Thursday, July 18, 2013

CNC Continues to Change Everything

I guess this is getting to be an occasional series here, but Shopbot is introducing a new concept in CNC tools, called the Handibot.

In a move that seems rather unusual for an established company with a good reputation, they're using a Kickstarter Crowdsourcing model to fund development of this new product.  They've already met their funding goals with plenty of margin.  At the moment, they're at $293,709 funded out of a goal of  $125,000,  235% of goal, and still have 12 days to gather more funding.

The heart of the tool is a standard Makita router capable of handling any standard 1/4" shank router bit - or a 1/8" router bit with a collet.  Or a standard 1/4" shank end mill or other milling machine cutter.   

What's novel about this tool is that instead of you bringing work to the tool and either clamping the work to a table or feeding it into the machine, you bring this tool to the work.  That means it can be put on a wall or a ceiling to make precision cuts.  Its native work area is 6"(X) by 8"(Y) by 4"(Z).  Not very big, but it has a rail system that allows it to be used to cut virtually any sized piece.  Watch the video, if you haven't.  

Finally, they are trying to create a user community to suggest new ways to use such a revolutionary tool and help suggest the apps that will run the Handibot - and they say that desire is what's behind the crowdsourcing approach.  

No, I'm not ready to jump for this, but I think I'll keep an eye on this one.  It looks like a very nice addition to a shop, especially the woodworking side. 


  1. Damn.. that is pretty cool! It will be interesting to see where they go with it :)

  2. it's core, it's "just" stepper motors controlling X,Y and Z axes. The big things are the interface to very common user software platforms and adaptability to a multitude of operational requirements.

    With a simple jig or two it should be able to finish an 80% lower. I can foresee a larger "Shopbot II" maybe 2X the size - still very portable, but capable of bigger jobs.

    RE: the cutting of a stair stinger - with a guide rail to move between cuts, I can see setting it up to run the job - any job, actually - then doing something else while an inexpensive automated tool does a time-intensive "stupid" task. Big productivity gains.

    The future is going to be a terrific place to live.

  3. Pissed - yeah it's really pretty slick.

    And Anon 0857 - "then doing something else while an inexpensive automated tool does a time-intensive "stupid" task"... that's what I was thinking too.

    The future has so many really cool things coming - if the Coming Lack of Civility doesn't really muck it up for everyone.

  4. "then doing something else while an inexpensive automated tool does a time-intensive "stupid" task"... that's what I was thinking too."

    Not everyone understands that; when I was designing and building business automation systems I tried to impress upon clients that machines - specifically, rather complex computer systems - should be used for "dumb" tasks, especially repetitive ones, despite the system's high cost, and humans should be used where creative intelligence delivers ROI. One doesn't drive nails with a screwdriver, why would one want to collect and analyze data with a roomful of humans with spreadsheets?

    Same holds true for things like the Handibot. Now, if I could just program the Roomba to empty the cat's litter box......

    Anon 0857

    1. I don't know about you, but I always thought the age of robots would look like Asimov's stories. Humanoid robots with sophisticated natural language interfaces in our midst. But these systems are robots in every way but that. We "tell them" (in G-code or other computer programming) how to make things for us, and they do it. They have no programming to avoid harming us because distinguishing us from anything else in their environment is way past their ability, so there's no "3 Laws Safe!", but other than that, they are robots, making our lives better.

  5. I'm not sure where the idea of humanoid robots started, other than fantasy interpretation of a machine that could do what humans do. After all, we're pretty darn versatile, and once Alan Turing's work led to the Turing Test, processing capability (read:brain) coupled with physical ability became the dream. Books preceded film, but once the movie industry came along it was a graphically-suitable plot device.

    It makes more sense to design purpose-specific automation - such as robotic welders on an auto assembly line, or automated wafer handlers in semiconductor manufacturing - rather than a general-purpose robot. Robotics have been getting cheaper, both in outlay cost and productivity gains, since the first one was invented.

    If robots are productivity tools for humans, and they are, there's nothing wrong with a robot not looking like an Asimov robot. Then again, you're probably old enough to remember Julie Newmar as Rhoda in "My Living Doll." Should robotics take a turn in that direction I might reconsider...

    Anon 0857

    1. Then again, you're probably old enough to remember Julie Newmar as Rhoda in "My Living Doll." Why, yes. Yes, I am. And I hadn't thought of that in ages. Or Julie Newmar at all.

      I think the idea of humanoid robots goes back to the invention of the term: "It comes from "robota", the Czech word for slave or serf. It appeared in Karel Capek's play: "R.U.R." or "Rossum's Universal Robots" in 1921." according to Wiki Answers Asimiov is the one who coined all the other ideas that seem to be common about robots and robotics.

      I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I was when I learned a positron was just an anti-electron, so that positronics couldn't have any behaviors electronics didn't have, along with the need to keep it separate from any other subatomic particles from the "normal" universe.