What is the future of Shapeoko?

discussion of design changes / improvements / suggestions
talon
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What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by talon » Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:33 am

I'm just in the process of building my first Shapeoko 2, I don't doubt that in the future I'll make a larger version. But this got me thinking, what is the future of the Shapeoko project?

For me, this comes down to 2 main areas of interest.

1- Who will lead future development? I assume the original creator, Edward Ford is still advancing the design, but is there any formal system in which community ideas/contributions make it into the core project? is the future of Shapeoko discussed in a community environment or is it developed privately by Edward , and then released at one time? Is Shapeoko still being actively developed by its creator?

2-What are the future goals of Shapeoko? Have these goals ever been stated? There are a lot of potential areas for growth, the following is just a few ideas I've seen discussed.
  • Lower price
  • Increased accuracy
  • Increased work envelope
  • Increased durability
  • Additional capability (Laser, 3d Printing, etc)
  • Workholding/clamping options
  • 4th or 5th axis
  • More complete, open source spindle options
  • Increased aluminum capability
  • Integrated dust control
  • Automatic tool changer
  • Limit/Home switches integrated into the core project
  • simpler construction (Yeah, its already pretty dang simple)
  • Dust Enclosure
I know that individuals in the community are working on many of the above areas, and are freely providing that information in this forum and the Wiki, but will it ever affect the core project?

I'm excited to hear your opinions on the above questions! I'm also excited for the future of Shapeoko and the grateful for what the project is now and the willingness of Edward and other community members to offer something of such value for free.

Thanks,
Clay

(Edited for spelling)
Last edited by talon on Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

cvoinescu
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by cvoinescu » Sun Aug 17, 2014 3:38 am

talon wrote:I know that individuals in the community are working on many of the above areas, and are freely providing that information in this forum and the Wiki, but will it ever effect the core project?
Judging by the past, the answer is yes, although not very extensively. I think Edward has a very clear idea of what his aims are, and he takes ideas and suggestions if they help him meet those, but doesn't let the project be steered in directions he doesn't think productive. It's very much still his baby. (And you meant affect, not effect.)

Also, I think the rate of new ideas on the forum has stayed more or less constant since I joined, despite a huge increase in traffic. My impression is that the increase is almost entirely questions and troubleshooting -- not a complaint, just a statement of fact.

Looking at your goals:

Lower price -- that probably won't happen. The price is right (many thousands sold), and Shapeoko 2 is a larger and more capable machine for only a little more money than the original Shapeoko, due in no small part to Edward's quest for cost reduction (and economies of scale).

Increased accuracy -- the machine is plenty accurate with no load; what it could use is more rigidity, but that costs money.

Increased work envelope -- increasing the size is trivial and has been done numerous times. This is a huge advantage of MakerSlide.

Additional capability -- I doubt Inventables would sell a diode laser conversion (for liability reasons), but there's nothing to it: buy diode, mount diode, done. Personally, I try to discourage people from doing it (too dangerous). The Shapeoko would make a lousy carbon dioxide tube laser; for a MakerSlide design, check out Bart Dring's "2.x" laser. 3D printing has been done and is easy.

Workholding/clamping options -- don't Inventables already sell those things?

4th or 5th axis -- not as easy as it seems. A few people have done a 4th axis, but one of the difficulties is CAM software. It seems free/cheap packages won't do rotary axes.

More complete, open source spindle options -- you can't beat off-the-shelf trimmers and routers for price/performance ratio, and Chinese spindles abound, of various types and at various attractive price points. An open-source option that costs more but does not improve on the existing offering would not appeal to many.

Increased aluminum capability -- you need rigidity; see "accuracy" above.

Integrated dust control -- that's at odds with the "lower price" goal. It'll always be an add-on. Several solutions exist, including a few for sale (Improbable Construct's dust shoe, for example).

Automatic tool changer -- not feasible with off-the-shelf, inexpensive spindles. A decent design would cost more than the machine itself. (I'd be happy to be proven wrong.)

Limit/Home switches integrated into the core project -- you get mounting points for them, and all you need are some standard microswitches, but, for some reason, most people ignore the mounting points and mount the switches in all sorts of interesting ways, and/or opt for more exotic switch types. Granted, it would be nice to have something for the Z axis too. (I just caved in to multiple demands and ordered these made.)

Simpler construction -- maybe it will happen, although it's fairly minimal now. In fact, the Shapeoko 2 has a few design decisions that make it simpler to build, but affect performance somewhat. I'm thinking of the separate X rails (they're better bolted together, but that complicates the assembly), and the fact that the front and rear X V-wheels are on separate bolts (the carriage would be a little more rigid if they shared a bolt, but more difficult to put together and adjust).

Dust enclosure -- see "Integrated dust control". We've seen several designs, but the nice-looking ones aren't cheap, and the cheap ones are, well, just that.
Proud owner of ShapeOko #709, eShapeOko #0, and of store.amberspyglass.co.uk

talon
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by talon » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:18 am

Thanks for the reply, My question isn't about the feasibility of those ideas (Or to suggest that all of those ideas should be integrated, many of them are at odds with each other). I guess my real question is what is the future of the design?
I think Edward has a very clear idea of what his aims are, and he takes ideas and suggestions if they help him meet those, but doesn't let the project be steered in directions he doesn't think productive. It's very much still his baby. (And you meant affect, not effect.)
That pretty much answered the first set of questions and prompted me to do a little more research. Since most of my research on the Shapeoko was done on the Inventables website and here I didn't spend much time on the wiki, there I saw what seems to be the most complete definition of the Shapeoko project. Based on that page http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/ most of the ideas in that list aren't in line with Edwards direction of the project. It seems like Edward would prefer to keep those as well documented upgrades to project, while keeping the core project simple and cheap.

According to the wiki the initial design goals have basically been met, so what is in store for Shapeoko 3? It seems to me that it will essentially be an incremental improvement that further refines the design to more fully fulfill the initial goals of the project, does this seem accurate?

cvoinescu
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by cvoinescu » Sun Aug 17, 2014 11:42 am

We have a definition problem here. You say "core project", but what is that? If it's defined as "the kit sold by Inventables", then that's going to be whatever Edward and Inventables decide it will be.

And what else would it be? Unfortunately, with open hardware, unlike open software, there's a large barrier to entry: not only do materials cost money, but custom parts pose a difficult problem. Sure, you can cut plywood or acrylic or even aluminium on the Shapeoko, but good luck trying to get a one-off set of steel plates laser-cut and powder-coated for you. You can, but it would cost hundreds. (I just paid over $300 for a set of stainless steel and aluminium plates for a prototype, and that's only because they were nice and did not charge me setup fees for each part, because I'm a good customer -- they fabricate the eShapeoko plates for me.) There's Kickstarter, but with Inventables selling a good quality machine available now and backed by excellent customer service, who would fund a project for an incremental update, with all the uncertainty? And who in their right mind would start such a project? Not only you have to find a good supplier or fabricator for the parts you've changed, you have to find suppliers and fabricators for all the parts of the machine.

My point is that, with anything requiring more fabrication and manufacturing than a RepRap, there would be hardly a project at all unless someone invested in making and selling a kit. Which automatically makes it a commercial product. And when you have to make and sell hundreds to bring the part costs low enough, you tend to stick with what works. While one design is on sale, you can't announce a new version until you've cleared the (possibly large) inventory of old ones, and the new design is ready -- or you'd kill the sales of the existing product. (I speak from experience -- I still have a dozen sets of "classic" eShapeoko end plates, and no hope to sell them any time soon.) This pretty much forces you to work on the next version "in secret" (which could mean a small circle of people doing development, not necessarily a single person).

Of course, the beauty of the Shapeoko (and of some other MakerSlide-based machines) is that it can be upgraded piecemeal, and it can be enlarged easily, which is why a single kit can satisfy a diverse market. It can even make parts for itself (at a higher cost than producing them industrially in quantity, but at a lower cost than one-off fabrication). It also allows a (small) market for upgrades: see http://shop.shapeoko.com.
Proud owner of ShapeOko #709, eShapeOko #0, and of store.amberspyglass.co.uk

WillAdams
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by WillAdams » Sun Aug 17, 2014 11:48 am

ShapeOko 3 has already been used for an April Fool's gag --- part of why I'd liefer a Roman numeral nomenclature.

Anyone is free to make variations or improvements (witness the ShapeOko HD/HDX thread).

Edward will decide what's a constituent of any new version --- I've suggested a scheduled series of graduated release dates, but no interest, and it really doesn't make sense for a physical project, which is instead bounded by parts availability rather than compiling a new release.

Things which I think might influence some new version:

- a new upgrade becoming so popular in multiple variations that a consolidation was needed
- some new material or extrusion or standard part becoming viable
- Edward having a brilliant idea / flash of inspiration which demands sharing.

The bottom line is anything which is documented on the wiki, or developed on the forums is a ShapeOko, as per the rules:
http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/ ... f_ShapeOko
Shapeoko 3XL #0006 w/Makita RT0701 Router w/0.125″ and ¼″ Elaire precision collets
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cvoinescu
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by cvoinescu » Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:36 pm

WillAdams wrote:I've suggested a scheduled series of graduated release dates
Edward is smart not to agree to that, because, as I said,
cvoinescu wrote:While one design is on sale, you can't announce a new version until you've cleared the (possibly large) inventory of old ones, and the new design is ready -- or you'd kill the sales of the existing product.
A necessary evil of doing it commercially, which is a necessary evil for many open hardware projects.
Proud owner of ShapeOko #709, eShapeOko #0, and of store.amberspyglass.co.uk

LouisV
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by LouisV » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:12 pm

The future of Shapeoko seems bright to me. Hypothetically even if Edward and Inventables decided to drop it completely the community wouldn't let it die. You'd see people continuing to innovate and I'm sure a handful of people would take on the task of making Shapeoko kits, even if just in small batches in their garage. With that said I don't anticipate commercial support dropping, at least not for many years to come. The Shapeoko is here to stay and it'll only continue to get better.

crazeegeek
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by crazeegeek » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:56 am

If you haven't seen the July interview of Edward by John Laur(chilli peppr creator), then you should watch at least the first 15+ minutes. While he doesn't go into great detail, it is a nice insight into some of the things brought up in this thread.

WillAdams
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by WillAdams » Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:59 am

I don't suppose anyone would be inclined to do a transcript or gisting of the video?
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LouisV
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Re: What is the future of Shapeoko?

Post by LouisV » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:59 pm

WillAdams wrote:I don't suppose anyone would be inclined to do a transcript or gisting of the video?
Well as far as the first 15 minutes of the video it's mainly about John and Edward talking about the hardware of the Shapeoko 2. Like for example the pros and cons of a timing belt vs a screw. John also asked Edward if he's working on anything new in regards with the Shapeoko and Edward replied by saying something along the lines that he's tossed around some ideas and some tinkering but nothing serious or huge. He seems more interested in releasing a software package with the machine than pushing the design of the machine futher. Not that it's a bad thing considering the Shapeoko 2 is an excellently designed light duty machine.

Edward has no need to push a "Shapeoko 3" anytime soon when the stock Shapeoko 2 seems to be a perfect combination of performance, ease of use, and affordability in its class. I've actually been loosely considering re-purposing my Shapeoko 2 motor plates, end plates, and z-axis assembly to build a small engraving machine that looks more or less like a stock Shapeoko 2 for making prototype circuit boards.

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