just outside terminal block.  If the wire is tugged it can contact another circuit.

Using a Ferrule Crimper

The ferrule crimper is generally easier to master than the header crimper.  The only trick is to choose the right ferrule.  It must be snug to start with.  The crimper cannot squeeze a big ferrule onto a small wire. 

Step 1: Select an appropriate size ferrule.  The ferrule should slide snugly on the stripped wire.

Step 2: Strip wire  Use the un-insulated portion of the ferrule as a gauge for the strip length.

Step 3: Twist strands

Step 4: Insert the stripped portion of the wire into the ferrule

Step 5: Insert the Ferrule into the crimper

Step 6: Close the crimper as far as you can

Step 7: Test the how well the wire holds.  If it is loose, try a smaller ferule.