Desktop Machine Carves Metal and Wood Like Butter

How many desktop 3D printers have we seen on Kickstarter in recent years? Too many to count. But 3D printing is only half of the digital manufacturing promise. Where 3D printing is additive—CNC machines, guided by digital designs, subtract material.

Give a CNC machine a digital file, and it’ll painstakingly sculpt your design from a solid block of material like some kind of robotic Leonardo Da Vinci.

But most CNC machines are big and expensive. They aren’t typically available to your average maker or tinkerer. Or if they are, they’re kits requiring assembly. Now, however, a new Kickstarter campaign is aiming to remedy the situation by offering an affordable, pre-assembled desktop carving machine called Carvey.

Carvey is an enclosed desktop CNC router. It accommodates a range of milling bits, has a build area of a foot by eight inches, carves up to a depth of 2.75 inches, and works with dozens of materials including woods, soft metals, plastics, waxes, and foams.

The machine uses its own proprietary web app, Easel, or the CAD, CAM, and machine control software of your choice. In Easel, users draw a 2D design, the software converts it to 3D, and after selecting a material, the machine carves away.

What might one make with Carvey?

The campaign shows silver jewelry, acetate and wood sunglass, a fiberboard speaker box, a walnut and silver metallic acrylic address sign, and an acrylic and birch circuit board and electronics enclosure. (And why couldn’t you download a file for a simple tool, say a wrench, or a replacement part and fabricate it at home?)

The campaign has raised almost five times its $50,000 goal with nearly a month to go.

The team say they’ve been developing Carvey for over a year and a half. They have a working prototype, and the Kickstarter will fund a manufacturing run. Early backers can get a machine for $1,999, later backers will pay $2,399. They’re aiming to fulfill orders by this time next year—but it’s a complex project, so, grain of salt.

Also, although Carvey’s software seems much more user friendly than standard 3D modeling software, we wonder if it’s still less for the average weekend crafter, more for makers with experience in design programs and trouble-shooting in the workshop.

And Carvey isn’t set up to do full 3D—so, don’t expect to sculpt super sci-fi motorcycle helmets from a hunk of metal. Five-axis routers, like the one from Daishin in the video below, still cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

All that said? This is a pretty cool idea.

Desktop 3D printers are stuck on one material. They’re relatively slow. And the plastic they use is expensive. Carvey, on the other hand, is multi-material, looks to be pretty fast, and uses conventional materials at, presumably, conventional prices.

Sure, consumer 3D printing is still evolving, there are items you can’t make any other way, and Carvey may well have shortcomings that aren’t readily apparent. But it’s awesome that, for the cost of an (expensive) laptop, you could plug that same computer into a machine that precision-carves a solid block of metal in your den or garage.

Jason Dorrier
Jason Dorrier
Jason is editorial director of Singularity Hub. He researched and wrote about finance and economics before moving on to science and technology. He's curious about pretty much everything, but especially loves learning about and sharing big ideas and advances in artificial intelligence, computing, robotics, biotech, neuroscience, and space.
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