The portability of Handibot makes it a perfect tool to take on the road to demonstrate Digital Fabrication at Museums, Libraries and in the Classroom. Since the CAD (Computer-Aided Design) /CAM (Computer-Aided Machining) software is the same for all the ShopBots, one can get a feel for the process without having to have a full size (or even a Desktop-sized) CNC machine.
In late July, 2014, Handibot visited Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Kidzu is a hands-on museum geared to children 0-10 years of age. Their mission is to inspire children and the adults in their lives to learn through creative play. Handibot’s goal for the day was to let the visitors make stamps . Since it was a local trip, the jig used to hold the pre-cut hexes in place while carving (see the blog posted in March, 2014), the Handibot, and supplies for carving (the hexes) and stamping all fit on a cart. Examine this picture carefully to see the honeycomb structure in side the door…it was cut on a full-sized ShopBot CNC machine.
The first visitor was not a little person, but a Kidzu volunteer with an art project in mind…stamping a design from a Japanese kimono onto giant letters for her sorority. It was totally random that she needed to make a stamp that would make consistent designs, and Handibot/VCarve Pro software showed up with a solution. We created the pattern on the screen, then set the toolpath to carve away the background so that the design would be raised up for stamping.
Even the youngest child could help type their name within the outline of the hex blank, verify that the name was correct, and push the green button to start the Handibot.
Some kids wanted a to carve their name in the hex, and some wanted to make the stamp, ink it up and try it out on paper right away. The VCarve Pro software has a mirror function on it, so that any designs or text can be reversed to come out the right way when stamping.
It was hard to tell if the kids were more excited by watching the Handibot machine the part, or with the final product. For that matter, it was hard to tell if the kids or the adults were more excited about the process.
So, what about the noise, mess and other issues associated with machining wood in an open space such as the Makery Room of a Kid’s Museum? The noise level was controlled by choosing to V-Carve the designs with a 90 degree V bit. Not only does it make an elegant cut quickly, but the actual amount of material machined away is limited, so the noise and dust factors are not a problem. Dust control and safety were further enhanced by covering the top of the Handibot with the new enclosure/cover. Although we had eye protection and ear protection available, anyone watching from above the router was protected from any flying sawdust. We didn’t run a dust collection vacuum, but stopped after every 10 or so projects to sweep the sawdust into a trash can. At the end of the three hour session, a quick wipe-down of the table and a sweep of the floor took care of any mess.
There was a certain amount of preparation before the demonstration day. The hex-shaped blanks were cut out of .5″ plywood on a full sized ShopBot (though a Desktop could do the same, or a Handibot set to tile a long board for the blanks. Cutting through the half inch material with an end mill bit does create a fair amount of sawdust and noise, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and create the blanks before the demonstration. The hexes were sanded on a vertical belt sander. In some cases, I spray paint the hexes with a snazzy color so carving into them creates a 2 color sign.
The jig used to hold the hexes has traveled as far as Florida and California, and to local Maker Faires in North Carolina. By replacing the sliding board that holds the jig that holds the hexes with a long board, one could create the hexes themselves…and even the jig to hold the Handibot in place. Look for the plans to be posted soon.