About this project
1. A HANDIBOT IS … a Smart Tool ...
A Handibot tool is a new kind of portable, digitally-controlled power tool for cutting, drilling, carving, and many other machining operations– a first Universal Digital Power Tool (UDPT) – or just, a Smart Tool. If you're familiar with industrial CNC (computer numerically controlled) equipment, think of the Handibot tool as a portable version of CNC. But instead of taking material to a stationary machine, you bring the Handibot to your material -- your jobsite, your remodeling task, your project, your work.
You can put your Handibot tool to work on a table, the floor, the ceiling, the wall, wherever you need to precisely cut, drill, or carve. Armed with a software application developed just for the kind of job you need to do, a Handibot tool is ready to go to work on your job, task, or project with a squeeze of the “Start” button.
If you are not familiar with CNC technology, think of the Handibot Smart Tool as a "3-D Cutter." You may have heard of 3-D printers -- digital fabrication tools you use to make items in an additive process (typically building up an object using plastic). A 3-D cutter is also a digital fabricator, but the process is subtractive -- a Handibot power tool cuts into wood, plastics, aluminum, foam, composites, and other materials -- with the precision, efficiency, repeatability and the power of robotics and digital control.
Handibot tools have amazing cutting and machining capabilities, yet their potential to empower the widest utilization will depend on the availability and convenience of a range of software applications. These applications will be tailored for the work at hand, to specific tasks, jobs, and projects. They will be “apps” or small programs that you will purchase and download to your smart phone, tablet, or PC – an app will have a single purpose and be ready to do one job after you enter a few settings. As a simple illustration, imagine an app for cutting holes of any size (from fractions to feet). You might need to cut a specific size hole in a board, the floor, or the wall: 1) open the app on your phone or tablet; 2) enter the settings for diameter and depth of the hole; 3) select whether you want to “pocket-out” the area of the hole (rather than cutting through the material); and, 4) click the “Load” button to have the cutting information sent to your Handibot, which is now ready to cut the hole (signaled by blinking warning lights) after you position it and squeeze the “Start” button.
Arcs, curves, complex shapes, and 3D forms are no challenge for digital cutters. The tools will cut a curve or complex form as easily as a straight line. They can cut virtually anything with precision and repeatability. There is an almost unimaginable range of jobs and tasks for which the Handibot will be helpful.
If your job is bigger than the work area of the Handibot you will be able to use clever jigs and systems to index or register the tool across much bigger work surfaces. These can be either low-tech fixtures or, because the electronics of a Handibot are capable of controlling more motors, they can be automated registration systems such as that shown for cutting stair support stringers in our main video above.
- The Handibot™ smart power tool is a portable robotic power tool that's placed on the material and works through its open base
- Software-Application-Driven, one-button “Start” for jobsite tasks and workshop projects; run them from your smartphone or tablet
- Powerful AND compact for precision cutting, drilling, carving, and other machining tasks. … in plastic, wood, aluminum and others
- Behind the scenes it’s a full-up CNC for real work, with uncompromised components to enable open development and expansion of functionality (6-axis controls, extra I/O, power, configurability)
- Endlessly useful for home builders, product developers, small manufacturers, makers, inventors, architects, students and educators
2. CROWD FUNDING … to support an application and resource environment
We are seeking crowd funding to support development of the Handibot tool and its ecosystem of job-related and task-based software applications. As a small manufacturing company, we believe the best way for us to quickly and efficiently develop this tool and grow its library of apps is to reach out to the greatest possible number of people for help. Yes, we could start producing Handibots in small volumes and hope to get to the point that numbers would eventually support more resources. But for a small company, crowd funding can address this problem of generating an initial critical mass of interest and support. The Handibot tool has great potential to be used by anybody to help make just about anything. So we're looking to the crowd and to your help in scaling production and generating momentum to make Handibot Smart Tools universally useful. |Handibot’s new Facebook page|
The best reward we can think of to thank you for contributing is putting a Handibot into your hands -- because this will allow you to start exploring the wide-ranging capabilities of Smart Tools and coming up with your own new ideas for how to use them. We aren't seeking financial support alone to develop apps -- in the broadest sense, we're looking to the community to help create them and then use them in increasingly creative ways.
At ShopBot, we’ve been making CNC tools for a long time. But we don’t believe that any single company has the resources or ingenuity to envision and develop the breadth and variety of task and job applications, accessories, and hardware refinements to enable the full potential of Handibots – it is these people-empowering apps that eventually will spread adoption and reduce the price, leading to even broader utilization of Smart Tools. That’s why we are taking Handibot to the “crowd," for funding and for inspiration.
Our goal is to raise $125,000. With this funding, we will be able to:
- Do a significant production run of Handibot tools, getting them into the world and the development community
- Support a growing community of app developers and users. We'll launch the Handibot ecosystem website for the development and hosting of applications and resources, and begin to fund staff to manage the system
- Start growing the library of apps from only a handful now (that are simple functions like cutting holes, shapes, and lettering) ... to hundreds or more (that will include projects and craft items as well as specific cutting tasks)
- Create an outreach campaign to reach new end-users in construction, architecture, and DIY environments
Thus a part of every contribution goes towards making every Handibot more useful and valuable – creating momentum for readily-available apps, accessories, and resources that will allow Handibots to go to work, for anyone, anywhere. Handibot will be an “open innovation” project. We’re setting up an open application and resource system to encourage the development of job-related apps that are ready to run on any Handibot. And, to encourage the evolution of hardware and accessories, Handibot tools will be open source hardware (see evolving discussion and info on open hardware and software development plans). You'll be helping to fund a web-based eco-system that will enable anyone to participate and collaborate in open-source development of apps and further development of hardware.
3. SOME SPECIFICS
4. THE LONG-TERM VISION … a Stretch Goal for Manufacturing Locally
Have a look at the design of Handibots and you will notice that we’ve engineered them to be produced using digital fabrication techniques. While there are a few commodity components such as motors and rails (and some electronics), most of the parts, including the aluminum structures and the plastic exo-frame and base components, are produced on digital fab equipment, on ShopBots or other CNC tools. It is even possible to produce the parts for a Handibot using a Handibot – yes, they are self-morphing and self-upgradable, but for efficient production of multiple tools we will use larger CNCs.
We plan to produce the early batches of Handibots in our manufacturing facilities here in Durham, NC and to continue producing some of the tools ourselves. But our vision is that as the demand for tools grows we will extend the manufacturing to a distributed network of small digital fab shops, a subset of the 100kGarages.com network who are interested in being local producers of Handibots.
A highly successful campaign will allow us to evolve a distributed manufacturing system. Distributed, local production, using digital fabrication, can be logistically efficient and environmentally friendly. We see production of Handibots as an opportunity to explore this new approach for product evolution and local manufacturing based on digital fabrication equipment and making use of interconnected communities. Of course, there will be organizational and quality assurance challenges. But, the empowering and democratizing effect of digital technologies creates new opportunities for small shop productivity that offer attractive jobs and careers in a new model of industrial activity. We hope to make a lot of that happen here … while driving the cost of the technology even lower.
"When you share, community forms. And what community does best is remixing-exploring variation in what a product can be, and in the process improving it and propagating it far faster than any individual or single company could." Chris Anderson from Makers: the New Industrial Revolution
Inspiration for the Handibot tool comes from a lot of directions, not the least of which is ShopBot’s 20-year agenda to make digital fab equipment accessible to everyone. We have been particularly influenced by the students in Neil Gershenfeld’s “Machines that Make” course at MIT. This class emphasizes digital fab tools bootstrapping the next generation of digital fab tools … and of course, that’s what we’re up to here. Some really creative and inspiring small digital tools have been designed by the group in Neil’s lab and Neil’s classes; in particular: Jonathan Ward’s MTM Snap which, in collaboration with Saul Griffith and Mike Estee at OtherLab, developed into the OtherMill mini mill and the OtherCutter Cardboard cutter; Nadya Peek and Ilan Moyer’s Pop Fab portable-cnc-machine-in-a-suitcase; and Ilan Moyer's, Alec Rivers', and Fredo Durandof's (of MIT) position-correcting router.
The Handibot Smart Tool has been an exciting project for ShopBot. It differs from other small CNCs because of its task-based, job-oriented focus. It also differs because it is built from no-compromise, work-tested components used in our Desktop CNC tool. The Desktop was designed by ShopBot’s Development team, headed by Gordon Bergfors. Early work on the Handibot prototype was done by Matt Schmitz (now finishing in engineering at Brown), with more recent development by David Bryan and Ted Hall. Ryan Patterson’s “ShopBotAnywhere” system provides the direct and easy links from apps running on phones, tablets, and PCs to the CNC control system running on the Handibot. Brian Moran (Vectric Ltd.) gave Handibot its name. Finally, it is Bill Young’s continuous evangelism for putting small but powerful tools in everyone’s hands and his role in the development of 100kGarages.com that provides the system for our goal of open and distributed manufacturing.
WE HOPE YOU'LL PARTICIPATE NOW! Thanks from the team at ShopBot.
To learn more about the Handibot smart power tool, visit handibot.com (and developer and project links). Learn more about ShopBot at shopbottools.com. Handibot™ is a trademark of ShopBot Tools, Inc. If you'd like to connect with us, FRIEND US on Facebook: Handibot’s new Facebook page, ShopBot, or 100kGarages, or follow us on Twitter: @Handibottool
Handibot was first publicly shown at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire a few weeks ago. Since then, reports on Handibot have appeared in:
We are required to charge state sales tax on all items that we ship to CALIFORNIA, INDIANA, MINNESOTA, NEW JERSEY, and NORTH CAROLINA. Please adjust your pledge amount to include your local sales tax if you are having your item shipped to one of these states.
A $75 Shipping & Handling fee will be added for all Handibot tools that are shipped from our facility in Durham, NC. You may pick up your tool here, but we are required to collect NC sales tax in that case. Please adjust your pledge amount accordingly.
International shipping is not available for Handibot tools at this time. We anticipate making Handibot tools available to international customers once we transition to full production. Please check back with us if you are interested in ordering an international version.
Risks and challenges
At its core, the Handibot tool is a small but capable CNC tool, produced using proven components and run by a software system that currently drives thousands of productive ShopBot CNC machines around the world. ShopBot Tools is well positioned with respect to being able to manufacture and deliver Handibot tools in small and medium volumes.
The primary question for contributors (and for us) is whether Handibot tools will scale and become increasingly utilized in construction, on jobsites, and in garage workshops around the world as more and more apps become available. That is, will we generate enough momentum around these small, digitally-enabled power tools for them to really catch on? For us success would mean that a vital and expanding community evolves that enables distributed manufacturing, and that supports the productivity, and creativity of a much wider range of workers, makers, and innovators. The risk is that you will only have a good little tool and that we will not realize our broader goal.
Success will partly depend on the effectiveness of building network and community resources. We have been working on two related community projects: 100kGarages.com (an open network of small-shop, digital fabbers offering fabrication services with resources for users); and, 100kSchools.org (an open web resource and interaction platform for teachers and educators doing digital fabrication). Have a look at these sites to understand our approach and vision.
Success will also depend on your participation in becoming a Handibot purchaser and user, and in supporting the growing eco-system and community.
We plan to secure both UL listing and CE certification for the Handibot Smart Tool. This will be important for broad adoption. However, it is unlikely that this will happen before the first batches of tools are ready to ship.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
For light engraving and partial-depth cuts the weight of the Handibot is sufficient to hold the tool in position on the material. Through-cuts and deep partial-depth cuts require minimal downward pressure on the handles to ensure secure positioning on the material. Many other options are available to you including clamping, screwing, bolting, and adhering. We expect Handibot users to develop a range of useful techniques as we all get more experience with the tools.
The router we will provide on the Handibot accepts a 1/4" shank in its collet. For light-duty cuts with small diameter cutters such as used for circuit board machining, we have 1/4"-to-1/8" shank adapters that work well.
We primarily use and sell bits made by LMT Onsrud. They have many bits available for all types of tasks. There are many other bit makers with countless bit types and sizes that will work fine, but we and our customers have had good experience with and support from Onsrud.
The maximum, practical speed for heavy cuts is 2"/second. Lighter cuts can be done at 3"/second.
We have a prototype vacuum attachment that we will continue to refine and make available with tools. We expect to report on dust collection in an update later in the campaign.
The short answer is that your tool will need what is called a toolpath file that contains the movement instructions for cutting or machining a project (this can be a “g-code” file or an “OpenSBP” file). Such files are generated by the V-Carve Pro (CAD/CAM) design software that comes with your Handibot, or by most any CAM program. Toolpath files will also be the type of file that is sent from apps on various types of devices to your Handibot or run from its own PC. The longer answer is that for the future, Handibot and ShopBot are moving toward a new, open source, motion control system that will support a more generic file type. The planning for this long term goal is discussed in detail in the “Developers” section of the ShopBot website. If this plan succeeds, all ShopBots and Handibots will have the option of being upgraded to the new system by replacement of their control card (probably less than $250).
We expect apps to be priced in the $10-30 range. Thus they will be more expensive than typical smart phone apps because the market is smaller and we will need to provide adequate incentive for developers. To help get the catalogue of apps started, we expect to seed or subsidize many early apps. Stimulating the creation of wide ranging apps will depend significantly on how successful this campaign is in generating a community of Handibot users.
We assume that for the typical Handibot app, once you own an app it is yours forever to use as many times as you have jobs that need doing. This does not rule out some special purpose apps that a developer may choose to license in a different manner.
You certainly are not required to use apps. In fact, when you first get your Handibot there will not be many apps to work with yet. The powerful but old-fashioned way of creating or finding a design and turning into a toolpath with your CAM program will always be available to you.
The number and timing of apps that become available will depend entirely on how many early adopters start contributing and when they do so. ShopBot will be doing our best to get the pump primed. We will be launching developer support pages on the Handibot website in the coming weeks and will also provide a system for collecting, recognizing, and rating app ideas for interested application developers to help stimulate collaboration in the community and get more apps developed.
Because this is the exact same software as for full-size ShopBots, you can find extensive descriptions of both design and control software on the ShopBot website. In addition, because Handibots are functionally small ShopBots, the extensive CNC information resource of the Talk ShopBot Forum is available and will be useful to Handibotters for inspiration. The current ShopBot Control Software is always available as a free download from our website and can be run in “preview” mode to get a feel for how it works. Free demo versions of V-Carve Pro are also available.
Currently the Handibot/ShopBot software runs on a Windows® platform (XP-W8). As described in the file-type discussion above, we have a long-range project underway that involves moving Handibot and all ShopBots to a new, open source, motion system that will allow for interfaces from most system platforms. These plans are discussed in the “Developers” section of the ShopBot website.
For Handibot software application development, we will be creating a system for developers on the Handibot website as part of the Handibot ecosystem agenda of this Kickstarter project. This will include SDKs, examples, and we hope, a growing list of application ideas with guidance ratings ready for application developers to put into great apps. For Handibot hardware development and control system development, we will host the primary discussions in the “Developer” section of the ShopBot website (www.shopbottools.com/mApplications/developers.htm) with much of the core documentation being posted to a GitHub repository. (Initially, we have simply posted the current STP model of the Handibot for inspection on the ShopBot site.)
Well (tongue-in-cheek), a Handibot IS a kind of "subtractive" 3D printer … More seriously, we’re all for 3D printing and ShopBot has been working on a 3D print-head add-on for our larger tools. One of these add-ons may be compatible with the Handibot. Our control software already supports 3D printing. So … it is a possibility.
The attractiveness of being able to incorporate additional capabilities into what a Handibot might do is why we’re fitting the tools with a full-featured ShopBot controller, capable of running up to six axes of motors (with additional motor drivers) and with extensive I/O, and why we have not compromised on the tool’s power or rigidity (within the constraints of its practical size). The features and pin-outs for our control card can be found in the “Developer” section on the ShopBot website. We might also note that, additionally, a Handibot can be used with a small drag knife to cut vinyl and thin materials as well as with a pen for drawing or a digitizing probe for capturing the shape of a 3D object under the tool – accessories all available from ShopBot. As you may have noted in our video, we have already prototyped an automatic indexing/registering device for working over larger areas. We figure there are a lot of different ways to accomplish this kind of registration. We’ll expect to offer a couple accessories of this type, and we are hoping others emerge from the Handibot community. We expect to also soon offer an optional “rotary indexer” 4th axis that will allow working on projects in the round (the Handibot will sit over the indexer axis – it looks like a small lathe but is digitally controlled), just as with the rotary indexer attachments for larger ShopBots.
It’s hard to give an exact number. The router makes the noise of a hand-held trim router, but the louder noise comes from the cutter in the material and is thus dependent on material, bit, and speed.
The Handibot runs on ordinary 110V power. Just plug it into a non-GFCI, 3-prong outlet and you are ready to cut. It draws (up to) approximately 10 amps.
You will need a PC that is running Windows XP/Vista/7/8 (Home Premium / Business, or higher). We recommend the equivalent of a dual core or higher, Pentium processor, and a minimum of 2GB RAM (4GB preferred). You will need at least one USB port. We have been running our Handibots with a Win8 tablet having only an Atom processor. These seem to work well if you want to be really portable. We will be providing an attachment pocket on the front of the Handibot to hold a Windows tablet. If you plan to do real CAD/CAM work, you will probably find working on a tablet a little frustrating. For example, a Handibot used in education might be set up as a mini-desktop tool sitting next to and connected with a full size PC for design and instruction. It is also no problem plugging one type of PC into the Handibot for one type of project and another type of PC for another. [NOTE: the prototype Handibot shown in our images and video is frequently seen with a tablet on its backside. Our next design iteration moves the electronics to the back of the tool in a protected enclosure, and has brackets to position the tablet more conveniently on the front of the Handibot’s frame.]
We have almost 20 years experience helping people get going with CNC. We'll be providing a "Getting Started with Handibot" package developed by our documentation team, Randy Johnson and Chris Glatz (Randy was editor or American Woodworker until last fall and has written wonderful articles on using CNC; see: www.americanwoodworker.com/blogs/randyjohnson). We also expect to develop videos for those just starting to use Handibots, similar to our “getting started” videos for our Desktop CNC tools that can be found on the www.100kSchools.org website. One of the toughest parts about traditional CNC is mastering the design work with CAD/CAM. For working with V-Carve, Vectric provides wonderful free video tutorials for doing CNC design; see: http://support.vectric.com/training-material/vcarve-pro. Handibot web support will be available on the Handibot Users Forum from ShopBot personnel and Handibot users … "Handibotters" are likely to become our best resource for information and help. If you have any sort of mechanical problem with your Handibot, call ShopBot and we will figure out the best way get it quickly fixed, repaired, or replaced.
ShopBot provides a two year warranty on Handibots except for the router.
BUSINESS/SHIPPING/LOGISTICS/LEGAL: What will the retail price be once Handibot is in normal production?
We don't know yet. We would like to believe that this campaign will help drive costs down so that Handibots can become even more available. It will depend on how much interest we get. The more motors and raw materials we buy, the less expensive the tools will become. There is, however, the limit imposed by the fact that precise, rigid, and powerful motion systems require a certain amount of real substance and material. And unlike some new technologies, the rails, bearings, and stepper motors that we use in CNC equipment have been around for 50 years or more. Quality and standardization are pretty high, and the markets have already driven pricing to relatively low levels. We don’t expect the same kind of dramatic cost reductions that high volumes give to a lot of electronic consumer devices.
We DO plan to offer the handibot to our international friends and followers. However, we first need to secure CE certification before we are allowed to ship to many countries outside the US. Further, we need to specify a proper cutting head other than the 110V model we have for the US. We are working on this as the campaign progresses. We will be setting up a mailing list for those interested in our international offerings and we'll send an update as soon as we are able to ship internationally.
Support this project
- (34 days)