Chatting with Inventables’ Zach Kaplan About Shapeoko

CNC & Machining Technology
Chatting with Inventables’ Zach Kaplan About Shapeoko


This Monday, Chicago-based DIY resource Inventables announced the release of Shapeoko 2, hailed as one of the most inexpensive CNC mills in the world — $300 without electronics. Shapeoko fans are stoked about version 2 of the mill, which offers a larger and expandable build area, among many other features.

If you’re in Chicago and would like to see a demonstration, Pumping Station:One will be offering a demonstration of the new mill tomorrow (Thursday 10/24) at 7pm at the space.

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I interviewed Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan about the new mill:

JB: You announced the new mill in a special event. Can you tell us a little about the event?

ZK: Yes the event was hosted in a theater in downtown Chicago. The room was packed with press, Inventables customers, and fans. The night started with an introduction by me where I gave the context for this announcement. We believe last night was the beginning of a transition. The transition we are seeing is where this maker movement is starting to include more than just hobbyists. We believe over the next two decades you are going to go from a world where there are 2,000 important manufacturers of consumer products to over 2,000,000. The backgrounds and business models of these new manufacturers are going to be different. These aren’t your father’s manufacturing companies. We think of these folks as “long tail manufacturers.” Last night was the first announcement in a series that Inventables will be making over the course of the next year to accelerate this change.

JB: Can you tell us about the MakerSlide rails that are part of the new mill?

ZK: MakerSlide resulted from a Kickstarter over two years ago by Bart Dring. It was designed to serve as the frame and linear bearing for small CNC machines. It has been re-crowd funded several times to make it available all over the world. Several machines using it have also been successfully crowd funded.

JB: What are some of the trade offs and realities of selling a sub-$300 mill?

ZK: You need to keep feature creep, option/variety creep under control, so large volumes of a common machine can be produced. The mantra for project Shapeoko is dead simple. No frills. This guides everything.

JB: What is the feature of the new mill that you are most excited about?

ZK: We are most excited about the larger size which means dual Y motors and open ends. We’ve experimented by upgrading the full Kit to a machine that uses the 1M long MakerSlide. The open ends and ability to scale the machine means you can do larger projects like skateboards, signs, and furniture.

6 thoughts on “Chatting with Inventables’ Zach Kaplan About Shapeoko

  1. Adam Tolley (@AdamTolley) says:

    For $299 you get parts to make a frame that could be a mill with added logic, motors, and a spindle. That is to say for under $300 you do not get a mill, or anything that functions practically as a mill, not even as a manual one, not even if you supply your own spindle.

    The assumption that you can call this a mill because somebody can reuse existing stepper motors seems no different than calling a bunch of stepper motors, some couplings, and the electronics a mill on the off chance someone has a few maker slides laying around – with the sole exception that there is more flexibility in which components one might be able to use in the former situation.

    I think it’s a nice product, but I can’t get behind calling it a sub-300 dollar mill, its a sub-300 dollar mill frame.

    1. Rahere says:

      It isn’t even that: a slider unit should include a drive mechanism, either a lead screw or belt, with bearings and mount for the trunnions. Calling those “electronics” is pushing it a bit. You’re talking at least $100 for that, the same for the motors, and at least $50 for a microprocessor, drive controllers and cabling. Suddenly this is a $600 machine which has neither been programmed nor adjusted.

      1. OneDollarWilliam says:

        So… Is there a programed and adjusted mill available for $600? Looking at the Inventables page they have a version with all the missing stuff for $650. That seems like a pretty good deal to me, but I’ve never had to set one of these up before. Any advice would be appreciated.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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