Inventables is bringing sexy back to subtractive manufacturing

The company hopes to put a 3D carver into every school in the country. To start, it chose 50 lucky winners, one from each state.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer on

Additive manufacturing gets all the glory. I think it's because cheap desktop 3D printing is an inherently sexy concept--a technology that can seemingly create stuff out of thin air.

But 3D printing still has a lot of limitations. You can only print certain materials, filaments are finicky to work with, leading to high failure rates, and the resolution on cheap machines is below par for precision components.

Subtractive manufacturing has been around a lot longer (basically since humans invented the chisel) and precision computer controls coupled with 3D CAD software makes milling machines pretty amazing pieces of tech for many prototyping and home workshop applications.

Inventables is trying to bring a little of the sexy back to subtractive manufacturing. The Chicago-based company offers a relatively affordable 3D carving ecosystem, which includes both hardware and the company's free Easel software. Its carvers can work with materials like wood, plastic, and metal, resulting in robust precision parts and products.

Because the way to reach customers is with great publicity, and because the secret to great publicity is giving away cool stuff to kids, Inventables recently announced that it would be giving carvers to 50 schools in the United States.

The one carver per classroom initiative is a response to President Obama's call to create a "Nation of Makers." Last June, the White House celebrated the National Week of Making. During a White House meeting to kick off the week, Inventables CEO, Zach Kaplan, stood up and committed to donating a 3D carving machine to a school in every state in the union.

By the end of the decade, Inventables's goal is to have a 3D carver in every school in the United States.

"We believe that to ignite the digital manufacturing revolution, we need to provide free access to these important 3D carving tools to as many schools as possible. By the end of the decade, we want every school in the United States to have a 3D Carving machine," said Kaplan.


Some cool schwag created with Inventables' 3D carvers.

Inventables hopes that access to a free machine and free software will help educate future generations and reboot American manufacturing education, and allow people to start their own independent manufacturing businesses in the United States. The machines work with Inventables' free software Easel to allow anyone to go from idea to making in five minutes without any specialized knowledge or training.

"Our goal is to keep the digital manufacturing revolution going by giving tomorrow's thinkers the tools they need to become tomorrow's entrepreneurs," adds Kaplan. "We are giving individuals the power to launch their own business like the guys at Studio Neat who recently constructed an Apple TV remote holder. This also means we are creating alternatives to offshoring what America builds, which will create more jobs here in the U.S."

Is your kid's school on the list of winners?

Alabama James Clemens High School
Alaska Dimond High School
Arizona Zaharis Elementary School
Arkansas Washington Middle School
California Templeton High School
Colorado Career Center
Connecticut Salisbury School
Florida Imagine South Lake Charter
Georgia Woodstock Middle School
Hawaii Kailua Elementary
Idaho Lewiston High School
Illinois Pulaski International School of Chicago
Indiana Purdue University
Iowa Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Community School District
Kansas Wellington High School
Kentucky Eastern Kentucky University
Louisiana Scotlandville Magnet High School
Maine Kents Hill School
Maryland North County High School
Massachusetts Sparhawk School
Michigan Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit
Minnesota Princeton Public Schools
Mississippi Madison Career and Technical Center
Missouri Kirksville Area Technical Center
Montana Stillwater Christian School
Nebraska Heritage Lake Academy
Nevada Discovery Charter School Las Vegas
New Hampshire Central High School
New Jersey The College of New Jersey
New Mexico Mountain View Middle School
New York United Nations International School
North Carolina Rockingham Middle School
North Dakota North Star School
Ohio Hilliard Weaver Middle School
Oklahoma Tri County Technology Center
Oregon Taft High School 7-12
Pennsylvania Preston Area School
Rhode Island St. Michael's Country Day School
South Carolina Sugar Creek Elementary
South Dakota Vermillion High School
Tennessee Harriman High School
Texas Klein Independent School District
Utah M Lynn Bennion Elementary School
Vermont Lyndon Institute
Virginia Loudoun Academy of Science
Washington Tacoma Science and Math Institute (SAMi)
West Virginia Wheeling Country Day School
Wisconsin BadgerBOTS
Wyoming Little Snake River Valley Schools

*Delaware is still pending an entry for submission.

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