If you want to see some of the most exciting and innovative products coming up for the year, the SXSW Interactive Trade Show was the place to get caught up on the latest tech and gadgets for the creator in you. The showcase has something for everyone: audio lovers, movie makers, digital artists, marketing managers, and even fabricators. Inventables, the company known for helping bring people’s ideas into reality through digital manufacturing, debuted a new tool to make it even more easy for creators to bring their ideas to life. The Shapeoko 2, paired with the new cloud-based Easel design software, is an effective tool for those who want an affordable alternative to a laser cutter.
I spoke with Inventables marketing guru Michael Una on the trade show floor and got to see just what the Shapeoko is all about. At it’s base, it’s a CNC milling machine, but when used with the Easel software, users can bring their own 2-D designs to tangible, real life products. While the Shapeoko 2 has been on the market since October of last year, the big announcement at SXSW was the launch of the Easel software. Touted as the “world’s first free cloud based design and fabrication software,” the Easel software allows designers to create, from scratch, a flat design, and the Shapeoko will cut it out to the users’ specifications. The Shapeoko has the ability to cut woods, plastics, and soft-based metals; as demonstrated on the show-room floor when a custom bottle opener was created by Una.
While the Shapeoko is a great introductory CNC machine, it’s the Easel software that will be a boon to people wanting to get into digital printing. The software is very user friendly, and you won’t need the background of a CAD programmer to operate it. Also, the program has built-in settings for the materials you are cutting. Often times with laser cutters, your really have to know the calibration settings to get your cut right the first time. The Easel software takes a lot of the guess work out for you and makes it easy for anyone to jump right in and start creating.
This has huge implications for designers, costumers and model makers who have been wanting to further their skills with 3-D printing or laser cutting machines but can’t shelve out the cost for these. It makes the Shapeoko a great alternative for hobbyists and professionals wanting to up their game. You can grab a Shapeoko kit starting at $649.00, and build it yourself, though Una said we should be on the lookout for an announcement later this year that may make this tool even more accessible.
If you want to learn more and sign up for early access for the Easel software, head over to Inventable’s Easel site, http://www.easel.com/.