Jeffrey McGrew's blog

We've Moved!

We've Moved!

Movin' on up! Better location and better setup to better serve you with great design and products. As soon as the dust settles and the last box is emptied we'll have a huge rocking open house. But feel free to drop by anytime prior to say hi, see the new digs, and help us celebrate our big move.

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Stage and props fabricated by Because We Can featured in Spring 2010 cover story of Martha Stewart's Weddings

Congratulations to our dear friends (and clients!) Eunice and Daniel for their amazing wedding that we were honored to be a part of. A wedding that made the front cover of the Spring 2010 Martha Stewart Weddings issue!

We've been wanting to post pictures forever, but couldn't until the issue shipped. Expect to see a whole lot more soon here on the blog and under Events. We had a blast working with the very talented Eunice on the design of a flat-pack stage and various signs and props for the event, which we in turn fabricated with our trusty robot Frank.

Click here to see the article!

Because We Can at the Winter BIM Forum

BIMForum was amazing. We were honored to be included! The presentations were all great. It's certainly wonderful to see the newest developments out there within our industry.

As always, the steel fabrication guys are way ahead of the curve. We got to see a presentation from Chris Fischer of Schuff Steel where they talked about going from BIM models (Tekla, in this instance) to their fully automated steel shop, where huge CNC plasma machines and automated conveyer systems process massive steel beams all day long. It's just like we do, except a whole lot bigger and heavier!

We also got to hear from my old boss Ken Sanders and a fellow Gensler friend Shawn Geile with a stunning presentation on the epic towers Gensler is working on. One of which was just finished at the LA Live! Center. It was great to see that building complete, as I helped out in the early stages of it years ago when I was still at Gensler. A very complex project that could only be done via BIM, yet a complex project to do with BIM!


When it came our turn to talk we focused on our in-house process we use for fully leveraging CNC and BIM together for creative interiors. Happy to say that it went over very well and that we hope to get a video of it up soon.


Best thing about the conference was all the new friends we made. There are some amazing people out there doing simply incredible things. Specialty contractors making mountains for Disney, civil engineerings using automated robotic grading machines, huge contractors coordinating whole skyscrapers, to programmers developing totally new ways of collaborating together: across the board, everyone we met was up to something mind-blowing and awesome.

We're sad that our schedule won't allow us to make the next one in June. But we certainly hope to go again soon!

We got interviewed for MAKE: couples working together

To continue our little run of press we've had lately, we were lucky enough to be included in an article on the MAKE: Blog about couples what work together.

We feel honored to be included with other such Maker Couples as Amy Parness and Ariel Churi of Sparkle Labs and Dave and Cheryl Hrynkiw of Solarbotics!

Check out the article here!

To the so-called 'new industrial revolution' boosters and its critics...

So with all the talk recently both in favor of and the rather cynical counter-take on the 'new industrial revolution' I figure that it might be good for someone who's personally involved to share their thoughts as well. Take it for what you will, for this is just my view, but so far most of what I've seen written about it hasn't come from anyone directly involved with it.

So then who am I to talk about it? Well, a few years ago my wife and I bought a CNC routing table without much idea for what to do with it beyond making cool stuff. As a matter of fact, it's the very first blog post on this blog. We'd never even used a CNC machine before, actually never even seen one before in person. But we figured that we could figure it out, and with help from others online and the company we bought it from we got it running. We started making stuff for ourselves. Then friends. Then friend's friends. It blossomed into a business. Pretty soon we quit our day jobs, and now we're even hiring people. We were the first ones to bring a CNC router to Maker Faire. Hell, my wife and business co-founder's picture was on the poster for the first two years of Maker faire. So we're smack in the middle of this 'movement' I think.

Everyone seems to be having a hard time figuring out exactly what to call what we're doing. We've had this problem too. In fact, I have yet to hear anything that really nails it. But this guy comes close with the thought of calling it 'punk manufacturing'.

Let's take a brief look at punk rock then. OK, so just before punk, let's say the mid 70's, to be in a great rock band you'd need to be either a big rock star or a talented virtuoso (or both). Get signed by a big label and all that. Rock music was mostly about big production, big ideas, big marketing, and 15 minute guitar solos.

But then along comes punk. Suddenly, anyone with passion and good ideas can have a great band. Get rich? Probably not. But at least have a chance to be something more than whatever they were before. Have some great stories. Maybe even make enough money to just play music and not have to work some crap job.

And for most that was enough. I mean, heck, leisure for half the people on this planet is a full stomach, so getting to play music for a living, even if it's a lower middle class living, sounds like a hell of a deal to me. Sure, by the second or third wave you had punk bands like Green Day making a killing, and all that big media stuff getting back into it, but even those Green Day guys were starving teenage punks at one point, just playing music because they loved it, and riding that for as long as they could.

So now we've got the 'Makers Movement'. The new industrial revolution. But honestly, it's just a bunch of folks that via new possibilities can do what they have always wanted to do: make stuff. I think that both extremes of the Wired article and Gizmodo's response totally miss the fundamental point: it's really about freedom. Freedom for those of us who have only wanted to make things, to be able to do so, and make enough of a living that we can spend all our time doing what we love.

The sad reality that I have seen today is that anyone interested in making things goes to school for many years with the hope of being able to make fantastic things. Then they graduate, only to work on soul depraving things for years on end. Either pushing lines around in a CAD program drawing bathrooms, or designing headlights to purposely break in around five years. Only after working for a very long time, or playing well at political games, or becoming an academic to support themselves, or being really, really lucky, only then do they even have a chance of being in a leadership role; deciding what's getting made. I know many disheartened engineers, architects, and industrial designers. Once in the real world, they've found that no matter how good their ideas are, or how much passion they have, or how hard they work, it simply doesn't matter. Until they fight their way to the top they aren't going to be doing much other than making someone else's ideas real.

We all went into this wanting to make stuff, and came out not making much of anything.

So along comes cheap hardware, cheap CNC machines, and the Internet. Suddenly, we can all make stuff. All the stuff we've always wanted. And, hopefully, we can find lots of people to make it for. People who love it. Heck, maybe we can even keep our day jobs, and make stuff on the side. Or we can start our own business 100% and see if our ideas will really fly. We can make the stuff that our friends will love. We can make the stuff that we love. It opens up vast new areas. Just like with punk rock, all it takes is an instrument and an idea and you're on your way. Are you going to be a rock star? Get rich? Probably not, but who cares about all that corny self-centered stuff when you're having this much fun simply doing it?

So will it change the world? You know what, us Makers really don't care. We're having too much fun doing what we love. We're free to simply follow whatever idea we've got as far as we can. If you think for a second I'm not going to ride that for all I can, when all I've ever wanted to do in my life is make great things, then you've got a strange idea of how people work.

Honestly, I wonder if the cynical counter-response is partially from someone who's bitter at being stuck at a desk job. What's wrong with a bunch of new small business sprouting up all over America? Small business built this country, small business are the backbone of this country, and frankly, big business have little interest in a lot of local issues. Small businesses are all about local issues. If this movement launches a slew of new small businesses, I think it will indeed have an impact on our world, every bit as much as the Internet has.

The Gizmodo article does raise one very valid point: not everyone is going to be part of this thing. Which is fine, really. Everyone having access to guitars didn't make us all punk rockers. Everyone having access to a computer didn't turn us all into programmers. Everyone having access to a worldwide publishing system didn't make us all interesting bloggers. So everyone having access to manufacturing capability isn't going to make everyone suddenly a professional Maker. And that's OK.

Let's look at it this way: I'm now a small business owner, making a middle-class life for myself, and starting to employ others. While over the last three years the world famous Architecture firm I used to work for has laid off almost half it's staff. Working for a big company is no more stable than what we're doing, and heck, what we're doing seems to be working pretty well so far. It's certainly a lot more fun. I'm adding a lot more value to the overall GDP and my local community now then I was when I was working for that big firm. I'm creating real value, here, in my backyard. And while I loved working at that big firm, and running our own thing is terribly stressful at times, man, I wouldn't go back unless I had absolutely no other choice.

In other words life isn't just about profit, nor is that the only meter one should measure a business with. I feel both Wired and Gizmodo missed the point here: it's about freedom and happiness, plain and simple.

We've been invited to be speakers at this year's Shopbot Jamboree

We're excited to be invited speakers at 2010's Shopbot Jamboree, their annual convention!

It's going to be tons of fun to go and visit where Frank, our CNC routing table, came from as well as get to meet a whole new circle of great Makers. We're really looking forward to it!

We're going to be talking about some business and online marketing stuffs. So catch us in North Carolina in April!

Our LED Tables are in this month's Fast Company Magazines


Pick up the February addition of Fast Company off the news stand to see Because We Can highlighted in the "Fast Talk" section of the magazine!

This month is about innovative LED lighting, and our Interactive LED tables were used for one of the full page spreads.
Complete with Jillian and Jeffrey in their Because We Can red jumpsuits!

The table used in the photo shoot is the Ripple. Shown also in the photo below.


See us at the AGC's BIMForum Conference in Phoenix, AZ later this week

We're honored to be included in this year's BIMForum conference in Phoenix, AZ! We'll be giving a talk about BIM-to-CNC fabrication on Thursday afternoon, January 14th, at 3:15 pm. We'll be focusing a lot on our in-house process we use to go from BIM to Digital Fabrication. We'll also be talking about the big changes that have been recently happening in that space. With a few fun things to show off, we've got high hopes that it will be a great talk!

In the past, CNC machines were used to solve one of two problems: either you needed to make a whole lot of something quickly, or you needed to make something that wasn't easy to make by hand. CNC machines were all about high production rates. And they had to be, for they were ungodly expensive, and the software and know-how even moreso. But now with CNC machines getting cheap enough, and the knowledge widespread enough, so that anyone can use them for almost anything they can think of, well, it really changes the whole game. And that's exactly what were going to be talking all about!

The BIMForum conference is held twice a year by the Associated General Contractors of America, an industry group akin to the AIA or AIGA but for builders. With a focus on emerging technology and it's use in the building industry, BIMForum looks to be wonderful conference of AGC people. People who are really making changes and making things work. So many of these technology-focused building industry talks can wander into the tall reeds of theory. So we're rather interested in talking to a bunch of people who are more about the day-to-day realities of getting things built! We're really looking forward to meeting everyone.

Hope to see you there!

Penny Arcade's new PATV show, complete with table from BWC!

Penny Arcade recently launched it's own video show, highlighting all things Penny Arcade. It's a wonderful look into a great company, and the highlight so far we think is the latest episode about Child's Play, the way-cool charity they run.

A fun thing about it is that the conference table we made for them last year makes a cameo in the opening credits and sometimes sneaks into other scenes as well. Awesome! We're proud to have been able to make such a thing, and happy that much gaming of all types (as well as business meetings) have happened over that table. The glow-in-the-dark centerpiece hasn't made it into the show yet however...


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