Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Feb 13th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

3-D Revolution

news 3dprintTwo UCSC students carve a niche in the world of 3-D printing with an affordable new device

It’s so transformative to design something on the computer, and then be able to make it into a real object,” says 23-year-old Bar Smith, inventor of what could be the world’s most affordable CNC router.

Operating like an automated sculptor, Smith’s CNC (short for computer numerical control) device allows people to carve items out of raw materials like wood, plastic, foam and brick after they’ve designed the piece on a computer.

Similar to a 3-D printer, which lays down materials and builds pieces from the ground up with lasers, a CNC router instead uses metal bits to whittle the material down into the desired shape. And the router can create both two- and three-dimensional pieces, “so there is an unlimited number of things you can make,” says Smith, who graduated from UCSC last month with an electrical engineering degree.
The desktop device could be used to carve phone cases, chess boards, nameplates, or just about anything from material soft enough that it can cut and small enough to fit on the machine’s working surface, Smith says.

At just over a cubic foot, this router costs less than $200, putting it at a tenth of the price of machines with similar capabilities—a big accomplishment for a 23-year old and his friends. And possibly for the entire world of 3-D printing: the invention has been met with global enthusiasm, and in May, Makesmith CNC—the start-up he founded with Thomas Beckett—garnered 800 percent of its Kickstarter funding goal to manufacture more of the devices.

Thoughts Become Things

A couple of years ago, Smith, a soft-spoken engineering student with shaggy blond hair, wanted to turn models he made on his computer into physical objects he could hold in his hand.

But Smith’s success story began with a dilemma: a budget too tight to keep up with his ambitions. And the story of how he ended up with $80,000 in funding to distribute his invention to clamoring engineers, hobbyists and designers is a testament to patient perseverance. 

Searching the Internet two years ago, Smith realized he would have a hard time affording the parts to build the machine he wanted, let alone purchase a fully assembled device. The confines of his budget forced him to economize on his project in a way professional designers are not familiar with, he says.

Many people, even some professors, scoffed at his idea to build a CNC router, given his modest financial means, Smith recalls. He brushed them off and continued to work.

“Anytime you’re doing something that no one’s done before, people just assume that it hasn’t been done because it can’t be done,” Smith says.

Egged on by the skepticism of both professors and some online peers, Smith sought to build pieces of the machine to prove to them, and himself, that a more affordable router was feasible.

“In the first year, I thought ‘Well, I probably can’t build the whole machine but I can at least prove that I was right about this specific part being possible,’” Smith says. “And then someone would be like ‘Well, this next part won’t work.’ And I thought, ‘OK, well, I’ll make that part work just to win that argument.’”

Smith’s friends attest to Smith’s hardheadedness.

“That’s just what Bar is: ‘Well I’m going to try it out regardless,’”says Tom Beckett, Smith’s business partner, with a laugh. “That’s Bar.”

And as Smith worked in his room, he realized that he was coming closer and closer to completing an entirely homemade CNC router. “Eventually I was like ‘Well, it’s mostly done, so I should just probably finish,’” Smith says.

At first Smith figured he would just build enough routers for himself and a few friends. “Then I thought ‘Well, maybe we should do a Kickstarter—then we could make a lot of them,’” Smith says. “‘That would be fun.’”

Smith consulted Beckett, his housemate and fellow UCSC student at the time, and the two planned for the future. What had been a hobby for Smith had quickly turned into a business venture.

“We sat down and said, ‘OK, if we’re going to do this, how do we get started?” says Beckett, who minored in information and technology management. “So we just sat at the laundromat and just drafted the list of ‘Here’s what we need to get. We don’t have the exact path, but we can start.’”

The two posted a listing to Kickstarter, setting their goal at $10,000 to fund the purchase of two large laser cutters for manufacture of Makesmith CNC’s router for sale and distribution before Beckett left for work one morning. “I got back nine hours later and our project was funded,” Beckett says.

The incredible success of the Kickstarter campaign did not stop there. By the end of the month-long fundraising period, the campaign raised more than $80,000 from over 400 backers in more than 40 countries.

“I was completely terrified,” Smith says. “We were both working in restaurants and when I sat down and did the math I was like ‘This is the amount of money I would make if I did what I’m doing for the next, like, many years.’”

Currently, the team is waiting on large laser cutters to arrive so that they can begin manufacturing the CNC router kits and ship them out to the backers on Kickstarter who pledged $195 or more to the fundraising.

“We’re trying to keep up with the people who want [the router],” says Justin Beirold, a former Cabrillo student, currently studying at UC Berkeley and doing marketing for Makesmith. “At this point we’re not even trying to attract people to our product. Right now, people are just coming to us, like ‘This is awesome, I want one.’”

One interested customer could be MakersFactory, a 3-D printing company in Santa Cruz.

“Our laser cutter isn’t even able to do soft metals, which is in the range of five to fifteen thousand dollars,” says Joe Allington, a teacher and designer at MakersFactory. “The fact that you’re able to work with materials hardier than what some powerful laser cutters can manage with a machine that’s under $200 would be pretty exciting.”

But the enthusiasm surrounding Makesmith’s router is best summed up by the group’s favorite message from a supporter: “It was from Japan,” Smith says. The email just said: ‘Can’t speak much English. Maximum stoked.’”

Comments (2)Add Comment
Nobody mentioned the Dremel Tool?
written by Jim Jones, July 24, 2014
I think this is a great achievement, especially for a young man starting out. For completeness' sake, it should have been mentioned that it's basically an accessory for a standard Dremel too. I confirmed that on their Kickstarter site.

Nevertheless, a great achievement. Go to their site and read the updates, they've just yesterday taken delivery of the laser cutters needed to make the routers.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/makesmithcnc/makesmith-cnc-the-most-affordable-desktop-cnc-rout/posts


cnc router study
written by cnc router http://www.sinomac-cnc.com, July 24, 2014
I am studying cnc router right now,the story is helped

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pub Watch

Mega gastro pub-in-progress at the Old Sash Mill, plus the best pasta dish downtown

 

How do you know love is real?

When you feel the groove in your heart and you’re inspired to dance. Becca Bing, Boulder Creek, Teacher

 

Temple of Umami

Watsonville’s Miyuki is homestyle cooking, Japanese-style

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster