Inventables had contacted me about sending a Shapeoko 2 to try out at no cost to me.  They wanted me to put it together, run the “hello world” file let them know what I had thought of the overall process.  I was fairly excited at the offer and said yes.  I have a decent amount of electronics experience and I was interested to see what the CNC hype was all about.  When the package arrived I was already a bit shocked on how small the box that it came in was.

Inventables Shapeoko 2 CNC 01 Inventables Shapeoko 2 CNC 02

The contents were nicely packaged and I had no damage issues.

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I made sure to start off the assembly process by being well organized.  Once I had concluded everything was there assembly could begin.

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The instructions are available online which completely fits with a technology company like Inventables.  There are a few ways in which you can configure the machine so a sequential numeric instruction set it was not.  I would like to see this in the future.  Perhaps a couple sets of instructions for the most popular configurations.

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If you are at all interested in a home CNC machine, you will easily find that the assembly is part of the fun.  Like-minded people love to tinker and see the inner workings of things, and this was way more fun to me than tasking.

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The name of the game seemed to be small steps.  Putting together the idler and v-groove wheels and bearing was the first step.  Attaching these to carriage plates the next.  An overall “complete a sub-assembly and move along” approach seems to be a great way to keep the whole process from becoming overwhelming.

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One of the tasks that seemed to annoy me is the tapping of the extrusions.  Aluminum can sometimes be tricky to tap, and doing it by hand diminished most of the fun I had up until this point.  I was going to email Inventables and suggest that there has to be a better way.  I figured it wise to check their website and I saw that the tapping is already done on the next generation machine.  I apparently was not the only one to address this issue.

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Moving along, I began to tidy up some of the wires with the included heat shrink tubing and cable ties.  Gotta make the thing look nice, right?

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Installing the software was it bit tricky for me at first….but then I had the quintessential “ah-ha moment” of user error and I was back in business.

Inventables Shapeoko 2 CNC 11With the “hello world” file loaded into the software and a permanent marker at the ready, I began.  On the surface I thought this was a clever way for Inventables to further drive home their brand, but then I realized this ready-to-go file had some crucial ancillary benefits as well.  Firstly, it could tell you if you had some of the stepper motors running in the wrong direction.  Secondly, it told me that I didn’t have the X & Y axes completely coplanar with the work surface.  This would have been a more upsetting mistake using regular tooling in a spindle.

 

Overall I think if you have interest in a home CNC machine, you should give some considerable thought to the Shapeoko system.  It seems to me to be an affordable way to enter the hobby and it isn’t just an entry level machine.  Check out inventables.com for more information.  If you have any questions for me, or you would like to share some of your CNC knowledge, feel free to leave a comment!

 


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