Handibot: Could it be a CNC game changer?

Written By: Bill Griggs - Jun• 30•13




Recently a new project was launched on The Handibot could be a CNC game changer? The CNC world has been heating up lately. New offerings in Desktop CNC are starting to spring up. Perhaps it is because of the increasing popularity of the Makers Movement,  the same force that is driving the 3D printer development. What ever the reason CNC Router s are becoming more popular.

The Handibot was introduced by Shopbot Tools. Shopbot is a well-respected company in the CNC marketplace. Shopbot introduced their new product the Handibot to the public at the Bay Area Makers Faire in May 2013 and then launched a successful Kickstarter campaign on June 27, 2013 to fund the project. The Handibot reached it’s funding goal in two days from launch and as I write this on day three they are nearly $25,000, past their funding goal.


The Handibot is a portable CNC router table. It’s roughly the size of a small laser printer but that is where the similarity ends.  The Handibot will allow people to take the CNC machine to the workpiece instead of taking the workpiece to the CNC machine. I envision contractors, woodworkers, and entrepreneurs embracing the Handibot platform. Like the Makerbot Replicator, the Handibot brings a complex technology to the masses. Much like 3-D printers, the portable CNC router table will allow people in cottage industry to compete on an equal footing with large firms. As you may know I am very interested in the successful re-industrialization of United States. This could be a real game changer.

Shopbot plans to bring these machines to the market for about $2500. That puts it in the same ballpark as the Compucarve (Carvewright) that Sears recently sold. This also makes the Handibot roughly the same price as a Makerbot  Replicator Two 3D printer. Shopbot envisions the Handibot as being the first in a generation of Universal Digital Power Tools (or UDeep). You can just think of these as smart tools, single-purpose task oriented apps will put the smart power tools to work with the push of a button.

handibot cnc game changer

Copyrite Shopbot tools


Shopbot’s plans don’t stop there. They intend to develop an online community to share the development and future direction of the Handibot. The Online community will be called the Handibot Ecosystem. The Handibot ecosystem will be a website where users share information and apps on how to program the Handibot to do simple tasks like hole cutting, fluting  and 3D carving. This model of distributed development has already been proven successful by Makerbot’s introduction of the Thingiverse. to help drive the use and development of the Makerbot 3D printers.

Another neat feature of the Handibot is that it programs can be loaded from smart phone, tablet or other enabled devices. Users of the Handibot will not be limited just to apps and small applications, because the Handibot uses a Windows tablet PC. It is able to run any CAM software that a full-size router could run. So if you wanted to you could use Mastercam, Vectric Aspire, Artcam or any of the other variety of CAM software that’s runs on windows.

Having a mobile CNC router table allows you to create things on vertical surfaces, ceilings,  floors or pretty much anything you can move the machine to. This give s you an operating envelope that is unlimited.

copyright Shopbot Tools

copyright Shopbot Tools


The Handibot will be an Open Innovation Project. That means the design will be publicly available so that anyone can make one from the design. Many of the chassis parts can be made using the Handibot itself. App development is open source and will not be limited to the Shopbot only apps. Anyone with the skills and desire could write their own task specific apps to allow them to perform cutting just for their specific need. Hopefully those programmers could then share their apps with others on the Ecosystem either for a fee or for free.

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.”

Will the Handibot be the first in a generation of small portable CNC machines? No. Portable CNC machines already exist. Will it be wildly successful? Probably, but only if the Ecosystem developes along with the machine. One of the major reasons that 3D printing is so popular is because of the open sharing of files and techniques. If the Handibot Ecosystem pans out I think the Handibot might just earn it’s title: Handibot CNC Game changer.



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