Shapeoko 2 at Pumping Station: One's CNC Build Club

Last Thursday we took the Shapeoko 2 out to Chicago hackerspace Pumping Station: One for their CNC Build Club weekly meeting.

This particular group is a well-accomplished bunch, having previously built a working delta 3D printer in a single evening. It was up and chugging along on a print when I arrived:

The club is a good mix of experienced folks who've built their own machines and like to share designs and experiment, and beginners looking to learn more about CNC in general. Plus drop-ins from PS1 members who were curious.

We demonstrated two jobs- the first was a "Hello Shapeoko 2" design we worked out to quickly show the machine working. The second was an experimental attempt to mill a piece of Corian. Both worked! You have to run the Corian a lot slower so it took a little while, but the end result was quite nice.

We're working on planning some visits to other Makerspaces in the near future. If you'd like us to come by and demo Shapeoko 2 at your space, drop us a line!

Shapeoko 2 Now Available For Pre-order!

We're excited to announce the release of Shapeoko 2! For those just hearing about it, Shapeoko 2 is a low-cost desktop milling kit that lets you carve woods, plastics, and soft metals with precision.

Five years ago, Edward Ford had a notion to design an open-source CNC kit that anyone could build. He worked on his designs in his garage and eventually got something together that he felt worthy of sharing with the world. In June 2011 Edward launched a Kickstarter campaign with a modest goal of $1500 to fund the production of about 10 kits, and the response was overwhelming. Edward partnered with Inventables to help fulfill orders and over a thousand kits were sold, making Shapeoko the world's fastest selling CNC machine ever.

Since the first Shapeoko release, Edward and the open-source community have been experimenting and improving every aspect of the design. Those upgrades have all been rolled into this new version and it's the best one yet- bigger, stronger, and easier to assemble.  The design is still open source and available on Github.

Here's a video of Edward giving an overview of the changes to the design:

We're offering two versions of the kit:
  • A $299 barebones Mechanical kit for those who want to experiment with adding their own motors and electronics, or to take Shapeoko from a milling kit to something else entirely. Users on the Shapeoko forum have used the basic design to build 3D printers and Pick and Place machines for circuit assembly, amongst other things.
  • The $649 (110VAC) full kit with motors, wiring, electronics, and the tool kit necessary to get a working machine up and running out of the box. 
  • The $685 (220VAC) full kit with motors, wiring, electronics, and the tool kit necessary to get a working machine up and running out of the box.

The upgrades to the design for version 2 include:

  • Working area is expanded to about 12" by 12" by 2.5"
  • Open front and back for loading in longer pieces of material
  • Easily expandable in both the X and Y dimensions
  • Dual-drive motors on the Y axis, standard
  • Double width Makerslide on the Y axis for added stiffness and strength
  • Completely redesigned Z axis for added stiffness and easier tool changes
  • The wasteboard is now integrated with the machine
  • Re-engineered belt system keeps teeth cleaner and reduces skipping
  • Easier to assemble- put it together over a weekend or a couple of nights

If the release of Shapeoko version 1 was any indication, we expect to see a whole host of amazing projects, new business ventures, and wild experiments result from this new machine. We expect to see the community do all sorts of unexpected things- never before has such a powerful tool been so inexpensive and easy to assemble and operate.

This is the contents of the mechanical kit.

The following items are included in the full kit only.  There are links to the product pages if we have them in the store.  We plan on getting the rest of the items into the store soon.

NEMA 23 Upgrade Parts

The ShapeOko 2 is compatible with NEMA 23 motors, with a few modifications to the basic assembly.  The machine runs fine with NEMA 17 motors, but if you decide to modify the basic design to longer extrusions or a larger more powerful spindle you may want to use NEMA 23 motors for the X and Y axes.  They will give you the power and speeds appropriate for a larger machine.  Below is the list of items required to do this.
The larger motors need to be mounted on the 1/4" spacers to clear the bolt heads for the idler pulleys.  You also have to avoid the bolts used to mount the X axis MakerSlide.  This is done by moving the motor to the lower end of the slots or by notching the MakerSlide.

220V Versions

The 220V version ships with a 220V version of the spindle.  This is a difficult item for us to get in the US, so we will only ship one connector type with the 220V orders.  The end user is responsible for selecting an appropriate adapter, if required, for their outlet type.  Currently the connector type is a Schuko CEE 7/17 type with an adapter to BS1363 Type, but this may change.  The power supply is a universal voltage power supply from 100-240V and has a standard IEC-320 C14 connector on it.  No cord is provided.

Can the kits be altered?

We get this question a lot.  We have had dozens of different options suggested.  Unfortunately the answer is "no" at this time.  The kits are being put together by a local kitting company.  They carefully kit, wrap and box them for us.  The cost of un-boxing, re-kitting and potentially finding a new box size outweighs the cost of any of the parts we would remove.  We would have to pass that cost along somehow, so it would be cheaper for the customer to take the kit as is and buy the extra components.

Is This Open Source?

Yes, this is an open source design by Edward Ford.  We have a great relationship with Edward and we pay a voluntary royalty to him for each unit we sell.  The CAD files for the Shapeoko 2 are posted on GitHub.

Easy Papercraft with the Silhouette Cameo

When the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine arrived a while back, some of us hard core DIY CNC people at Inventables gave it a wary glance.  Within a few days we all quickly fell in love with it.  It is so versatile, so easy to use and it just plain works.  The projects are quick, fun and look great.

One of the features I quickly latched onto was the recognition marks feature.  If you have a full color image, the software can add registration marks and send it to your color printer.  The Cameo can then see those registration marks and accurately align cuts on that print.

I immediately thought of papercraft.  Papercraft is making 3D objects out of paper.  Typically you print the image on your printer, cut it out and then fold it into the final object.  Some of them have very complex shapes to cut out.  This can take a lot of time and cutting skill.  It is beyond many children who are otherwise very fond of papercraft. The Cameo can do a lot of the work for you.  If you load images and vectors into the software, it can send the images to your printer and send the vectors to the Cameo for cutting.

The Process

Get The Image

My favorite repository of papercraft things is Cubeecraft.  I browsed through the site and found a fun little Yoda.  Unfortunately, most of these are only available in raster image format.  That is perfect for printing and manually cutting, but not so good for automated cutting.  With that said, all you need to do is import it into a drawing program and draw a vector shape around the perimeter.  It would be a little work, but probably less work than actually cutting the item by hand. Fortunately, like all digital fabrication methods, once the initial work is done, multiple copies are easy.

Adding the Vectors

I decided to use CorelDRAW, but Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape (free) would work just as well.

I started a new document and set it up for the paper size I was going to use.  I set it up as a standard letter size (8.5" x 11") in portrait mode.

I created two layers using the Object Manager. One was for the image and one was for the vectors. This allowed me to quickly turn the visibility of either on and off which can be helpful. I was going to be exporting the image and the vectors separately, so the layers can make that easier.

I imported the image onto the layer I setup for the image. The registration marks need a little room, so I scaled the image down to where there was about 3/4" of free space around the edge of the paper.

The shapes are very square and symmetrical so I dragged in a bunch of guidelines onto all the horizontal and vertical features.

I turned on the "snap to guidelines" feature and drew a shape on top of the image using Bezier lines to match its shape.  When the image was complete I gave it a contrasting fill color to make it easy to see.

Often things like arms are symmetrical, so you can copy and mirror an item to make the other side.

When the shape is done I deleted the guidelines. I did it in Object Manager because it allows you to group select them easily in one click. I took about 10 minutes to outline all the objects.

I then drew the lines for the internal cut lines.  These are the lines that tabs and other feature slide into.  I also had to add one for the chin, because that pops out and does not fold with the rest of the face.

The Cameo software does not have a format for importing both bitmaps and vectors in the basic version. The Designer Edition can import SVG, which may allow that.  I selected the raster image first and exported it as JPG format and used all of the default values of the export options.  I exported the vectors in DXF format and used all of those default export options as well.

Silhouette Studio Software

I started a new project with standard letter size paper (8.5" x 11"). I then turned on the registration marks to see where they would be on the paper.

I imported (merge) the image.  Next, I imported the DXF file.  It came in at a slightly different scale and location so I need to resize and move one of them until it matched.  It was pretty easy.  I used the corner resizing handles because they don't affect the aspect ratio.

I now printed from Silhouette Studio to my color printer on white 80lb card stock.  It printed my graphics as well as the software's registration marks.

The last step was to cut it on the Cameo.  I stuck it to the backer sheet and loaded it into the machine.  With registration marks enabled in the software, it knew to look for them after loading the sheet.


Everything worked great and now I can knock out copies in minutes.


  • Don't go crazy trying to be perfect with the vectors. It is going to cut way better than you could do manually anyway.
  • I found it easier to make the internal lines just a little longer than the image had. It makes inserting the tabs easier.
  • Draw a large rectangle behind everything and export with both vector and raster formats. It makes it much faster to re-size the two imports to the same size.
  • Draw on the back side over the fold lines with a ball point pen and ruler. This makes your folds easier and straighter.

Manufacturing for a Small Planet

The third industrial revolution is in full swing. And as the CEO of Inventables, I have a front row seat.
The first industrial revolution is easiest to understand by thinking of Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. It was all about economic growth driven by transforming human labor to machine labor.
The second industrial revolution is easiest to understand by thinking of Henry Ford and the assembly line. Henry pithily summed this up when he told customers they could choose any color for the Model T – as long as it was black. The assembly line made it efficient to get a single product out to the masses.
The third industrial revolution– characterized by the digitization of work and manufacturing – is about the conversion from analog tools to digital tools. The computer has been critical in this transformation, and after decades of work, we now have low-cost digital manufacturing tools that plug into the computer. Digital manufacturing tools take files designed on a computer and render them in physical form either by cutting them out with a laser cutter, vinyl cutter or mill, or growing them layer by layer as is the case with a 3D printer.
During the second industrial revolution, it often took years to get from an idea to a finished product. Today, moving from idea to finished product can take mere hours. Digital manufacturing tools don’t have expensive set-up costs, the tool works by taking data from the computer to produce the part. This means the same machines can produce two completely different parts one after another. At Inventables we believe this – coupled with the fact that digital manufacturing tools that can make consumer products start at $650 – are igniting this revolution.
Long Tail Manufacturing
We also believe this movement will be the primary driver of growth in our economy over the next decade. We see this happening because these digital tools give rise to a set of goods and services that were not economically viable before. We consider these new markets to be long-tail manufacturing. Chris Anderson, former editor of WIRED magazine, popularized the concept of the “long tail” in the context of the music industry and TV businesses. The concept refers the graph of the sales of the products in these categories, which looks like a long tail. The days of “big hits” are over and the magnitude of the hits we have are much smaller. We came from a world where there were three major TV networks. The hit TV show “I Love Lucy,” drew 44 million viewers in the episode where Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky. Today we have hundreds of TV stations and millions of videos on YouTube. There is no “one” show or song that captures the attention of the majority of consumers at any given time. The Internet and low-cost availability of computers, mobile phones and tablet computers have made it possible for content creators to make niche content that reaches very small but passionate audiences.
This same phenomenon is starting to happen with physical goods. We’re moving from a world where there were approximately 2,000 important manufacturers for consumer goods to a world where there will be 2,000,000. But these manufacturers look different. They don’t have massive factories and long assembly lines. They don’t make the same product for a year, lay off workers for retooling, and then make a new product. These new manufacturers use digital manufacturing tools and often make different products for different customers in the same day. Many of them start from their houses or garages and eventually expand into a proper office or lab-style environment.

Three Steps Toward Success
Thinking of becoming a small manufacturer? Here are three things to keep in mind to be successful:
1. This is not your father’s manufacturing. The second industrial revolution was about hits. It was about the assembly line. It was about making one product for the masses – the beige effect. The third industrial revolution is about long-tail manufacturing. The idea is applicable to digital manufacturing as well because there are no set-up costs and complexity comes free. Successful digital manufacturers focus on serving niches.
2. Build a community first. If you’re building your product before your community, you’re doing it all wrong. Small niches are about cultivating raving fans. If you don’t have confidence that the products on your website will appeal to your fans, then you don’t have a community. Think of yourself as a rock band, not as a factory.
3. Cash flow immediately. The successful stories I hear from digital manufacturers often start when they have another job. These people become creative with how they access digital manufacturing machines. Sometimes they are able to do work on a machine at their employer during off hours or downtime. Sometimes they go to a local lab, like the GE GarageHarold Washington LibraryMakerHausTechShop or AS220. When that is not possible, they send out their designs to another local laser cutter so they can pick up the parts without having to pay shipping. Or they finance a low-cost machine for under $100 a month. Digital manufacturing businesses should be profitable from day one.
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 cheap distribution on Internet sites continue to level the playing field. Small teams can now make one-of-a-kind high-value products that major corporations can’t justify making because they aren’t for the masses.
In an increasingly expanding and globalized world, manufacturing is “getting small” and becoming nimble owing to this new wave of digital makers. Long-tail manufacturing with a focus on fans instead of form and function – it’s a tale of success and innovation and it’s only just begun.
Zach Kaplan is the CEO of Inventables, an online hardware store for designers.  This article was first published at Ideas LabIdeas Lab is a partnership between GE and Atlantic Media Strategies, a division of Atlantic Media. Atlantic Media Strategies helps clients build their own media brands and captivate their most influential audiences.