3D printers are the appliance of choice for a new generation of makers keen to rapidly prototype straight from their computer. But many materials with which 3D printers can produce items have limitations, and there are others that they can’t work with at all. Enter Carvey – a working prototype of a desktop mounted, rapid-modelling, 3D carving device that can sculpt wood, plastic, and metal into almost any object that you care to design.

Inventables – the company behind the Carvey – claims that the benefits of being able to mill store-bought-quality items in minutes from a range of materials is the next, and obvious, step beyond 3D printing.

"In the past few years we’ve seen an explosion in 3D printing, and we believe that 3D carving is the next step," said Zach Kaplan, Inventables CEO. "We are looking for the support of the Kickstarter community to make Carvey a reality. Carvey is for the maker in all of us, and we hope we can bring everyone the opportunity to create something exciting."

With specifically-designed software dubbed "Easel" loaded on your computer, the Carvey is designed to be plug-and-play via USB. With the added benefit of automatic calibration, the system's developers also assert that it is simply a matter of plugging in the Carvey, designing your object, choosing the material that you want to be whittled, dropping in that material, and pushing "carve."

According to Inventables, you can mill all manner of things like circuit boards, aluminum, copper, brass, plastic, carbon fiber, hardwoods, softwoods ... in fact, a vast range of natural and man-made substances are said to be easy-carving grist to the Carvey's mill.

Carvey is also billed as whisper-quiet, despite the fact that it incorporates a high-speed, exceptionally sharp milling bit to do the cutting work. This is due to its noise-dampened aluminum housing, which the company says makes it suitable for use in quiet areas like classrooms or offices – it is even supposed to be possible to talk on the telephone right next to the unit whilst it is carving.

Now, CNC-style hobbyist milling machines are nothing new; there’s even one that can both mill and print in 3D. But the Carvey seems to embody a number of interesting and useful features that set it apart.

For a start, there’s the previously mentioned auto-calibration: many CNC machines require detailed and fiddly set up processes in this regard. Then there’s the idea that you can make a prototype, or even a limited production run, of items using durable and aesthetically-pleasing materials rather than just plastic.

"People want to create their own products out of different materials, but there is nothing available on the market as affordable and easy to use as Carvey," said Inventables Chief Engineer, Bart Dring. "We aim to make the process of making easier and more inspiring, in a way that considers the overall user experience - and we hope we’ve created this with Carvey."

To get the prototype to the engineering verification stage and to put prototypes into pilot production, the Carvey team have just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. With early-bird pledges US$1,999 or more, you can "pre-order" a Carvey complete with toolkit and starter bit. It's due to be shipped – providing all goes to plan – sometime in September 2015.

Have a look at the pitch video below.

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