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

CNC & Machining Workshop
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.

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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.

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Elizabeth Koprucki

Elizabeth Koprucki is CNC Area Host at the Pumping Station: One hackerspace in Chicago, IL. She works as a design professional and maker educator, and loves to share her enthusiasm for digital fabrication with diverse audiences. You can read about her ongoing maker adventures at http://rampantcreative.wordpress.com.

View more articles by Elizabeth Koprucki


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