Yes. I did just tell you last week to go fund ShapeOko on Kickstarter. But some of you looked at it and thought that you needed an already proven design, and some input on new features. Man, you’re picky… but you’re also in luck! DIYLILCNC is just the machine for you and for 40 or so more days, you can help them fund development of the “cute” machine into a serious tool. Check out details and  the project video after the break.

Why CNC?

I do a lot of design for CNC production. I can’t help it. There is something about empowering local production that feels like thumbing my nose at the current state of manufacturing. You know, where one region of the world is doing almost all of the manufacturing for the rest of the world? The problem with the industrial revolution is that it encouraged neither materials efficiency nor sustainability. Therefore, getting CNC machines into as many hands as possible is a chance to slowly turn things around; to build custom products locally instead of having to ship hundreds of thousands of a product just to justify the cost of tooling.

A cut sample from the 'lil guy.
A cut sample from the 'lil guy.


DIYLILCNC’s biggest pluses are that it is backed with way more thorough documentation than most open source CNC projects and it has a thriving open source community helping to evolve the design and support new builders. The documentation is good enough, in fact, that DIYLILCNC has worked its way into the educational system with builds being scheduled this fall at 3 Chicago schools: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University and Columbia College. While the V2.0 design isn’t complete yet, the creators are promising the same level of documentation for the revision.

The project is open source and the current version of the design can be found at the DIYLILCNC website. The creators are letting the funders choose the upgrades on the V2.0 machine. Among the candidates:

  • Limit switches–ah yes, the convenience item almost always found to be missing on DIY CNC plans
  • Design for Portability–this is what makes a desktop machine exciting to me and is also usually missing
  • Hardware reduction–reduced cost and improved simplicity are always a good thing
  • Laser time reduction–a biggie for anyone who doesn’t have free access to a laser cutter
  • Trapped bearings–prevents problems with sawdust build-up and improves the longevity and accuracy of the machine
  • Design for enclosure–what?!?!?! You don’t LIKE sawdust all over your desk/computer/cat?!?!?!
  • Multiple file formats support–in case you don’t have the fancy softwares to switch them up yourself
  • Metric conversion–apparently the rest of the world doesn’t like to use our stupid awesome legacy measurement system
  • New panel material–I have nothing clever to say
  • USB support–definitely missing on most CNC machines
  • Software Stack–you’d be amazed how much time is lost in work flow

The Pitch

So, if you are looking to support a CNC machine that already has a little bit of a community (but still needs your help!) check out the project video. (Fun fact: all of the video clips added in are creative commons.) DIYLILCNC KickStarter Project


The rewards are fun as well. While $10 nets you a supporter sticker and $25 a shirt, the good stuff starts at $50 where you get a vote on the improvements and $75 where you get a part of the machine named after you. There are support levels up to $2000. DIYLILCNC wants to be your friend.


Disclosures: On his third viewing of the Kickstarter Video, the author realized why Taylor Hokanson looked familiar to him: they went to high school together. Despite the reminder of the many swirlies said author received at the hands of Mr. Hokanson, he feels the project has merit enough on its own and deserved a fair write up. Still, there is always some way for retribution.

Image/Video Credits: Chris Reilly/Taylor Hokanson