Boston ABX Show was Buzzing about Handibot

ShopBot Tools was excited to participate at ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) Nov. 19 -21 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. ABX is one of the largest events for the design and construction industry in the country, and the largest regional conference and tradeshow in New England — a perfect venue for us to introduce the Handibot Smart Power Tool to building design and construction professionals.

The Handibot team demonstrated the tool for builders, architects, interior designers, students as well as commercial and residential product and service providers. We ran two Handibot Smart Tools on the exhibition floor as part of the show’s Innovation Pavilion featuring products and services that are new to the design and building communities.

There were no other tools on display, much less power tools, so our little powerhouse Handibot really did create a buzz – sometimes too much buzz! This bit of noisy theatre drew people in to see perfectly aligning coping molding cuts, tight inlays, interesting puzzle joints and more. One visitor was overheard to say, “This is a woodworker’s dream!”

Handibot Tool cutting custom molding for builders

Handibot Tool cutting custom molding for builders

There was a lot of discussion and idea exchanges during the three day event. Builders and architects added their perspective on what the Handibot Tool could do to improve fabrication and replication on the job site. As one of the most active booths, it’s not surprising that there were impromptu brainstorming sessions about possible apps for the Handibot tool, and people jumping onto the PC to do some sketching and CAD drawing on the fly.Screen shot 2013-11-22 at 11.37.08 AM


We encouraged our visitors to sign up on and share their ideas for apps (and rate the ones that they find there). The number of app ideas is growing every day and we’re gearing up to start the app development process. If you haven’t shared your app ideas yet, jump in!

Meanwhile we’re eager to put the Handibot Smart Tool in front of other new and relevant audiences over the next few months. Where would you like to see the Handibot Tool in action?

ShopBot helps build the home of the future!

This Fall 2013, a team comprised of software engineers and designers from Colorado and Massachusetts, architects from the UK, and some ShopBotting digital fabbers from Virginia got together and built a house.  In two days.

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 8.58.09 AMThousands of visitors to the World Maker Faire in NYC walked around inside it and checked it out, and learned about the easy-to-use software employed to design the house — up to 50 or 60 people at a time — and they were suitably amazed at how a structure built with almost NO screws, and no nails at all, would be so simple, elegant and sturdy! And then when the Faire was over, the team took down the house… ready to be put up again.

Read the full story about the Wikihouse/Sketchup/ShopBot collaboration at

2013 Northwest Camp Shopbot

Lighthouse-vacuum-motors Geared rod holder open Geared-rod-holder-closedRandy-JohnsonLinoleum-print-blocksWill-Hansen-boot-insertJeff-Krogman-LED'sRuss-Wood

































We went back to the Pacific Northwest for our annual gathering of Shopbotters, and after a couple of years of holding our Camp at David Chase’s shop we held this one at Mike Miller’s new shop in Ridgefield,WA.. Mike has hosted a number of Camps in the past, but as his business grew, so did his arsenal of tools, and it got to the point that we couldn’t really fit all of the people who wanted to attend this event. This year was Mike’s first in his NEW, and much larger facility, and space was NO problem this time around.

Mike’s business is concentrated on developing, and building products for the marine community. primarily deck gear, such as rod holders, filleting tables, etc. out of HDPE, and UHMW. And he also has a line of VERY heavy duty bow rollers to accommodate the use of large anchors which are needed for the type of waters his customers fish in ( 8 knot current in the Columbia River, etc.) . Those parts are machined partially on his PRS Alpha, as well as with the assistance of a neighboring water jet to cut out the thick aluminum stock such pieces require. Mike explained some of his cutting strategies in the plastics, and aluminum, and showed us how he has developed specific products for different applications. he also showed off his approach to hold downs, which involves the use of two “Lighthouse Vacuum motors”, wired in parallel, which he has mounted outside his shop to minimize their ‘distinctive’ sounds when in use. Using his technique he is able to hold a variety of shapes securely, and change “blanks” quickly, which is a necessity in a production environment. In addition to his Shopbot, Mike showed us some of the tools he has developed for his specific needs, such as a ‘home brewed” metal press which lets him bend thick aluminum plate into components for his product line.

The “Campers” who attended this year were from a variety of backgrounds, and experience levels. We had a number of people who are using their machines in high schools, and universities. We also had people building cabinets, signs, and a couple of “specialty” products. It was a pretty wide cross section of the Shopbot community as we had hobbyists, and a variety of different businesses represented.

Randy Johnson brought along a Handibot, and went over some of the ideas surrounding the use of this new addition to the Shopbot  family of machines. he also went through a quick description of some of the projects he has done with CNC machinery in the past. There were a couple of software questions thrown into the mix by the group as the day went on, and Randy and both covered the areas people were trying to sort out.

Show and tell had a few interesting pieces again this year. Jeff Krogman brought in an edge lit LED piece of acrylic he has been having commercial success with, and we got into an exchange of sources for the LED strip lights (Ebay/Hong Kong seemed to be the favorite sources here…)

Russ wood showed off some examples of parts cut/produced by way of Shopbot,laser machine, and 3D printer, and we discussed the applications of each type of machine. there was a lot of interest in the soon to be available 3D printer head attachment for Shopbots expressed here.

Will Hansen showed us a great example of ingenuity with his “lifts”for ski boots, which involved cutting thin strips of plastic into wedge shaped pieces which could be used to adjust the fit of a ski boot to a skiers personal comfort.

And then Don showed  a sample of a linoleum printing  block which was used for printing characters simply, and in a cost effective fashion. A few people described their own experience using different materials for this application.

We then threw open the afternoon agenda to the group and asked what subjects THEY were most interested in, and as a result I did sessions using a Shopbot in the boat building process, followed up by some examples of how different Shopbotters have developed a business based on the abilities of their machinery.

Randy finished off the afternoon sessions with some software tips/tricks in Aspire, and showed some simple solutions to common software problems.

The weather was typically Northwest, being SO chilly in the early AM that Mike ran his pellet stove to keep his spacious shop comfortable for everyone, and by the mid afternoon, jackets were coming off in favor of short sleeves in the bright sunshine…Thanks to ALL who attended this one !


2013 Tidewater, VA Camp Shopbot

Angus Hines of Hines design labs, has been hosting our Tidewater Camp for the last few years. Each year we return he’s added some new piece of machinery to his arsenal, and this year it was a 3D printer to go with his growing fleet of Shopbots, lasers, and other toys.

We had a pretty good cross section of owners at this Camp. Production shops with larger PRT’s and PRS ‘s, some Buddies being used for both business, and hobby, and a couple of new desktop owners.A High school robotics group from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, (who brought in a very cool robot they had designed and built).  Woodworkers, a sign maker, and a few school staffs were there as well.

We had a couple of people from Shobot present for this one. Randy Johnson, and TJ Christiansen came up from Durham, and they brought a Handibot prototype with them to show off.

TJ started things off by just running through the basics to make sure everyone was on the same page. He went over various machine types, and discussed the basics of how to choose the right model.

He also gave a good talk about techniques he’s learned to get good ,clean cuts in plywood. From that sprang some of the inevitable, and valuable “local knowledge” as people in the room learned where others were getting quality materials to cut.

Randy then did a session on the concept, and design of the Handibot. He also ran it through a few files so people could see how it operates.

Before we hit the lunch break Bryson Wagner gave a great session on why, and how he makes molds for his products. He brought along samples of some of his work, both as a mold, and then a finished product. He also went over some of the techniques he’s been using to make his signs so quickly, and cleanly, again by using molded components that he has a growing collection of…

After lunch we got into the how and why of using a vacuum hold down system. We had demos of Angus’s “Light house motor” home brew box, and I brought along a smaller pod/puck unit to show how a temporary/portable system could be designed.

TJ then did a session on “how to cut plastics”. He spoke about bit selection, speeds, hold downs, types of plastic that are more appropriate for different applications, etc.

And Randy finished off the day with a series of projects which he has worked on over the last few years.

Many thanks to Angus and Jacqui for hosting this one again !


2013 Summer Camp at Colby College, Waterville, ME

In all the years we’ve been holding Camps we have never done one in the Summertime. SO when we were offered the chance to use the Strider theater at Colby College we jumped at the opportunity. John Ervin has been using a 4′by 4′ PRS  Shopbot in his capacity as technical director/instructor and he arranged for us to have the complete run of their beautiful 250 seat theater.

Our timing was pretty unique as it turned out that we were holding the Camp on the biggest weekend of the Summer at Colby. They run an extensive series of programs for young adults, many of them also called “camps”, so once you entered the campus there were signs for different “camps” everywhere! We just happened to be the only ones dealing with CNC machinery. And Saturday was also the day they were dedicating a new wing of their art museum so the campus was a very busy place !

OUR Campers were a mixed group. Contractors, cabinet builders, crafters, people doing production runs, a sign maker,and one CAD programmer who had already built a machine of his own, but was looking to move up a notch so he came by to learn about the Shopbot.

John showed us the facility, and what he does with his machine. That can range anywhere from creating scenery for theatrical productions, to making various signage when needed by the college. He also teaches a class for Colby students called “Stage craft” in which he gets some of the students to design, and build various projects on the ‘Bot.

We watched a short video on the Donek drag knife, and the new Shopbot Handibot.

We did some demos on using a vacuum system , and discussed how various techniques would work on different people’s machines ( we ranged from a 5′ x8′ to a few Buddys, and  Desktop.)

We spoke about the techniques used by various  people to create different effects in sign building, and that included finishing with the Sculpt Nouveau system.

I gave a short talk about the technique of “slicing files” so people could build objects larger than their machines, and then we went over some of the different materials people are using to create their work.

I had various samples of HDU, PVC, Color core, and some engraved marble to go over.

We also went into John’s shop and did some discussion about grounding a machine, and dust collection setups. What worked, and didn’t. And we had John show how he’s plumbed HIS large vacuum system through the floor of his shop to minimize noise, and heat while still maintaining good airflow, and holding power.

One thing we didn’t have a lot of this time around was Show and Tell pieces ! Some people had come to the Camp from vacation locations and hadn’t brought any items on their vacation..

But what people DID bring  was information to exchange! Sources of Trupan, and names of distributors for everything from plastics, to shop insurance! How to buy LED’s and run them in shop built frames. What type of dust collectors were working better than others, etc., etc. And a number of business cards were exchanged for later follow ups.

A beautiful venue for a Camp, and a good day for all who took a little time out to make the effort to be there. Hope we can do it again sometime!



ShopBot Launches Kickstarter for the Handibot™ Smart Power Tool


It's an app-driven power tool. It's a portable 3D cutter. It's the Handibot!

It’s an app-driven power tool.
It’s a portable 3D cutter.
It’s the Handibot!

ShopBot Tools today (June 27, 2013)  launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign ( to support development and distribution of its latest hardware innovation, the Handibot™ smart power tool. This 30-day campaign hopes to raise $125,000, and one of the main rewards for contributors is to get a first-run Handibot Smart Digital Power Tool six weeks after the close of the campaign.

The Handibot™ Smart Power Tool won an Editor’s Choice award in May when it was introduced at MAKE Magazine’s Hardware Innovation Workshop. It is a portable robotic power tool designed to enhance creativity and productivity at construction and remodeling jobsites, in rapid prototyping, and in countless DIY projects. The Handibot tool features an App-Driven, one-button “Start;” it can be run from a smartphone or tablet, as well as from PC’s.  If you’ve heard of 3D printers, then think of the Handibot as a ’3D Cutter’ — you can use the Handibot to cut, drill, and carve in wood, plastic, and aluminum with computer-controlled precision. To see video of the tool at work, visit

ShopBot President Ted Hall explained, “The Handibot tool delivers precision cutting, drilling, machining, and carving. That’s because full-up CNC (computer-numerically-controlled) technology is operating ‘behind the scenes.’ The Handibot tool features uncompromised components for open development and expansion of functionality (6-axis control, I/O, power, configurability).” ShopBot developer David Bryan emphasized, “CNC tools are not usually thought of as job-site friendly. With traditional industrial CNC, you have to take your material to the CNC tool. With the Handibot, you can bring the tool to the material, wherever you need to work.”

The Kickstarter campaign will fund an initial production run of Handibot power tools by ShopBot, and also enable development of a web-based eco-system where anyone with ideas for apps can collaborate with app developers in an open source software and hardware environment. “One company can’t possibly come up with all the interesting job apps that can be put to work with a Handibot tool,” Ted Hall explains. “So we look to the crowd to think of apps for the tool and work together in developing them.” See the campaign at

What would YOU do with a Handibot smart tool??

A Start at the “New Industrial Revolution”

I’ve just posted a new blog to 100kGarages that highlights the Kickstarter campaign of a design company called AtFAB. AtFAB (Anne Filson and Gary Rohrbacher) is all about digital fabrication and the way that digital fabrication enables a new kind of distributed manufacturing. It’s all about how to return competitive, small-shop manufacturing to communities with good jobs and attractive life-style options.

I’ve written frequently about distributed manufacturing with digital fabrication and how it supports a “new industrial revolution,” an alternative to the mass production off-shoring of our making and producing (see recent review of Chris Anderson’s “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution”; or my somewhat overly long talk TEDx talk).

In their Kickstarter project, AtFAB takes on making the new manufacturing really happen – kicking off a return of furniture making in our own communities. They offer up three contemporary and “utilitarian” pieces of furniture to pilot the whole process. Their Kickstarter page describes the challenges that we face implementing the new fabbing technologies. It offers solutions and approaches to help make the design- fab process efficient and their own plans to try it in a few shops, before going even more distributed. It is a ground breaking effort by two designers to get manufacturing to a better place. It is a visionary proposal for delivering their designs — “moving information globally to fabricate locally”.

In their presentation, Gary and Anne use their awesome collaboration with ShopBotter Bill Young on the furnishings for the New MakerBot Headquarters in NYC to show how digital fabrication of furniture will work. Included is a great video of Bill producing the dozens of pieces of furniture and cabinetry for the project. If you haven’t seen this in an earlier report, I highly recommend it.

In a few days, ShopBot will begin undertaking our own new distributed manufacturing project via Kickstarter. We will be launching a campaign to produce the first few batches of our new Handibot tools and to fund the development of an application and resource ecosystem for these new “Smart Power Tools.” Our goal, if we are able to sufficiently energize interest in the tool, is to eventually distribute much of the manufacturing of Handibots to small shops around the country in the network — thus making and supporting the tools near where they will be used. Like Anne and Gary in their AtFAB project, we see distributed digital manufacturing as the technologically, socially, and environmentally appealing new way of making things. It will offer an attractive new kind of work for entrepreneurial designers and creators, and for entrepreneurial digital fabbers.


Control Software Sb3.8.6 Maintenance Update 4/27/13

A new version of the ShopBot Control Software in now available on the website (current Control Software is always available free from the website):

This is version is a maintenance update. Description of changes in the update as well as general description of the 3.8.x software are available by clicking here.

2013 Philadelphia Camp Shopbot !

We were invited to participate in the Philadelphia Tech week activities by the folks at the  NextFab Technology Workshop . It’s a great shop space  where you can join them as a member, and then get trained to use just about ANY machine you might ever want to work with in THEIR shop ! Everything from artists studios, to a  Shopbot Alpha,  and even a 5′ by 10′, 5 axis water jet machine to play with !

One of our former Pennsylvania Camp hosts, John Haggerty is now teaching Shopbot classes at Next Fab, and training people in the use of the design software.  They have a 4′by 4′alpha which gets quite a bit of use, and at the rate John is planning to hold training classes they’ll need another one soon!

We were welcomed to NextFab by their owner/founder Evan Malone, and he explained the concepts behind developing the work space. He also gave a presentation of the water jet machine which is a pretty imposing piece of equipment! They are building a sizable community quickly.

Then we got into the AM sessions. Lot’s of familiar topics, vacuum hold downs, 3D work, coatings etc. This time we were lucky to have Brady Watson on hand, and he chimed in on a number of topics including the use of the “Brady Vac” which is a vacuum jig that can be used for difficult items.

As the topic of 3D moved towards making molds, John Haggerty stepped up and showed some images of casting work he has done in his shop.

Since we had so many staff on hand we had a general question and answer period just before the lunch break in which Brady, John, Randy Johnson, and myself all fielded questions from the group.

Then it was lunch, followed by a tour of the facilities, and John did a small engraving file for people who had never seen a Shopbot cut before.

We then did  ”Show and Tell” right after the lunch break.

Dave German showed off a few period pieces he has been building that are used by people holding reenactments of historical events. Even though he’s a sign maker by trade these items are steady sellers…

Janice Smith showed us a couple of plaques she designed and cut that exhibited  some clever tool pathing to do very fine detailing.

Ed Anderson ran us through the steps he has taken so far to build a guitar body out of purple heart.  It’s for a series of five he intends to build ( one for each branch of the service). We all exchanged some ideas about ways he can do work like this, and everyone wants to SEE the final guitar when it’s completed!

Jeannette DeMaio is finally bouncing back from some physical issues that had her sidelined for awhile, and she brought in a few of her electric violins, both in the construction stage, and finished. Beautifully done instruments!

Brady Watson then did a presentation on digitizing, and scanning. He showed some examples of the work he has been doing, and then answered everyone’s questions about the processes involced.

Randy Johnson followed that up with a talk on some of the projects he has worked on in the past, and explained a few of his techniques. He also did a short session in which he showed some images of the soon to be announced publicly “Handibot” , which is a portable Shopbot that you carry to the job ! More on that in the near future…!

Thanks to the folks at Next Fab for having us at their facility, it was a great place to play for the day…..

2013 Southern California Camp Shopbot

Gabe and Mike Pari have been pretty busy since we held our Camp at their “old” shop last year. They moved their business a few blocks away into a much larger building, and hired on more employees to help them keep up with their ongoing, and still growing business of building Teardrop trailers.

The first thing that greets you when you enter their industrial park is a small “fleet” of their beautiful trailers, in a variety of models. And the interior of their shop has even more chasis, and frames ready and waiting to be completed for delivery.

We had a good turnout of Campers again this year, with many people being at their first Camp. Lots of interest in the latest goings on, and some great show and tell stuff on display.

Many people came to learn about 3D designing, and cutting. This led to discussions about how to utilize 3D files to make molds, and a variety of products. That led right into some of the latest coating and finishing techniques.

We then got into the idea of using vacuum to hold down different materials, and the construction of vacuum tables.

Then Randy Johnson addressed questions about techniques for finishing projects built of wood, including some ways to color, and seal different species.

Right after lunch we went into the Show and Tell sessions and there were some great projects on display.

Sterling Ashman showed off some beautifully carved plaques.

Gillian Kelleher brought in some gears she had cut out of wood and UHMW

Ross Mitchell showed us a couple of games he taught his students to design and cut on their school Shopbot.

Jerry Wilson had a very nicely carved “map” of Southern California where he used both the ‘Bot for 3D work, and then added laser cut lines for the highways. He also had a very clever “picture hanger” he designed which lets you hang a picture exactly where you really want it to be.

Chris Schaie had his latest mechanical marvel- a twelve legged aluminum robot which “walked “ in circles for everyone. And then he showed us a bowl he carved out of laminated sections of bamboo plywood

Sue Piper showed us some of the beautiful carving and artwork she and Ross do with their  miniature buildings cut from Precision Board

Gabe Pari explained how he’s been cutting aluminum parts for his trailers on his machine.

And then Randy Johnson gave  a talk on some of the latest developments going on in Durham including a preview of the “HandiBot”. Randy then showed a number of projects he completed while working at American Woodworker magazine and he explained some of the techniques used to create them. He brought along a number of samples to illustrate these techniques, and then he closed out the day with a short session on using Partworks and Aspire to achieve specific effects.

There was so much interest in all of this that we ran over our normal time frame until 5 PM !

Thanks again to Gabe and Mike for being such great hosts !