A visit to Lane Tech High School's Innovation & Creation Lab

A little while back we helped high school Computer Science teach Jeff Solin spec out a maker lab for his school. Many months and lots of sweat later, the Innovation and Creation Lab is up and running and Jeff's students are making a lot of awesome projects.

Here's a vent cover one of the students designed with Jeff's face on it.

The first part of this year's curriculum focused on the laser cutters, with students starting out making cubic boxes and moving to freeform projects from there:

DIY Gift box roundup!

We all would love to make every holiday gift from scratch, especially for family and loved ones. But there isn't always time, you may not have the right tools or materials or skills, and then all of a sudden there's two weeks left and what to do?

If you have a 3D Carving machine on hand, there's an easy way to put a personal touch on a thoughtful gift: make a wooden gift box!

Turns out it's pretty easy to do and there's a couple of different ways to go about it. Here are 3 strategies, with examples:

Snowflake Generator

We used to love making paper snowflakes, folding a piece of paper into quarters and snipping little pieces out, then unfolding it into a radially repeating geometric shape.

Then, our software engineer Paul Kaplan showed us this and we all put down our scissors and started using it instead.

It's an online snowflake generator!

Holiday ornament projects to make at home

In giddy anticipation of the impending holiday season, our own designer Alex Berger created a handful of fun projects to share. These simple ornaments can be cut on a Shapeoko or a laser cutter, which means you're free to use all kids of materials- natural woods for a more traditional, rustic look, or even glitter acrylics to add a twinkle to your home.

Take a look through our materials section for inspiration: https://www.inventables.com/

Weekend project inspiration

The weekend is finally here so it is time to get making! Here are a few awesome projects from the last couple weeks that you can open and mill directly from Easel. Have something awesome to show off? Post it as a project and we'll feature it! 

Bonus Rewards for the Carvey Kickstarter

The speed we reached our goal was incredible and your energy was electric. We can’t thank you enough.
Thanks to your ongoing support and for helping us make this happen, we want to give each Carvey backer a bit extra. You've been so incredibly supportive so far in the campaign. We want everyone that gets a Carvey from our Kickstarter to have an amazing experience.

Getting started Kit! 

Today we are adding a few new things to the Early Bird Carvey and Carvey levels. There are a lot of backers that are new to 3D Carving and this will be their first time carving. We want to make sure that your first experience is magical.
To that end, we will be adding a piece of Expanded PVC foam material into the box, so you’ll be able to make something as soon as you open the machine. The incredible thing about Carvey is its versatility. The milling bits it uses are like lenses in a professional camera: new bits expand your creative abilities. We started you with a ⅛” 2 flute spiral end mill (grey) ideal for carving plastic or materials like the expanded PVC. Today we’ve added a second ⅛” 2 flute straight (black) end mill for cutting wood and a 1/16” fish tail bit (blue) for doing detail work!  Our bit system is color coded and integrated with the Easel software making selection easier.

50% More Material 

Thanks to everyone that backed at a level that received the Ultimate Maker pack. We have some good news for you too.
First off, we’re going to give you all the bonuses mentioned above.
In addition to the 3 starter projects and 20 materials included today, we are adding 10 more materials. With these materials in hand you’ll be able to carve all sorts of cool things like jewelry, signs, coasters, and christmas ornaments - we can’t wait to see what you create. Below is a full list of everything you’ll get in the pack. The 10 new materials are highlighted in green.

As always thank you for your support, and we hope this goes some way in showing how grateful we are that you’ve made Carvey a reality.
Remember you can also keep in touch on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Carvey carves aluminum!

We are really excited that there has been a ton of interest in carving soft metals with Carvey. We're going to do a series of videos demonstrating how Carvey performs with a number of different soft metals. For the demo today we grabbed a 6" x 6" x .025" piece of black anodized aluminum from the Inventables warehouse. The project took about 35 minutes. Easel told Carvey to step down 0.001" per pass and to move at 15 in/min. Stay tuned next week for demonstrations on thicker metals and circuit boards!

Pumpkin Carving with Easel and Shapeoko

Shapeoko 2 owner Winston Moy made an awesome video of how to use your Shapeoko to carve a pumpkin using Easel, our web-based CAD + CAM + machine control software. 

The key is to remove the wasteboard and prop the Shapeoko up on stilts, giving you enough clearance to carve into the pumpkin. I think the most clever part is using a big coffee can to hold the spherical-ish pumpkin. Standard clamps don't work so well on pumpkins, as you might expect. And major props for giving a great introduction to using Easel!

Check out Winston's YouTube channel for a bunch of other awesome CNC projects. Also check out our projects section for more Shapeoko project ideas that you can open directly in Easel.

Keep it spooky.

Carvey: The 3D carving machine for the maker in all of us

On Tuesday October 21st at 8am CST Inventables launched a Kickstarter campaign for Carvey a new, remarkably easy to use, tabletop 3D carving machine for making ideas into real objects. I'm proud to say we hit our goal in 1 hour and 26 minutes!

The response for the community has been beyond belief.  Thank you so much for all of the support for the Carvey project.  We are so grateful.  There have been some technical questions in the comments section about how precise Carvey is.  We want to be as responsive as possible to the questions.  In this video Chief Engineer Bart Dring uses a dial indicator that has 0.0005" accuracy. The dial indicator was bolted to the waste board on Carvey. He measures the X, Y, and Z axis to determine the precision and repeatability of the machine.  
In the technical specifications we promised:
  • Run out .0006"
  • Resolution .001"
Our measurements on the actual machine are:
  • Run out .0004"
  • Repeatability on X: 0.0005"
  • Repeatability on Y: 0.0005"
  • Repeatability on Z: 0.0005"
*In the original post we stated repeatability on X and Y were 0.  The use of significant digits was wrong.  If you measure something with a wooden ruler and it is an inch wide you say 1 inch.  If you measure with a caliper you might say 1.000 inch. Saying "0' implies it could be rounded by as much as 0.500" 
While the eye can see the pointer only moved about a 1/5th of a tick on the scale, that does not mean the tool is that accurate.

The accuracy number I always give is 0.001 to 0.003.  We do not guarantee all units will leave the factory at 0.001 on all axes.  

There are also some questions about how well Carvey cuts soft metals like Aluminum.  In our next update, we're going to film a series of videos to show this process so stay tuned!  Thanks again for all your support and keep your questions coming!

    It's getting spoooky in the workshop- this ABS filament might be haunted!

    Everyone likes to make stuff, but Halloween brings about a particular type of DIY craftsmanship that we love in the Inventables office. So we decided to make a compendium of everything in our store that has Halloween written all over it, and we dug through the project archives to bring you some gems from our customers and staff that might give you the heebie-jeebies (in a good way).

    Firstly, click this link to see the cornucopia of "halloweenable" materials in our store. Things that glow in the dark, light up, things to easily mold, and all sorts of materials in autumn colors, it's a lot. Here's a brief sampling:

    And to get your gears turning, here's a few of our favorite customer projects:

    Jeff is one of the software engineers behind Easel, and he is easily frightened by poorly aligned text. He was very brave to have finished this project. 

    Gold Bones by Justine Mendoza

    A good number of our customers run Etsy shops and the like, making and selling their original designs using materials from Inventables. Justine Mendoza is one such entrepreneur, and her designs lend themselves well to the season.

    Kelly Eident is another of our Etsy seller customers and she does amazing things with acrylic. This inlay technique is well done.

    Wonder Woman ring by Herbert Hoover

    Herbert had a "ring a day" project going for a little while that used a lot of different Inventables materials. This one is a perfect piece of costume jewelry for cosplaying everyone's favorite radical feminist.

    Grinning Skull 3D Ring by Sasha Neri

    Sasha is one of the facilitators at the Chicago Public Library's awesome maker lab. Download this design and make it on your own 3D printer, or head over to the library and make it there!

    Marc's design here suggests a lot of possibilities, but is constructed in a simple way by layering a colored transparent acrylic beneath a cut painted wood. If you want to make something similar, try a box generator like MakerCase to get started and then use a Shapeoko or laser to cut it out.

    Are you working on a Halloween project? Take photos and send them to us to be featured in the next round-up!

    Zach Kaplan's talk at MakerCon NYC

    Our founder and CEO Zach Kaplan gave a talk recently at NYC MakerCon wherein he outlines the evolution of desktop fabrication and gives some idea of where this whole thing is going. The talk was recorded by the fine folks at Make Magazine, it's short and to the point and definitely worth checking out.

    Fishtail end mills!

    Fishtail end mills are our new favorite bit! They're awesome for getting clean edges on thin material and for making pockets with flat bottoms. We now use them more often than any other kind of bit.

    We recently published a project using them here. We chose a fishtail end mill for this project to ensure a clean edge on the acrylic numbers.

    They would also be the perfect bit to use in the Drunken Woodworker's inlay project that we shared last week.

    We also just released an End Mill Starter Set that includes fishtail bits, as well as a few others to cover just about any situation. Convenient!

    Easel is now available to everyone

    Today we are extremely happy to announce that Easel is available to everyone. 

    Easel is a web app for 3D carving with the Shapeoko. You design in 2D while simultaneously viewing a 3D preview of your design cut into the material of your choice with real-world machine considerations like bit size. You'll see instantly what parts of your design can be cut with your size of bit. Import an existing design or use our simple and intuitive design tools to make something new. Then just connect to your Shapeoko and hit "Carve". 

    Stamp project
    Sign project
    Before getting into the why behind Easel, you should try it out for yourself. Go to app.easel.com and try it out. We've also created a section of Easel projects you can get started with right away. This stamp project and sign project are both fun and easy introductions.

    Why would a hardware store make software?

    To us and to our customers, Inventables is much more than a hardware store. Our core objective is to feed the revolution of small-scale design, fabrication and manufacturing. 

    Our first step towards that goal was sourcing beautiful, high quality, hard-to-find raw materials in workable sizes. 

    Next, together with Edward Ford, we took on the distribution of the Shapeoko CNC milling machine. The Shapeoko was revolutionary in its low cost and barrier to entry. With $650 you could have a CNC that carved wood, metal, acrylic and other materials. 

    It was a natural extension from there to attack the software side of digital fabrication. We wanted to put Shapeokos where they could never have gone with the existing software pipeline. We wanted to put them in schools, libraries, artists studios, design shops. We needed software that would get people excited about using a mill. We needed software designed to help you succeed. So we made Easel.

    I am most proud of Easel's accessibility. At the San Mateo Maker Faire, we had people who had never seen a CNC before using Easel to carve things in under 5 minutes. We had children as young as 7 making things on our Shapeokos (remember your safety glasses!). We were blown away by the ideas people had about how the Shapeoko could work for their business and hobby in ways we had never thought of before: things like making carbon fiber frames for drones to making custom frames for a bee keeping operation.

    Our core belief is that given the right tools, everyone can and should make their mark. Easel is the next step for Inventables towards that goal, but it won't be our last.

    We look forward to your feedback and suggestions as we continue to make Easel easier and awesomer!

    -Paul Kaplan, software engineer and lead Easel developer.

    How to use a 3D Carving machine to propose to your girlfriend

    The internet was abuzz last week when one of our customers shared his labor of love with Reddit. Inventables customer Joe Ternus decided to propose to his girlfriend in the most elaborate way possible, starting with chopping down a tree. He then created a box, an opening iris gear mechanism, and a key to open it all and reveal the ring using his 3D carving machine.

    She said yes, of course.

    Making wood inlays using Easel + Shapeoko

    Video blogger David Picciuto, aka The Drunken Woodworker, just published an awesome video detailing how to go from design to a finished beautiful wood inlay piece using Easel and a stock Shapeoko. Check it out!

    Inventory Count Day at Inventables

    We're improving the way we do inventory at Inventables!  Today we shut down shipping operations temporarily while we do a full physical inventory! Our team is hard at work counting every last item in our warehouse.

    What's the point??  We are working to improve our inventory system so we can keep the things you need in stock. Step one is to make sure our physical inventory matches the count on our website. Here is a glimpse inside of this detailed process.

    Each product gets one of these little pink labels.

    Wyatt, our Fulfillment Manager, counting his way through our large selection of wood.

    The quantity of each product is recorded...

    ...not once, but twice! A second person follows behind and counts again to double check the first count.  When they are done a completed pink label like this is added to the shelf.

    Each completed pink label brings us one step closer to keeping your items in stock.
    As you can see, we are already making great progress! As soon as we are done, shipping will resume.

    Autodesk's Fusion 360 now supports Shapeoko!

    Autodesk's deep catalog of CAD and CAM software is well known for being easy to use and highly powerful for creating pretty much everything. A new feature you may not be aware of is that Fusion 360 and CAM 360 now support exporting gcode for Shapeoko.

    Youtube user jgilbert20 breaks it all down and shows you how to take a 3D design to finished pieces:

    Autodesk's Fusion 360 and CAM 360 are available to try for free from Autodesk's website for 30 days, and are free for students and enthusiasts. Thanks Autodesk!

    What actually goes on in the Inventables office? Secrets revealed!

    Last week we were visited by Bob from I Like To Make Stuff, who just happened to be in town on unrelated awesomeness. He brought his camera and we gave him a tour of our office, warehouse and workshop. Here's that glimpse into the workings of our machine, captured for posterity:

    Thanks Bob! And check out his website I Like To Make Stuff.

    Quiet Cut Spindle for Shapeoko CNC Router with ER11 Collets & Mounting Options

    Here is a short tutorial to show the Quiet Cut Spindle from Inventables and to answer a few basic questions.

    Shapeoko CNC router shown with Quiet Cut Spindle

    #1 Question - How quiet is is? 

    Very quiet. Please watch the video below to compare it to the standard rotary tool.

    #2 How do I mount it?

    Because the Quiet Cut Spindle is much shorter than a rotary tool you might find that you have to mount it lower. There are two good ways to do this. Option two is the preferred method because it gives you the maximum clearance under the gantry.

    Option One - lower the MakerSlide
    1. Loosen the 4 screws securing the MakerSlide to the Z-axis
    2. Lower the MakerSlide so the cutting bit can reach the waste board
    3. Re-square the MakerSlide with the waste board
    4. Tighten the mounting screws
    Option One, Step One - Loosen two screws at top of plate.
    Option One, Step One - Loosen two screws at bottom of plate.
    Option One, Step Three & Four - Lower MakerSlide, square it and tighten screws.

    Option Two - swap the mounting block with the Delrin nut
    1. Remove the hardware holding the upper mounting block
    2. Remove the two screws holding the Delrin nut
    3. Lower the Z-axis plate below the end of the MakerSlide
    4. Attach the mounting block to the lower holes, where the Delrin nut was
    5. Manually turn the Z-axis screw so the Delrin nut raises up about an inch (25mm)
    6. Slide plate back onto MakeSlide and raise it till the holes line up for the Delrin nut
    7. Attach plate to Delrin nut with the same screws you removed
    Option Two - swap Delrin nut position, shown by yellow pointer, with upper mounting block.
    Option Two, Step One - remove upper mounting block.
    Option Two, Step Two - remove screws holding Delrin nut.
    Option Two, Step Three & Four - lower plate and reattach mounting block to lower holes.
    Option Two, Step Six & Seven - raise plate and reattach Delrin nut with screws through upper holes.
    Option Two is the preferred method. Notice it allows the maximum clearance under the gantry.

    #3) How do I control the speed?

    You can do this via a speed controller manually with a potentiometer (included) or with a CNC controller. For detailed instructions please refer to these blog posts gShield or TinyG.

    #4 What is an ER11 collet and why do I want one?

    An ER11-A collet is a standardized way to secure a cutting bit. There are two main components. The collet which grips the cutting bit and the collet nut which tightens the bit once installed in the machine and tightened down. It is very similar to the way the rotary tool works but the main difference is that this is larger and also an industry standard. That makes it much easier to know what is compatible. For example you can use a 1/4" diameter cutting tool with the Quiet Cut Spindle and the only thing you need to buy is the 1/4" collet. The same collet nut will work that comes with the Quiet Cut Spindle.

    ER11-A 1/8" collet & collet nut are included with the Quiet Cut Spindle.
    Cutting bits and 1/4" collet (shown above) are extra.

    Use wrenches to tighten collet. Make it very snug but don't over-tighten.
    If you have any other questions please refer to previous blog posts or send an email to help@inventables.com.

    Maker Faire Detroit 2014

     This weekend the Inventables Team hit the road and drove from our headquarters in Chicago to the Motor City for the 2014 edition of Maker Faire Detroit.
    After about a 5 hour drive me finally made it.  The Faire is hosted by The Henry Ford Museum. The mission of the Henry Ford is to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation. Their purpose is to inspire people to learn from these traditions to help shape a better future.  That's what it makes it a perfect venue for Maker Faire.
    In addition to having a huge parking lot out front they have an incredible number of artifacts that you might call a piece of "Americana".  For example one of the original Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobiles below.

    When we got there we were assigned to this spot in a big tent with a bunch of other Makers.  We turned this empty parking spot into a booth that showcased our new Easel software and the Shapeoko 2 3D Carving Machine.
    After a few hours of set up we got things looking pretty good.  On the left side you see the display cases featuring some products that are made using 3D Carving (CNC Milling) including eyeglasses by Drift Eyewear, EXOvault iPhone case by sculptors Jonathan Schipper and Amelia Biewald, and a Premium Pour-Over Brewer designed by Darin Montgomery of Urbancase.  Inventables employees John McWhirter and Sam Aliamo are getting the Shapeoko 2 set up so guests that come visit us can make their own bottle opener.

    After everything got set up we went over to Omni Corp Detroit.  They are a hackerspace that has makers / entrepreneurs / doers / thinkers / creators / artists / designers / engineers / musicians and others who come together in a repurposed industrial building in Eastern Market to work on projects, learn and share together. They’ve been around since 2009.  They had a "pre-party"to get the Maker Faire weekend kicked off right.

    It was one of the cleaner hackerspaces we've been to.  They had a really cool LED sculpture that changed colors.  It set a cool vibe for the party.  We also got to see their monster laser cutter in action.  It was cutting out some leave shaped decorations out of felt for an upcoming wedding.  The music was pumping the beer was flowing and makers were talking shop and giving tours.  After a few hours we took off to get some sleep because we had to get to Maker Faire bright and early.

    Saturday morning our first order of business was to test out the electric go kart we have been working on for the Power Racing Series.  You can see Inventables employee John Hayes standing next to the kart in his Yellow racing suit.  The kart is unique because it can be assembled with hand tools.  This means no welding or special shop equipment is required.  We've been working on it as an open source platform to get high school students into the sport.  Our intern Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin has been very active in the Power Racing Series and spent the semester at our office working on it.  We tested it out at San Mateo, Kansas City, and this weekend Detroit.  The best way to test out a car is to race it.  We got 21 seconds in the time trial which was on the slow side.  The fastest cars got about 15 seconds.  This was actually quite exciting because we've designed the car as a platform that other teams can use to improve it.  The kit is meant to prompt lots of opportunity for learning and innovation.  The turns put a lot of force on the steering column and it became a bit loose after the speed race.  We're probably going to have to redesign that part of the car.  Also we need to fix the camber on the front wheels.

    Maker Faire engages and inspires people of all ages at all different levels.  With the Power Racing Series you can get involved on a team that designs and builds a $500 electric race car.  If you come to the fair you can watch the race and cheer on your favorite teams.  Walking around the other parts of the fair we bumped into some costume makers that were dressed as Darth Vader and Storm Troopers from the Star Wars movies.  The quality of the costumes they had made as absolutely incredible.  Below the storm troopers were taking some photos and a cupcake drove by from ACME Muffineering.

    As we walked further down the midway we came across some folks that had built a skee ball game with a twist...it was on fire! The inventors of this exhibit asked: "What could possibly be better than Skee Ball?"  They came up with fire-erupting Skee Ball! Lovingly dubbed Riskee Ball, this reimagined arcade staple will blast fire from the central row of target holes and straight out the top when some serious celebrating is in order. Topped with rotating warning lights and air horns to signal special game modes, like sudden death eruption mode where points scored on one machine triggers flames on them all, this bank of ten modular machines are the perfect addition to any pyromaniac’s arcade. This first appeared at Burning Man in 2013. Then as we ventured inside we caught up with John Oly from See Me CNC.  Normally they bring out their delta style 3D printers out to the Maker Faires but this time they upped the ante.  They decided to go big and made a 15 foot tall 3D printer! The picture below shows John standing next to the printer for some perspective.  Their booth was packed with people learning about their machines and taking pictures of what probably the biggest 3D printer in the world.  John told me they put their whole company on the project for about two weeks and they had just finished putting it together right before I walked up.  It was a very impressive feat.  They called the machine "The Part Daddy". The extruder featured a swappable nozzle with diameters of 6.35 or 7.25mm. The max size part they expect the machine to make is 10 feet high with a diameter of approximately 4 feet. The nozzles are much larger than desktop models so print speeds can be faster.

    During the day Saturday Curt Catallo owner of the Vinsetta Garage came by to check out Easel and Shapeoko.  He quickly became a fan and said that he wanted to make some things for the restaurant.  He was pretty excited about the possibilities and invited us to be his guest Saturday night. It's the kind of place that made a name for itself on Woodward Avenue by delivering the deepest kind of care to car owners and auto lovers one wrench turn at a time. Today, the oldest garage east of the Mississippi carries a different kind of torch but the cause remains the same: make it honest, make it legit and make it as good as you know how. While the Kurta and Marwil families have long since moved their tools out of the station, the tradition they set still steers the joint one course at a time. Chef Aaron Cozadd's menu is built on the kind of custom Detroit eats that the mechanics and techs would have called their own back in the day. With burgers, Union Mac & Cheese, noodle bowls, coal-fired pies and the like: the new crew is working to keep the legend of Vinsetta Garage alive on Woodward Avenue and beyond.  We had an unbelievable meal and the craft beer selection was top notch!  Huge thanks to Curt and his team.  We'll have to hit him back with some Inventables love.

    After dinner we headed over to I3 Detroit.  It is Metro Detroit's largest community run DIY Workshop.  For $49 a month you get a key and access to a boat load of cool tools, machines, and toys.

    Back at Maker Faire Day two we had a HUGE line.  The excitement was building as word started getting out that you could manufacture your own bottle opener at our booth.  In addition we raffled off a free Shapeoko 3D Carver.  That just about doubled our line.

    We got kids of all ages that came to try that hand at Easel.  While the machines were running kids that wanted to get close had to put on a pair of safety glasses.  Easel is designed to help you go from idea to finished product for the first time in less than 5 minutes.  We get very excited when we see little kids walk up to Easel and create a design.  It demonstrates that our user experience doesn't require an engineering background or any training.  However we have noticed that young kids are sometimes better with the computer than their parents!

      In the midst of all the madness there was a maker celebrity sighting.  It seemed like Ben Heck from the Ben Heck Show had wandered over to check out Inventables, Easel and the Shapeoko 2.  The T-shirt gave us a sneaking suspicion that we might be in the midst of greatness so we immediately called Inventables security to make sure Mr. Heck was protected while he designed his bottle opener.  Ben is best known as a console modder. He takes apart old video game consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System and reconfigures internal printed circuit board (PCB) into a smaller form factor. The newly configured circuit board is enclosed within a custom case with his Shopbot.  Let's put it this way...the guy is awesome.

    Holy Smokes Batman there has been a Ben Heck sighting
    Brandon guarding Ben Heck

    Ben's Bottle Opener design
    We had a good bit of fun with him as he worked on his design for the bottle opener.  Ben was telling us some stories about the pin ball machine projects he's been working on.  It seems like Pin Ball is making a comeback especially in the DIY community.  People have spent so much time playing "Screen" games there is a movement to games that are more physical.  This time around with Pin Ball makers are able to mod and make the games like never before.  We talked about Williams and Game Plan.  Ben even has a YouTube video where he shows you how to make your own Pinball Machine!  In the video Ben gives an overview of what it takes to build a pinball game and goes into detail on the electronic aspects on his Ghost Squad pinball game.  Then after he finished he was nice enough to take a picture.  Heck Yeah!
    Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan and Ben Heck

    Right as we were packing up a representative from Maker Faire came and gave our booth the editor's choice award.  This was totally unexpected and totally exciting.  It's the second time we've won this award.  We also won at Maker Faire San Mateo.   She said she really liked how the booth looked good but also gave guests a hands on activity to get them engaged.

    Then we packed it all up in the truck and headed back to Chicago.  Below is a shot of our team right before we hit the road.  See you next time at Maker Faire New York!