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Camp ShopBot at NextFab Philly 2023

By Jeanne Taylor, Wednesday, June 7, 2023

This was my first trip to NextFab, a network of collaborative makerspaces for professional makers, in Philadelphia, PA. Bill Young and I popped over for the May 20th, 2023 Camp ShopBot. I will admit I was not fully prepared for the size of the building and workspace…30,000 square feet! This NextFab location in an industrial area in North Philly, in a building that was previously an Asian food distribution warehouse complete with giant refrigeration rooms prior to their renovation. Some of the building has been sublet to some interesting businesses that help fill out the space and add some additional foot traffic. There’s also a delicious Mexican restaurant, SOR YNEZ, right on site!

NextFab has a wide open space with large work tables and plenty of room to move about. Members can easily work in the wood shop to the paint room, to the jewelry making area to the laser cutters and sewing room.

There were talks throughout the day where ShopBotters spoke about successes and struggles along with techniques, which co-mingled into extended conversations around the coffee bar or pizza lunch - which, let’s be honest, is where the magic happens!

Presenters for the camp (L to R): Bill Young, Vaneza Del Giorno, Miguel Horn, John Haggarty, Monique Disu, Mark DiGiamo, Tyler Schrandt, Cody Hughes

First up was Tyler Schrandt, Manager of the NextFab North Philadelphia Wood Shop. Tyler walked us through his project from several years ago where he was plotting data points and then 3D printing ceramic sculptures from the data. He moved beyond the 3D printing and flattened the algorithms into 2D lines and, after lots of trial and error, ended up with a fine brush tip micron pen inserted into the spindle to draw the images with the ShopBot. These drawings made on about 20” x 30” paper are really quite interesting and dynamic. Variations happen when the ShopBot’s spoilboard isn’t completely level or as the pen tip wears down.

Tyler Schrandt with his 3D ceramic printing and conversion to ShopBot drawings.

Cody Hughes uses NextFab as a production facility for his artisan furniture and home goods products. Make sure to check out his products on his Etsy store. Cody shared a jig system with us that he created on the ShopBot for inserting magnets at specific depths for his magnetic knife holders. Being able to batch align these items streamlines his process.

Bill Young shared his CNC structures presentation showing techniques and examples of CNC cut Shelter 2.0 project, a New Orleans style house for the MOMA in NYC that used over 600 sheets of plywood and plastic, and a laminated timber framing system called TimberPly. Learn more about how to get involved in the Shelter 2.0 project.

Sculptor and artist, Miguel Horn shared his analog and digital processes for creating large-format sculptures in a variety of media. The ShopBot is used in several of his projects using trimming, sculpting, slicing and stacking of materials from digital files. The sheer scale and detail captured in his work is an absolute delight to view. His work can be found around the Philadelphia region, Canada and Mexico.

After lunch, we got into more talks and interesting projects. Kicking off the afternoon was Vaneza Del Giorno who we met in 2015 with FabLab Lima, Peru when they visited the US (touring and training at ShopBot) and then joining in on the FabLab event held that year in Boston at MIT. Vaneza shared information on how she is fabricating and utilizing the joints in the 50 Digital Wood Joints project, originally created by Jochen Gros… Vaneza also shared her slot together llama that can be scaled to be life size or larger and cut on a full size ShopBot. Lots of ways to vary the design of the llama to end up with useful cubbies and shelf areas for storage.

(L) Cody Huges shows the jig he’s created on the ShopBot for cutting consistent hold depth for magnet insertion for his knife holders. (R) Vaneza Del Giorno holding the customizable llama.

It was an absolute delight to meet Monique Disu of M.Casey Designs. Monique does her projects at NextFab. She’s pretty new to CNC and is finding that she may not always know at the beginning of a project how she’ll create and complete it but is taking on each challenge as it comes. Now that her family and friends have seen some of her great work they are spreading the word. We can’t wait to see how Monique tackles the next projects!

Mark DiGiamo, Wood Processes Manager at Next Fab in South Philadelphia walked us through Tom Miles project from 2022 to create and scale a fig leaf covering the historic statue of David of Michelangelo in Florence Italy’s “man parts”. Sounds like Mark and John Haggerty jumped into assist Tom.

“As the story goes, this piece was retrofit (on the statue) because apparently, the bare nude male body was too lewd for the Queen of England when it was displayed for her.?” per the instagram post from @NextFab_phl about the project. From the same Instagram post “ The team started by using computer-aided programs, Rhinoceros, Blender, and Mesh Mixer to refine and prepare the 3D polygon model for machining, including slicing the model for parts and mapping out registration dowel holes for assembly. (Rhinoceros has been used to mockup the machining processes; the orientation and holding fixtures, etc.).

The model was then sliced into 3" thick pieces to fit onto a sheet of 3" thick RenShape foam from Freeman Supply. Vectric's Aspire was used to route the slices out of the sheet, including the registration dowel holes for assembly. The parts were then glued together with a foam-specific glue that Tom sourced, and then the piece was secured to two end plates which were secured to the ShopBot bed for registration and suspended the assembly for machining both faces of the leaf. Then to finish the job, up, they used the DeskProto for the 3D machining. Tom then further refined the model by hand in his studio and coated it with an outdoor coating."

Assembly photo from nextFab_phl instagram post.

John Haggarty, long time friend of ShopBot and long time NextFab mentor and maker wrapped up the day by sharing information on how he and his business partner do pattern making. Pattern making requires making various types of molds to either repair or cast items. He walked the group through 2-part sand molds and how the ShopBot helps carve the pieces that are used to create the molds for sand casting. John also talked about how he used the Adaptive Machining feature in Fusion 360 to cut 1” thick aluminum in a single pass.

The staff and members of NextFab really make this organization stand out. Thanks to Tyler Schrandt, Mark DiGiamo, Bob Nardi and John Haggarty specifically, we really appreciate the work you do and how much you put into helping the Philly community of makers succeed. There are two NextFab locations if you’re in or around the area - stop in and check out what folks are up to.

NextFab’s customized ShopBot with 6” Indexer. 

Inspiration was everywhere! One of my favorite things about ShopBot Camps is the generosity of ShopBotters to share their knowledge - to help bring others along on their journey. These camps, primarily user led, are IN-clusionary events that inspire, develop friendships, and propel projects forward. Make sure to check out our upcoming camps dates and locations. Events are added all year long, so check back often!


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