Inventables is known for the open-source, easily-modded Shapeoko 2 CNC machine. Today, they break ways with that brand as they launch their own machine, dubbed X-Carve, and with it bring a number of upgrades and new features to the DIY subtractive-manufacturing community.
The Shapeoko line began with Edward Ford‘s $300 proof of concept CNC machine kit, funded on Kickstarter in 2011 to the tune of $11,000. He used that to design and release a refined commercial kit, dubbed the Shapeoko 2, in 2012. In 2013, Inventables partnered with Ford to help produce and sell Shapeoko 2. An open-source kit priced at $649, it’s been very successful.
With X-Carve, Inventables brings a number of new elements to the “3D carving” CNC kit concept with which they’ve been associated.
X-Carve’s physical design changes a bit from Shapeoko 2. First, there are now two size options — 500mm and 1000mm rails. The aluminum Makerslide rails are now corner-mounted for increased rigidity, and they now come with self-tapping screws instead of needing to be tapped by the builder. It uses 50% fewer parts — the spindle carriage alone drops from 25 parts to one. Total build time is about half that of Shapeoko 2.
On the electronics side, the new machine now has a single power source for its motors and spindle, rather than two on the Shapeoko 2. Its power supply has three options: on, off, or digital control to allow the user to control it by computer. X-Carve also includes a powerful 24v DC spindle, and uses a belt-driven z-axis.
One of the biggest changes, however, is the buying experience. No longer is there just one single base unit to buy and then upgrade with additional add-ons. Instead the company has created an Apple-like configuration menu on its website that lets the buyer select his or her exact machine from the start and eliminate the extra parts that pile up during an upgrade. An illustration of the machine changes as the design is configured.
X-Carve’s options include the above-mentioned rail size selection, and also z-axis lead screw type (threaded rod or acme); stepper motor type (NEMA 17 or 23); spindle (a new 24V unit, Bosch Colt, or Dewalt DW660); motion controller, drag chain, toolkit, limit switches and more.
“We are inspired by the amazing ways customers have customized their machines,” writes Inventables CEO and founder Zach Kaplan. “They make everything from skateboards to circuit boards so we realized a single machine wasn’t enough. X-Carve is the next generation that allows you to configure your machine the the way you need to help you start a business or get serious in the shop environment.”
The new machine will run the Easel software along with other CAM options.
It remains open-source as well. Kaplan writes: “We are using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) and took up the documentation a level by using a new system: GrabCAD public partner space.”
X-Carve will begin shipping on April 30. Pricing starts at $799 for the basic kit, and can go up or down depending on what options are selected or removed. Kaplan explains, “Pound-for-pound, it’s gotten about $200 cheaper.”
It is also backwards compatible with Shapeoko 2, and Inventables offers a $200 upgrade kit for those owners.
Inventables’ parting with Ford has been amicable; he’s recently launched the beefy Shapeoko 3, which is available for order now and should be shipping in April. Meanwhile, Inventables’ recently Kickstarted Carvey 3D carver is approaching its pilot manufacturing run with an expected delivery date of this September.
Edit 3/4/15: Changes made to clarify the history of Inventables and Edward Ford, and to mention that Shapeoko 3’s current availability.