Category Archives: The Workbench

X-Carve is an open-source, next-gen CNC carving machine

This CNC machine will let Makers carve the way they want.

For a couple of years, Inventables has been the CNC device of choice for Makers with their open-source, easily-modded Shapeoko 2. And while multi-axis, computerized milling machines are nothing new, the Chicago-based company continues to cater to the burgeoning DIY community with the launch of a new device. Dubbed X-Carve, the machine not only packs several upgrades from its older siblings but is entirely scalable as well.


You may recall the Shapeoko family from way back in 2011 when the concept CNC machine kit first made its Kickstarter debut. There, it well exceeded its initial goal having garnered over $11,000. This design would go on to inspire the market-ready Shapeoko 2 in 2012.

With X-Carve, Inventables brings a number of innovative elements to the CNC kit concept. Essentially, it features all the upgrades you wished the Shapeoko had, including stronger corner-mounting for increased rigidity, NEMA 23 motors and self-tapping screws. Beyond that, the latest machine uses 50% fewer parts and requires just half the build time.

“With a relentless focus on reducing the part count and improving rigidity, we designed single-piece extrusions for X‑Carve’s gantry and spindle mount. New Y-axis plates bring the spindle closer to the center, decreasing flex,” the team writes.


The kit comes in two size options — standard and large with 500mm and 1000mm rails, respectively. The workable space is about 12” x 12″x 2.7″ for the standard and 31″ x 31” x 2.7″ for the large. Inventables says the latter is even big enough to work on a full-sized longboard. What’s more, X-Carve can even be configured to any size, as long as it falls within the standard and large spectrum.

The X-Carve is also capable of creating precision parts from a wide range of materials including plastic, wood, metal, foam, cardboard and wax. Created for a workshop (and the occasional Makerspace) setting, the unit is both customizable and expandable. In other words, if a Maker already has one of Inventables previous machines, they can upgrade and scale their existing device by simply adding a few X-Carve components.


On the electronics side, the X-Carve boasts a 24VDC spindle with a single source power supply for its motor and spindle. This gives users spindle control through Gcode. The gadget is designed to be controlled using an Arduino (ATmega328) and gShield (an Arduino shield with three stepper motor drivers), but more advanced users can also leave off the controller and try their own. The open-source machine will run the Easel software along with other CAM options as well.

Interested? Good news, X-Carve will begin shipping April 30, 2015 and will begin at $799 with fully-souped up models upwards of $2,000.  Like its predecessor, it comes in kit form. An upgrade kit for the Shapeoko 2 will also be available for just $200. Until then, you can head over to its official page to learn more.

Print your own circuit boards in under an hour with Voltera

The V-One will allow Makers to go from concept to creation in just minutes.

The emergence of 3D printing continues to revolutionize the way in which companies and Makers go about the prototyping process. And, as you’re well aware, constructing your own circuit boards can certainly be a daunting task. Now, what if converging these two elements could significantly cut down the time between concept and creation? That’s the idea of Voltera’s new V-One circuit printer, which we first saw on the CES 2015 show floor and has since hit Kickstarter. The Waterloo-based startup is hoping to eliminate many of the frustrations typically associated with traditional fabrication, all while accelerating development.


According to the team, the Voltera V-One is the first conductive ink printer that goes further than simply printing single layer circuits on paper. The device is said to be capable of producing electrically-separated dual-layer circuits onto FR4. What’s more, the V-One can create an insulating mask that goes over the first layer of conductive ink before a second layer is printed, thereby enabling traces to cross over each other. It also offers a solder paste option to let Maker reflow surface-mount components onto existing boards.

How it works is relatively simple. Using a print head full of conductive ink, the Voltera can recreate a variety of circuit traces from a schematic that are required to connect chips and other hardware components together. The printer itself only has one button, in addition to magnetic ink cartridges that are designed to snap on/off, allowing for easy transitions between materials. Meanwhile, its software will guide a user through each step and handle all of the file conversions.

As easy as the process may be, it is important to point out that these boards aren’t meant to replace mass manufactured PCBs altogether. Instead, it is merely a prototyping tool that aspires to help bring ideas to life in a much quicker, more efficient manner.


“How many times have you tossed out a board because you used the wrong footprint or because you forgot a pull-up resistor? If you’re anything like us… more times than you’d like to admit. Now you can quickly test an idea without wasting money or two weeks of your time,” the team writes.

Each printer will come with template boards — which at the moment are shield boards for the Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and Mega (ATmega2560) — that are cut to shape and pre-drilled to get you up and running in expedited fashion. The machine is compatible with a number of operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as CAD tools like EAGLE, Altium, Upverter and KiCad.


The team shares that a relatively standard layout, such as that of an Atmel based Arduino, can print in just about 15-20 minutes. Then, add 30 minutes for the ink to dry, and you have yourself a finished prototype circuit board in under an hour — all with just the press of a button.

  • Printer size: 390mm x 257mm x 207mm
  • Print Area: 138mm x 102mm
  • Printer weight: 7kg (15.4lbs)
  • Maximum board thickness: 3mm
  • Substrate material: FR4
  • Heated bed temperature: 250°C
  • Connectivity: USB

And while the V-One may not be the first circuit board printer to hit Kickstarter, it does appear to be one of the more impressive and advanced devices we’ve seen thus far. If you recall, both Voxel8 and Squink are also seeking to make 3D-printed electronics a reality. Want a circuit board prototyping machine of your own? Head over to its Kickstarter page now, where Voltera been garnered over $500,000.

Voxel8 is making 3D-printed electronics a reality

This 3D printer is blending plastics and electronics in the same printed object.

Traditionally, electronic circuit boards are manufactured in standard shapes. However, Voxel8 has unveiled a new 3D printing platform that brings together functional materials, hardware and software to give designers a once inconceivable way to integrate electronics into their projects.


While previous electronics printing efforts have involved either retrofitting existing machines or spitting out PCBs using inkjet printers, the Massachusetts-based company believes it has developed the world’s first 3D electronics printer. As seen at CES 2015, the Voxel8 is enabling users to blend plastic, conductive ink and electronic components all into the same object. Makers can now create built-in electronic circuitry right into their DIY designs, ranging from quadcopter drones to phones to USB sticks.

The innovative printer, which was founded by Dr. Jennifer A. Lewis in partnership with Autodesk, boasts interchangeable cartridges that can print out objects in both PLA plastic and conductive silver ink. The team reveals that this ink is five thousand times more conductive than other pastes and filaments currently used in 3D printing, and indeed, carries higher currents capable of supplying power to small electric motors and actuators.


The ink is specifically designed so that it can be deposited by a 250 micron nozzle, dried in just five minutes at room temperature and used to reliably interconnect TQFP integrated circuits. In fact, it will enable users to easily wire together chips and other electronic components within their 3D-printed objects, making way for a degree of design freedom that is simply not possible through standard manufacturing methods.

Embodying a C-shaped design, Voxel8 offers users optimal transparency into the device as their parts are being constructed. On the hardware side, the gadget is driven by a RAMBo 1.3 (ATmega2560/ATmega32U2). In addition, it is equipped with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, USB and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as a highly-repeatable kinematically coupled bed that uses magnets to ensure precision as a Maker manually inserts the components of interest, then continues printing the part right where it left off.


The printer has a layer resolution of 200 microns, and can even create objects up to 4” x 6″ x 4” in size. Thanks to Autodesk’s Project Wire software, the printing process can also be paused to let users manually insert components that will be embedded in the project.

Since its debut back in January, the company has generated quite a bit of buzz in the news. Most recently, Voxel8 announced that it had closed a strategic investment and technology development agreement with In-Q-Tel (IQT), the investment firm that identifies innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the U.S. CIA.


Interested in printing your own novel 3D electronic devices? The machines are expected to begin shipping late 2015. In the meantime, head on over to Voxel8’s official page to learn more.