We made a jig to CNC the tops and sides of our CO2 cars.
Hello, my name is Devin Wilson and I am excited to be a part of the ShopBot world! I am a first year Carpentry and Technology teacher at Rosman High/Middle School in Rosman, NC. There have been some ups and downs, but the ShopBot aspect has definitely been one of the ups. My goal coming into our Carpentry program wasn’t to reinvent things, but to build on the foundation of craftmanship, stewardship, and ownership that had been laid in previous years. Change doesn’t mean you have to get rid of the past. Some of our equipment has been running and maintained for more than 20 years. This year we sold a planer that had been on a World War II ship—and it was still running! We were sad to see it go, but excited to press on with the same standard of quality and workmanship in mind.
We were introduced to the ShopBot MAX at a construction career day. I had been researching CNC routers and it seemed like the perfect fit for us. I had no idea, at the time, what it was capable of. We have been able to take older projects and improve them with a CNC twist, and we have been able to do a lot of new things that we wouldn’t have dreamed of before. Here are a few things we’ve learned in the process and a few that we are still trying to learn.
The Da Vinci Bridge from TJ on the ShopBot resource page.
When the machine is off, the kids can come in for a closer look.
We built a computer desk. Now our kids can break into groups to design. We set up a shared drive so we don’t have to carry the thumb drives back and forth.
Of course, signs are always a hit! I am trying to let each class write their name first. It draws them in.
We live in a low income area, so the ShopBot gives kids opportunities to create things that they dream up.
This sign was designed and toolpathed by an 8th grade female student. She picked up the design software in about 3 minutes and has become my best designer.
Soon, I will share what our high school class is up to: selling signs to a local development, carving aluminum, and more!
This past week, ShopBot Tools attended the 2017 USITT Symposium in St. Louis. The annual gathering, held at America’s Center Convention Complex, assembled the latest tools, technology, and products that are shaping the way that theatre programs are evolving in the 21st century. ShopBot’s booth highlighted the growing role of CNC in theatre production, and showcased some of the latest design and workflow innovations aimed at making productions easier and more realistic.
Over the course of the exhibition, master painters created this custom drop with a distinctive St. Louis flare.
Behind the Scenes at the ShopBot Booth
The ShopBot booth showcased the ways that CNC tools can be applied to theater and entertainment production.
Throughout the conference, the ShopBot booth served as a resource for technical directors, performers, educators, and theatre shops looking for information on CNC in theatre production. On display was a slideshow highlighting sets from Alley Theatre and UNC School of the Arts, a foam hat block project from a UNC Chapel Hill graduate student, and videos of tools in action.
The table exhibited all of the different materials that can be cut using a ShopBot router, ranging from aluminum and wood to MDF and foam. One of the more popular objects was a 3D-carved recreation of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, cut into pink insulation foam.
This full-color photo of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem helped explain the process of converting a 2D image into a 3D carving.
The image was then converted to gray scale, and the depth was controlled by the darkness of a given area. The crowd at the bottom of the image was then divided into a separate vector and the process reversed to place it on top of the image.
Elsewhere in the booth, exhibition attendees enjoyed getting up close and touching the textures of Bill Young’s MDF column. Students, performers, and tech directors alike commented on the different moods that could be conveyed with the same surface and cutting tool.
This column helped explain how CNC is an affordable and easy way to add texture to any production.
Elsewhere at USITT
All around the convention hall, the sheer range of tools and products was a testament to just how much work goes into theatre production. Everything from sound and lighting equipment through costumes and set design littered the floor, and there was no shortage of fun and surprise throughout the convention hall. We had a blast exploring all the things that go into a successful theatre and sharing the role of CNC in theatre production. We can’t wait for Fort Lauderdale and USITT 2018!
First, let me give you a little background. In 2008, I drove my camper from my home in VA to Austin, TX with a couple of friends and collaborators, heading to the Austin Maker Faire to build a digitally fabricated shed at the Faire. On our way through Alabama we stopped at Rural Studio in Newbern for a quick visit. Rural Studio is an outreach program of the Auburn architecture program, founded by Samuel Mockbee, that specializes in innovation in materials and design in affordable construction. Then in 2011, I attended the Better World by Design conference in Providence, RI and one of the keynote speakers was John Bielenberg of Project M. He talked about the power of “thinking wrong” and several projects he was involved in, including Pie Lab, a combination pie shop and community center in Greensboro, AL that was just up the road from Newbern.
For years I had been working on various, very cool CNC cut structures and loved working on them, but they all had a common problem – you couldn’t get a building permit to build them without jumping through a lot of hoops, if at all. At the time, they were not a viable solution for affordable housing. For a couple of years, I had been helping Dennis Michaud of Homebuilt work on ways to democratize the construction of affordable housing using CNC technology, and had gotten pretty passionate about the idea of using CNC to make it easier to build homes that were building-code compliant by default. At the same time, Rural Studio had been running an interesting project called the 20k Home project to design affordable homes. They were struggling with the same problem that Homebuilt was working on solving – the need for skilled labor and its associated costs.
Fast forward to 2017 and my trip to Austin. Since Newbern was kind of on the way from Florida to Austin, I made contact with the director of the 20k Home project to try to visit Rural Studio and to talk about the power of digitally augmenting traditional construction methods. Of course I couldn’t get that close without stopping at Pie Lab and having a slice of pie, so my first stop was in Greensboro to explore the town and have some lunch. There are lots of amazing things going on in Greensboro, much of it spearheaded by Pam Dorr, but the highlight of the visit to Greensboro was the slice of brown sugar buttermilk pie I had for dessert!
Full of chicken salad, black-eyed peas, and pie I headed down the road to Rural Studio to meet Natalie Butts and learn more about the 20k Home project. Although $20,000 was the original design goal – to see if a house could be constructed for that little money – they are really just trying to make housing as affordable as possible.
The first thing I saw when I drove up was the new fabrication shop they are building. In this first phase, they’ll use it as an open building area, eventually closing it in to house power tools including CNC equipment. Currently they have to drive to the Auburn campus to use CNC equipment for projects, a 2 1/2 hour drive each way!
Since I had gotten there a little early, I had a chance to wander around a bit and explore the various building scattered around that students had designed and built using materials you don’t normally see in houses, like bales of recycled cardboard and old license plates as shingles!
I had taken a couple of sample parts to build a small wall section as show-and-tell to demonstrate the idea that Dennis Michaud had developed with Homebuilt, and then we were off to see three variations of one-bedroom 20K Homes that they had constructed. These homes had been built as model homes of sorts, to keep the public from wandering up to homes that people were living in and snooping around!
After exploring these homes we continued on to their Design Studio, in downtown Newbern where students worked on projects. On the wall as you enter they had hung pictures and descriptions for the designs they had built so far, showing the evolution of the project. We met with some of the design students and instructors and talked about the things they struggle with and possible solutions. They were very interested in the possibilities that introducing digital technologies can bring in helping reduce labor costs and increase affordability.
I have a special interest in these sorts of projects because the area I live in is similar to this, with an economy based on agriculture and aquaculture, and a great need for both affordable housing and work training. This was an inspiring visit, and even though there wasn’t a ShopBot to be seen, they were very aware of the possibilities that CNC and digital tools can bring to a project like the 20K Home project.
Creating the right look for a character on the stage is one of the tasks of a costuming department in a theatre. When creating a hat for a character, a felt hat must have the material draped over a form, or hat block. The hat block must be able to accept pins to hold the material in place, as well as stand up to the heat of the steam to mold the material. The hats themselves may curve under the block, so a complex hat block has to be disassembled in order to remove the finished hat. The Drama Department at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a few hat blocks that came from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, but they are worn from use and, perhaps, not the right size for current actors. Furthermore, the making of a hat block using “traditional” woodworking techniques is becoming a lost art. But one student at UNC Chapel Hill is working to revitalize the art using digital technology.
Anatomy of a Hat Block. This block has a separate top knot that fits into the base pieces. The bottom part has been sliced in two, with an internal “key” that holds the pieces together while blocking the hat. The parts can be separated to remove the block without distorting the finished hat. Note the wear and holes from use.
During a graduate class in millinery at the UNC Chapel Hill Drama Department, Athene Wright became interested in using digital fabrication techniques to recreate hat blocks. Under the direction of Rachel Pollock, Craft Artisan and Lecturer, Athene took on the task of creating a digital file of a crown block with a conical tip. She worked with Brad Erickson at the UNC Makerspace to create a 3D model of the hat by taking multiple pictures from different angles, and stitching them together in a software to create a 3D rendering of the block. She then 3D printed the file, adding a wooden base because the ABS plastic of the 3D print would not hold up when pins were pushed into it. More information and the files can be found at Athene’s website and Thingiverse post and on Rachel Pollock’s blog, La Bricoleuse.
Athene’s first iteration of recreating a hat block using digital technologies. The original hat block, covered in foil, was photographed from multiple angles, and the photographs stitched together to create a 3D file. The .stl file was then printed on a 3D printer, and the ABS part attached to a wooden base. Athene’s finished wool hat is also featured.
Seeing this hat block was like seeing an old friend. In 2012, Rachel brought it to the studio, and we tried an early version of 123DCatch to make a 3D model. The final model was never realized, but I was excited to find the record of the attempt on my computer.
In her blog, Rachel mentioned that another student, Candy McClernan (MFA ’13) used a more traditional technique to reproduce the same hat block by draping the original with plaster bandages, then filling that with a two-part rigid foam. While this technique does recreate the original, it is more difficult to modify the size to fit the head of a different actor. Once there is a digital file, however, the size and shape can be modified on screen to fit different actors and a prototype generated before the final shape is committed to a more durable material.
Athene’s quest to create digital files had another purpose. It’s one thing to recreate a hat block itself, and another to create a new block from an existing hat. You can’t make a physical cast of the hat without ruining it, and you can’t recreate the hat without the block. Athene fell in love with a hat from the 40’s that perches at a jaunty angle on top of the head—so, she again drew on the services of Brad Erickson at the UNC Makerspace to create a 3D model of the hat. Using a 3D scanner, they created an .stl of the hat, and Athene brought it to the studio for machining a prototype in foam.
Athene modeling the hat, lent by Kim Fraser for the duration of the project.
The first step was to bring the .stl into VCarve Pro for toolpathing. The techniques was similar to that described in the blog Machining 3D Scans with a ShopBot CNC. The added twist was using the Interactive Rotation to get the model aligned in such a way that the details that gives the hat its jaunty feel could be machined from the top down with no undercuts.
Once the file was imported, it was sliced to fit the 2” pink insulation foam that we were using to prototype. In the image above, note that the original component (the last in the list) is turned off, and the 4 layers and their vectors have now been spread out on the material.
For hold down, we indicated where it was safe to put a screw, and, from the bottom, placed screws through a thin board and into the foam. Then, the foam was cut to size for the ShopBot Desktop (24” x 18”). The thin board/foam was flipped and screwed to the Desktop sacrificial board.
The roughing passes have been completed on the three slices on the left, while the finish pass has been completed on the slice in the upper right corner. The bit was a .25” ball nose bit.
The original hat (sitting on another hat block) and the first iteration of the hat block. Because the .stl did not save as the same size as the original, we had to guess at the desired size when we imported it. Oops, the first prototype was larger than we wanted.
The prototype resized to be slightly smaller than the original hat to compensate for the thickness of the material draped over the hat block. With the resizing in all three axes, the number of slices was reduced from 4 to three. At the right is the “tolliker” which is placed on top of the hat to weight the material in place. Once this prototyped is approved, the final hat block will be machined out of a suitable wood.
The next stop on my Dirty Digital Jobs tour was outside of Bell, Florida to visit Tim Lucas, owner of Tim Lucas Custom Woodworks. It’s the first time I had met Tim, but had read his posts on the ShopBot Forum, so I felt like I knew him already. It was a beautiful drive, with lots of cows grazing in the fields along the way.
Anyone with their own shop will testify that material handing is one of the biggest problems. Just getting material in and out of the shop can take lots of time and can be hard on your back. Tim’s new shop has doors on both sides that are 12′ tall and 14′ wide, with a roof over them to keep materials dry. The entrance you can see on the other side is in an alcove–so that you can get out of a vehicle in the pouring rain and not get wet!
This new shop is ALMOST finished, with the last bit of drywall finishing left to do before painting and final details. Tim’s already put the space to use to assemble a two-part curved desk for his church. All the parts were ShopBot cut, allowing him to add holes for wiring and lighting in all the uprights. He couldn’t have assembled a piece this size in his old shop!
Next we moved over to Tim’s old shop, and I could see why he was so excited about the new shop. The first thing I noticed is that there’s just an single entrance door that all his materials had to be hand carried through! Right inside that door is his PRT ShopBot that he bought second hand about 4 years ago.
Tim uses eCabinets and the ShopBot link to design and cut his custom cabinet parts and to do his drawings. He’s discovered that with some cleverness and a little cheating, that he can design just about anything in eCabinets and convince the software that it’s a cabinet!
To get to his more traditional cabinetmaking tools and his work area, you have to go up some stairs to the second floor. Everything he cuts on his ShopBot has to be carried up those stairs for assembly, and then back down again!
Along with installing manufactured cabinets, Tim builds custom cabinets and furniture (and lots of other things) for himself and for others. He showed me several of them including a corbel with a bird cut into it, and a rack for starting seeds in Mason jars.
Sometimes the easiest way to find out what sorts of things people do is to become an archeologist and look in the trash bin… Tim also cuts Tic-Tac-Toe sets!
Tim has decided that since he has to dismantle is ShopBot to get it out the door and into the new shop, that it would be a good time to do some upgrades. He found a deal on a control box, hardened rails, and an updated Z that will go on the ShopBot when it is reassembled in its new home
Even though moving is always a pretty big disruption, I really envy Tim for having such a great new space. He’ll not only have a ton of room to work in, but also an opportunity to re-think his workflow to make things even more efficient!
After a long drive from my home in Virginia to Gainesville, FL, I was anxious to get moving and do some visiting. It was a beautiful day, mid 70’s and blue skies, as I headed to Melrose, FL to visit instrument maker David Beede. I’ve known David and his wife Julie for many years, but have never had a chance to visit them in their native habitat! Unfortunately Julie wasn’t home. She is the Volunteer Chair of Education for Sustainable Cambodia and was on a trip to Cambodia.
David’s home and shop are in a beautiful location on a small lake. We started the tour in his house where he showed me a couple of beautiful dulcimers he had made, including the first one he had ever built, which had just returned to him from its original owner and is now hanging on the wall. It still looks great.
Right up the hill from David’s house is his shop, which is pretty typical of any woodworker’s shop. Tools hanging on the walls, racks of lumber, and custom jigs everywhere that he machines on a ShopBot PRS.
One thing that might not be quite as common in most shops, but seemed natural to me, is a boat hanging from the ceiling. Along with being a world-class dulcimer builder, David is a boat builder and designer.
The main shop has the traditional stationary power tools and hand tools you would find in most musical instrument builder’s shops, but in the back is the ShopBot that David uses in all the parts of his building process. This is the second ShopBot David has owned, upgrading from his original PR.
David is an expert at creating jigs and setups to help accurately cut his parts. One of my favorite is an “analog” system for changing the dust collection hose connection for his dual Z-axis tool (as seen in the short video below). Moving an axis up to the top of its motion moves a wooden lever which slides a gate to switch the hose connection from one axis to the other. Very clever!
David has automated a lot of his processes using series of custom cuts and macros. Many of them do accurate repositioning of the cutter to match the location of the jig on his table, allowing him to keep the jigs in place and not to have to keep mounting and re-mounting them. The list of these custom cuts on the whiteboard is impressive!
Most of the instruments that David builds are constructed the way a guitar might be, with separate sides, top, and back made from cedar and exotic woods. He also, however, makes what is called a “clamshell” dulcimer, which is carved from solid blocks of wood rather than from thin planks and glued together.
It was hard to leave David’s shop, it was a beautiful location and a very enjoyable visit, but I had another shop to visit about an hour away—Tim Lucas in Bell, Florida.
Do you have digital fabrication equipment such as a ShopBot CNC machine, laser cutter, and/or a 3D printer, and an interest in education? Do you want to know more about the software and machines available to you? Are you a facilitator of a digital FabLab or Makerspace who would like to join a support network of other educators to discuss project-based learning, lesson plans, and how to address standards? Then this hands-on workshop is for you! ShopBot’s Sallye Coyle will be facilitating a multi-day “Digital Fabrication in Education” workshop at ShopBot headquarters in Durham, NC.
This 2½ day workshop will begin with ShopBot CNC machines. Using VCarve Pro CAD/CAM software, we will design and prepare files for machining on a ShopBot. The sessions will then move to cross-platform training—demonstrating how designs originally intended for one digital fabrication tool can be prepared for use on another platform (example: CNC to laser or vinyl cutter, 3D printer to CNC machine). Topics will include design flow, 2D vs. 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Machining (CAM) software, and how to evaluate which digital fabrication process is best for a desired outcome. The final half day will return to ShopBot tools, providing more advanced information for those charged with installing, maintaining, or getting the most out of their CNC machine.
Workshop student punches out custom tic-tac-toe pieces cut on a ShopBot.
While you do not have to have CNC or CAD/CAM experience, familiarity with some aspect of digital fabrication would be helpful. There will be opportunities for show and tell, and at least one round table discussion, so you should come prepared with questions and/or examples of how to use digital fabrication in education. Working in collaboration with your fellow attendees, you should leave the workshop with hands-on projects and ideas to address topics related to STEM, CTE, the Arts, Common Core, and/or Next Generation Science Standards.
Three sessions offered
May 18 – 20, June 8 – 10 and July 20 – 22.
On-site at the ShopBot facility in Durham, NC
Thursday evening open hours to work on your own project (optional)
Friday 9 – 5
2.5 days (2 CEU credits)
$400 per computer seat (we can have up to 2 people per computer)
How to Sign Up
If you’re interested in attending the workshop, send us an email at email@example.com with your name, contact details, and a couple of sentences about your experience level. And of course, questions are welcome!
Sallye Coyle is experiencing how rapid advances in computers, software, and technology have changed the way education is served by digital fabrication spaces. She has traveled extensively in the US and the world, working with schools, FabLabs, TechShops, and makerspaces to “train the trainers” in how to use the digital fabrication technology, as well as how to build, maintain, and use ShopBot tools.
We are working on making a suite of other digital fabrication tools (and their handlers) available on-site for the workshop. These tools include: a vinyl cutter, laser cutter, and an Ultimaker 3D printer.
As a US Army veteran with 28 years of service, Jerry Abney has never been one to back down from a challenge. Upon return from a tour in Iraq in 2004, the vision in his right eye deteriorated to the point of blindness. The very next year, he was diagnosed with retinoschisis of the left eye, leaving him with 5% of his original sight. Due to his vision loss, Jerry had to rethink his approach to most aspects of his life, including hobbies, work, and exercise. As part of the adjustment to his change, Jerry found himself at the VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, AL for computer training when he noted the sounds of a woodworking course next door. Intrigued, he introduced the idea of working with wood to his counselor, who agreed that the challenge associated with turning an idea into a tangible result was one tailor-made for Jerry. His natural curiosity for how things work coupled with his determination and discipline could let him explore new ways to make things, keeping him physically and intellectually stimulated– an attitude he has applied towards a number of different activities that most would say are impossible: he’s even figured out ways to water ski, scuba dive, and rock climb. Today, Jerry uses his ShopBot to reverse-engineer objects he finds interesting, making them work on his own terms. He runs a woodworking company, Amazing Vision Wood Work, out of his Miami home where he is always working on new projects and improving his technique.
Jerry combines a number of different woodworking methods, including lathing and CNC to make products like this bowl.
Jerry also makes signs and plaques for local businesses, servicepeople, and VA offices.
One of the advantages to Jerry’s experiences is that he’s blazing a trail in CNC and woodworking. Through Amazing Vision, he’s devised methods for working on a computer (he currently uses ZoomText for reading, typing and working in software) that work around the constraints of limited vision and allow him to cut on his ShopBot. He also operates a number of different machines and can impart his knowledge on to anyone with limited vision and an interest in woodworking.
Machining in Braille
Braille is most commonly embossed into paper, since machining it can be difficult.
One of the most interesting developments to come out of Jerry’s experiences, however, is his work in machining Braille, the writing system used by the blind or visually impaired. Rooted in military history, it’s based on a code called “night writing” that was used by 19th century soldiers to communicate silently in the dark. Due to the relative letter size and space needed to form words, machining Braille requires a certain level of precision and patience. While there are resources for machining Braille, they require both expensive licensed software and tool additions that cost thousands of dollars, which are typically out of reach for the average hobbyist or small business owner.
In his usual fashion, Jerry Abney refuses to adhere to that status quo. He is trying to find a way to make the process available for the average user, and has been working with ShopBot on some solutions. He has successfully cut Braille on several projects, but it can be incredibly time-consuming and mentally exhausting to even design a few words. One plaque produced by Amazing Vision includes an American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance in both Latin and Braille alphabets. Because he had to design the cells manually, the Braille portion took him longer than the entire rest of the project multiple times over, but for Jerry, the thought of eventually making the process more accessible & cost effective is worth it.
Though it is only composed of dots, the placement and order of the Braille Pledge of Allegiance took Jerry countless hours of concentration and patience.
“Lost My Sight, Not My Vision”
While people may enjoy the things he makes, the product itself isn’t what drives Jerry. It’s the idea of coming across something interesting and finding a way to do it on his terms. This is perhaps best displayed in his company’s motto, “Lost My Sight, Not My Vision”, which he carves into each of his final products as a stamp of authenticity. For Jerry, these pieces may each start out as raw material, but with patience and dedication they can turn into something wonderful.
The approximate route for the first leg of Bill’s Digital Dirty Jobs Tour.
At the end of this month, I’ll be driving to Austin, Texas and back, making the first couple of Dirty Digital Jobs visits. I’m awfully sick of winter so my plan is to take the southern route along the panhandle of Florida and the Gulf Coast on the way there–the warm weather will be a welcome change!.
I’ve only got a couple of days to get to Austin in time for Wayne Locke’s ShopBot User Group taking place March 3-4 so it will be a pretty hard push, but I already have visits scheduled with longtime ShopBotter and musical instrument maker, David Beede, woodworker Tim Lucas, and sculptor Kevin Gallup. If the timing works out, I’ve got a couple more stops that I want to make on the way there and will keep my fingers crossed that I can make them happen. I’ll post about my visits on the ShopBot blog as I go, so keep your eye out for updates.
Wayne has been hosting ShopBot events longer than anyone, but I’ve never had a chance to go to it before, so I’m really looking forward to seeing old Texas friends and learning some new tricks. For a couple of days afterwards I’ll be visiting shops around Austin, including the amazing Techshop in Round Rock that’s connected to a Lowe’s. If you’re in Austin and looking for cheap labor for a couple of hours, let me know and I’ll try to fit you in.
At the end of the week we’ll be setting up for SXSW Create taking place March 10-12, where my son will meet me for the trip home. I’ve always wanted to visit PieLab in Greensboro, Alabama and re-visit Rural Studio and the $20k House project, so we may try to take a jog up that way on the way home.
Whichever way I go, I’ll be looking for more Dirty Digital Jobs to do, so if you’re generally between Austin, Texas and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can work out. And most importantly, keep the coffee pot on!
ShopBot Tools is excited to be a part of Construct3D 2017 at Duke University in Durham, the first national conference on digital fabrication to focus entirely on 3D printing for educators. This inaugural event will be held May 5-7, and addresses a wide range of topics including fostering student engagement, supporting research, and understanding the role of 21st century technology in manufacturing. Registration is currently open on their website through April 28th.
With this major conference being held in Durham, ShopBot is offering Construct3D attendees an exclusive chance to stop by for a tour of the headquarters and an exclusive 3-hour ShopBot CNC training session, all hosted by our own ShopBot Sallye!
There are more details still to come; if you’re interested in paying ShopBot a visit, email us at email@example.com, check back here, and follow us on social media for all the latest updates!