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Bringing Manufacturing Back to Our Communities: What’s to be Done?

Ted Hall’s manufacturing blog series on Medium continues with an entry that addresses the growth of local support. According to Ted, the most successful path to reinventing manufacturing is not through venture capitalism funding alone, but by a strong and passionate community of like-minded individuals and organizations. Read about these “reservoirs of entrepreneurial enthusiasm” in Ted’s Medium post.

To read more about the challenges, successes, and lessons learned from over two decades of technology-based small manufacturing, follow Ted Hall on Medium. To discover more about ShopBot's tools, community and support, visit

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Ted Hall on our manufacturing future and new fabrication technologies.

ShopBotters at Work

ShopBot Success Stories: Oak Branch Manufacturing and Assembly

Oak Branch Manufacturing - Panels made for interior of Starbucks® Downtown Disney in Orlando, FL
Oak Branch Manufacturing is gaining a reputation as a CNC problem solver both in its home state of Georgia and nationwide. From its humble beginnings as a side project for IT worker Andy Brooks to a big time contractor for Starbucks and Disney, ShopBot has been with them all the way. Read all about their history and latest projects in the latest ShopBotBlog.

For Customers, Modify Furniture Offers Great Experience by Design

Connecticut furniture maker Marci Klein owes the success of her furniture company, Modify, to a modular and simple design process. Thanks to her medical background and collaborative spirit, she’s able to deliver on the promise of a great customer experience and eco-friendly living. Read all about the Modify story and a special upcoming contest in this recent ShopBog Blog entry.

ShopBot Salutes Jerry Abney

Jerry Abney and JessieAs a US Army veteran with 28 years of service, Jerry Abney does not back down from a challenge. After a return from Iraq in 2005, he was diagnosed with a deteriorating vision disorder that rendered him legally blind. His quest for the next chapter brought him to the VA’s Blind Rehab Center in Birmingham, AL where he came across a woodworking workshop. In the years since, he has used his unique combination of determination and discipline to do some truly amazing things on his ShopBot. He currently is using his tool to figure out machining Braille lettering and turning what is normally a laborious process into something anyone can do. Check out Jerry’s great works and amazing story over at the website for his business, Amazing Vision Wood Work.

ShopBot on the Road

Models, molds and casting at IU1 Chevron FabLab in rural Pennsylvania

In order to push their already considerable skills to the next level, the Fab Lab gurus from Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1) in southwestern Pennsylvania (a Chevron Fab Lab) welcomed a team from TIES (the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM) to lead a three day Professional Development session. The teachers machined 3D models on their ShopBot CNC’s (aided by ShopBot’s Sallye Coyle), used those models to make molds, and used the molds to reproduce the original quickly and efficiently in multiple materials (with Kelly Zona). On the third day, Chris Carter led a session on electronics and circuits.  
Metal star phases. First carved into wax with a ShopBot. A mould was then created from that carving and metal poured into it for casting.

  1. The original “model” of a star (left) was machined in wax at the bottom of a “box” deep enough to contain the mold material.  
  2. A two part silicone compound was mixed and poured into the box. After curing, the mold (right) contains a negative space in the shape of the model. This brand of silicone is rigid enough to hold its shape at temperatures high enough to withstand the molten metal, and flexible enough to be able to remove the finished project from the mold after casting.
  3. A soft metal in bar form was placed in a crucible, then heated in a furnace until the metal liquefied so it could flow into the nooks and crannies of the mold. The metal solidified again at room temperature. The bubbles in the final product (middle) are a result of air getting captured between the mold and the metal, creating an interesting, if unintended, result. 
IU1 is a regional educational agency that strives to provide educational support to the students, parents, educators, school administrators, and the communities throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. They have a stationary FabLab in Brownsville, PA, and a mobile lab that travels to schools and events throughout the region. 

STEM Schools in Egypt

ShopBot's Sallye Coyle just returned from two weeks of working with Fab Lab Managers from the STEM Fab Lab schools distributed throughout the Lower (Northern) and Upper (Southern) regions, as well as the Cairo area, of Egypt. While her main focus was getting the Fab Lab managers comfortable working with their ShopBot PRSalpha gantry tools, she also created projects that used multiple CAD/CAM software, digital fabrication tools, and electricity.
Dr, Adel Salah, Fab Lab Manager at Ma'adi Girls School in Cairo.
Dr, Adel Salah, Fab Lab Manager at Ma'adi Girls School in Cairo, taking ownership of the ShopBot.

ShopBot in... Mongolia!

Just a few weeks ago, ShopBot’s David Preiss made a trip to the other side of the world to Mongolia for an installation and training in the capitol city, Ulaanbaatar. While it was winter here in North Carolina, it was nothing compared to Ulaanbaatar while he was there – where typical January temps dip below -25F°! A ShopBot 4 x 8 Gantry tool was installed in Mongolian National University of Education in collaboration with Inter Science LLC, and will be part of a digital fabrication space accompanied by an Epilogue Laser Cutter, 3D Printer, and a variety of other shop tools.
David Preiss and group at the site of the ShopBot installation in Mongolia.
ShopBot's David Preiss (far right) with two engineers from Inter Science and a teacher at the Mongolian National University of Education.

Bill Young's Dirty Digital Jobs Tour: Planning is Underway!

Map of the first leg of the Dirty Digital Jobs tour.
Bill Young has begun to plot the first leg of his Dirty Digital Jobs Tour. This first one will take him from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Austin, Texas... and plenty of places in-between!

Read more about the current route for Bill's trip and see if he can fit your "Dirty Digital Job" into his travel plans.

Get Some Training

Live training classes are held on a regular basis at ShopBot Headquarters in Durham, NC.

Upcoming Basic Training Classes at ShopBot:
February 16-17
March 2-3
April 6-7
May 4-5

Classes have been selling out fast: sign up here!

Can't make it to ShopBot in-person? Then check out our online training sessions.

Upcoming Events

ShopBot is participating in several events across the country throughout the spring. Some that we are currently scheduled to attend include: the USITT Conference in St. Louis, MO; SXSW Create in Austin, TX; and Maker Faire Chicago.

For more information and to see what other events are currently on our schedule, visit the Events calendar on our website.

ShopBotters Get Social

Here's just a sample of what's trending in ShopBot's social media:


Bobby Walser

Cubs World Champions 2016 sign.
Getting closers. #hehshawks #hoffmanhawks #woodworking #shopbot


Cutting stars out of wood on a ShopBot.
Putting the @ShopBotTools to work for a little shop decoration. Have to love the simplicity of CNC #cnc #MadeInUSA

Tim Deagan

Rolling computer stand
New #CNC, #laserengraver, #3Dprinter, #vinylcutter, #handibot rolling computer stand for the shop. 3 of 4 rolling work upgrades complete!

Sallye Coyle

3D machining of Einstein and Darth Vader out of wood.
3D machining of wood models for molding and casting class tomorrow at IU1 Intermediate School in Pennsylvania ShopBot PRS gantry


Dale Grabowski

Antique carriage model cut from wood on a ShopBot.
This is my Shopbot at work doing some scroll saw projects. Have some 50 pieces completed se [sic] far. Using a 1/16 bit to get the detailed look


January 29
Swirl of circles being cut out of PVC with a ShopBot.
V-carve in PVC sheet! #cnc #shopbot #aspire #vcarve

January 27
15 foot tall Trojan Horse
That time I built a 15 foot tall Trojan Horse. #tbt #zomadic #trojanhorse #woodworking #fabrication #design #cnc #art #artinstallations #shopbot

January 25
Fan panels cut from plexi on a ShopBot.
Check out my new #fan cuts! I’m testing this new #design, and trying hard to break them (still intact!) #photography by @noeltech #flowarts #fantech #techfans #nextfabmade #shopbot #yeeolejugglingstudio

One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more.
- Washington Irving

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