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The new Handibot, from ShopBot Tools.

The new Handibot, from ShopBot Tools.

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 CEO Ted Hall introduces the Handibot at Wednesday’s Hardware Innovation Workshop. It will be available in June.

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.


The ShopBot team shows off the CNC guts of the Handibot to an enthusiastic crowd.

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?

DC Denison

DC Denison

DC Denison is the editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

The former technology editor of The Boston Globe, DC is also interested in ebook experimentation and content management systems.

One of the places where DC can be found online is Google+ (which I’m adding here only because I want to see if by adding “rel=author” and “rel=me” to those two links I can get Google to display my picture in its search results.)

Hey, it works!



  1. laird says:

    This looks great. More info! What’s the work area? What tools does it come with?

  2. I’m on a diy camera kick so I’d make a camera or film holders if it works on material that isn’t wood. Eh, I guess wood wouldn’t be sooo bad, just heavy.

  3. I know ShopBot is a big name brand in the market they’re in, but $2.5k? Are they joking? Without the spindle I’d expect to pay $250 for something like that. IT IS AN ENGRAVER!

    1. Laird says:

      You expect a heavy duty, portable 3d CNC router for $250? Good luck with that.

      1. Chris says:

        I agree with Kenny – don’t think of it as a heavy duty portable 3D CNC router – think of it as three motors, some electronics, and a cabinet. My table saw, band saw, and drill press are much more versatile machines and cost far less than $2500. If they want to get into the home market they have to start charging home workshop prices, not industrial prices.

  4. I wish someone would figure out how to turn one of these into a “CNC Rover” that could crawl around on a piece of material of just about any size, keeping track of it’s location as it goes. Maybe something like ultrasound or RF around the workspace and a little bit of computer vision on the rover itself would work.

    1. Maybe you could use a combination of ultrasound and infrared to get sub-millimeter precision like they do on some of the fancy interactive whiteboard systems (see MimioTeach).

      I imagine it using a sensor setup around the perimeter of the work piece to position the frame of the Handibot to within a certain tolerance and then using the high precision motors inside of the Handibot itself to handle any additional amount of offset that is too small for the wheels of the rover to handle. With sub-millimeter precision, it should be able to keep everything aligned and continue long cuts, even when a lot of driving around on the work surface has taken place :)

  5. Ian Colley says:

    I have just paid over £5500 pounds for an A4 CNC router which came without instruction manual, and 20 minutes ‘training’ and consequently has never been used. It would have been interesting to see a video demonstration of this unit……….but I have searched in vain!

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