North Carolina-based ShopBot Tools has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring its Handibot prototype to market. Handibot is a CNC machine which, being computer-controlled, can be used to cut materials to size and shape with very high accuracy. Unlike most CNC machines, Handibot is portable, the idea being that you take it to your materials rather than your materials to it. And in that spirit, Handibot can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet rather than full-blown computer (if there's a distinction these days). Users will pay to download individual designs and functions in the form of apps.
ShopBot says that Handibot works just as well on the floor, on a table, or mounted on a wall or ceiling, and is equally happy carving chunks out of wood, aluminum, plastic, composite, foam and other materials. With a step resolution of 0.00025 in, ShopBot claims the device combines "the precision for fine engraving or producing circuit boards" with "the power and rigidity to cut construction lumber."
One tool, many appsPerhaps the most interesting thing about Handibot, though, is the way it is controlled. Instead of a single master app, Handibot will work with many, each designed for a single specific purpose. The idea appears to be that users will pay for convenience, buying one-off apps to cut out specific shapes, which does away with the need to configure or load data into a master control program. ShopBot gives the example of an app specifically for cutting holes. Users simply need to tell the app the diameter and depth of the hole (if cutting a recess rather than right through the material). To begin cutting, you simply press two buttons: the load button in the app, and a start button on the Handibot itself.
Though the hole app is a simple example, ShopBot claims that complex shades, including 3D forms, present no extra difficulty, and the company is positioning Handibot as a 3D fabricator much like a 3D printer but for the fact that the fabrication process is subtractive rather than additive.
Out of the box, Handibot has a maximum work volume of 6 x 8 in (152 x 203 mm) and 4 in (102 mm) high, but ShopBot claims this can be extended with additional fixtures or by attaching it to a jig (the Handibot is capable of controlling more motors than it is equipped with).
With 28 days of the campaign to go, ShopBot has breezed past its goal of US$125,000, with which it intends to produce a significant number of Handibots as well as begin to encourage app development for the device. The 10 earlybird pledges have all gone, but at the time of writing a Handibot can still be secured for $2,400. Because apps will be few in number in the early days, ShopBot will give all backers a copy of the V-Care Pro CAM package.
You can see the HandiBot getting jiggy in the video below.