A major manufacturer of CNC routers today launched what it hopes will be “a whole new class of digital tool” called the Handibot. The announcement was made at the Hardware Innovation Workshop, underway in San Mateo, Calif.
ShopBot Tools, based in Durham, N.C., has been demonstrating the compact machine at HIW. It can perform precision cutting, drilling, machining, and carving, just like a standard CNC router, but it’s compact and mobile, and it can work with an evolving library of task-oriented apps.
One of the unsung heroes of the “new industrial revolution,” the CNC (computer numerical control) router combines agile cutting power with computer-controlled, robotic smarts. ShopBot Tools, which has lowered the price for an entry-level CNC router to around $5,000, is responsible for seeding workshops around the world with nearly 6,000 CNC routers.
ShopBot’s Handibot will be initially priced at $2,500, but the company is hoping that the price will float down over the next few years. A crowdfunding campaign for the first batch of Handibots is targeted for June, with the first deliveries a few months after that.
ShopBot founder, CEO, and president Ted Hall said that the new device is “more than a product, it’s an innovation platform.”
The major advance of the Handibot, Hall said, is that it will enable users to take CNC-style precision cutting “to the material” — to construction sites, for example.
To encourage innovative contributions, ShopBot’s software system for running applications on the tools will be open source; so will the hardware.
“We think it’s beyond our ability, or the ability of any individual company, to envision the range of uses, apps, and accessories that will truly enable the potential of such digital power tools,” he said. “That’s why we’re recruiting help in imagining the use of the tool and range of applications, and in creating the software apps that will stimulate enthusiastic adoption of Handibots and smart digital power tools in general.”
The Handibot has a lot of impressive features, but Hall is hoping that by launching into a sea of makers, this new tool — possibly the first of an entirely new class of tools — will develop in ways that its inventors never imagined.
How would you use the Handibot?