Exclusive First Look: Inventables’ Sleek New “3D Carving” Machine Is the Designer’s Dream CNC Router


Inventables wants to put CNC routing on studio desktops, and they are releasing a stylish machine called Carvey to help make it happen.

CNC milling/routing has been a part of industry for longer than additive manufacturing has, but “3D carving,” as Inventables’ founder Zach Kaplan likes to call it, hasn’t really taken off in the desktop market the way that 3D printing has. It’s easy to point a finger at the engineering know-how needed, along with the mess and noise these machines make, for that.

This could all change with Carvey, a beautifully and simply designed self-contained CNC router that is designed to work seamlessly with Easel, Inventables’ simple, free CNC software, but also runs GCode, letting it carve fully 3D designs.

Inventables launches the machine today on Kickstarter, awarding early backers with their own Carvey for a $1999 pledge. (The price rises to $2399 after the first hundred are claimed.)

“I feel like it’s going to take the Maker Lab to the next level,” Kaplan says.

Enclosed bed, powerful spindle, open-source electronics

The enclosure and the 8×12-inch bed size are the first features that make the microwave-sized Carvey stand out from others desktop routers, such as the Othermill. CNC routing tends to produce lots of dust and noise that keep these machines in a workshop environment. Carvey’s enclosed setup is designed to be used on a desktop in an office or studio. The enclosure contains the dust and keeps the noise level down to the point that someone can talk on the phone while Carvey is running.

The enclosure is also a major safety feature. The user doesn’t need to wear safety goggles or secure hair and items of clothing that could get caught in the machine. The enclosure includes interlocks that will stop the machine if it it’s opened. There’s also an easily accessible fast stop button on the front of the machine.

Inventables put LEDs inside that light up the spindle as it runs behind smoky glass. The front opens smoothly on gas springs. And it features an integrated wasteboard with threaded inserts and clamps for the material.

Carvey’s electronics will be open source, using GRBL and specific Inventables firmware that will be released shortly. The machine uses a 300w DC spindle that is turned on automatically when a job is sent from Easel.


How about the technical details? It has a work area of 12 x 8 x 2.75 inches. The frame of Carvey is much more rigid than the Shapeoko, allowing for .001″ tolerances. All 3 axes use industrial linear bearings, and the frame is made of solid aluminum plates. This allows for more precise results, perfect for inlay work, circuit board milling, and other professional quality products. Carvey can carve hard and soft wood, carbon fiber, plywood, plastics, cork, circuit boards, linoleum, and soft metals like aluminum, gold, and silver.

The machine automatically zeros itself in all three axes. It comes with a Smart Clamp that registers the material in X and Y and has a sensor in it to zero the Z.

All these are designed so that the all user has to do is hit the “carve” button in Easel, which may be just what is needed to make CNC routing a mainstream activity.


It’s not a new Shapeoko

In 2013, Inventables began selling the Shapeoko 2 CNC router, building on the success of the original Shapeoko kits. This low-cost open hardware design made CNC routing accessible to many more users. In 2014, Inventables introduced Easel, free browser based software for CNC routing that combines CAD, CAM, and Gcode sending into a package intended to get people up and making quickly.

Inventables will continue to sell and support the Shapeoko 2, which can also be run by Easel. The Carvey is aimed at people who are more interested in making a product or object than in building a machine from a kit, and especially those with no experience in 3D carving or CNC. Carvey is a complete plug-and-play machine that works out of the box. It is meant to be accessible and affordable compared to other machines on the market.

According to Kaplan, every design and engineering decision for the Carvey was based on it being inspiring and easy. He’s hoping to get a whole new audience engaged and making custom objects.

One of the most challenging parts of getting started with CNC routing is to learn what speeds and feeds work with what materials. Inventable’s easy Easel CNC software takes the guesswork out of this by including presets for different materials. Carvey further simplifies the process by using color-coded bits. The user just needs to select the material and put the correct bit in Carvey’s ER11collet.

The ease of use, safety, and quiet makes this an appealing machine for school, library, and museum settings, as well as the studios of all kinds of makers. With Carvey, Kaplan sees a tool that lets makers create a finished product, unlike the prototypes generally produced by 3D printing.

Ghost Gunner: A CNC Mill For Making Untraceable Guns

Defense Distributed, the group that has been making headlines by using 3D printers to make guns and gun parts has some new headline material. They’ve just released their own CNC Mill, called the Ghost Gunner, specifically aimed at manufacturing reliable firearm parts.  The term “Ghost Gunner” is a reference to the fact that these parts, made in peoples homes, wouldn’t necessarily be stamped with a serial number and located in a database. In effect, these would be “ghosts”.


How does a CNC mill specifically make gun parts?

Well, it doesn’t. Its just a mill. The size of the workable area is just large enough to do some milling on an AR15 lower (the important part that is usu1ally traced). Aside from the fact that the usable area is somewhat small for a CNC mill, it doesn’t have any specific features that make it a gun producing machine.  It may actually be a very nice general purpose desktop cnc mill, though many of the specs are still “TBD”.

The way that the Ghost Gunner furthers Defense Distributed’s cause is in the accessories and software that comes with the mill. If you purchase a pre milled “80% lower”, a piece that is 80% complete and totally legal, you can clamp it into the machine and hit a button and it will do the rest. The entire point of the Ghost Gunner is to make the process accessible to someone untrained and unskilled.  You just have to be willing to fork over the $999-1199 preorder.


An 80% lower clamped into place in the Ghost Gunner, ready for completion

What do you think?

People have made weapons with nearly every technology ever invented. You can make a gun out of pretty much anything if you set your mind to it, even a shovel! Putting the ability to produce firearms into the hands of people who may not necessarily have previously had the skills could be a bit concerning, but do you have to be a master machinist to behave responsibly with a firearm?

Tell us what you think. How will this effect home manufacturing?




Inventables Opens Their Easel CNC Software to All Users

Today at MakerCon, Inventables’ Zach Kaplan announced that Easel, his company’s web-based CNC software, is moving out of beta testing and into full release for all users, for free.

Launched to a very limited number of users at SXSW in March, Easel works with Inventables’ Shapeoko CNC machine, allowing for fast design in a variety of materials and one-button simplicity. The company has slowly added additional testers while making sure that the software continued to perform safely and securely.

They’ve also been adding new functionalities, including an “open-in-Easel” button on the Inventables project pages, and a mirroring capability for creating inverse designs. Kaplan describes some of these latest features added to Easel, and shows off their latest rubber stamp project capability.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ROmjyT3I6w]

easel cnc laptop stand

Artist Hacks CNC Machine To Create Self-Portrait Using His Blood


In the age of smart phones and cameras, we are all guilty of the occasional “selfie”. But what if you could use your selfie in a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machine to make that photo into a portrait of yourself — out of your own blood. That’s what artist Ted Lawson did.

The CNC machine was originally programmed to paint with a self-filling brush and ink device, but Lawson hacked it to hook up to his arm and use his own blood while it paints. It was not an easy process. It took several hours and used quite a bit of blood. He had to eat fruit juice and eat biscuits in order to keep hydrated, and so that he didn’t pass out. And he spent a lot of time making adjustments like creating a vacuum to keep the paper from curling up as the blood saturated the paper, and using tweezers to manually adjust the brush as it painted. But he also allowed errors and glitches to be part of the drawing because he felt the random events made a deeper connection between the code used by the computer and the machine and the much more organic code that is present in blood and DNA and everything else. The project, aptly titled Drawing Blood, is part of a series of CNC based artworks called The Map Is Not The Territory that explores the way we perceive reality by abstracting or mapping it, and the role that technology plays in the process. You can check out more about the design process here.

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[via Adafruit]

Affordable CNCs For Brazilian Makers: The Protoptimus CNC Router

Last Version The cost to import and ship CNC routers to other countries can be very expensive. Jeferson Simões is trying to lower those costs for the people of Brazil. Using a Kickstarter-like site called Catarse, Jeferson has set out to raise funding to build two models of CNC routers; Protoptimus P1 and P2. The site is in Portuguese, use Google to translate.


Jeferson Simões and Protoptimus

As it’s very expensive to import CNC machines into Brazil, Protoptimus’ mission is to make CNC machines available to the Brazilian people at a cost that is comparable to machines available in other countries. Unfortunately for all you CNC lovers out there, the current Catarse campaign only allows Brazilian backers.

Both Protoptimus P1 and P2 feature the same rigid chassis and a work area of 360x360x100mm (14.2×14.2×3.9in). An Arduino Duo and CNC shield combination handle the motion control using GRBL. The major differences between the machines are the included spindle, X/Y resolution, and the size of XYZ stepper motors.

Here’s some photos of the prototyping in progress:

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For those of you who don’t read Portuguese (the specs on the crowdfunding site are in an image) Jeferson Simões has provided the specs in English:

Protoptimus P1Protoptimus P2
Cutting Area360x360x100mm
structure / linear motionOpenBuilds V-Slot System, with custom plates and brackets.
Motor Size(4) Nema 17 – 68 oz.in by sparkfun(4) Nema 23 125 oz.in by sparkfun
tractions XYGT2 2mm belts by OpenBuildsGT2 3mm belts by OpenBuilds
traction ZLeadscreew by OpenBuildsLeadscreew by OpenBuilds
ControllerArduino Uno + GRBLArduino Uno + GRBL
Power Supply(4) A4988 by Pololu(4) DRV8825 by Pololu
Fonte24V 4A36V 9A
Cut130w rotary tool500W DC spindle
Collet Size1/8″ER11
*Footprint with the ganrty at the Y ends of course: 520x560x430mm. For the users that choose build an enclosure
Machining with the Protoptimus:

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The P1 is primarily aimed at hobbyists. As such, the P1 spindle is a smaller 130w Dremel. The P2’s stronger X/Y motors combined with a 500w spindle allow it to make most cuts in about half the time compared to the P1. The P1 leadscrews, on both the X and Y axis, have slightly different pitch which results in a lower X/Y resolution (.007 difference).
Protoptimus P2

Protoptimus P2 CNC Router

Both machines will allow the user to cut through light metals without too much trouble. If you plan to do lots of metal work, I’d personally opt for the P2 with the more powerful spindle. The Dremel on the P1 should have no issue cutting through softer materials like as wood, plastic and foam quickly.

Protoptimus P2 CNC cutting metal

Protoptimus P2 CNC cutting metal

Jeferson originally created this machine to make positives for vacuum formed candy molds for his mother.

My mother and my aunt make sweets for parties and weddings, and their customers were asking for personalized chocolates. For this, they needed a way to create a custom template in chocolate form, for use in the manufacture of a forminha, which would then be used to shape the chocolate itself.

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The project looks promising and Jeferson’s campaign still has a few days left to hit the target funding amount. Hopefully he will be successful in making this exciting tool available to the people of Brazil!



Another Path to 3D: ShopBot Tools Expands its Handibot CNC Unit

A year ago, ShopBot introduced a Handibot, a portable CNC tool. They also adopted an open philosophy that invited users to help push the new tool in new directions.

This year, the ShopBot team brought the Handibot to MakerCon with two new accessories: a rotary tool and a five-access tool. Both tools push the CNC machine towards 3D — giving users an alternative to 3D printing.

Ted Hall, the founder of Shopbot Tools, Inc., stopped by Make:’s press room to tell us about the new capabilities.


The Handibot, from ShopBot Tools, Inc.

You can find out more about the expanded Handibot at Handibot.com.

Printrbot Reveals CNC Router

A prototype of Printrbot's new CNC machine. The final model will be constructed of folded and machined metal. (Photo: Dave Hays)

A prototype of Printrbot’s new CNC machine. The final model will be constructed of folded and machined metal. (Photo: Dave Hays)

Printrbot Founder and CEO Brook Drumm was on hand at MakerCon today to reveal a beta of the upcoming Printrbot CNC router. While it’s targeted as a tool for beginner CNC’ers, the machine is quite capable for maker-pros alike. It can cut wood, plastic, and aluminum at “respectable speeds,” according to Brook.

“We’re making a tool that I’ve wanted for a long time,” said Brook. He also emphasized that ease-of-use and low-cost are high priorities for the product.

Inside the machine, a wi-fi enabled Raspberry Pi runs the web-based control software so that you can connect to it wirelessly, giving new meaning to the term “wireless router.” A TinyG motor control board communicates to the NEMA 23 stepper motors which move the Makita router across the bed. While there’s no word on pricing, it’s expected to be available in the fall. Check out our interview and demo with Brook below:

CNC Machining Contest Winner: Viva La Four Axis Delta Router!


Last week’s CNC Week contest attracted a plethora of chip-producing projects. Our panel of judges was impressed by the range and quality of the submissions and while there were many exceptional entries, one unique project caught our attention: Bart Dring‘s Delta CNC Router with 4th Axis.


The winner – Bart Dring’s Delta CNC Router with 4th Axis.

Here’s how Bart describes the project:

This started as a delta bot style milling machine. A 4th rotary axis was added later. The challenge was getting all to run with standard 3D printer hardware. The extruder controls were hacked to be the rotary axis control. See his blog post for a complete description.

Ready to defeat the Cartesian agenda? Here’s what our judges had to say about this project:

Bart Dring’s “creativity with constraints” approach to his delta router project (using non-captive stepper motors and stock RepRap firmware) resulted in many interesting creative workarounds; including hacking the Mach3 wrapped rotary post processor so he could use Vectric V Carve‘s wrapped rotary feature – all for a hello world project that he could show off at ORD Camp 2014. It’s no surprise that Bart used MakerSlide for his design, after all, he invented the open source linear motion system, which was successfully Kickstarted in June of 2011. I found his use of modified Repetier firmware tweaked to convert millimeters (used as the feed unit by extruders) to degrees on an Azteeg X3 to be a unique and innovative approach. –Anna Kaziunas France, MAKE digital fabrication editor
Bart on what inspired him to create the Delta Router: The ORD contraptions I make, have one primary function; to spark conversation. This means they have to be interesting, a little whimsical and a little cool looking… Practicality and suitability are way down the list, so go ahead and snark away. If you do, you are missing the point.

In other words, sweet project Bart! Viva la Delta! The $200 voucher to the Maker Shed is yours and we look forward to getting your delta router project up on our site.

What do you think, makers? Have you built a CNC machine using creative constraints to challenge yourself? Post your ideas in the comments below.