AWFS: A Mobile CNC You Bring to Your Workpiece
The folks at Shopbot are dubbing their latest innovation a “universal digital power tool,” ushering in a whole new tool category yet to be fully fleshed out. These are untested, exciting waters.
Conventional CNC tools require you to bring the work to the tool. The folks at Shopbot however, have flipped that notion on its head, releasing the Handibot-an open source tool that’s currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign that’s already raised three times its initial goal. Quite frankly, the entire concept of the Handibot is like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s essentially the “democratization” of the power tool industry. Anyone-you, me, my wife-can head over to the Handibot site, download the schematics for free, and build their own portable CNC powerhouse. You can either source your own bearings, rails, and motors, or Shopbot will sell you their own.
It’s All in the Apps
The money isn’t in the machinery. For the folks at Shopbot, they hope to open up app development to the masses, with users creating their own applications and selling them through Shopbot. The app inventors keep the lion’s share of the profits, with Shopbot taking a small cut. Right now, the Handibot runs off Shopbot’s standard software package, but app development is already well under way, and the folks who are funding the tool’s development via Kickstarter will hopefully contribute to that process.
So What Does it Do? The prototype model I saw was set up to demonstrate a simple carving (a Shopbot logo). Carving is all well and good, but what about furniture components? The Handibot uses an index pin system which allows you to cut and shape one section of a component, reposition the CNC via the pins, and continue on down the line until you’re staring at a fully-formed furniture component.
The model I saw at AWFS was sized to mount a laminate trimmer-a Makita to be precise-but the folks at Shopbot have also toyed with Bosch Colts and Rigid models as well. So, what if you want to mount a larger router? Shopbot’s David Bryan explained to me that an enterprising user could easily scale up the components so as to mount a bigger motor.
When Can I Buy One?
Although you can already download the schematics and build your own Handibot at the time of this dispatch, Shopbot hopes to be selling fully-assembled Handibots via retail once they’ve satisfied all their orders via the Kickstarter campaign. Expect to be able to purchase your own this winter. The current retail price is about $2,400 but the folks at Shopbot hope to generate enough interest to be able to cut that price to somewhere between $1K and $2K in the near future.
Here’s to democracy, cool tools, and even cooler concepts!
See the Handibot in Action
The Handibot flips traditional CNC technology on its head--allowing the woodworker to take the tool to the workpiece.
This size Handibot is meant to incorporate a laminate trimmer motor, but an enterprising user could easily scale up the design to accommodate a full size router motor.
The Handibot at work, carving a simple logo.
The Handibot is powered by apps. In this case, an iPad is being used as the user interface.