• Handibot at JLC Live… a “3D Printer for Carpenters”?

    by  • March 28, 2014 • News • 1 Comment

    We just took several Handibot Smart Power Tools to the Journal of Light Construction Live show in Providence, RI, the premier East Coast show for builders and contractors. We wanted to show the attendees some things that we knew that a Handibot can do, but also get some ideas from them on how a Handibot could help them. The Handibot is really two tools in one. It’s a small but capable CNC machine that can work along with your other shop tools, but is also a “Smart” jobsite power tool that can do projects that require on-site customization.

    The crowd gathers at JLC Live in Providence, RI

    The crowd gathers at JLC Live in Providence, RI

    Along with the Handibot team…David Bryan, Ted Hall, and Bill Young…we brought along a couple of friends. Andy King is an Architect in NC that is passionate about digital fabrication. Dennis Michaud is one of the collaborators on the CNC-cut New Orleans house that ShopBot fabricated for the Museum of Modern Art. And Eric Schimelpfenig (sketchthis.net) is a Kitchen and Bath designer, Sketchup wizard, and Handibot pioneer!

    We wanted to show a small sampling of jobs that a Handibot could do on a jobsite, and came up with a couple that really interested the crowd. One Handibot was mounted on a Dewalt chopsaw stand and was making the 3d cut to cope crown molding, a fussy job for an experienced carpenter. Eric brought a toolbox and Wikihouse joinery sample that he had cut from full sheets of material. But the parts that might have generated the most interest among the builders and carpenters there were the parts that Dennis had brought from his new business…Homebuilt.  (homebuiltcompany.com)

    The idea behind Homebuilt is to update traditional stud construction with CNC technology, to make homebuilding accessible to anyone. Dennis is prototyping all his joinery details for studs and roof framing using a Handibot, and brought samples of walls and rafters that can only be assembled the “right” way…it can’t be assembled wrong. Homebuilt’s system also allows a level of customization and precision that traditionally would require a carpenter with years of experience.

    Here Dennis Michaud (left) is demonstrating some parts and cuts from the Homebuilt system…




    As we expected, not all of the attendees “got” the Handibot, but most could see the potential to simplify jobs that were hard or impossible to do now…one called it a “3d Printer for Carpenters.” Once Handibots start appearing on jobsites around the world, who knows what we’ll see!

    Ted Hall running the Handibot tool

    Ted Hall running the Handibot tool



    One Response to Handibot at JLC Live… a “3D Printer for Carpenters”?

    1. March 28, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      I’ve been in the CNC world and the 3D printing space for quite some time now. Years ago, I built my own CNC machine. Why? I wanted one. What was I going to use it for? I didn’t really have an answer for that at the time. I just knew it was the future of digital fabrication and I felt compelled to explore that.

      My machine in theory was pretty great. It cut fast, and in a large cutting area. In reality it was made out of old skateboard bearings, MDF and drywall screws. It was powered by a discarded computer and a retired touch screen from a restaurant terminal. It was in pieces about as much as it was cutting.

      I learned a lot building that machine, and I knew that small, inexpensive machines like mine would someday be an indispensable tool for fabrication. When I first saw the Handibot Kickstarter was so happy that someone stepped up make a reliable machine that is portable and easy to use.

      If you haven’t see the Handibot, it’s a stout little machine that is essentially a portable CNC mill that you can pick up and carry around. You can literally take the machine to the work, instead of the work to the machine. The idea of it is that it can do wonders on the jobsite.

      Developing a machine like this is only half of what you need to do. You need to figure out how people are going to use it. This is why ShopBot brought myself, and few Handibots to JLC live in Rhode Island to see what the public thinks about them, and what they envision them doing in the very near future.

      Dennis of HomeBuilt brought some samples of his some construction solution. His idea is to take traditional construction materials, things like wall studs and floor joists and use the Handitob to precut mortise and tenon joints in them. The Handibot will also number all of the parts. The idea is that someone could digitally design a home and then either cut the parts out ahead of time in the shop, or fabricate them on site with the Handibot.

      Having assembled a precut structure myself, I can see how this would save a lot of time for a carpenter on site. It’s also not to far off from standard construction too so carpenters can still use familiar tools and construction techniques. Many contractors at JLC were really intrigued by this idea as it’s a new spin on traditional construction, but one that will make them faster and more efficient.

      I brought some Wikihouse parts that I cut on my Handibot. If you haven’t heard of Wikihouse, it’s a home construction system that is entirely made out of plywood. It’s a new take on an old concept: Peg and wedge construction. These would be impossible to build without CNC machines but now you could potentially built parts right on site with the Handibot. Head over to http://www.Wikihouse.CC to read more.

      We had some other ideas to… In cabinetry and woodworking you can do some really interesting things using the Handibot. We had on had some “digital wood joints”. These are woodworking joinery that are shaped like puzzle pieces, half circles and other interesting and impossible-to-create-by-hand joints. The idea here would be that you could setup the tool in the shop to cut these over and over again at the press of a button. Something that would have taken hours of hand work you can do in seconds or minutes with the Handibot. JLC contractors were really intrigued by this, because when setup, the Handibot could be a simple way to add nearly magical joinery to their woodworking projects.

      All in all it was fascinating to see what people thought of this machine, and what they envisioned it doing. ShopBot has a really open minded vision about the future of digital tools and they are looking to anyone who could potentially use them for ideas. This forward thinking and openness will no doubt take what is already a great device and make it even more flexible and useful tool for anyone who cuts wood.

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