CNC Tools

Computer-numerically Controled tool topics.

Bay Area Digital Fabrication Club meets this Thursday

The Bay Area Digital Fabrication Club meet-up is meeting this Thursday.

Graciously hosted by BlueSprout, Oakland's new tech factory, the Club is an informal and fun user's group where designers, fabricators, and artsts share tips and tricks about these amazing tools. This month's meeting is all about cheap and/or free 3D modeling options for 3D printing & subtractive fabrication.

Remember, bring something you've made to show & tell, and get a chance to win a prize: $60 worth of 3D printing filament or CNC tooling, your pick!

Would love to see you there!

Shopbot Acquired. Bonus x1000. Again.

So just a hint over eight years ago, we ordered a Shopbot. Bragging about it is actually the very first post on this blog. We got it running, named it Frank, and started making stuff.

First we made stuff for ourselves, then our friends and family, then friends of friends, and next thing you know a year after Frank arrived in our lives we quit our day jobs and jumped in with both feet. The last seven years have been very busy indeed! Since then we've delivered on many wonderful projects for some really great people and companies.

So I'm very proud to say that we just ordered another Shopbot. Slightly larger than Frank, but twice as fast, twice as strong, and much stiffer and more accurate. Technically, it's a PRS Alpha 96x60x12 with a 4 HP spindle. Shopbot has been one of the best vendors we've ever worked with, and we've very excited to get one of their new awesome machines!

Frank is far from being sent to pasture, however! He's busily cutting a job as I post this, and after eight years is still a wonderful, capable, dependable machine. We're going to run them side-by-side, in parallel. In time, we'll probably convert Frank into something that's even better for big 3D carving, maybe even convert him into a 4 or 5-axis machine maybe.

Now the only problem we have is what to name the new robot. If you've got a great idea for a name please let us know!

Shopbot's new Handibot!

Shopbot, makers of our beloved and tirelessly working robot Frank, have launched a Kickstarter to fund the development of their awesome new little CNC machine, the Handibot!

If you were at Maker Faire this year, you got to see this impressive little portable CNC router. Perfect for jobsite work! I'm expecting a big future for this little guy.

Great thing is that if you know how to use a Shopbot at all, you already know all you need to use this new robot. And if you don't, Shopbot is looking to team up with various app developers. I can see lots of small apps for this; apps to route door latchset pockets without having to take the door off its hinges, cutting perfect circles for bathroom fixture install (like they show in this video), and a whole lot more!

So you should help back their Kickstarter and put these empowering CNC tools into more people's hands!

Desks with complex inlay complete!


Stage 1 of the 'Hot Sharp Toxic' room. This swiveling desk is the first stage of a larger project to turn a room in a private residence into a splendid mad science lair. More pictures here and on Flickr.

Happy new owners

Check out our build video, where we show off the process we used to make these fantastically inlayed desks!

We got interviewed on Adafruit's Ask An Engineer!

Last week while in NYC we dropped in on Adafruit Industries. Run by the brilliant Limor and Phillip, they design and make and sell kits and parts for all your electronic project needs. We're big fans! We're excited they had us sit for a short interview for their great "Ask An Engineer" weekly internet show:

Ask an Engineer 3/19/2011 from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

Thanks Adafruit Industries! Totally inspiring to see you guys. They were nice enough to also give us a copy of the latest Wired that Limor is on the cover of (go Limor!) and a Ardino starter kit that we can't wait to begin playing with.

If you want to jump ahead and just watch the interview with us (and not the whole show above) then watch the video below instead. But the whole show is way better, we're so totally buying some of those new color-changing flexible LED strips for our private office library project...

because we can from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

Thanks again you two!

October 14 2010 EatFoodTalkShop - Frank the Robot's Fifth Birthday Party!

Please join us for a happy evening birthday celebration: Frank, our trusty CNC machine, is turning five!

It's time for our regular 2nd-Thursday-of-the-month open house / project salon / OMGBBQWTF called EatFoodTalkShop! We're celebrating the fifth birthday of the beloved robot that changed our lives, launched our business, and has made many wonderful things for us all. I don't know what five is in robot years, but he's well deserving of praise for reaching an important milestone. So we're getting him a cake, and letting him blow out the candles (but NOT cut it).

Please come! When was the last time you went to a birthday party for a robot?

Please drop by and help us eat food, drink libations, and share project stories. We'll be showing off some big new exciting projects we're up to. Frank will strut his stuff as well with a few demos.

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words.

Thursday, October 14th 2010

6:30PM - 9:30PM

Please note that we've moved!

2500 Kirkham St

Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Hope to see you there!

Lost? Lonely? BWC help line: 510-922-8846

ComBots - Oct. 23-24th - discount tickets for our blog readers!

So we're pretty crazy about robots. But not as crazy as our good friends Dave & Simone! They organize all sorts of amazing robot events, and we're very excited to announce a special deal they are doing for our blog readers: a 20% discount on advanced tickets for their next event! Robot combat is way fun, it's too bad our robot is a Maker, not a fighter.

Here's the lowdown from Dave:

ComBots invites all BecauseWeCan readers to discounted tickets to "ComBots Cup V", the fifth annual heavyweight robot combat championship. This event highlights the best combat robot teams in America and their 220 pound flame-throwing, blade-spinning, titanium shearing robots of destruction! This year's event is Saturday/Sunday, October 23-24th from 2-7pm at the San Mateo Event Center.

Whether you're a sports fan or techno geek, ComBots puts on the best robot events in the world! If you missed seeing fighting robots at Maker Faire this year, or are longing for RoboGames, here's your chance to see them again. Full details at

ComBots is pleased to offer BecauseWeCan readers a 20% discount on ticket prices (adults normally $20, kids $15). Coupon is only valid for advanced purchases until Oct 20th. Buy tickets at and use the coupon code below for your discount when you check-out!

super-sekret robot code: BecauseWeCan

Jeffrey McGrew wrote a chapter for Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011, which is now out!

The wonderful Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture series is one of the standard books on Revit. Highly recommended. Put together by this crew of knowledgeable folks, it's currently available from amazon and soon as a downloadable version.

In additional to all the BIM basics, there are extra chapters on all sorts of great work being done via Revit. The one on Revit in the movie industry for set design is stunning! We got to help out on this one too, in that we wrote the extra chapter on BIM-to-CNC fabrication.

So go and grab your copy today!

Frank gets some new mods

Quick update on how Frank is doing! While we got him back online right quick after the move, the move did give us a chance to address several small gremlins and design flaws in his old base design. Nothing too dramatic, but he's more square and solid than ever now. After that came getting the vacuum system back online:


Again, slight changes. We went from a setup of progressively smaller zones, with the smallest being about the size of a sheet of paper near the X/Y zero. We found we never used the smaller zones by themselves, and that our system doesn't have the pressure to hold things that small anyways. So this time we went with eight big square zones, and it's working wonderfully. Also Frank's gotten some new stickers. Someday we should give him a flame job! Next up are a new system of adjustable stops:


These adjustable stops allow you to setup Frank so that you can simply push a sheet of plywood onto him from the in-feed table, and it's stopped in the same place every time as well as held in place. These in combo with the vacuum system make production cutting a snap, such that we made twenty-four desks in two days.


But by far the best recent upgrade is our new spindle! A spindle is a special cutting head used by CNC machines. It's a motor (a huge servo motor, kinda-sorta) that can turn at very precise speeds (even very slow speeds) with lots of torque. It's also got a neat trick: it hooks to Frank's brain, allowing Frank to control it's speed and power. This will not only make for cleaner and faster cuts, it will also let us cut aluminum and other metals much more easily than before. But it's greatest feature is that it's much, much quieter than our old router, making the shop a much better work environment!

We'll be showing off the improved Frank next month at our forthcoming June open house. Still planning the exact date, but keep mid-June open!


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