Hackerspace tour part 2: Double Union

5/14/2014: Day two of our Bay Area Hackerspace tour brought us to Double Union, a hacker/maker space for women in San Francisco's Mission District. Their mission is to "create a community workshop where women can work on projects in a comfortable, welcoming environment." You can read a great article written by founding member Liz Henry on why they do what they do and how to make your own Feminist hackerspace here

This hackerspace was my personal favorite of the tour. The community had obviously take great care in setting up and organizing their space, and it felt very warm and inviting. The work spaces were laid out very well and there were separate areas for quiet working or studying and large-scale making. Hackerspaces can take on a lot of different forms, and this one was obviously a very tight-knit community that was proud of their space and supportive of their members in a very personal way.

Zach and I got the machine set up and gave a quick crash course on how to use a 3D Carving machine, strategies for design, maintenance of the machine, and an intro to Easel. Everyone had a lot of questions, but they took a lot of notes and I felt that all the questions were directed at getting the most out of the machine and keeping it maintained and functioning well.

Everyone (I think) got a chance to get hands-on with the machine and Easel and while the machine was chugging away on everyone's projects, we got to talk to the awesome members and hear about what they do and make. I was seriously impressed with the level of technical skill in the room, and even though many of them had not used this type of machine before they drilled down to the tiniest details very quickly. Definitely a sharper, more focused crowd than the average smattering of knowledge-seekers at a hackerspace, and that's saying a lot. I won't name names, but one member was so modest she only casually mentioned that she does animation for Lucasfilm and has had her work in several major motion pictures. No biggie.

We're all really excited to see what this crowd ends up making on the Shapeoko!

So Many Hackerspaces!

While we were in the San Francisco Bay Area for MakerCon and Maker Faire, we decided to spend our evenings visiting as many local Maker/Hackerspaces as we could. I personally found it really interesting to see all the activity going on in the area, and each space had it's own character and mission that reflected its members and their approaches to making. It's a big wide world out there.

Day 1: TechShop SF

Techshop is a bit different than other maker spaces. It's a for-profit organization, kind of like a fitness gym but with waterjet cutters, welding equipment, and big ol' lasers. We visited the San Francisco location and set up a Shapeoko on one of the big worktables upstairs. My first impression was that this space is huge, clean, and well-organized. There were maybe 60 people throughout the building elbow-deep into various projects. I wish we had gotten more time to take the full tour because their machine shop downstairs looked amazing.

People crowded around and chatted about making while we walked them through making their own custom bottle openers with Easel & Shapeoko. For whatever reason, the "mushroom" icon was really popular everywhere we went in SF.

image courtesy Twitter user @techliminalhttps://twitter.com/techliminal

A few tweets from folks who were there:

Shapeoko and Easel image by Instagram user jacquelynvk
Image by Instagram user jacquelynvk

This awesome mechanical contraption was sitting in their front lobby. I couldn't resist.

MakerCon Recap: There's a revolution going on

Inventables' Zach Kaplan and Michael Una were out in the Bay Area recently for MakerCon, a conference "providing new insights into local and global manufacturing, design, workforce development, education and even creative culture", organized by the fine folks at Make Magazine. 

We learned a lot and had the opportunity to share some of our own experiences, and also got to make one big announcement.

In case you missed it, Zach gave a talk in which he announced that we're giving away a Shapeoko 3D Carving Machine to a public maker space in all 50 states (plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico).

If you're interested in applying, or know someone who might be, the application form and all the pertinent information is available here.

Zach gave a brief talk as part of a panel with Bunnie Huang and others on the process of going from idea to a finished product. He discussed some of the issues we've encountered as Shapeoko has grown and walked the audience through some of the processes we use to keep ourselves organized and efficient.

We saw a few great talks, most notable Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine and Cool Tools fame, who discussed the history and evolution of the Maker Movement and where he sees it going. One quote that stuck with us:

"Tools underpin revolutions that occur in culture"

We were also impressed by Jay Silver of MaKey MaKey who gave an audiovisual tour-de-force that asked the question "What does it mean to be an undomesticated human?" This guys knows what's up. He has a lot of radical ideas about how humans learn, what it takes to be creative and happy, and how to retain childlike curiosity every step of that journey. He also advanced his powerpoint presentation by squishing his finger into a piece of fruit. He then set his computer to automatically take a picture when he and Dale Dougherty high-fived. Really inspiring stuff.

We also got to see a talk by our friend and awesome guy Massimo Banzi, who revealed some of the new plans for the next Arduino boards. A big focus for the Arduino team is making the user interface design as simple as possible, and to optimize for people who've never worked with electronics or programming before.

He told a pretty funny story about getting into a cab in Spain, and the driver kept staring at him in the rearview mirror. He then pulled over and whipped out his copy of "Getting Started with Arduino" and showed Massimo a video of himself that he had just been watching on his phone, waiting for a fare to get in. The cab driver was working on a hardware startup company and was just learning how to use Arduino. 

Overall, we loved getting to meet so many of the movers and shakers of the Maker movement in person and got a very good sense of the issues facing the maker community, as well as the prevailing ideas and trends that are going to shape the world for the next little while. It's an exciting time to be part of this burgeoning movement!

-Michael Una

Ninjaflex Filament

We just got Ninjaflex filament in the store and are having a ton of fun with it.  It is super squishy and perfect for making car tires, bumpers and cell phone cases.  We wanted to print a ninja, so we used the official mascot of Pumping Station One's CNC Build Club: The CNC Ninja Squirrel.

We printed a few of them at about 40mm tall.

Next came the fun part.  We tried to torture them to death.  We could not kill them.  Ninjaflex is pretty cool stuff.

Print Settings.

We printed it using our MakerBot Replicator 2X.  The default lines came out rather thin so we created a custom profile for it.  That profile is attached below.  Unzip the file into the [username]/My Things/Profiles folder and you're good to go!

The profile is on the product pages of the store.

You select the profile from the dialog "Make" box.

Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future

Tim Bajarin
Tim Bajarin
I met Tim Bajarin at TED 2014 in Vancouver.  We started chatting and I asked "what brings to you TED"?  He explained since 1981 he has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Hewlett Packard/Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others. He had met and worked with Steve Jobs on a number of occasions and also wrote articles for USA Today, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time and Newsweek magazines, BusinessWeek and most of the leading business and trade publications. The TED Conference is a unique place where when you turn and chat with the unassuming person sitting next to you they often have a decorated history and are at the top of their profession.  In this case I was chatting with a person that had a front seat to the personal computer revolution.

We met up again last weekend at Maker Faire in San Mateo California.  Tim was walking around observing and interviewing people for an article he wrote in TIME titled "Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future".  There have been quite a few articles on 3D Printing and 3D Carving in the last few years.  The hype level on 3D is reached all time highs.  What struck me about Tim's article was the seasoned macro economic perspective that he brought to the details he observed.  The article is a compelling tale told only by someone who was there the first time and can bring that context and experience from the personal computer revolution.

I encourage everyone to read the entire article but if you only have a few seconds read this:

"As someone who has seen firsthand what can happen if the right tools, inspiration and opportunity are available to people, I see the Maker Movement and these types of Maker Faires as being important for fostering innovation. The result is that more and more people create products instead of only consuming them, and it’s my view that moving people from being only consumers to creators is critical to America’s future. At the very least, some of these folks will discover life long hobbies, but many of them could eventually use their tools and creativity to start businesses. And it would not surprise me if the next major inventor or tech leader was a product of the Maker Movement."

Impact Engine - June 22nd Deadline

Chicago-based accelerator Impact Engine is looking for passionate entrepreneurs trying to solve the world's toughest societal and environmental challenges. Its 16-week program is designed to provide mission-focused entrepreneurs with the capital, business resources, and network they need to build successful companies that positively impact the world. Apply by June 22nd for the opportunity to build and grow a successful impact business alongside like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. 

If accepted, startups receive the following in exchange for 7 percent equity in the company: $25,000 in seed funding; access to dedicated mentors; business workshops and seminars; the opportunity to present at Demo Day; co-working space; pro-bono legal services; fundraising support; and more. Learn more at TheImpactEngine.com/Program or apply at TheImpactEngine.com/Apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so get yours in today!
Target Sectors: Climate & Environment, Education, Financial Services, Food & Agriculture, Health & Wellness, and Workforce Development
Inventables is donating access to our shop to any team accepted.  This means you can use your 3D printers, Laser Cutter, or 3D Carving machines known by the technical community as CNC Milling machines free of charge during your Impact Engine Experience.

The Quiet Cut Spindles Have Arrived!

We have been using these Quiet Cut spindles internally for quite a while.  We absolutely love them and everyone who sees and/or hears them, loves them too.  The first thing to love is the sound level.  They are very, very quiet.  In a slightly noisy office, workshop or hackerspace you may not even know that it is on.

The second thing to love is the collet.  The collet is the part of the spindle that clamps the bit.  The collet is a standard ER11-A.  It comes with a collet for 1/8" shank bits, but we also sell collets for 3/16" and 1/4" shank bits.  We sell additional collet nuts too in case you want to pair your collets with nuts to save time when swapping sizes.

The third thing to love is the power.  These have over twice the power of a rotary tool.


We have an awesome and totally comprehensive blog post about using this spindle on a Shapeoko with spindle control via grbl or TinyG in the works.  It should be done shortly after Maker Faire.  In the mean time, this quick blog post will go over the basics.


The standard Shapeoko Universal Motor Mounts work very well to mount this spindle, but tends to mount it a little high.  It is easy to modify the Z axis to make it work.  You can either slide the Z axis MakerSlide down a little or swap the positions of the Z axis lead screw nut and upper mounting bracket to bring the spindle down a little.

We also sell a beefy standard mounting bracket, but these don't have a mounting pattern for a Shapeoko.

We have a custom Shapeoko mounting solution in process, but that won't be available for several weeks.


These are DC powered devices.  You can power them with 24-48 Volts DC.  For best performance you want to be closer to 48VDC.  These draw up to 300 Watts which is probably more than your current power supply can deliver.  We recommend an a power supply with at least 6 amps, like this one.  If you directly connect the spindle to the motor, you should install a switch between the motor and the power supply.  If you try to turn on the spindle by turning on the power supply.  The power supply may enter current protection mode and need to be turned of to reset the problem.

Be sure to set the proper line voltage 100VAC or 220VAC with the switch on the side of the power supply before you power it or you could damage it.

Speed Control.

The top speed is about 12,000 RPM.  The speed can be controlled by varying the voltage or with a dedicated speed control circuit.  We sell this circuit.  It comes with a knob and pot to control the speed, but it also can accept a 5V PWM signal to control the speed.

This circuit can accept DC or AC up to 110 Volts.  Using AC is for advanced hackers only.  It exposes dangerous voltages and the range of the control must be limited to the lower end because it will output too much voltage for the spindle.  You could damage the spindle or speed controller.


A typical circuit would look like this.

Here are some more instructions.

How Quiet is It?

We don't have professional sound level measuring tools or an anechoic chamber, but for a simple comparison, I used a cell phone sound pressure level meter app.  The rotary tool had about 75dB of noise and the DC spindle had about 67dB of noise.  The dB scale is a logarithmic scale so each 3dB is about twice the noise level.  This means the rotary tool is roughly 7-8 times louder.

Here is a photo of the app measuring the rotary tool.


The spindles briefly pull a lot of current at turn on.  We have noted that this can cause some power supplies to go into current protection mode.  The best way to avoid this is to use a speed controller.  The speed controller should be turned off when the power supply's AC power is applied.  Once AC power is connected, turn on the spindle with speed controller.  If a power supply goes into current protection mode, you can clear the error by unplugging the power supply for at least 10 seconds.

We are donating a 3D Carving Machine to Every State in the US!

San Mateo, CA – May 12, 2014Inventables, Inc. today announced it will give away 50 3D carving machines to publicly-accessible spaces in each of the United States. The announcement was made at MakerCon, a conference and workshop focused on digital manufacturing and hardware development that takes place in Silicon Valley. Organizers of maker spaces can apply here.

The Inventables team was inspired by the success of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, whose Innovation Lab of 3D carvers, laser cutters, and 3D printers is free and open to the public.

“We believe that to ignite the digital manufacturing revolution, we need to provide free access to these important 3D carving tools to as many people as possible,” said Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan. “We hope that access to a free 3D carving machine and free software will help reboot American manufacturing education, and allow people to start their own small-scale manufacturing businesses in the United States.”

3D carving, also known as a CNC milling, is a powerful technology capable of creating precision parts and designs from materials like wood and metal. Unlike consumer-grade 3D printers, which can only use strands of plastic to create objects, 3D carving enables users to physically make a product or project on a computer controlled (CNC) milling machine using real materials. The 3D carving machines work with Inventables’ free software Easel to enable users to go from idea to design to running the machine in five minutes without any specialized knowledge or training.

Inventables is providing the Shapeoko 2, an open source, low­-cost desktop 3D Carver known by the technical community as a computer numerical control (CNC) mill, to 50 publicly-accessible locations. Libraries and hackerspaces interested in receiving one of the free 3D carving machines should apply at inventables.com/3dcarver

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.47.55 AM.png

In addition to libraries, Inventables is partnering with “Hackerspaces” across the United States, which are community gathering places where people with an interest in learning and technology can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

In Austin, Texas, Inventables is partnering with ATX Hackerspace. ATX Hackerspace has recently added a Startup Incubator program, where members can rent office space to turn the ideas they’ve been building into small business.

ATX Hackerspace Founder Martin Bogomolni: “The rise of these types of community hackerspaces is unprecedented in history. Our members openly share their knowledge and expertise on a whole host of subjects and some of those ideas are being turned into viable small businesses in emerging technology fields. It’s a very exciting time to have ideas and make real things.”

About Inventables

Founded in 2002, Inventables’ mission is to ignite the digital manufacturing revolution by simplifying the path from idea to finished product. Recognized as the hardware store for designers, Inventables sells desktop manufacturing machines and thousands of materials in small quantities. Small manufacturing businesses purchase raw materials and machines from Inventables’ online store daily to use in manufacturing their own products from jewelry to eyeglasses to sell to customers. When a material from the site is needed in a large volume, Inventables assists in making connections to the manufacturer or supplier.


About MakerCon

MakerCon connects individuals at the forefront of the maker movement in a two-day conference and workshop, from experts in digital manufacturing, to technology and tools providers, to accelerators that facilitate taking a prototype to market, and a broad swath of makers. The event will kick off with a number of three-hour workshops Tuesday morning followed by our stellar speaker lineup.


Chicago North Side Maker Faire

The world-renowned Inventables street team was on hand at the Chicago North Side Mini Maker Faire today, and let me tell you, there was nothing mini about it!

We were introducing makers of all sizes to Easel—our free design software that runs right 
in your browser!

Easel allows you to design something in 2D, instantly view it in 3D, and cut it out of real materials like wood, plastic and soft metals on your Shapeoko.

Attendees made their own custom-designed keychains, and Easel took care of all the confusing technical details so they could focus on inspiration. 

Sign up for beta access at easel.com

 Also, there were adorable bunnies.