Introducing Bamboo Plywood and Bamboo Projects!

We now carry beautiful Bamboo Plywood in 4 thicknesses: 1/8", 1/4", 3/8", and 3/4" and two sizes: 8″×12″ and 12″ × 12″.

The pictures do not do this material justice! It’s the most beautiful item we have in the warehouse with its natural rich color variations. The surface finish is smooth, and the material is very hard, similar to hardwoods such as Walnut or Oak.

Bamboo Plywood can be cut with regular tools. If you are cutting with a table saw, you can tape the edges to prevent flaking or tearing. If you are fastening the bamboo, be sure to pre-drill any holes. Because it’s a plywood, it may split easily if you don’t pre-drill. Regular wood adhesives can be used as well. For a better adhesion, sand before applying glue.

The materials, files, and instructions to make these awesome projects by Samantha Alaimo are available by clicking the links below! 


 Artist Palette Cutting Board

Raising a Tech Community - Spring Build 2013

Hi. My name is Taylor Haney and I'm a guest blogger for Inventables. I'd like to invite you to join us at a Hackathon we call Spring Build 2013. It is being held at The IdeaShop - 3440 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60616 on February 23rd at 2pm until Feb 24th at 5pm.

This whole Hackathon thing started almost exactly a year ago when one of our friends said “IIT students do nothing but sit in their rooms playing video games to procrastinate on doing homework. And then they do homework. They chose majors in engineering and computer science because they have some interest and they’re wasting it.” We completely agreed but had no intention of doing anything about it. He then asked, “Wanna throw a Hackathon?”.

For those of you that don’t know, a Hackathon is traditionally a 24 hour computer programming competition centered around a problem generated by the organizing group, i.e. apps created from government’s big data. While that’s a cool concept, we wanted to create something that was more of a playground that attracted college students to learn by getting their hands dirty, that encouraged them to collaborate to solve new challenges, and helped them build something they didn’t know they had the power to create. That is exactly what happened at our first Hackathon...but not in the way we expected.

When 19 people out of almost 100 sign ups arrived on the day of the event to compete, we were panicked to say the least. We literally postponed the start for 2 hours in hopes that a magical crowd of hackers would come bursting in late to rescue us. No one else showed and we somehow convinced a band of volunteers to form a team to bring our total to 25 participants. While we considered it a huge failure and had some disappointed sponsors (We love you Higi and ColorJar), something beautiful came out. This band of misfit volunteers learned how to code for windows mobile overnight and won first place in the mobile category. Another student got an internship at ColorJar shortly after the event ended. To top it all off, I overheard an IIT alumn said, “I would pay $10,000 to have something like this for my company.” Our failure stung but we knew we had something special.

Our team planned feverishly for the rest of the Spring, the entire Summer and most of the Fall for our 2nd Hackathon sponsored by Nokia. We even came up with a name for ourselves, MonkeyBars. Worth. Every. Minute. 60 participants came to eat us out of house and home. The winning app has since been implemented in IIT’s student life office, numerous students learned one or more programming languages overnight and multiple students were hired after the event. I rarely allow myself to relive these moments but it is a feeling I will never forget. 

So we’re back at it again. This time, we thought to ourselves, “What about the product designers? The people that build with their hands?” This is why we created MonkeyBars Spring Build, an open building competition for people from all walks of tech to bring an idea to reality in just 24 hours. By providing resources like 3D printers, arduino's and help from mentors, we are pushing the envelope of what can really be accomplished a day. 

And when I say we, I mean the community of starters and makers that devote their lives to making things better and inventing solutions to everyday problems. I also mean the partners who believe in this cause, like Inventables providing machines for rapid prototyping. 

Shapeoko CNC Milling Machine
Table top 3D printer

I'd also like to thank Facebook and Microsoft for paying the bills. They say it takes a village to raise a child and Chicago’s tech community is sure growing fast. I feel fortunate to be a part of its most important years. 

Taylor Harvey

Email: tharvey@hackthemonkey.com
Twitter: @hackthemonkey
Event page: http://www.hackthemonkey.com/spring-build-2013.html

The third industrial revolution

The third industrial revolution is in full swing.  At Inventables it is our mission to simplify the process of going from idea to finished product.  We believe this will further ignite this revolution.  We believe this movement will be the primary driver of growth in our economy in the next decade.  To understand this third industrial revolution it is important to understand the first two industrial revolutions.  

Photo credit Brett Ryder and the Economist

Excerpts from the Economist article indicate:

The first industrial revolution:
"THE first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers' cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born."

The second industrial revolution:
"The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban."

The third industrial revolution:
"Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital."
At Inventables we see the factory moving to the desktop and we see analog machines becoming digital.  The roots of this movement have it's start at MIT in 1952.  Professor Neil Gershenfeld recognized the importance of this shift very early and established the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT in 2001.  This was visionary thinking at the time because as you might recall the Dot Com era created enormous interest and demand for research both academically and in industry in the field of digital media.  The celebrated work at the time was going on at the MIT Media Lab.
Image credit Bill Cramer and Forbes
From the MIT Website
"In 1952 MIT created the first computer-controlled milling machine, based on early work on real-time computing. Since then, a variety of cutting tools have been mounted on moving platforms controlled by computers, including lasers, waterjets, and wires. More recently, additive manufacturing has been widely covered, with tools that can extrude filaments or sinter powders or cure resins. However, even though these processes use digital designs they are all physically analog, continuously depositing or removing material.

In 1948 Claude Shannon created a mathematical theory of communication, showing that by dividing a continuous message into discrete symbols it can be sent reliably through an unreliable communications channel. In 1952 John von Neumann applied this to computing, showing that a digital computer can operate reliably with unreliable devices. The same is now happening for fabrication, with the introduction of fundamentally digital processes that can build reliably with unreliable materials by coding their construction from discrete components. These are being developed on length scales from molecules to buildings, promising unprecedented manufacturing flexibility, functionality, complexity, and reusability."

In 1997 the were 1057 3D printers sold at an average price of a $431,409 according to Terry Wholers who has been publishing an annual report on additive manufacturing since 1996.  The 1998 report called out the number of machines sold and the total size of the industry.
Terry Wholers at Euro Mold 2009 in Germany
In 2013 we have a new class of digital fabrication tools at price points unheard of before.  Entry level 3D printers start at $399.  Pictured below is the Printrbot.

At Inventables we currently sell four 3D printers ranging in price from $899 to $2,199.

The parts that come off these machines look like plastic prototypes.  Below is a photo provided by Makerbot of a snap together mini lamp that was printed by the Replicator 2.  We are excited by the potential this technology has as it advances over the next decade.  We believe killer applications will be in toys and in on demand custom products like jewerly.   

Paul Markillie has written extensively on how on an industrial scale these tools will bring the manufacturing of objects back to rich countries because the unit economics of digital manufacturing rival that of analog manufacturing and labor in countries where labor costs are lower.  I recently took a tour of the Harley Davidson Factory in Kansas City and they are already using Robots and digital fabrication tools to manufacture motorcycles.  

I noticed during the tour of the factory that they are not using 3D printers in the manufacturing process but they are using a number of digital manufacturing tools that mill, bend, weld, machine, join, form, and inspect metal parts.  A few of them use a robotic arm for articulated motion and some used an X-Y-Z axis table like the Shapeoko CNC milling machine below.  The computer gives instructions for what coordinates to send the spindle and it complies.

Here's a quick video of the machine milling a circuit board.

Many of these other digital fabrication tools have come down in price and are now accessible to a wider audience.  Last year we launched the Shapeoko CNC Mill invented by Edward Ford.  The basic mechanical kit costs $225 and the full kit $600.  The machine can cut plastic, wood, and soft metals.  Below are two products  made from 3/4" bamboo manufactured on the machine.  3D Printers do additive manufacturing building their parts up layer by layer.  This mill is just the opposite.  It starts with a block of material and removes the sections that are not needed revealing the final part.

Artsist Cheese Board
Desk Accessories
We are excited to see designers use CNC milling to create products they sell.  Matt Kennedy from Portland Oregon has an incredible store on ETSY founded by Rob Kalin with former CTO Chad Dickerson now at the helm as CEO.  From our point of view Rob Kalin is a revolutionary.  His vision for ETSY now fundamentally changing our economy.  We are watching ETSY make it possible for custom manufacturers to sell their products.  They have aggregated demand for custom goods.   What started as hand made goods is gradually moving towards custom goods.  Digital manufacturing tools make it possible for designers like Matt Kennedy to create bowls and serving trays like the ones below. These products are nicer and more unique than products you would find at Target or Wal-Mart but at similar prices.  The bowl below retails for $32.  An uglier wood bowl at Target without the top retails for $29.99.

CNC Bowl

Serving Tray
We're also seeing designers use laser cutting machines as the backbone of their business.  The laser cutter below retails for $2350 or financed about $75 a month.  

 Using this machine designers are selling all sorts of unique products.  Mia DeWulf has a company called Dazzle Me Elegant where they produce custom wedding cake toppers and centerpieces like the one below.

Matt McCoy from Mini Fab in Arlington, Texas uses the laser to customize products like leather wallets.

He also creates custom laser cut and engraved iPhone covers.

We recently sold a lab full of Shapeoko CNC mills to IIT.

They are using it to teach students how to design and manufacture parts that can be cut out on a CNC Machine before turning them loose on a larger machine like the one below.

We expect this trend will continue and more universities will start training students on digital fabrication tools.  These tools will start to go from the traditional shop and into the classroom and even the dorm room.  We have already seeing this happen in industry with automotive giant Ford putting a 3D printer on every engineers desk.

Laser Engraving Leather and Metal for a Valentines Gift!

Our building neighbor, Karl, approached me with a project idea for Valentine's Day. He wanted to laser engrave a drawing he made onto a flask for his girlfriend. After some trial and error we successfully engraved his drawing onto the leather flask case.  

The first bump we ran into was not being able to open the .svg file with the Retina Engrave software. The scanned in drawing was very detailed and yielded a large file size. We saved the image as a bitmap and opened it directly into Retina Engrave. This worked great, and we were able to raster engrave successfully from there.

We were able to engrave it using a test piece on anodized aluminum . But we had no idea what kind of metal the flask was made of. Our first test on the flask was unsuccessful. The metal deflected the lasers beam. 

After some creative thinking, we covered the flask in scotch tape. We figured the tape would allow the laser to burn on the surface of of the metal and hopefully leave a mark. 

We had some success with this method, although the result was not exactly what we wanted. 
Our next plan was to engrave the leather case that Karl made. 

After some playing with the darkness of the image, we finally agreed on the best version and proceeded with the final engraving. 

This was a fun learning experience and gave me some insight on the trials and tribulations of laser engraving different materials. This is a great example of how digital fabrication machines can be used to create fabulous gifts and products!

Happy Valentine's Day!

3D printing as a tool for space travel - making a moon base?

The Huffington Post reported:
"As if planning to build a moon base weren't enough, the European Space Agency may try to do it with 3D printing.
"Printing" a building out of layers of lunar soil could be much easier and cheaper than bringing the whole structure from earth. And there's even a printer that can do the job -- a device known as the D-Shape, produced by London-based company Monolite UK. It hasn't used real lunar soil yet, but tests with similar mixtures have been successful."

Now that is pretty interesting.  I've heard this idea before but below is a "test print" with material that simulates moon rock or moon soil.  According to the Huffington Post: "This 1.5 ton building block was produced as a demonstration of 3D printing techniques using simulated lunar soil. The design is based on a hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – to give a good combination of strength and weight."

The picture below is an artists rendering.  It's a pretty interested idea to use the soil on the moon to create a building or a moon base.  The first thing I thought when I saw this picture was it might be easier to drill out a mountain instead of 3D printing a structure.  CNC Milling and drilling is underrated.  It would take a really long time to print that base but drilling into an existing hill seems like it would take less time.  I wonder what kind of internet connection they'll have up there.

Scientists 3D Printing Stem Cells?!

Scientists have rigged up what looks to be a Makerbot, to be a Stem cell 3d printer. The printer, used by A team at Heriot-Watt University, uses the files of stem cells as the "ink" and can place them precisely on the printing plate. This is the beginning on what researchers in Scotland hope can turn into a process from printing human tissues and muscles. 

more info here

It is interesting to see how different field are utilizing this technology!

Gorgeous 3D Printed Jewelry by MYBF

MYBF (my best friend) is a 3D printed line of jewelry by Orlando Fernandez Flores and his wife Lucia De Conti, owners of Italian design store, Maison 203.

 The pieces are molded after traditional cuts of diamonds, giving them a beautiful and structural form. They are available here in a variety of different filament colors. I love that we are starting to see high quality 3D Printed objects in the market place!

INTERVIEW: David Lang - Zero to Maker

Today we interviewed David Lang author of the upcoming book Zero to Maker.

Inventables: David how did you get going in all this?

David Lang: I went to Maker Faire 3 years ago.  I was inspired because the people showcasing there were so passionate and excited about their projects.  Through some makers that I met, I was introduced through Eric Stackpole.  He told me about a story of gold in an unexplored cave in Northern California as well as an underwater robot he wanted to build to find it. I knew I wanted to help, but I realized from a skills standpoint I was completely useless.

Inventables: Were you a maker professionally at this time?

DL: I was working for a startup in LA called Profounder.  We were aiming to be the Kickstarter for business.  It really enjoyed it,  but unfortunately we ran out of money and I lost my job.  It was a shock to my system and it forced me to think about what I really wanted to do. It gave me the opportunity to make some big changes.

I decided I wanted to become a DIY industrial designer.  I didn't have the time or money to go back to school.  The first thing that came to mind was Maker Faire, so I emailed TechShop to see if I could take classes and I emailed Make magazine to see if I could blog about my experience.  It took a little convincing but they all agreed.

Inventables: Wow sounds like you got rocketed into this whole thing!


I took classes every week for about 2 months and writing gave me this great opportunity to interview makers. It also helped me to frame the experience.  I was always looking for the lesson.  The fact that I had to write about it made me dive in deeper, trying all sorts of tools, and really get down to the details of how different tools worked and which one felt right.

Earlier this year I started getting more questions because of the blog and OpenROV.  I was spending a lot of time at Maker Meetups, the Hardware Startup Meetup, MakerFaire, Maker Startup Weekend, and lots of folks were asking for ideas on how they could get involved.

I got the sense that a number of people wanted to go through a similar personal change of re-skilling - trying to build a life with more meaning, and a more tactile experience.  I felt really lucky.  And everyone was really warm and welcoming when I started, so I felt a duty to pay it forward.  

Inventables: Tell us about the book.

DL: I'm approaching the book like the Lonely Planet for the Maker world.  It doesn't focus on the past, present, and future of the Maker movement (as Chris Anderson's new book, Makers, does a wonderful job doing) -  it focuses more on "OK, if you want to get started, here is where to jump in."  It's like walking through Maker Faire with me.

I was talking to Dale Dougherty and some folks at O'Reilly about doing a book but I was very straight-forward about using Kickstarter.  I believe that is how you bring this kind of product to the world.  I wouldn't want to spend my time creating anything without that community.

Inventables: It sounds like you had the community before you launched the book.

DL: It's hard to fabricate a community.  You can't skip steps to making a great community.  Making a "maker product" is as much about the the experience as it is the product.  So many people try to manufacture the community after the product and it doesn't work.  This new community based model is exciting.  I was trying to explain to my parents that we don't really have customers that these people are not just consuming our product but with Kickstarter they are also our investors, with the help forums they are our customer service, and since we share values they are our friends.  Ultimately it's more rewarding, it takes longer, but I hope it is more durable.


In my experience, the most successful makers aren't always the most talented engineers, they are the best at sharing.  Making is 50% building and 50% sharing.  Prototype, share, repeat, prototype, share, repeat.  Speeding up that feedback loop.

Inventables: So how did it the community start?

DL: I started interacting with the community on the Make Blog, continued by meeting people in person and getting getting involved people that you met in person, I probably had about 100 true believers.  

Inventables: When you launched the Kickstarter how did your community respond?

DL: I launched the Kickstarter and got about 150 people to back the book on the first day.  I believe that happened because I spent a lot of time talking to them before hand.  They're friends.  It was a community that I developed that believed what I believed.  There isn't a way to short circuit that.  My goal was $2500 and I set that because it was the monetary equivalent of 100 True Believers.  My wildest dream was to get to 1000 backers - I thought that would be so cool.  I was going to write it for 100 people, and now were closing in on 2000!  I'm really excited about it.  I think it's gonna be a fun year.  It feels really warm.  The barriers to making are less about technical hurdles and more about finding a group of people that want to go through the process with you. I'm excited to see what we can create together.