Now that 3D printing is slowly trickling into homes, so are other ways of building computer-designed three-dimensional objects. Just like 3D printers, the Roland iModela can translate your CAD designs into a real-world object. Instead of printing, though, it uses an onboard "milling machine" that cuts up your solid blocks of objects into intricate shapes and forms.
Billed as a "digital hobby mill," the contraption can carve out complex shapes on a whole host of objects, including balsa wood, plastics, modeling wax and foam (conductive materials, like metal, are not supported). It can only mill tiny objects, though, with a milling area measuring 3.39 x 2.17 x 1.02 inches. While small, that should allow you to make a whole host of fun things, from desktop toys to custom jewelry to miniature models. Heck, you can make your own custom-shaped Lego bricks if you've got an idea for something you can't quite find a fitting piece for.
The iModela is a precise-cutting mini-mill powered by a custom-designed iM-01 spindle motor. While the rig is shipped fully assembled with all cutting tools in place, more hardcore tinkerers can outfit the rig with a variety of milling tools (the motor supports most of the common types). There's a LED display on the machine itself, along with basic buttons for control.
While the mill can work with existing CAD applications, it also ships with its own. Called the iModela Creator, the bundled software offers 3D modeling and freehand drawing features, among others. Once your desugb ready, just hook up the contraption via USB and get that blade chopping.
Available now, the Roland iModela retails for $899.