Where Are They Now? CNC Mill Edition


Like 3D printers, CNC mills have migrated to the desktop. A handful of the little guys have sprung up, making routing more accessible for schools and home use. They may not be seeing the explosion in popularity of their additive brethren, but the landscape is vibrant and the tools are continually improving. Here are five of the most popular, with details on how they have updated their hardware, software, business plans, or personnel.


MTM Snap The MTM Snap — so named because it’s part of the Machines that Make project and it snaps together — hasn’t changed much lately, but it’s important as the progenitor of Other Lab’s Othermill. Originally a project out of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, MTM Snap’s designer, Jonathan Ward, went to Otherlab to help found its hardware division, Other Machine Co.

81af4ec286d6fa65177399fc93ced8b3_largeOthermill Backers of Other Machine Co.‘s Kickstarter, which cruised past its goal last year, have begun receiving their Othermills. Meanwhile, its creators have introduced tutorials for milling printed circuit boards, and launched computer-aided manufacturing software called Otherplan to use design files to directly control the mill.

PocketNC PocketNC introduced its 5-axis desktop mill just last September at World Maker Faire, and prospective buyers are still awaiting a Kickstarter for the P5, but a lucky few are beta testing the device.

Shapeoko 21395246_10151615158545997_2040692157_n There’s a new Shapeoko in town. The second iteration of the low-cost mill, available on Inventables, is bigger, badder, and can be run with Inventables’ still-in-beta Easel CAM software.


Mebotics Microfactory Mebiotics is showing new signs of life after its Microfactory 3D printer/CNC mill combo failed to reach its Kickstarter goal. The startup has been accepted into — and begun — Betaspring’s 13-week accelerator program.

10 Essential Accessories for Your CNC

Camille and Genevieve Beatty with their CNC mill.

Camille (left) and Genevieve (right) Beatty with their CNC mill.

My daughters and I use our CNC mill to make custom aluminum parts for our robots on beatty-robotics.com. We didn’t know much about machining when we first started, so it took us a while to figure out exactly what accessories we needed. We now use these on nearly every job we run.

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CNC Week Kicks off Today with New Projects — and a Fresh Contest

CNC Week

AKFContourHave you created an exceptional CNC machining project? Share it with MAKE and you could win $200 at the Maker Shed! In makerspaces, schools and home workshops everywhere, CNC routers and mills are becoming cheaper and more accessible than ever before and personal fabrication is at an all time high. From CNC routed furniture to milled circuit boards to engraved artwork; globally shared files are now being fabricated locally.

As we kick off a week of CNC routing and milling projects, tutorials, and videos today, we’re launching a contest for the best reader-submitted CNC routing or milling project.

Enter the CNC Contest Now!

Submissions are due by 11:59 PST on Monday March 24th, 2014. Winners will be announced on Friday, March 28th, 2014. 

HERE’S WHAT THE WINNER GETS: ShedA $200 coupon/voucher to spend at the Maker Shed and coverage of his or her project on makezine.com.

“The best project”, will be the most well documented, creative and original replicable project with easy to follow step-by-step instructions. The winner, to be picked by a panel of MAKE editors, will have his or her project featured on makezine.com and will receive a $200 voucher from the Maker Shed. Let the sawdust and aluminum fly!

 Enter the CNC Week Contest and check out the Official Contest Rules

CNC Week Contest Rules


Important: Please read these Official Rules (“Rules”) before entering the CNC Milling Project Contest (the “Contest”). By submitting an Application (defined below), you agree that these Rules form a legally binding agreement between you and Maker Media, Inc. (“Make”) with respect to this Contest and that you will be bound by these Rules. Your failure to comply with these Rules may result in disqualification of your Application. Make’s decisions and interpretations of the Rules are final and binding in all matters related to the Contest.

  1. SPONSOR: The Contest is sponsored by Maker Media, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Hwy North, Sebastopol, CA 95472.

  2. ELIGIBILITY: This Contest is open to individuals, or groups comprised of individuals, who are 18 or older as of the time of the Application. The following are not eligible to submit or participate in any group submitting an Application: (a) individuals under 18 years of age; (b) employees of Maker Media, Inc. or any of its affiliates; (c) employees of any other company or individual involved with the design, production, or execution of the Contest, or (d) the immediate families (spouse, parents and step-parents, siblings and step-siblings, and children and step-children) and household members (people who share the same residence at least three (3) months out of the year) of any person listed in (b) or (c) of this paragraph. (All of the foregoing are “Eligibility Criteria.”)

  3. CONTEST DESCRIPTION: Eligible persons or groups who want to participate in the Contest must submit an application using the form available at http://makezine.com/cnc-week/cnc-week-contest/ (“Application”). In the Application, prospective participants in the Contest (“Applicants,” or “You”) will describe a project for using a CNC mill or router, using text, drawings, designs, video or any other media. Make will review the Applications and select the winner based on originality of ideas, innovation in the use of technology, and the quality and reproducibility of the project build instructions. The winner will receive a $200 coupon to spend at the Maker Shed, coverage of their project on makezine.com.

  4. ENTRY PERIOD: The period for submission of Applications opens at 6:01am. PST on Monday, March 17, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. PST on Monday, March24, 2014 (“Entry Period”). Entries received before the Entry Period will not be considered unless they are re-submitted during the Entry Period. Entries received after the Entry Period will not be considered.

  5. ENTRY DETAILS AND REQUIREMENTS: Applications must be submitted online at http://makezine.com/cnc-week/cnc-week-contest/. Each Application must include: (a) an entry form, including name, email address, and phone number; (b) a description (in written and visual form) of the connected home, which may include an unlimited number of drawings; (c) if submitted by a group, an identification of all persons in the group and a certification that each of them meets the Eligibility Criteria, (d) if submitted by an individual, an identification of the individual and a certification that the individual meets the Eligibility Criteria. Submissions must be in one or more of the following formats: Word document, PDF, excel, jpg, png, gif, tif, video, or other electronic format. The submission must include comprehensive detailed how-to steps and clear instructions for successfully reproducing the project. Only one application may be submitted by each group or individual. Entries will not be returned. KEEP A COPY OR THE ORIGINAL OF EACH ELEMENT OF YOUR APPLICATION AND ANYTHING SUBMITTED WITH YOUR APPLICATION.

  6. JUDGING: All eligible Applications will be judged by a panel of Make: Magazine editors using the following criteria: originality of idea, use of technology, and the quality of the project build instructions.

  7. WINNER SELECTION: The winner will be announced via the MAKE: blog at makezine.com on Friday March 28, 2014, and will be notified via email or phone as well.

  8. PRIZE: The winner will receive a $200 coupon to spend at the Maker Shed ($200 retail value) and coverage of their project on makezine.com (priceless).

  9. WINNER NOTIFICATION AND VERIFICATION: The winner will be notified on Friday, March 28, 2014. The potential winner is subject to verification. Make is not responsible for any change of an Applicant’s email address or other contact information. If any prize notification or Contest-related communication is rejected, faulty, returned as undeliverable; if the potential winner does not respond according to the notifications or Make’s instructions; if the winner or potential winner fails to comply with these Rules; or if a potential winner cannot be reached after a reasonable attempt has been made by Make (as determined by Make in its sole discretion), that winner or potential winner may be disqualified and an alternate winner may be selected by Make. In the event that a potential winner is disqualified for any reason, Make reserves the right to award the prize to an alternate Applicant even if the disqualified potential winner’s name may have been announced.

  10. RIGHTS IN SUBMITTED APPLICATIONS: All Applications and any materials submitted with such Applications will become the sole property of Make. By submitting an Application, each Applicant grants to Make a worldwide, sublicensable, perpetual right and license to reproduce, publish, modify, create derivative works of, create prototypes of, and display the Application and its contents, including any drawings, ideas, text, designs and descriptions, for any and all editorial purposes, including the illustration, promotion, and creation of projects in Make: Magazine, on www.makezine.com, social media platforms, and in or on any other platform in which Make participates. You acknowledge and agree that Make shall have an absolute right and permission to publish, post, edit, adapt, display, and otherwise use the content of and elements embodied in the Application in any form, in any manner, in perpetuity, and in any and all media (whether now known or hereafter devised) without compensation of any kind to You.

  11. CERTIFICATION OF ORIGINALITY OF IDEAS AND PROJECTS; INDEMNIFICATION: By submitting an Application, You warrant and represent that: (1) any project for the connected home is your original design, (2) no other person or entity other than those disclosed in the Application has any right to its contents or any component of the Application, and (3) your submission of the Application does not breach or violate any obligation, contractual or otherwise, that You have to any third party. You hereby agree to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless Make from and against any claim that arises from your breach of any of the foregoing representations.

  12. NO SPONSOR LIABILITY. By submitting an Application, You agree that your submission is voluntary and made without restriction, will not place Make under any obligation, and that Make is free to disclose the ideas contained in the Application on a non-confidential basis to anyone or otherwise use the ideas without any additional compensation to You. You acknowledge that, by accepting your Application, Make does not waive any rights to use similar or related ideas previously known to Make, or developed by its employees, or obtained from sources other than You. You acknowledge and agree that nothing in these Rules will require Make to use the Application in part or in whole or to include the Application in any Make property, including, without limitation, any web site or any other online or offline property. You acknowledge and agree that the relationship between you and Make is not a confidential, fiduciary, or other special relationship, and that your decision to submit your Application for purposes of the Contest does not place Make in a position that is any different from the position held by members of the general public with regard to elements of the Contest, other than as set forth in these Rules. You acknowledge and agree that Make does not now and will not have in the future any duty or liability, direct or indirect, vicarious, contributory, or otherwise, with respect to the infringement or protection of the copyright in and to your Application.

  13. GENERAL LIABILITY RELEASE. BY SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION, YOU AGREE THAT YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO RECOVER ANY DAMAGES OR PROVISIONAL RELIEF FROM MAKE IN CONNECTION WITH THE CONTEST. By entering the Contest, submitting an Application, and/or accepting a prize, you agree to release Make from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action, for any claims, costs, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with: (1) the Contest, or (2) acceptance or awarding of any prize, (including, without limitation, claims, costs, injuries, losses, and damages related to personal injuries, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light, whether intentional or unintentional). This release covers any and all claims, whether under a theory of contract, warranty, tort (including negligence, whether active, passive, or imputed), strict liability, product liability, contribution, or any other theory.

  14. FILM, PHOTOGRAPH, RECORDING AND PUBLICITY RELEASE. Except where prohibited by law, by submitting an Application, you authorize Make and its agents, to use your name, likeness, and all Application submission materials, and/or prize information, in any and all media without territorial or time limitation, for any advertising, promotional, or any other purpose without further compensation to, or permission from you.

  15. GENERAL CONDITIONS: Make’s failure to or decision not to enforce any provision in these Rules will not constitute a waiver of that or any other provision. In the event there is an alleged or actual ambiguity, discrepancy or inconsistency between disclosures or other statements contained in any Contest-related materials and/or these Rules (including any alleged discrepancy or inconsistency in these Rules), it will be resolved in Makes’ sole discretion. Applicants waive any right to claim ambiguity in the Contest or these Rules. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these Rules will not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision. In the event that any provision is determined to be invalid or otherwise unenforceable or illegal, these Rules will otherwise remain in effect and will be construed in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or illegal provision were not contained herein. Any attempt to tamper with the Contest site or to circumvent these Rules will invalidate the Application.

  16. GOVERNING LAW: The Contest and any dispute arising under or related thereto (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct or otherwise) will be governed, construed, and interpreted under the laws of the State of California, without reference to its conflicts of law principles. Any legal actions, suits or proceedings related to this Contest (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct or otherwise) will be brought exclusively in the state or federal courts located in San Francisco, California and each Applicant accepts and submits to the personal jurisdiction of these California courts with respect to any legal actions, suits or proceedings arising out of or related to this Contest.

CNC Week

CNC Week

Delta CNC Router with 4th AxisCNC Machining Contest Winner: Delta CNC Router with 4th Axis 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. About the 4 Axis Delta Router: 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. – Bart Dring

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CNC Machining Week Contest

CNC Week

This Contest Is Now Closed. We’ll Announce the Winner on March 28, 2014

Have you created an exceptional CNC machining project? Share it with MAKE in the form below and you could win $200 at the Maker Shed!


As we kick off a week of CNC routing and milling projects, tutorials, and videos, we’re launching a contest for the best reader-submitted CNC routing or milling project. We’re looking for original, creative, and well documented projects.

Submissions are due by 11:59 PST on Monday March 24th, 2014. Winners will be announced on Friday, March 28th, 2014.

HERE’S WHAT THE WINNER GETS: ShedA $200 coupon/voucher to spend at the Maker Shed and coverage of his or her project on makezine.com.

How to Enter

Please enter your name, project name, email address, website, phone number, and clear, comprehensive project build instructions with how-to steps for successfully reproducing the project, including any photos, files, code, videos, or digital assets.  Official Contest Rules

Be patient, files may take a few minutes to upload−PLEASE WAIT UNTIL YOU RECEIVE SUBMISSION CONFIRMATION.

Official Contest Rules

Peek Inside a Pi-Powered CNC Oreo-Customizing Machine

MAKE@SXSW 2014What if you could design and print your own Oreo cream filling, with a selection of possible flavors? At SXSW, people can do just that at Oreo’s Trending Vending machines.

Users pick a trending topic on Twitter and get a cream-filled cookie inspired by that topic. The entire process happens right before their eyes as a turret of flavored fillings pumps cream onto the cookie, which is held by an inverted delta robot. And what’s cooler than a machine that creates custom Oreo cookies on-demand? Seeing how it all works inside.

Check out the video above to get a tour of the many different technologies come together to create this unconventional vending machine.

Using Your CNC Mill Sucks a lot Less With Inventables’ New App


MAKE@SXSW 2014CNC milling is about as cool as it gets, except for one big problem: the free software options pretty much blow, especially for a CNC noob. The team at Inventables is aiming to fix that with the release of Easel, the first browser-based CNC design/fabrication controller.

Traditionally, CNC projects are designed in CAD software, then exported as G-code and sent to intricate computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software setup, where the machining data is created based on desired cut paths, tool speeds, etc. It takes a long, long time to master, and as anyone who’s broken an end mill knows, the learning curve is stressful.

Easel is designed to be the beginner’s gateway tool, aiming to get an aspiring machinist from inception to milling in under five minutes. The app, officially announced and demonstrated at Austin’s ATX Hackerspace for SXSW, lets the user create a design using a number of built-in shapes, an uploaded vector file, or by drawing freehand in the app. The display shows both 2D and 3D versions of your creation on a virtual waste board, and indicates areas that fall off the material as you build your design.

The design portion, reminiscent of Tinkercad in look and simplicity, is a step forward for getting started with CNC, but the captivating part is the CAM aspect, which is automated and invisible when using Inventable’s Shapeoko mills. The software needs just a few pieces of information: material type (which currently includes aluminum, birch, maple, bamboo, walnut, and bubinga), material thickness, cut thickness, and bit size. With that, it’s able to calculate the speed and cut rate based on built-in libraries of information. Plug the Shapeoko into your laptop’s USB port, align your material, and click the start button, and your mill is off to the races.

easel materials

While this opens up the CNC field to a new range of users, the ease of use still creates a tradeoff in how much control you have. Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan explains that it’s still a beta release with limitations that will be addressed as they move forward. There’s no ability to input specifics about your router bit (like fluting) or create new materials, although you can edit the material properties in the six they use. But bigger than that, it’s currently only able to cut on one plane, meaning it works great for cutting out shapes or making engravings. If you want to do 3D contours, you’re stuck with old-fashioned CAD/CAM setups, for now — this is also on Kaplan’s list of future functions.

If you’re not a Shapeoko owner, it’s still possible to use the software and export the G-code to your CAM setup. The app can’t control other machines via USB for the same “just hit cut” simplicity, but with its beta status, it will be interesting to see how it grows from here.

Engraving wood on the Shapeoko with Easel software at ATX Hackerspace.

Engraving wood on the Shapeoko with Easel software at ATX Hackerspace.

Digital Fabber’s 2nd Annual CNC Jamboree


Digital Fabber’s CNC Jamboree recently held its second annual event in Long Lake Park in Lakeville, Ohio last month. It looked like a really cool event with demonstrations of CNC machines, classes on CBC best practices, and a show and tell of projects. ShopBot (also a Maker Faire sponsor) was a major participant with representatives from the company demonstrating a number of different techniques throughout the weekend.

Digital Fabber is a site that serves as a clearinghouse for CNC router projects. It’s an online magazine, with project plans downloadable for a fee. It looks like it hasn’t been open for very long and there are only a few articles so far, but it has a lot of promise. If you’re looking for more opportunities to share your work and learn about others’ projects, be sure to check out next year’s jamboree.