3D printing, the landscape-transforming innovation which promised to democratise the manufacturing process, is already on the verge of being dethroned by the latest disruptive technology; 3D carving. “We love desktop 3D printers,” says Engadget’s Steve Dent, “except that it’s hard to do anything useful with the flimsy, thermoplastic results.” Carving differs from printing by offering the ability to sculpt items from a variety of materials, including wood, metal and plastic. Chicago-based company Inventables is leading the way in this new field, with the imaginatively titled Carvey.
The Carvey desktop 3D carving machine raised over $240,000 in just 48 hours on Kickstarter this week, sailing past its initial $50,000 target, with the reported USP that it will take your design from a sketch to a physical product in a five minute window. “When we started the project, our criteria was that it would be inspiring and easy,” CEO Zach Kaplan told Pando’s James Robinson. “I wanted people to be able to go through their first project in under five minutes.”
Carvey comes with free design software Easel, which can be used to make something in three steps; design your product (which can be viewed in both 2D and 3D), select a material, and then click carve. Aside from the simple, five minute manufacturing process, Kaplan believes the Carvey is that rare thing; a discreet CNC-based device suitable for domestic use. “These machines have traditionally been for the shop,” he says. “I can’t run a Shapeoko in my apartment because the neighbours would wonder what I was doing. You could have the Carvey running on your desk in your office and still be talking on your phone.”
Unfortunately, the tech that keeps the Carvey nice and quiet also keeps it expensive; units will start shipping next year at $2,000 a piece. Kaplan doesn’t see it as a finished product, though, instead comparing it to the evolution of printers from the cumbersome dot matrix to the more appealing inkjet. “I think Carvey is like that transition,” he says, “showing people this explosion of what you can do now.”