ShopBot Launches Official Certification Course for Teachers

ShopBot Tools has announced the launch of ShopBot Certification training. The program is being rolled out in Texas: career and technical education professionals can receive Level I Teacher Certification during the TIVA Conference in Austin, July 13th – 18th. TIVA is the state’s professional organization supporting career and technical educators.

Conference and course registration information is available here.

The ShopBot Certification program offers 4 levels of certification: Basic (Level I), Intermediate (II), Advanced (III), and Production (IV). The Production level includes cabinetmaking and manufacturing specific curriculum.  At each level students will study, practice and develop CNC related skills in 8 areas: CAD/CAM Design software, ShopBot Setup and Maintenance, ShopBot Control Software, Tooling, Hold downs, Materials, Finishing and Accessories.

The ShopBot Certification class at TIVA will qualify teachers to certify their students at Level I.

Randy Johnson, ShopBot Director of Education Outreach, will lead the training and will be assisted by Brett Dickinson, Construction Tech Teacher – Georgetown, Texas ISD.

Brett is a veteran career and technical education teacher in Texas and is a strong proponent of using CNC as a teaching tool and as a way to make students career and college ready. He has been using ShopBot tools in his program since 2006 and has conducted a number of trainings in this area at TIVA summer conferences. Brett noted, “ShopBots are wonderful motivating and teaching tools. Students are learning skills in an area that are in high demand in industry. This equipment is perfect for teaching math and science concepts at which many students struggle by providing them hands-on learning through the designing and building of physical objects.”

Randy Johnson added, “At ShopBot, we want to do all we can to support the revitalization of technical education and manufacturing here in the U.S. We’re excited about ShopBot Certification because it means that we’re helping create well-trained, employable young people for 21st century jobs. Whether it’s training students for well-paying jobs right out of high school, or preparing pre-engineering students for college, this is a great way for us to help get American manufacturing back on track.”

Space is limited. Get more information and sign up for the Level I Teacher’s Certification Class here.

(Teacher certification for Levels 2-4 will be offered in the future.)

What can your students learn from making a sign?

If you’re a teacher making use of digital fabrication in your classroom, this may not surprise you. A relatively simple project can help you teach quite a number of topics. Check out Sallye Coyle’s blog post at, and you’ll see how making a lighted acrylic sign can help you instruct lessons about… CAD and CAM, the physics of optics, electricity and electronics, materials science, project management and documentation, and business topics such as quality control, cost analysis, market analysis, intellectual property….

Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 1.29.43 PM

Handibot Smart Tool now available at!

We’re thrilled to announce that the Handibot® Smart Power Tool Developer Edition, first introduced by ShopBot Tools in a 2013 Kickstarter campaign, is now for sale at the online store.

The Handibot Smart Power Tool Developer Edition is a portable, digitally-controlled power tool for cutting, drilling, carving, and many other machining operations. You can cut woods, plastics, composite materials and soft metals with the power and precision of larger CNC tools.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 9.15.09 AMDavid Bryan, Handibot’s Head of Development, said, “Last Fall we put 150 Kickstarter Handibots into the hands of makers, DIY’ers, educators, and small manufacturers who are at work on all kinds of projects. Now we’re hugely excited to get the tool out into the larger world.”

Ted Hall, President of ShopBot, noted, “Handibot is really two tools – at least conceptually: It’s a small CNC tool that you can put to work right now on construction jobsites or DIY projects, and it’s also a new kind of “Smart Tool” that in the near future you’ll be able to control with job-oriented apps.” Unlike ‘traditional’ CNC tools that require you to place your material on the tool, you easily bring the Handibot to wherever your material or work is located — the floor, ceiling, walls, etc.

Randy Johnson, ShopBot’s Director of Education, added, “Because of its size, portability, and affordable price ($2,795) the Handibot is useful in classroom settings such as vocational, technical education and STEM programs. It allows for hands-on ‘teaching by making’ — without an investment in larger CNC tools.”

Ready-to-make classroom projects can be found at Here’s a father-and-children weekend design and cutting project where everyone enjoyed some hands-on learning (starring ShopBot’s Head of Production Support, Ryan Patterson, and his daughters…

The Handibot Developer Edition ships with a user-friendly CAD/CAM software suite for PCs or tablets running Windows. This software enables you to go from idea to making tangible objects using your Handibot with relative ease.

The Handibot Team is working on creating a suite of task-specific apps that will allow the tool to be run from multiple platforms and devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Submit your app ideas at's "Apps HQ"

Submit your app ideas at’s “Apps HQ”

World’s first “origami” kayak sets sail out of TechShop SF

Designer and Oru Kayak founder Anton Willis grew up in rural Mendocino County, with easy access to rivers, lakes, and the ocean. In 2008, a move into a small San Francisco apartment forced his fiberglass kayak into storage. Inspired by an article on new advances in the art and science of origami, Willis sketched a few ideas for a folding kayak. Sketches turned into countless paper models, and over 20 full-scale prototypes built with the help of the full-size ShopBot CNC at TechShop SF.  After user-testing on dozens of bays, lakes, rivers and oceans, Oru Kayaks are ready to explore the world. Read the full story and see video at our blog.

The Oru Kayak

The Oru Kayak

2014 Camp ShopBot Winter/Early Spring Lineup

Our Camp ShopBot season kicks off tomorrow, and we are sure excited about our winter/early spring line up! Our host Andy Redding from San Pasqual High School in Escondido, CA leads the way with his Camp on Saturday! This Camp filled up within a few days! (There was an attendance cap of 40 due to space limitations.) As teacher of Woodworking and Drafting, Andy is actively involving his high schoolers in digital fabrication and design. Randy Johnson, ShopBot’s Director of Education and past editor-in-chief of American Woodworker magazine, will be presenting to two of Andy’s classes on Friday before the Camp.

Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design hosts the Atlanta area Camp on Feb. 22. They are proud new owners of a 4×8 PRS alpha. This art school is known for its iron foundry program. They will be utilizing ShopBot’s 3-D capabilities for creating molds in Assistant Professor Mike Wsol‘s new course this summer! Though it is only 1 week away, you can still register for this Camp. We have over 50 people attending so far! Sign up using our Google Form HERE.

Wayne Locke of Locke Designs and Woodworks has hosted the Austin, Texas Camp for over 10 years! This 2-day Camp, held on February 28 & March 1, is like a yearly reunion from many ShopBotters. This year we already have over 70 people registered! Randy will be bringing the Handibot with him and there will be multiple guest presenters, and of course plenty of time to mingle and share ideas with other ShopBotters. Register for the Austin Camp HERE.

Our Northern Florida Camp is at Florida State University’s School of Theatre’s Technical Production Department in Tallahassee on Saturday, March 22. This should be a great camp as they just moved into a new huge facility, which was an old middle school. There are a few ShopBot models in the building including a 4×8 PRS Alpha and a Desktop with spindle. Registration is open so sign up using our Google Form HERE.

We end March with a new Pittsburgh area Camp at TechShop on Saturday, March 29. This is one of the first TechShop based Camps we’ve had! If you haven’t visited a TechShop before, you are in for a treat. They have lots of toys to play with besides a ShopBot. Our Pittsburgh hosts will be giving tours for anyone interested in seeing their whole facility. Register HERE for that Camp and stay tuned for further details.

Students and teachers are welcome at all Camps, as are those who are looking into purchasing a ShopBot. Other Camps in the works for April and May are TechShop Chandler in Arizona on April 26 and North Carolina in May. We will also have Camps  in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, NYC, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Virginia, Seattle and more later this year. Stay tuned! If you want to make sure you are on our mailing list, drop us a note at CampShopBot at g mail dot com.

Florida State U. informs and inspires with digital fabrication techniques

Professors at Florida State University in Tallahassee are helping to prepare their students for a multitude of career possibilities, by exposing them to the techniques of digital fabrication. They’re making use of digital fab from many angles, and it’s fascinating to learn about. Projects range from a huge 3D printer that instructor Winston Graves describes as a “MakerBot on steroids” …..

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….to the Flat-Pack Furniture Project, inspiring graduate-level design students to incorporate digital fab techniques into their work…

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For more pictures and the full story, see our education website,

Production Case Study: Handibot Smart Tool

Hi, I’m Ryan Patterson, head of Production Support at ShopBot Tools. One important aspect of our company that I think sets us apart is the way we work with people to customize solutions for their production needs, from helping them to choose the right tools or tools, to assisting them with the configuration of tools to meet their changing needs. I’ll be blogging here on a semi-regular basis to share examples of this — starting with this entry that’s “close to home.” It’s the story of how we made some changes to our production method of Handibot Smart Tools here at ShopBot HQ.

While the Handibot was being designed, the production group had a general idea on how we would produce the product.  The prototypes were cut on a PRS Alpha using a large universal vacuum system with a bleeder board.  One Handibot was produced using a third sheet of 4×8 material.  We thought we would scale this up to fill/nest a full 4×8 sheet of parts.  We started cutting the first sheet and the estimated time to finish one sheet was a little over an hour.   We were quickly able to see this would not work.  A universal vacuum system uses a sheet of MDF as a spoil/bleeder. Over the time of cutting the MDF compressed and affected the depth of cuts.  As we started making the final thru-cuts, the vacuum was not holding the parts in place.  At this point we had two options,  stay with the large format system (4×8 machine) with a gasket vacuum or move to a smaller cell based system (using the ShopBot Desktop machines).

We decided to use the smaller Desktop system with fixtures and a high pressure vacuum system.


With a cutting area of 24×18, we would need four different fixtures to have enough parts to produce one Handibot.  Now we had to decide how many desktops we should use.  One thought was to use one for each fixture and this is what we did.  We later scaled back to using two Desktops, as we found that the cutting was not the bottleneck to producing the Handibots.  This scalability was one reason for selecting the Desktop cell based option.  As our efficiency down the line increases, we can quickly add another Desktop.

We are currently using two Desktops with four fixtures.  The vacuum fixtures use a gasket around the inside of the cut with a high pressure low volume vacuum pump.  For this type of vacuum system to work, no thru-cuts can be made inside of the gasketed area. The red lines pictured show the channel for the gasket.

drawingThe fixtures were created using VCarve Pro by importing all the parts for a Handibot, then manually moving and rotating the parts around to fit in a 24 x 18 inch cutting area.  We used vector editing tools to offset geometry around the thru cuts to create the section for the vacuum.  Once the geometry was created, it was offset .25 inches to create a .25 inch wide channel.  This channel was cut .18 deep to fit the gasket of .25 x.25.   We then added holes for mounting and indexing to the table.  After the fixtures were cut we drilled a 1/4″ hole in the edge of the   fixture for a 1/4 tube to be added to the gasketed area.  Then we drilled a horizontal hole to connect with the edge drilled hole.  We then inserted a 1/4″ tube to be connected to the vacuum pump.

Due to the fact we were using two machines with four fixtures, we needed a quick and easy way to index the fixture to be placed in the same spot every time.  The index needed to be the same on both machines being used.  The first step was to mount a sheet of aluminum 3/8 thick x 24 x 18.  The aluminum was then surfaced to insure it to be flat.  The next step was to drill and tap indexing holes into the table.  We added matching thru holes drilled in to the fixtures.  The tapped holes gives us a way to index the fixture and a way to hold the fixture to the table.



pc and dt setup

Do you have a production support question we can help you with? Get in touch with me by email, to



Meet ProDesign 3D, a custom design/build firm for exacting boatbuilding customers.

Behind the scenes, ShopBot Tools custom-designs and builds ProDesign’s CNC solutions to ensure smooth sailing.

If pictures are indeed worth about a thousand words each, let’s start this journey via a visual trip to Marseilles, where France’s ProDesign 3D customizes designs and builds boats, catamarans and yachts for dozens of leading boatbuilders, and also designs and builds boat-building kits for motorboats and sailboats.  Here’s the ProDesign 3D racing team and their boat that they designed and built, entirely milled with their ShopBot CNC routers…

Team Photo hull

Team photo 1

Team photo 2

Here are some other finished boating projects from ProDesign 3D…

Red Cat

White racing speed

Yellow Cat

Johan Hallin, ProDesign’s Manager and Technical Sales Consultant, said, “I think what makes us stand out is, we are well-suited for any type of application and find a specific solution for our customers every time. One of our strengths is that we know well the needs of our customers and have the tools and expertise to realize their vision.”

Founded in 2001, ProDesign 3D has expertise in five main areas: engineering studies, 2D etching / prototyping, 3D volume machining, production of composite parts, and complete yachting maintenance and repair.

The company’s engineering experts will study your project from initial idea through the modeling, use 3D modeling software. They perform functions such as hull and stability studies, calculate structures and strength of materials. At this stage they provide conception, design, modeling, prototyping, and feasability studies.

Cad 1

Cad 2Cad 3

They will often use 2D milling to begin a physical model of the parts…


ProDesign’s machining center is equipped with three custom-built ShopBot CNC routers so that they can precisely perform volume cutting of various materials such as PVC and polyurethane foams, plastics, woods and other non-metallic materials. Some examples of materials that they make are masts, V-booms, full booms, master hull pilotines, catamaran hulls and beams. Here are some samples of their machining process…


machining V-Boom with the ShopBot CNC

Machining V-Boom with the ShopBot CNC

Machining in MDF

Machining in polyester paste


Machining in MDF




wood panels

wood panels

Molding for catamaran

Molding for catamaran


Johan noted, “Back in 2001 we built our own table (5.2 ‘ x  19.7′) for a ShopBot CNC router, which they custom-designed for us with a 3-foot Z axis. The tall axis allows us to, among other tasks, to machine 3D foam inserts for catamarans; we also use a 1-foot Z for cutting panels. Sallye and Jamie from Shopbot traveled to France to help us with the assembly and to train our team in the initial operation of the ShopBot tool.”

“We worked 6 years with just this one ShopBot tool. As the demand for our custom services grew, we then bought a ShopBot PRS Alpha (6.5 ‘ x 13′ x 1.6 ‘), continuing to use the first tool for larger pieces.  In 2013 we bought a third ShopBot, the PRS Alpha (5′ x 10′ x 1′).”

Johan said, “With our three ShopBot machines we can be very responsive to the demands of our customers, who are always pressed to have their parts quickly!”  Learn more about ProDesign’s processes and services at

To see other examples of ShopBot Tools at work in boat building, click here.

Learn more about ShopBot’s CNC tools here.

Give ShopBot a call to discuss your boat production needs, at 888-680-4466.

Hot new product “Ninja Standing Desk” produced out of TechShop San Francisco

The Ninja Standing Desk is just like it sounds — it may well be the world’s first portable and affordable version of the permanently installed workstations you see around office and home businesses around the country.

Screen shot 2014-01-18 at 12.06.49 PMThe “Ninja” behind the Ninja Standing Desk is San Franciscan Dan McDonley, and his product has become a huge hit. It’s designed by Dan here in the U.S., prototyped here, and assembled from parts from here at home. Pretty cool. To help him bring this new product to market, Dan has been making good use of his local San Francisco TechShop with ShopBot and other tools, and he’s also reached out to 100kGarages fabbers as part of his vendor-sourcing. It’s an inspiring start-up manufacturing success — read the full story on the 100kGarages blog.

Quirky takes product development to the crowd. And ShopBot plays an important role in prototyping.

In the last months of 2013, as Santa’s helpers hurriedly made presents, the elves at Quirky’s headquarters in NYC were hard at work bringing new gift ideas to market. One of them is the Nimbus, a highly customizable 4-dial dashboard that tracks what’s important to you. According to Quirky’s site, you can “personalize each gauge using your mobile device to keep an array of info up-to-date and available at a glance. Nimbus can monitor your commute traffic, weather, email, calendar, social media networks, and more.”

nimbus shot 2Designed to be made with a plastic housing, Quirky’s product designers were hard at work readying a limited-edition, brushed aluminum Nimbus — and that’s where their ShopBot Buddy, with industrial spindle and 12″ Z-axis came into play.

But hang on, what is Quirky anyway? And how does it work?

Quirky has re-invented the process of bringing new products to market. Rather than taking the “old school” route of expensive market research, new product ideas are submitted by and ranked by the biggest market there is: the Crowd.

People are invited to submit their ideas, anything from half-baked notions on napkin drawings to fully baked ideas, to Quirky’s site for voting by the crowd. The most popular ideas are put into consideration for development into products for market. But participation doesn’t end here. People can get involved voting on the product’s colors, submitting names and more, and at each step of the way participation earns you points that turn into dollars when the product succeeds.

In this short video, Quirky’s Founder and CEO Ben Kaufman describes the lively interactive process of how a product gets chosen to bring to market:


Case-in-point: The Nimbus

That’s the Nimbus, below,  balancing on top of the piggy bank.

nimbus  gift of time, power, money

The originator of the idea is Ryan Pendleton of Grand Rapids, Michigan. A self-proclaimed geek as well as photographer, gamer and journalist, Ryan’s initial inspiration for Nimbus was an app-enabled alarm clock, but it became so much more than that. Ryan saw an opportunity to have a bigger impact on peoples’ daily lives by incorporating diverse streams of information. Thus, Nimbus became a personal dashboard.

Ryan Pendleton, the guy with the idea. So far he's earned $35,946, and the Quirky Community (the crowd) has earned $43,005

Ryan Pendleton, the guy with the idea for the Nimbus.           So far he’s earned $35,946, and the Quirky Community (the crowd) has earned $43,005.

Prototyping the Nimbus

According to Quirky Product Designer Richard Ganas, Quirky’s ShopBot Buddy has played a critical role in the development process.

Richard Ganas, Quirky product designer

Richard Ganas, Quirky product designer

“We’ve had numerous 3D printers and other digital tools in our production studio for awhile, but our need to mill in aluminum, as well as to work with larger prototypes, has made the ShopBot Buddy invaluable,” says Ganas.

In addition to the plastic-housed version of the Nimbus, Quirky was working on preparing a limited-edition (a thousand or so) run of the Nimbus to be housed in brushed aluminum. Quirky had identified a local vendor to handle the limited run, but to test and refine the design in aluminum required milling work with the ShopBot.

Richard describes how Quirky employs its Shopbot:

“We currently use our ShopBot Buddy for milling in Renshape foam and aluminum. We use the Shopbot primarily for 3D milling, and because we want the ability to prototype larger objects, we chose to have a 12″ Z-axis on the tool. We have also used the Buddy to mill out molds for thermo-forming and casting.”

In the case of the Nimbus, the team first used Solidworks and 3D printing processes to play with different shapes for the product.  Further along in the process the production team used the ShopBot and Renshape foam to help them determine the number and type of different tools they’ll need to ultimately produce the consumer product.

As they prepped the limited run in aluminum, the team made use of the ShopBot to help them make decisions regarding the final finish of the product, polished vs. brushed aluminum.

Milling aluminum with Shopbot Buddy

Milling aluminum with Shopbot Buddy

 Nimbus milled out of aluminum

 The unique value of the ShopBot to Quirky.

Rich Ganas explained, “Whenever we need to work with a larger product, the ShopBot is a great tool for us. For example, we’re working on a product in the shape of a helmet. For us to 3D-print a prototype would easily take 20 hours, whereas using the ShopBot and Renshape is much quicker. It enabled us to mill a few hundred helmets in foam and get them onto the heads of testers. And again, due to the size of the helmet, the Z-axis did the trick for us. Altogether, the Buddy is a fast, precise prototpying tool for us.”

Rich noted that he came to this tool with little background in CNC, but found he integrated the ShopBot into his process quite quickly. He noted that ShopBot’s forum has been very useful, and with any technical support issues, ShopBot’s team has been very responsive.

For a quick and interesting view into Quirky’s production studio, take a look at this video:

Want to learn more about the ShopBot Buddy? Click here.

To get in touch with ShopBot, call 888-680-4466 or use this contact form.