Posted by:on June 8th, 2015
No, X-Carve is not another alternative skateboard designed to simulate surfing and snowboarding. It’s a hobbyist or slightly better grade CNC machine made by Inventables, a company whose goal is to bring manufacturing capabilities to (very) small business owners and DIY designers/inventors. There are small commercial CNC machines available, but not at this price point, which is roughly $800-$1300, depending on the size you want. There are also open source DIY plans for making your own CNC machines, but those can end up costing about the same, and while there are communities out there, support and troubleshooting building your own machinery, sourcing materials and integrating the software can be a daunting task for some. I’ve been trolling DIY CNC machines on and off for years for use specifically in manufacturing skateboards, and I would be ready to pull the trigger on an X-Carve setup (or at least set up a Kickstarter! Gimme, gimme, gimme…) but even though the X-Carve is specifically advertised as being capable of making skateboards, the reality is that it isn’t quite big enough for actual skateboard manufacturing. I’ll explain why after the jump.
[Photo (Top right): Skateboard cut out with X-carve – Blue Sky photos / Chicago Tribune )
If you go with the largest kit you get a work area of 31″ by 31″, enough for a “full size longboard.” Well, that is true… sort of. You’ll need to place the board diagonally in a large square of material, which is massively wasteful. Skateboard manufacturing margins are slim at best, so throwing away more than half your raw material is not a viable option. Sure, you could position thinner slices at 45 degree angle to cut down on waste, but then your adding an extra element of calculation, human error and potential manufacturing mistakes.
They have a video showing a pintail shaped longboard being cut out, so yes, it can be done. But check out the finished product, it’s cut out of a completely flat sheet, which is popular but not the overall preference by far. Can you cut out a board with a concave? Yes. Can you cut out a board with a concave and a kicktail or upturned nose? The Z-axis of the X-carve is 2.6″, so you’ll only be able to cut out a board with the mildest of kicktail or nose. I grabbed a random board from my quiver to analyze the potential of using an X-carve to manufacture it. It’s slightly larger than your average popsicle stick with a a distinct nose and tail. The length comes in at almost 32″ and though hard to measure exactly, the Height of the board seemed to be about 2.75″ tall. Assuming I measured wrong and it fit under the 2.6″ vertical limit as a finished board, you still wouldn’t be able to fit the uncut blank under the bit. And even if you could, you’d still have to find a way to reliably position the uncut blank at a 45 degree angel to accommodate the length of the board. Good luck with that…
To be fair, the design of the X-carve is open source, so you could order your extra-sized parts elsewhere and try to modify it to work, but then you lose the benefits of having an integrated, fast and simple startup process.
X-carve is an exciting product, just don’t expect to be able use it for actual skateboard shaping unless you only want to make flat pintails. So close!
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