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An innovative, portable tool run from apps on smartphones, tablets or PCs. Push-button CNC technology for jobsites and DIY projects!
An innovative, portable tool run from apps on smartphones, tablets or PCs. Push-button CNC technology for jobsites and DIY projects!
362 backers pledged $349,498 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

Handibot™: A Smart Digital Power Tool project video thumbnail
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$349,498

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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.

Cutting a perfect mortise (pocket) in a 4x4 post.
Cutting a perfect mortise (pocket) in a 4x4 post.

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.

Example "Hole Cutting" app: Enter the size settings, Select the type hole; Press LOAD to send to Handibot; 3 example holes -- cutout, pocket, counter-bore.
Example "Hole Cutting" app: Enter the size settings, Select the type hole; Press LOAD to send to Handibot; 3 example holes -- cutout, pocket, counter-bore.

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.

Cutting elegantly curved "tails" on the ends of roof rafters.
Cutting elegantly curved "tails" on the ends of roof rafters.

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.

Using a fixture to manually register/index a carving over a large area.
Using a fixture to manually register/index a carving over a large area.
  • 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
Carved moulding.
Carved moulding.

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|

Our goal is to develop an application library that supports a wide range of tasks and projects -- empowering Handibots.
Our goal is to develop an application library that supports a wide range of tasks and projects -- empowering Handibots.

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

Handibot's 3-axis motion system;  test cuts of rafter tails;  and, an example accessory for wall cut-outs.
Handibot's 3-axis motion system; test cuts of rafter tails; and, an example accessory for wall cut-outs.
Handibot bumper sticker
Handibot bumper sticker
Tees
Tees
A plaque carved with your name and/or logo ... on video ...
A plaque carved with your name and/or logo ... on video ...

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.

Models of Handibot. Plastic and aluminum components can be produced with digital fab equipment.
Models of Handibot. Plastic and aluminum components can be produced with digital fab equipment.
Digital fabrication of a strong, easily produced, joint.
Digital fabrication of a strong, easily produced, joint.

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

5. CREDITS

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.

The Handibot Team at ShopBot: (clockwise from left) TJ, Martha, Ryan, Ted, Gordon, David, Bill, Scott, Matt, Christian, Jeanne.
The Handibot Team at ShopBot: (clockwise from left) TJ, Martha, Ryan, Ted, Gordon, David, Bill, Scott, Matt, Christian, Jeanne.

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 pageShopBot, or 100kGarages, or follow us on Twitter: @Handibottool

Table carving at Bay Area Maker Faire.
Table carving at Bay Area Maker Faire.

Handibot was first publicly shown at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire a few weeks ago. Since then, reports on Handibot have appeared in:

Here are some of our favorite Handibot reports:
from Element 14
from MAKE:
from TechRadar
from Tested
from Popular Mechanics

6. SHIPPING

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.

Production of first 6 Handibot prototypes at ShopBot before the Bay Area Maker Faire (5/13).
Production of first 6 Handibot prototypes at ShopBot before the Bay Area Maker Faire (5/13).

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.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    HANDI-BACKER: Do you want to help build the Handibot ecosystem? Be a part of our community and stay in touch. You'll get our eternal gratitude.

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    HANDI-BUMPER: Is your bumper looking a bit bare? Jazz it up with one of these Shopbot stickers. SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS

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    HANDI-TEE: A very cool Handibot t-shirt, just like we wore at the launch in San Mateo! SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    HANDiS-ON NEW YORK: Help us customize a table at New York Maker Faire with carved graffiti! Come to the New York Maker Faire (one Maker Faire ticket included) and use a Handibot to carve one of several designs into the tables we'll be customizing. Stick around to learn about all the things people want to do with these new tools. Travel to Maker Faire is not included.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    HANDI-TRAINING: Training workshop at ShopBot headquarters in Durham, NC. A two-day training covering the basics of Computer Aided Design, Computer Aided Manufacturing, and CNC tool use. You’ll learn how to use our full-sized production tools as well as our new Handibot smart power tool. We will show you how to get the most out of your Handibot and how to contribute to the community by way of developing apps, add-ons, and accessories. Snacks and lunch with the entire Shopbot staff is included both days.
    Travel, hotel accommodations, and dinner are not provided. Two-day classes are held beginning Thursday mornings and ending Friday by 5:00 pm. You will be able to choose from multiple class sessions.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    HANDI-PLAQUE: A wooden plaque cut on a Handibot. These 8”x24” unfinished solid wood plaques are cut using the indexing capabilities of the Handibot that allows it to cut designs larger than it’s cutting area. We'll create a design with your name and/or logo. Then we'll film
    it being cut and put the video online too, to impress all your friends and potential Handibot contributors.

    SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS

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    Pledge $1,995 or more About $1,995

    HANDIBOT-EARLYBIRD: Your own Handibot tool, shipped 6 weeks after the end of the campaign. Fully assembled and tested tool with 2 bits, ready to connect to your windows PC* and go to work. Various accessories are optionally available from ShopBot. Cost of shipping and tax not included. SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS. *Windows PC is not included at this pledge level. See HANDIBOT- INNER CIRCLE if you are interested in a reward that includes a PC.

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    Pledge $2,400 or more About $2,400

    HANDIBOT-COMMUNITY BUILDER: Your own Handibot tool from our first large batch that will be shipped 5 months after the end of the campaign. Fully assembled and tested tool with 2 bits, ready to connect to your Windows PC* and go to work. Various accessories optionally available from ShopBot. Cost of shipping and tax not included. SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS. *Windows PC is not included at this pledge level. See HANDIBOT- INNER CIRCLE if you are interested in a reward that includes a PC.

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    Pledge $2,700 or more About $2,700

    HANDIBOT-EARLY ADOPTER: Your own Handibot tool shipped 6 weeks after the end of campaign. Fully assembled and
    tested tool with 3 different bits; ready to connect to your windows PC* and go to work.
    Estimated delivery: 6 weeks after close of campaign. Cost of shipping and tax not included.

    SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS. *Windows PC is not included at this pledge level. See HANDIBOT- INNER CIRCLE if you are interested in a reward that includes a PC.

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    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    HANDIBOT & WORKSHOP: Handibot tool as described in HANDIBOT-EARLY ADOPTER and a training workshop. Come to our headquarters in Durham, NC and learn how Shopbot manufactures the Handibot! We will take you through the process of machining the Handibot's components and we'll train you how to use it and our other tools. We will show you how to get the most out of your Handibot and how to contribute to the community by way of developing apps, add-ons, and accessories. Snacks and lunch with the entire Shopbot staff is included both days. Travel, hotel accommodations, and dinner are not provided.

    SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS. *Windows PC is not included at this pledge level. See HANDIBOT- INNER CIRCLE if you are interested in a reward that includes a PC.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    HANDIBOT-INNER CIRCLE: A Handibot tool and the whole Handibot experience. Includes a Windows tablet computer (see specs) pre-loaded with software and 2 days at the Shopbot headquarters in Durham NC for a special training on Handibot, tour of the Handibot manufacturing facility, and meeting and dinner with the Handibot developers. We will show you how to get the most out of your Handibot and how to contribute to the community by way of developing apps, add-ons, and accessories. Cost of travel is not included.

    SEE SHIPPING SECTION FOR DETAILS.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    HANDIBOT-MEDALIST: Skip the stuff; we'll carve a personalized mold (logo, name, or Handibot shield) with a Handibot, then cast a bronze medal for you to wear and show off at dinner parties while you tell about supporting the innovative Handibot project.

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Funding period

- (34 days)