Maker Lab at the Chicago Public Library pre-viewing for the American Library Association with Inventables

Today 22,000 librarians came to Chicago for the ALA (American Library Association) annual conference.  One of the hot topics at this years ALA is 3D printing and maker spaces.  Inventables has been working with the folks at the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library since January 2013 on their new Maker Lab and today we did a preview event for librarians.  This will be the first truly free lab that is open to the public.  Starting July 8th the hours will be:

Monday through Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

This lab is intended to be a showcase to the world on what the future of libraries could be.  Yesterday I met Tim Carrigan of the Institute of Museums and Library Services or as they say in the industry IMLS.  Tim told me their vision is for libraries to be a place of learning not just a place to store books.  It's a fundamental shift compared to what most people think of the library system.  Things are changing and the need for big buildings to house expensive books is no longer as important as it was when the modern library system started in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This project was a HUGE achievement for Chicago but it didn't happen overnight.

Part of the team doing tours in the lab

The lab was funded by a grant from the IMLS.  The mission of IMLS is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. They provide leadership through research, policy development, and grant making.

This particular grant was spearheaded by Yolande Wilburn from CPL.  I first met Yolande at the Evanston Mini Maker Faire put on by Steve Finkelman known for his laser diode systems. Here's a quick video of Yolande talking about innovation at the library.

I'll admit that when I first talked to Yolande about her idea of putting a MakerLab in the library I was skeptical.  When I was growing up I was always told to be quiet in the library.  Digital Manufacturing equipment gets loud whether it's the movement from the 3D printers, the spindle on a CNC mill, or the air filter on a laser.  Also these tools require materials, space to spread out, and lots of conversation and show and tell.  I didn't think that the library was going to be a good home.  I imagined all the librarians rushing around to the machines telling people to be quiet.

Yolande had a different vision.

At the Evanston Maker Faire she started connecting into the community.  She saw the Shapeoko CNC Mill, the Epilog Laser Cutters, was introduced to Tim Saylor of a local hacker space called Pumping Station: One  Dan Meyer and the crew over at the Museum of Science and Industry Fab Lab.

As Yolande started putting together the plan for the Maker Lab one of the conditions of the grant was that no machine could cost more than $5000.  This constraint made the machines available at Inventables a good fit for their needs.  At ORD Camp 2013 Andrea Saenz First Deputy commissioner of the Library participated in a discussion with leaders from the Chicago Children's Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, local Hackerspaces, Educators, technologists, and parents.  The discussion was framed by the question, "How can we make the library a desirable destination?"  Folks piped in with comments like:
    1. The library should be a community animator, not gatekeepers.
    2. Having lighting that doesn't feel like a hospital or sterile institutional building might draw people in.
   3. What if there was whiteboard paint on the walls
   4. Who in the community is already doing this?  Can we draw them in?
   5. The library is a starting point you go to launch, it's about the creation of knowledge

That discussion brought lots of energy and ideas to the project and they found a room on the 3rd floor to launch the MakerLab.  The Library ended up ordering 6 machines from Inventables and a huge stack of material.  If you walk in on July 8th when it opens here's the equipment you'll find:

A Shapeoko CNC milling machine.  The $599 Shapeoko is an open source machine making upgrades possible.  The machine in the Maker Lab was upgraded to include the dual drive upgrade, an acrylic cover, hold down table that can hold a 12"x12"piece of material, and a built in dust collector.  This made the machine surprisingly quiet.  We will be doing a more detailed post on this particular build.

Laser Cutter
They have 2 Full Spectrum Laser desktop laser cutters that have a 20"x12" cuttable area and cost $3899.  Each of these machines are plugged into an air filter that costs $2592.04 to prevent toxic fumes from circulating in the lab.  The bed on these machines can hold a 12x24 piece of material making our entire acrylic selection available for use.

In between the laser and the Shapeoko they have 3 Makerbot Replicator 2's. These retail for $2199 a piece.

They also got two Cameo vinyl cutters.  These are only $225 at Amazon.

Inventables installed a material library that includes samples from our acrylic, wood, cork, metal, and 3D printer filament categories.  This makes it easy for people in the lab to touch and feel what different materials are like during the brainstorming and exploration phase of a project.  There is some information that you can't get from our website like what "matte" feels like or how the white acrylic looks next to the bamboo plywood.  We hope this kind of accessibility gives folks a better understanding of which materials will work for their project.

So far this lab has been a tremendous success.  The Chicago Public Library has been a great partner to work with.  We hope that it will draw in many different groups from within the city of Chicago including but not limited to people involved in the Industrial Design Society of America, Pumping Station: One, South Side Hackers, 1871, TechStars Chicago, Impact Engine, Built In Chicago, ORD Camp, Citizen Schools, SEE, FIRST Robotics, IIT Idea Shop, SAIC, Polsky Center, JARCCMRC and more.

This Maker Lab is a game changer for Chicago.  It's incredible to see how much the community has developed over the last 10 years and how it is the center of gravity for hardware startups, makers, and the manufacturing industry.

The lab is going to be covered on Channel 7 ABC news at 11am on July 1st.  In addition we're excited to see how the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business and the Sun Times view this important part of the city's transformation into a digital hub.

3D printer filament

If you are looking for 3D printer filament Inventables is now the best source on the internet.  We have 24 colors available in ABS and PLA.  They are all in stock in our warehouse in Chicago.  For orders placed in Chicago we are now offering same day delivery.  That means during business hours if you place your order you'll get it a few ours later.  For all other locations we will ship it the same day you place your order via UPS or USPS depending on if you are in the USA or another country.  Below are the colors we have available:

Below is a picture of all the filament in our distribution center.

Inventables Raises $3 Million To Continue Expansion of Digital Manufacturing Offering

June 17, 2013, Chicago IL - Inventables, Inc., the leading source for 3d printers for digital manufacturing, today announced a $3 million round of financing bringing total investment in the company to $5M.  This round was led by long-time venture investor Tim Draper through Draper Associates. In addition, Dundee Venture Capital, Richard Yoo, Founder of Rackspace Managed Hosting, Georges Harik, co-developer of the targeting technology behind Google AdSense and existing investor, True Ventures participated in the round.

According to founder and CEO Zach Kaplan, the funding will be used to expand Inventables’ offerings in digital manufacturing, which includes 3D printing, CNC Milling, and the related software tools, material and components needed to design and build beautiful products.  Inventables provides the software, hardware, and materials for makers, designers, and manufacturers to create prototypes and low volume production runs.  Customers create products digitally on a computer and download them into a digital manufacturing machine where they are made. Inventables’ digital manufacturing machines start at $599, which makes it possible for a new generation of individuals and companies to manufacture and sell their own products without needing to outsource production.

Inventables is taking 3-D printing to a whole new level, by allowing easy access to the materials needed for low volume manufacturing,” said Draper. “Zach and his team are helping companies and individuals take their designs and make them reality. I expect anything from busts of Steve Jobs to iphone covers, to prototypes of parts that will be injection molded to be made through 3-D printing. Inventables will be the material supplier.”

Inventables will use part of this investment to expand to a new 25,000 square foot facility in Chicago, where product development, engineering, and distribution will be co-located.

"I am pleased to see that Inventables continues to have success and grow in the critical field of digital manufacturing, and that their growth continues in the city of Chicago," said Mayor Emanuel.“ Jobs in this space have widespread positive impact on our overall economy and attract talented young people and additional investment to the city.  I am focused on helping Chicago grow as a technology hub and exciting innovative companies like Inventables are essential to that mission."

The funding will help continue Inventables success in Digital Manufacturing.  In 2012, Inventables launched Shapeoko, a wildly popular CNC Milling machine which is a critical tool in the advancement of the third industrial revolution. As manufacturing continues to go digital, desktop manufacturing is changing the way products are designed, prototyped and made.

"Inventables is a platform for a new generation of designers, makers, and entrepreneurs to bring their products from idea to reality," said Zach Kaplan founder and CEO of Inventables, "We are changing the world by making it realistic to make your own perfect job that you love and look forward to doing every day."   

About Inventables
Founded in 2002, Inventables is The Hardware Store for Designers, stocking over 10,000 machines and materials for digital manufacturing.  We believe great service is important so 99 percent of orders ship same day.  At Inventables we believe the world is at the beginning of a new renaissance. We see power in product development shifting from major corporations to individual designers and entrepreneurs. The availability of low cost manufacturing tools and low cost distribution on internet sites are leveling the playing field. Our customer service team helps every customer personally with their questions, and 99 percent of customers get a same day response. Visit www.inventables.com to learn more about Inventables and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U5uzqu1Qvs to learn more about the revolution.


Melinda Hart

MakerCase free app for making custom project cases

My name is Jon Hollander and I’m a guest blogger for Inventables.  I’ve written a free web tool for designing custom project cases – MakerCase.com.

About a year ago, I built a simple electronics project as a gift.  Because it was a gift, I wanted to make a nice enclosure for it instead of handing over a board with a mess of spaghetti wiring.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any simple applications for designing custom cases, and it took me hours of tedious 3D modeling and 2D editing to make a suitable design.  Based on that experience, I decided to create a case design application to make it easier for others to create their own custom project cases.

The goal of MakerCase is simplicity.  Users only need to input the size of the case, the case material thickness, and a few other specifications, and the application automatically generates a 3D model of the case. 

Different types of complicated edge joints, such as finger joint edges and t-slot edges (for connecting panels with nuts and bolts), can be added with a single button.

The user can also add holes and engraved text labels to any side of the box.

When the case design is complete, the application flattens the three-dimensional model into blueprint and generates an SVG file that can be sent directly to a laser cutter or CNC router.

MakerCase also includes some optional advanced features to make cutting easier, such as compensating for the thickness of the laser beam to make snap-fit panels.

Since releasing the app a month ago, I’ve been surprised by the variety of creative uses that people have come up with.  Here’s an example of a simple custom case for a clock.

Here is a design created for a 3D printer enclosure, measuring 14" x 14" x 14".  

And here is a design created for a homemade guitar effects pedal.

MakerCase is free to use, so give it a try for your next project.  I’m going to be adding a project gallery, so if you make a cool case, send me a picture and I’ll add it to the site.  You can also share your projects and get updates through @MakerCase on Twitter.

SEE Chicago Launches a Kickstarter

Last year Ted Ganchiff came over to Inventables to take a tour and introduce me to SEE a program to give kids experience starting a company in 2nd grade.  SEE stands for The Science and Entrepreneurship Exchange.  With a focus on experiential learning in entrepreneurship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), SEE’s approach incorporates unique real-world startup and engineering projects into existing curriculum in grades 1 - 8, engaging students with expert mentors and collaborators from universities (Northwestern University is a founding partner) and business at key inflection points. By starting their own businesses, and designing, manufacturing and selling real products, students will get an immersive and sustained education in the power and promise of entrepreneurship and engineering, and reinforcement for their math and science education.

This year they worked closely with Beyond Design on a program called dig-8.  The idea was to solve a problem through design research, brainstorming, and, ultimately, coming up with a big idea that incorporates design, manufacturing considerations, and marketing plans (and, later, getting to manufacture and sell one selected design) is unheard of for the majority of 8th grade students. Add the fact that they pitch their ideas and plans to real entrepreneurs, educators, and business owners and it’s something very few students have the opportunity to do in K-12 schools today.  

At the beginning of each session of dig-8, they review the vocabulary from the previous session and introduce any new vocabulary that the students should know. The session this week was about brainstorming. Mentors from Beyond Design introduced the brainstorming process, the rules for brainstorming, and demonstrated how to map out their ideas on index cards and point out key features.
After splitting into their respective teams, the students presented their desk research from the homework lesson and the products they selected as potential competition. These products were used in the brainstorming session as inspiration, as well as additional stimulus material prepared by our team at Beyond Design.

Today they launched their product on Kickstarter and in the first few hours raised over $1500!