Mr. Beam II
Getting this list kicked off with laser beams seemed like the proper thing to do, so meet the Mr. Beam II, a desktop laser cutter and engraver. Mr.Beam can engrave and cut a wide variety of materials like basalt, leather, balsa wood, and MDF. It is limited, however, to engraving only on materials such as aluminum, mirrored glass, and wood. There is also a generous 20”x16” work area for swallowing up the larger projects on your list.
Mr. Beam at work. Screenshot courtesy of Mr Beam Lasers
Getting set up is as easy as connecting to Wi-Fi with a tablet, phone, or computer. There's even a camera built into the safety lid to help you set up your engraving or cutting jobs. Mr.Beam 2 is only being offered on Kickstarter currently for $1,591. (Update, January 2018: You can visit the Mr. Beam website here, though there is still a preorder for the Mr. Beam II with an expected delivery of June 2018.)
Next up on our wish list is a CNC machine that’s small on price but big on features. The Shapeoko 3 is capable of milling both 2D and 3D shapes out of aluminum, plastic, and wood. As part of the package, the folks that created the Shapeoko 3 were kind enough to include a license for Carbide Create, which is an in-house produced CAD/CAM program that's equally big on features. Carbide allows users to manage things like design, tool paths, your tool library, and even simulate what the design will look like carved out.
The Shapeoko 3 will ring the register for $999, which is well short of its $2-3k competitors, but there is a caveat. The kit comes with everything you need, except a DeWalt trim router to do the milling work, which should only set you back around $99.
Our third and last item is the Scanify 3D handheld scanner. A 3D scanner is a maker shop must-have. You can scan a design of something to sell on Etsy for another maker to print on their 3D printer, or to print yourself. What makes this scanner unique is that using the Scanify is akin to taking a picture with your phone. Just put the special tags that the scanner recognizes around the subject matter you wish to scan, push the button, and voila, your 3D image is ready to duplicate!
The Scanify 3D features two 3.5 MP cameras, three xenon flashes for lighting up the subject matter, and two triggers for living out your fighter pilot fantasies. It only takes a tenth of a second for it to capture a maximum area of 16” diagonally. Editing and managing your scans is made easy with the free Fuel3D Studio software that comes with your scanner. There are also two other paid options ($49.99 and $99.99) that unlock several more options for the perfectionist, like fixing holes in your 3D scan and surface smoothing. This addition will set you back a cool $1,490 on the Fuel3D website.