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.
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?
James Clemens High School
Dimond High School
Zaharis Elementary School
Washington Middle School
Templeton High School
Imagine South Lake Charter
Woodstock Middle School
Lewiston High School
Pulaski International School of Chicago
Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Community School District
Wellington High School
Eastern Kentucky University
Scotlandville Magnet High School
Kents Hill School
North County High School
Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit
Princeton Public Schools
Madison Career and Technical Center
Kirksville Area Technical Center
Stillwater Christian School
Heritage Lake Academy
Discovery Charter School Las Vegas
Central High School
The College of New Jersey
Mountain View Middle School
United Nations International School
Rockingham Middle School
North Star School
Hilliard Weaver Middle School
Tri County Technology Center
Taft High School 7-12
Preston Area School
St. Michael's Country Day School
Sugar Creek Elementary
Vermillion High School
Harriman High School
Klein Independent School District
M Lynn Bennion Elementary School
Loudoun Academy of Science
Tacoma Science and Math Institute (SAMi)
Wheeling Country Day School
Little Snake River Valley Schools
*Delaware is still pending an entry for submission.