Over the last 13 days, more than 200 people have given money through Kickstarter to fund development of a handheld CNC machine. The big stir may be due to the fact that this machine expands on the idea of what constitutes 3D manufacturing.
Like 3D printers that reference digital drawings to define additive processes to build objects, this Handibot CNC (from the company ShopBot Tools Inc.) references digital drawings to automatically drive subtractive processes. Its cutter carves plastics, aluminum, wood, foam, and composites with precise robotics and digital control. What’s more, the machine uses applications downloaded to smart phones, tablets, or PCs. These apps will accept user inputs to define a specific task — to cut a blind hole to a certain depth, for example — and then instructions are wirelessly sent to the Handibot.
The Handibot gets a thumbs up from Dale Dougherty, President and CEO of Maker Faire: "This is really cool... signaling a whole new generation of smarter power tools."
No doubt the HandiBot's successful Kickstarter campaign is due to the fact that $2,400 pledges get the donor a HandiBot once the machines make it to production. $242,481 has been raised already.
In fact, ShopBot has a long history of selling "personal" shop tools — including CNC-type products. In 2004, we reported on a CNC they began making for small shops and hobbyists. The company still sells this (one of their Personal Robotic Tools) as well as PRT replacement parts and accessories.
It's an interesting reminder that the DIY-maker and hobby-manufacturing movements have been brewing for nearly a decade.
ShopBot Founder and CEO Ted Hall sees this a trend towards distributed manufacturing with digital fabrication to support a "new industrial revolution" — as evidenced by one group he praises for leading the way — AtFAB. AtFAB is an open project developed by Filson and Rohrbacher that offers digital files that let anyone build Ikea-esque furniture on their own. As Hall explains at his blog, AtFAB offers approaches to streamline design-fab process and get manufacturing to a better place — by "moving information globally to fabricate locally."