Images courtesy of Inventables
Last week saw the opening of Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, the first major museum show of digitally-fabricated art, architecture and design; Rome hosted the first Maker Faire in Europe a few weeks prior; today sees the launch of the second generation of the Shapeoko.
The first version of the open-source CNC kit was Kickstarted in July 2011 and we took note when it was subsequently picked up by Inventables in the spring of the following year; the 'Designer's Hardware Store' launched the Shapeoko 2 this morning.
Designer Edward Ford worked for four years to design a machine that anyone could build in order to turn their ideas into physical objects with precision. The Shapeoko 1 was used to fabricate machine parts, carve works of art, and start businesses by a worldwide community of users.
Shapeoko 2 is Edward's response to the enthusiasm and bold experiments of the open-source community. Numerous design changes and improvements have been implemented to improve the user experience, but the cost remains the same. Dead simple. No frills. Supported by a community. Powerful enough for real work.
The community, of course, "is the reason for the Shapeoko 2." Ford expresses his gratitude and debt to his fellow CNC enthusiasts:
The Shapeoko community has grown from an email list (with four people), to a google group (with 50 people), to a full blown forum (with 1,000+ members!) in under two years... The design of the machine is a collection of community-suggested improvements that were designed, tested, debated, and iterated throughout the course of the last two years. If it weren't for the community, there wouldn't be a Shapeoko 2.
Thus, with designers, hobbyists and DIYers of all stripes joining the Maker Movement, both the proverbial and the literal build platform are growing as the Shapeoko 2 features a variety of improvements on the original machine. It comes in two versions: a 'Mechanical Kit' for $299 for the savvy hardware hackers and a rather more consumer-friendly 'Full Kit' for $649. Ford tells us, "Shapeoko 2 is every known, viable improvement to the original machine's design, rolled up into one thoughtful, low-cost, scalable, hackable, simple, beautifully-designed release."
The upgrades to the design for version 2 include:
· Working area is expanded to about 12" by 12" by 2.5"
· Open front and back for loading in longer pieces of material
· Easily expandable in both the X and Y dimensions
· Dual-drive motors on the Y axis, standard
· Double width Makerslide on the Y axis for added stiffness and strength
· Completely redesigned Z axis for added stiffness and easier tool changes
· The wasteboard is now integrated with the machine
· Re-engineered belt system keeps teeth cleaner and reduces skipping
· Easier to assemble—put it together over a weekend or a couple of nights
The last point refers to the fact that both kits ship as a box of parts, and some assembly is required. But if the itemized parts list is a leap and bound away from, say, IKEA's flat-pack wares, it's certainly a reasonable point of entry for any intermediate-level hobbyist looking to expand his or her maker arsenal. And at $650, the Shapeoko 2 will certainly be turning up on holiday wish lists this season. "The momentum of created by the falling cost of equipment is a trend fueling the maker movement," notes Inventables founder Zach Kaplan. "It shows that we are moving from a world of 2,000 important consumer products manufacturers to one with over 2,000,0000."
Of course, as an open source project, the community remains independent of the pricetag. If you're not convinced, consider these facts:
We're running about a dozen forum moderators and four forum admins right now just to keep up with new member requests, and to keep everything nice and neat inside the forum itself.
There are three things that have made the community successful:
1.) We treat everyone the same way. There are no "noobies" and no "old timers." Everyone gets a fair shake at asking and answering a questions. Negativity is not allowed. It's an open forum, and members are free to air out their feelings and frustrations, but we try to do it in a positive, pragmatic way.
2.) Questions get answers. Period.
3.) We're all rooting for each other! And we are all in this together. The expectation of the machine was set appropriately when it was released. This is a kit, it's a project, and it's something your'e going to have to work at before you'll be proficient. We all understand this and it helps keep things in perspective.