This is big news for the CNC For The Rest Of Us Market: Shapeoko has now joined forces with Carbide 3D, makers of the Nomad CNC Mill. CNCCookbook has an exclusive interview on this new parternship with Rob Grzesek and Edward Ford.
Rob Grzesek is a founder at Carbide 3D and the developer for MeshCAM…
Rob Grzesek is a founder at Carbide 3D, the company behind the Nomad 883, and the developer for MeshCAM, a popular 3D CAM package. CNCCookbook is a MeshCAM reseller, and we’ve found it to be the easiest CAM package there is for beginners to get started with.
Edward Ford, founder and designer of Shapeoko…
Edward Ford has 10+ experience in manufacturing (from running machines to overseeing operations) and is the founder and designer of Shapeoko, an affordable CNC machine kit. Thousands of Shapeokos have been sold in the past few years and it has a thriving community.
Here’s the Interview:
BW: Guys, this is really exiting news to see Shapeoko and Carbide 3D joining forces. How did you guys happen to get together and talking about this idea?
RG: Ed is the first guy we approached when we had the idea for Carbide 3D. It didn’t work out then but we knew we wanted to work together so we kept in touch. It took almost two years but we found a way to make it happen. Ed is now a partner at Carbide and Shapeoko is a Carbide product.
EF: Rob approached me a few years ago with the idea of Carbide3D, but the timing wasn’t right and we went our different ways. MeshCAM, and our shared userbase, kept us in touch, and when he approached me the second time, I couldn’t say no.
BW: The emerging “CNC for the rest of us” market is very exciting. I know we’re just at the very beginning, but how would you characterize the current state of that market?
RG: I think the market is finally beginning to move beyond the “Science Fair Project” stage where it’s ok to ship a unit that looks like something your kids made for school. There are a number of new companies coming in with desktop machines that are more buttoned up and look more like a product. This will bring a whole new group of users that were intimidated by the old machines.
Software is the big thing that’s lacking across the market. The existing software for CNC machines might be very capable but it’s not made for a broad audience. That was fine before but it really limits who will buy a CNC machine.
I think we’ve done well with Carbide Motion (our machine controller) so far. Users that have never run a CNC machine before have been able to follow a tutorial and cut a part quickly.
Carbide Motion was step one, we’ll being doing much more in the next year.
BW: What are the key things a new product will need to have to be successful in this market?
RG: It needs to look like a quality machine, and it needs to be as ready-to-run as possible. Shapeoko has a legacy of being a kit that you build, and we’ll continue that to some degree, but it won’t be a kit that comes with a big shopping list. It’ll include everything.
It should go without saying, but it’ll have to perform well too. We’ve engineered the Shapeoko 3 to be a lot more capable than any other version. It’ll remain affordable but we think it’ll be much more attractive to “professional” or more demanding users.
BW: You’ve both got an installed base. What are folks doing with your machines? Give us a few of your best stories.
RG: We have far fewer users than Shapeoko, but it’s amazing what we’re hearing from people so far. The most surprising thing is the number of medical applications that we’re hearing about. A number are startups so we can’t share the exact applications but when I think “medical” I think about implants and operating room tools. It turns out there are lots of other fabrication needs in the medical space that don’t require exotic materials or micromachining.
EF: There are literally thousands of Shapeoko users doing everything from traditional CNC routing like signs, plaques, and nick-nacks to making really elaborate DIY robots, PCB designs, and Castings. One of the most unique uses is a guy who was using his Shapeoko to engrave natural pieces of slate for an art project!
BW: How does this market relate to 3D Printing?
RG: It’s a companion to 3D printing. Or maybe 3D printing is a companion to CNC. Either way, when you can fit both machines on a workbench, it’s pretty amazing what you can make. We’d love for people to have them same feeling of “wow” when they watch a CNC machine that they have when watching a 3D printer.
EF: I like to think of 3D printing as a test environment. Design anything you want in CAD, then print it out to get a feeling for the physical version of your digital design. Once you’re happy with the design, and know what features to keep and what to throw away, cut it out of a real material with a CNC.
BW: What’s your shared vision for this market going forward?
RG: We’d like to have a full range of ready-to-run, desktop-sized CNC machines, from entry-level up to professional level. We think there’s plenty of time for someone to become “The Company” in this space and we’d like to be that company. We think we’re uniquely qualified to do that because of the range of talent we have in the company from electronics, to software, to hardware, to manufacturing. We’ve also got some great early traction and we think that’ll be a big advantage going forward.
We’d also like to act more like a tech company. We do not plan on making a single design and then shipping it for the next 10 years, like some of the legacy desktop CNC companies. We plan on making our machines better and better every year, and where possible, offering updates to our existing users.
EF: Finally, we want to make everything we can here in the US. Parts like motors and bearings are gone forever, and what is left from those industries are so expensive that they’re only for very high end applications. Parts like extrusions and machined parts can be made here and we can make the costs work, that goes for labor as well. Manufacturing as much as we can in the US is important to all of us and we’re betting big on this; we just bought a machining center to move some of this in-house.
BW: What do you think the next steps are? Tell us what the first fruits of your new collaboration will be.
EF: We’re launching a new Shapeoko (v3) that’s more capable than any previous version. It starts to move the Shapeoko brand more in the Carbide “Batteries Included” direction. Over the next year we’ll do more and more to merge the two brands.
RG: We’re waiting for delivery of that new machining center so we can begin making parts in-house. We’re not new to running CNC machines but it’ll be fun to do it on a powerful machine, in high quantity. It’ll be great to limit out dependence on other shops.
It should be a big year for us.
The new Shapeoko v3 machine will be among the first fruits of the new partnership…
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