NextFab Blog

New Vacuum Bed on the ShopBot!

Posted by admin

Jul 14, 2011 2:43:00 PM

Ever since I saw a vacuum bed in action at the ShopBot factory last year, I’ve wanted to have a vacuum system on NextFab’s ShopBot. As part of our renovations, I finally got to build one.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with vacuum systems, the biggest challenge in working with a CNC router is holding material in place. Until now, I’d been using screws, double-sided tape, tabs and clamps to hold material down while the ShopBot did the cutting.

Now, instead of these laborious methods, we can use the power of vacuum to hold down plywood and other flat materials as the ShopBot cuts them. So, how does it work?

A vacuum system has essentially three parts: A vacuum source (in our case a powerful Fein shop-vac), a plenum, and a bleeder board. The plenum is the distribution system for the vacuum, and the bleeder board is the final layer of material which covers the plenum and is in contact with the material being cut.

Here’s a picture of the ShopBot with the plenum pattern and PVC plumbing installed. The grid pattern is cut into a sheet of ultralight MDF and sealed with polyurethane. The three valves under the machine let me isolate different vacuum ‘zones’, depending on the size of the material I’m cutting.

With the bleeder board installed, the system draws vacuum right through a solid sheet of ultralight MDF. When the system is turned on, the vacuum hold is so strong that I can push against the edge of a sheet of plywood without moving it at all.

Here’s the first piece I cut to test the system- Look Ma, No Tabs! Believe me, I’m delighted at the thought of never trimming another plywood tab. I’ll be putting it through some more tests in the coming days, but for now, NextFab has a much faster and cleaner way to cut your parts on the ShopBot!

Topics: Uncategorized, shopbot, nextfab, cnc

Where do ShopBots Come From?

Posted by admin

Apr 25, 2010 10:30:00 AM

On Day 2 of the ShopBot Jamboree,  we got a chance to tour the ShopBot factory here in Durham. Behind a modest brick facade is a gleaming facility filled with motors, aluminum extrusions, and the bright blue steel components that make ShopBots look so sharp.

The folks at ShopBot had parts set out on the assembly line, showing all the steps in putting together a ShopBot and then packing it into a crate for shipping. Better yet, we were able to preview the newest model of ShopBot, which has an even larger bed than was previously possible. This one pictured below features a 10’ x 5’ bed with a vacuum hold-down system and an automatic tool changer. Quite impressive in action, I must say.

The best part of the tour was chatting with the ShopBot folks about their new and experimental ShopBots. The ShopBot system can be reconfigured in many ways, and some of their custom machines are built around giant indexers (like lathes) for making ten-foot tall columns. Others feature multiple spindles for cutting in two places at once.

The Jamboree officially ended with the tour, but I’ve still got a little time in Durham.  I’ll be heading over to Maker Faire Durham in a few minutes, and then back to Philadelphia and NextFab to try out all the new ShopBot tricks and tips I picked up this weekend.

Posted by Lewis

Topics: Uncategorized, shopbot

From the ShopBot Jamboree

Posted by admin

Apr 24, 2010 11:37:00 AM

This is Lewis Colburn, one of NextFab’s managers, blogging from Durham, NC. I’m spending the weekend at the ShopBot Jamboree, a national conference for ShopBot CNC router users. It’s been an exciting few days here, with lots of great presentations and how-to tips for making great things with NextFab’s ShopBot. Here are a few of the highlights so far:

We got a sneak peek at ShopBot’s new desktop milling machine. It’s a lot like NextFab’s Roland MDX mill, like a miniature, high-precision ShopBot.

This is a construction made from LinkerLogs, an open-source building system designed to be cut on the ShopBot. We’ve also had presentations from Because We Can, a design-build firm in California, that uses the ShopBot to create custom interiors, and Ponoko, a company that lets customers upload designs for laser-cutting, and have them made and shipped anywhere in the world.

This afternoon, we get a tour of the ShopBot factory, so I’ll be back with more pictures and information soon!

Posted by Lewis

Topics: Uncategorized, shopbot

Shopbot PRSAlpha CNC Router

Posted by admin

Nov 11, 2009 4:48:00 PM


To understand the potential of NextFab Studio’s Shopbot PRSAlpha CNC Router, have a look at the Digitally Fabricated Housing for New Orleans: a 196-square-foot one-room house intended for use in post-Katrina reconstruction. This prototype, built for an exhibition at MoMA, is constructed entirely from sheets of plywood cut on a PRSAlpha CNC Router and assembled using only a mallet.

The Shopbot PRSAlpha can be used to cut wooden and plastic sheets and posts; it has a wide range of uses for professionals and enthusiasts, architects, carpenters, interior decorators, and more. Here are examples of a five (mostly) popular types of Shopbot projects:

Topics: Uncategorized, shopbot


About this blog

Welcome to the NextFab Blog, where we discuss the ideas changing the world as we know it. Step inside the revolutionary world of 3D Printing technology, traditional and Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machinery, innovation and imagination.



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