A HANDIBOT IS… a Smart Tool…
A Handibot tool is a new kind of portable, digitally-controlled power tool for cutting, drilling, carving, and many other machining operations– a first Universal Digital Power Tool (UDPT) – or just, a Smart Tool. If you're familiar with industrial CNC (computer numerically controlled) equipment, think of the Handibot tool as a portable version of CNC. But instead of taking material to a stationary machine, you bring the Handibot to your material -- your jobsite, your remodeling task, your project, your work.
You can put your Handibot tool to work on a table, the floor, the ceiling, the wall, wherever you need to precisely cut, drill, or carve. Armed with a software application developed just for the kind of job you need to do, a Handibot tool is ready to go to work on your job, task, or project with a squeeze of the “Start” button.
Cutting a perfect mortise (pocket) in a 4x4 post.
If you are not familiar with CNC technology, think of the Handibot Smart Tool as a "3-D Cutter." You may have heard of 3-D printers -- digital fabrication tools you use to make items in an additive process (typically building up an object using plastic). A 3-D cutter is also a digital fabricator, but the process is subtractive -- a Handibot power tool cuts into wood, plastics, aluminum, foam, composites, and other materials -- with the precision, efficiency, repeatability and the power of robotics and digital control.
…Empowered by Apps
Handibot tools have amazing cutting and machining capabilities, yet their potential to empower the widest utilization will depend on the availability and convenience of a range of software applications. These applications will be tailored for the work at hand, to specific tasks, jobs, and projects. They will be “apps” or small programs that you will purchase and download to your smart phone, tablet, or PC – an app will have a single purpose and be ready to do one job after you enter a few settings.
As a simple illustration, imagine an app for cutting holes of any size (from fractions to feet). You might need to cut a specific size hole in a board, the floor, or the wall: 1) open the app on your phone or tablet; 2) enter the settings for diameter and depth of the hole; 3) select whether you want to “pocket-out” the area of the hole (rather than cutting through the material); and, 4) click the “Load” button to have the cutting information sent to your Handibot, which is now ready to cut the hole (signaled by blinking warning lights) after you position it and squeeze the “Start” button.
Example "Hole Cutting" app: Enter the size settings, Select the type hole; Press LOAD to send to Handibot; 3 example holes -- cutout, pocket, counter-bore.
Arcs, curves, complex shapes, and 3D forms are no challenge for digital cutters. The tools will cut a curve or complex form as easily as a straight line. They can cut virtually anything with precision and repeatability. There is an almost unimaginable range of jobs and tasks for which the Handibot will be helpful.
Cutting elegantly curved "tails" on the ends of roof rafters.
If your job is bigger than the work area of the Handibot you will be able to use clever jigs and systems to index or register the tool across much bigger work surfaces. These can be either low-tech fixtures or, because the electronics of a Handibot are capable of controlling more motors, they can be automated registration systems.
Using a fixture to manually register/index a carving over a large area.
Handibot's 3-axis motion system; test cuts of rafter tails; and, an example accessory for wall cut-outs.
An important goal for us is to develop an application library that supports a wide range of tasks and projects -- empowering Handibots.
We don’t believe that any single company has the resources or ingenuity to envision and develop the breadth and variety of task and job applications, accessories, and hardware refinements to enable the full potential of Handibots – it is these people-empowering apps that eventually will spread adoption and reduce the price, leading to even broader utilization of Smart Tools. That’s why we are taking Handibot to the crowd for inspiration.
Handibot is 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).
THE LONG-TERM VISION … a Stretch Goal for Manufacturing Locally
Have a look at the design of Handibots and you will notice that we’ve engineered them to be produced using digital fabrication techniques. While there are a few commodity components such as motors and rails (and some electronics), most of the parts, including the aluminum structures and the plastic exo-frame and base components, are produced on digital fab equipment, on ShopBots or other CNC tools. It is even possible to produce the parts for a Handibot using a Handibot – yes, they are self-morphing and self-upgradable, but for efficient production of multiple tools we will use larger CNCs.
Models of Handibot. Plastic and aluminum components can be produced with digital fab equipment.
Digital fabrication of a strong, easily produced, joint.
We plan to produce the early batches of Handibots in our manufacturing facilities here in Durham, NC and to continue producing some of the tools ourselves. But our vision is that as the demand for tools grows we will extend the manufacturing to a distributed network of small digital fab shops, a subset of the 100kGarages.com network who are interested in being local producers of Handibots.
Distributed, local production, using digital fabrication, can be logistically efficient and environmentally friendly. We see production of Handibots as an opportunity to explore this new approach for product evolution and local manufacturing based on digital fabrication equipment and making use of interconnected communities. Of course, there will be organizational and quality assurance challenges. But, the empowering and democratizing effect of digital technologies creates new opportunities for small shop productivity that offer attractive jobs and careers in a new model of industrial activity. We hope to make a lot of that happen here … while driving the cost of the technology even lower.
"When you share, community forms. And what community does best is remixing-exploring variation in what a product can be, and in the process improving it and propagating it far faster than any individual or single company could." Chris Anderson from Makers: the New Industrial Revolution