Handibot team / vision

The People Behind The Project

If you've looked around on the About Handibot page, you see that the Handibot® Smart Power Tool Adventure Edition is a re-imagining of CNC tools. We believe it's also an exciting way to imagine something larger: the future of product development, meaningful jobs, and processes of manufacturing.

So who are we? Here's a little bit about us, how we got to today, and what we are seeing as potential for the future of this project.

The Handibot Development team was born inside ShopBot Tools, Inc., based in Durham, NC. ShopBot, as you may know, is one of the largest US manufacturers of professional and affordable CNC tools. Inspiration for the Handibot team and the tool comes from a lot of directions, not the least of which is ShopBot’s 20-year agenda to make digital fab equipment accessible to everyone. We have been particularly influenced by the students in Neil Gershenfeld’s “Machines that Make” course at MIT. This class emphasizes digital fab tools bootstrapping the next generation of digital fab tools … and of course, that’s what we’re up to here.

Some really creative and inspiring small digital tools have been designed by the group in Neil’s lab and Neil’s classes; in particular: Jonathan Ward’s MTM Snap which, in collaboration with Saul Griffith and Mike Estee at OtherLab, developed into the OtherMill mini mill and the OtherCutter Cardboard cutter; Nadya Peek and Ilan Moyer’s Pop Fab portable-cnc-machine-in-a-suitcase; and Ilan Moyer’s, Alec Rivers’, and Fredo Durandof’s (of MIT) position-correcting router.

The Handibot Smart Power Tool has been an exciting project for ShopBot. It differs from other small CNCs because of its task-based, job-oriented focus. It also differs because it is built from no-compromise, work-tested components used in our ShopBot Desktop CNC tool. The Desktop was designed by ShopBot’s Development team, headed by Gordon Bergfors. Early work on the Handibot prototype was done by Matt Schmitz, with more recent development by David Bryan, Brian Owen, Ryan Sturmer, and ShopBot President Ted Hall. Ryan Patterson’s “ShopBotAnywhere” system provides the direct and easy links from apps running on phones, tablets, and PCs to the CNC control system running on the Handibot. Brian Moran (Vectric Ltd.) gave Handibot its name. Finally, it is Bill Young’s continuous evangelism for putting small but powerful tools in everyone’s hands – and his role in the development of 100kGarages.com – that provides the system for our goal of open and distributed manufacturing.

By the way, we kicked off this whole project on Kickstarter back in 2012. Take a look at our archived campaign to learn more about the vision for Handibot.


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