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!

Shapeoko Upgrade - Quiet Cut Spindle with TinyG

We have already seen in a previous post how to upgrade your Shapeoko with the Quiet Cut Spindle when using a gShield. Some people may be looking for the next step up from the gShield and Arduino combination. That my friends is the TinyG.

Wiring of TinyG CNC controller to speed controller and quiet cut spindle.

TinyG and the Shapeoko make a great couple. The TinyG is created by Synthetos that brought you the grblShield and the gShield.  Not only do you get all the great aspects of the gShield & Arduino combo such as free software to send the G-code, small and economical form factor and USB connectivity, but you get much more. Without getting into all the details, the main reason why you would want to control your Shapeoko with a TinyG are the following...
  • smoother motion control for better looking cuts
  • 4 stepper motor drivers (instead of 3 with gShield)
  • spindle control built in (on/off and RPM)
  • supports limit & homing switches
The TinyG + Shapeoko + Quiet Cut Spindle make it even that much better of a match. Being able to control the spindle on and off with software as well as the RPM gives you that much better control. The spindle is controlled from the TinyG but you still need the speed controller as well to interpret the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) signals from the TinyG to send the correct RPM to the spindle.

Enough talk about why, lets get doing!

Hooking it up to work with the TinyG on the Shapeoko is a straight forward procedure that only requires a few more items, and most people should be able to perform the upgrade in a few hours.

To make your life a little easier, we've compiled all the parts necessary for this upgrade into a single project that can be purchased here.

The Quiet Cut Spindle has several features that make it perfect for this application.
  • very quiet, compared to the rotary tool, you barely hear it running
  • great tool holding, with a industry standard ER11-A collet included
  • additional collets available
  • air cooled
  • compact and light weight
  • affordable
Additional items:
  • 48VDC Power Supply (part# 30353-03)
  • power cord
  • Speed Controller - for machine control (start/stop only) and adjusting spindle RPM
  • 2 conductor 18-14 Ga wire to extend spindle motor wire
  • heat shrink tubing or crimp connectors for extending spindle motor wire
  • tgFX software, free
  • power strip, optional
Tools needed:
  • soldering iron & solder
  • wire stripper
  • wire cutter
  • screwdrivers
  • multimeter for testing, optional

Video Tutorial:

Illustrated Directions:

Step 1) Extend spindle motor wires
Temporarily mount the Quiet Cut Spindle in the Shapeoko. Measure the 2-conductor wire needed to extend motor wires to where the 48VDC power supply and speed controller will be located. Measure twice, cut once. Extend motor wires by soldering on new wires and covering with heatshrink tubing or by using crimp connectors. Soldering and heat shrink is the preferred method.

Step 2) Wire 48VDC power supply
NOTE: check the input voltage on Power Supply. The default setting is 220V. Use a small screwdriver to slide the switch if needed. Wire a grounded power cord from Inventables. I stripped the wires to expose the ends and connected them to the power supply. They come with one end stripped as well to skip that step. They are color coded. For 110V in the USA green is earth, white is neutral and black is load. You can use a power strip for both power supplies so you can power the gShield and the spindle all at once.

Note power supply switch for input voltage. Make sure to switch to 110v if used in the USA.
Power in from outlet via power cord (shown on right) green is earth (ground), white is neutral, black is load. Please follow local standards in your country if different then the USA. 48VDC wires on left go to speed controller.

Step 3) Wire 48VDC power supply to speed controller
Use some more of the 2-conductor wire hook up the 48VDC output from the power supply to the input side of the speed controller. Note the speed controller can accept both AC and DC power so polarity does not matter on the input side of the speed controller.

Step 5) Wire spindle to speed controller
Wire the spindle directly to the speed controller. Make sure to match the polarity. Red is positive, black is negative.

Step 6) Change jumper on speed controller and remove potentiometer
Because we are using the speed controller with software via PWM we need to change the jumper position to disable the potentiometer and enable PWM. Move the jumper closest to the PWM terminal to do this. Also remove the potentiometer as it will not be needed, but save it if you want to use it later on a different build.

Put jumper on side closest to PWM terminal. Remove potentiometer from speed controller.
Step 6) Wire TinyG to speed controller
Use two wires to connect the PWM controls to the speed controller. The terminal labeled PDM on the TinyG is the positive wire (shown in yellow below). The ground terminal is on the same terminal block.

Use the terminal block on the TinyG as shown above to hook up the PWM wires to the speed controller.
Step 7) Hook up 24VDC power to TinyG
Power the TinyG with 24VDC. Make sure polarity is correct. There is a terminal on the TinyG just for power.

Wire 24VDC to TinyG.

Step 6) Configure TinyG for Shapeoko with PWM spindle control
Having both the 24VDC power supply for the gShield and the 48VDC power supply hooked up to the same power strip is an easy way to power both at once. Power on the system. Plug the TinyG to your computer via USB and launch tgFX.

Connect to TinyG
  1. Click the Re-Scan button (upper right) to find what USB port is available
  2. Click Connect Button 
Confirm TinyG default settings
  1. Click on the Axis tab (upper left)
  2. Confirm default settings on Velocity Maximum (circled below in photo), it should read 600

Confirm settings of default TinyG settings. Velocity Maximum(circled above right), it should read 600.
Load ShapeOko settings in TinyG
  1. Click on Machine Settings tab (upper left)
  2. Highlight Shapeoko config (right column)
  3. Click Load button (bottom right)
  4. Wait for the settings to load and then power cycle the board (re-boot)
Follow steps above to load Shapeoko setting on TinyG controller. REBOOT after settings are applied.
Confirm TinyG Shapeoko settings
  1. Reconnect to TinyG
  2. Click on the Axis tab (upper left)
  3. Confirm default settings on Velocity Maximum (circled below in photo), it should read 1600
Confirm settings TinyG Shapeoko settings. Velocity Maximum (circled above right), it should read 1600.

Add PWM settings to TinyG
  1. Click the Gcode tab (upper left)
  2. Enter PWM settings line by line in command line prompt on bottom of screen
  3. Confirm settings after each line, they will be echoed above
Here are the PWM settings to apply listed below. Enter them one line at a time and hit return.
Select Gcode tab (upper left) then enter PWM settings line, by line and look for confirmation on screen.
Step 7) Confirm your settings
Secure the spindle securely in the Shapeoko. Also remove the bit if you have one installed and make sure the collet is secure. Put on your eye protection. Type M03 (with a zero not an O) in the command line to turn on the spindle. M05 should stop the spindle. Type S2000 for a slow speed or S8000 for the maximum speed of the spindle.

Type directly in the command line to turn the spindle on and off M03 (on) and M05 (off). Type S2000 for a slow speed or S8000 for the maximum speed of the spindle.
Note: the CAM program you are using is probably putting M3 or M5 in already near the beginning and end of the gcode. If not, it is usually an option somewhere or in the post processor. Also M3 and M03 are usually interpreted the same by the machine controller, so either will work. Same for M5 and M05. Please open up your G-code in a text editor or tgFX and preview before running your job.

If you are not getting the spindle to power up check the following. Do you have a green light on the power supply? If not check the input voltage and wiring. You may need to power it down for 10 seconds or longer for it to reset. Check the lights on TinyG for power and also another LED for Spindle. If you need more help you can send an email to help@inventables.com.

3D carving 101: Understanding Bits

Choosing the right 3D carving bit for the job at hand can be an extremely important factor in whether a project comes out amazingly, alright, or not at all. Combine that with having more choices of bits than materials, and choosing the right bit can be quite a difficult task. However, by answering a simple set of questions, you can greatly simplify your choice of bit. Here are the things you need to ask:

  • What material am I cutting?
  • What is my machine capable of?
  • What shape am I cutting?

Let’s quickly go through each of these and what they mean.

What material am I cutting?

Your material is one of the most important single factors in choosing a bit. Materials have a lot of properties that matter both for your design and cutting (hardness, density, size) as well as just for cutting (how does it chip? melting point, thermal conductivity). For any combination of these properties, one thing remains constant: your bit must be sharp. A dull bit will always cut poorly, and can actually be dangerous to use due to increased likelihood of breakage. Most of the bits sold by Inventables are made of solid carbide, which is an excellent choice for small machines because of its stiffness, durability, and versatility.

Your material likely breaks down into one of three categories: plastics, woods, and metals.

Plastics are fairly soft and extremely versatile materials. They cut easily and tend to take a very smooth finish with no further processing. Plastics also form very nice chips off of the bit when they are being cut, which makes choosing your cut settings very predictable (but we’ll get to that later).

Wood is beautiful and strong, and although it cuts smoothly and quickly, it doesn't tend to be as smooth as most plastics. This is because wood has grain and fibers, which tend to tear and bend when you cut them, rather than cleanly shear. Wood also forms small chips and dust when cut rather than continuous curls like plastics tend to.
Metals (particularly softer metals like aluminum and brass) are the strongest, hardest, and most difficult to cut of the three groups. You can do amazing things with metals, but only if your machine can handle it. Speaking of your machine, that’s the next thing to think about.

What is my machine capable of?

Cutting any material puts a strain on your machine. For smaller machines like the Shapeoko, this often shows as the spindle twisting side-to-side, or the whole x-axis twisting front-to-back. Whenever your machine moves like that, you lose accuracy and unnecessarily wear your machine down. Cut settings and bit choice can minimize the force needed to cut a material, resulting in less strain on the machine. That being said, a stiffer machine will allow use of larger bits and higher speeds. The other thing to consider is how fast and accurate the spindle of the machine is. In general, for small machines, the higher the speed the spindle can reach, the better. It is also important to have the spindle be accurate, with very little wobble. When a bit is in the spindle, if it is not straight or wobbles (the spindle has runout), the bit will not cut evenly or accurately. Smaller bits can even break if the spindle is inaccurate enough.

What shape am I cutting?

Most jobs fall into two categories of geometry: 2.5D and 3D. 2.5D jobs have two-dimensional shapes that are cut to different depths. 3D jobs have complex, 3D surfaces. 3D machining requires a different bit shape than 2.5D machining. The other important thing with both 2.5D and 3D is what the size of the smallest detail is. In general, you want to choose the largest bit that can both cut your part and be safely used in your machine. A larger bit is stronger, and allows you to remove more material faster. However, larger bits can’t cut smaller corners or details, so you must consider the detail you need when choosing bit size.

So far we’ve been pretty general, so let’s dive into some specifics about the actual cutting bits.

This is a generic, 4-flute, square end mill. It’s one of the most common bits you can get. Let’s go over what that means. There are channels between each cutting edge called flutes. They act to carry away the chips from the cut. In this case, there are four of them, meaning there are also four cutting edges. The flutes spiral up towards the shank of the bit, so we call it an upcut bit. Finally, the edges of the bit all the way at the bottom are square, making it a square end bit. They could also be chamfered (bull end) or rounded (ball end). There are a few measurements on the bit itself that are important. There’s bit diameter (how big around the part that actually cuts is), shank diameter (how big the part that goes into the spindle is), bit length (how deep the bit can cut), and overall length (how long the whole bit is). Additionally, there’s the number of flutes (usually 1, 2, or 4) and the angle of the flutes (although we really only care if it’s up, down, or straight).

Now let’s focus on the cutting action. When the machine is running, the bit is spinning and being pushed into the material. Whenever one of the cutting edges comes into contact with the material, it cuts it away into a chip. The chip curls into the a flute of the bit, and is flung out from the cutting area to contribute to the mess around your machine.This is where the angle of the flutes comes into play. If you use a standard upcut bit, then as the bit cuts, it also pulls slightly up on the material. This is great for pulling chips out of deep, narrow cuts. However, on woods or laminates, that slight upward pull can cause a some chipping of the grain around the top edge of the cut as the grain is pulled upward instead of shaving cleanly off. A straight flute bit pulls material neither up nor down, and so behaves well on wood. Straight flute bits are especially great for plywood, as they reduce chipout on both the top and bottom surfaces. Downcut bits push material slightly downward, which is good for cutting thin laminates as it leaves the top surface very clean. However, chips can build up in the cut, affecting deeper cuts. This is somewhat true of all bits. If chips are not cleared from the cut, then when the bit comes back to the same location, it will be re-cutting those chips as well as the existing material. This shortens the life of the bit, makes cuts less accurate, and can reduce the quality of finish that your bit will leave on the material. Bit shape is one way to clear chips from a cut. Brushes, vacuums, and small blasts of air are also effective.
So with that being said, let’s look at some bits and when to use them.

Two-Flute Square-End Mill

This is the workhorse bit. It’ll cut just about anything but the despair around a broken heart.


Two-Flute Straight Cut End Mill

It’s awesome for cutting plywood because the flutes don't pull upward as they cut, which reduces chipping in the top layer.

The end is round, which allows for fine detail to be cut on 3D surfaces. It will not, however, cut flat horizontal surfaces.


Single-Flute Upcut End Mill

This is another upcut bit, but it only has one flute and the tip of the cutting edge resembles a hook. It cuts plastics and other really soft materials beautifully, and the hook tip helps cut through thin materials better.


Fishtail End Mill

This is a slight variation on the standard square end mill, in that the tips of the cutting edges extend down past the center of the bit. It’s good for punching through thin material and getting fine detail.


Engraving Bit

The tip is really tiny, only 0.01” in diameter! It’s tapered to make it stronger, which also has the effect of making the cutting diameter increase the deeper you cut. These bits are only for engraving very fine detail, but they’ll do it in any material.

With that selection of bits, you can carve just about any material that will fit on your 3D carver. So make a choice, and have fun!