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Brian out of office til 5/19

Brian out of office til 5/19
May 10, 2019 12:15AM
Just wanted to give a heads up that I will be away from my computer until 5/19 -- if anyone needs support--feel free to post here and help each other...but also remember that you can reach ShopBot support at : support@shopbottools.com
see y'all soon!
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 12:28AM
Has anyone heard from Brian? He last tweeted on the 17th then nothing.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 08:51AM
Mine tinkit him go walkabout.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 10:40AM
Already done the walkabout : [www.brianowenphotography.com]
Though it may be time for another!

Mark, I'm here -- and I saw your email last week. I'd been putting off replying until I had time to pull together the CAD files and other info you were curious about. For everyone else's info -- Mark has been interested in using his rotary axis with his Handibot Bridge Edition tool. The Accessory base that allows the rotary axis to work with the Adventure Edition tool is much too small for the larger 24" Bridge Ed. I'd thrown one together for a customer who had paid for some custom work as part of their order -- and wanted to share the designs so others could recreate it.
I don't quite have the bandwidth at the moment to give it the attention it requires if is going to be a real product -- but am happy to share what I've done.

Today being the first quiet day I've had in a while, I'll work on digging up all the old files I've got and will share them here for Mark and others.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 11:18AM
I’m just glad you are okay! Had a friend in another circle who went quite and when we tracked him down he was in the hospital in a coma! I tend to be a bit paranoid now!
Btw he’s out and continues to recover.

Also,while I’m glad that Shopbot continues to do well, I hate that the Handibot has not done better. As Handibot’s official fan boy I’ve always thought it should be the most popular hobby grade cnc.

The Handibot was my very first smart tool and since then I’ve developed a full personal maker space. I still find it to be one of my most versatile.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 03:33PM

Handibot is still my favorite of the ShopBot tools -- mostly because there is so much unique stuff that could be designed for it. Here's a recent weekend riff on trying to get a cheap 5-axis head to work with it: [www.youtube.com]

What do you think affects Handibot's popularity compared to the Bantam (othermill) or Nomad or Carvey? I feel like they were all trying to bring CNC to the 3D printer fans and made tools that looked kinda like 3D printers -- and they all went with the moving table model. The handibot is a lot more like a miniature gantry tool with the control box mounted on the gantry. We even sent it mounted to a piece of MDF that would act as the "spoilboard" on a full-size ShopBot. Maybe a vise mounted under the cutter to show that the tool can be used like a mini-mill?

A couple things I'd like on the handibot--dual Y motors ... in order to get an open bottom on the tool, you have to move the Y motor out of the center (in a moving table tool, it'd be centered directly under the table) -- moving the Y motor to the side limits the length of the X axis because you'll get unacceptable deflection at extreme X positions if the Y motor is too far away. Dual motors would let the X axis be any size.

I want removable control box -- like it would just clip into the back of the tool, you'd plug in your motors, router and sensors. The most common support need for tools is electronics and it is almost impossible to diagnose over the phone. Better to just overnight a new control box to anyone with a burned out power supply -- they swap it out and mail us the old one. Less trouble for them, less trouble for us, less back-and-forth in support trying to figure out the problem.

One that we've actually implemented is an integrated screen on handibot -- the tool can be used without any additional devices. When you turn it on, a screen on the tool loads FabMo and you just get off to work. I like that a lot and would like to polish that idea a bit, make the screen unit more compact, less expensive, etc...

Touch sensitive z zeroing as standard -- we've got the "quick-bit" as an option, but I'd like it better if it were built into the tool base. You'd have to give the X more travel so it could move the tool over the z zero plate -- but you could have a simple mode where the tool automatically zeroes the bit before each cut without the need to attach a metal clip to the bit (another common problem that puzzles new CNC users is z zero issues).

Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
June 02, 2019 11:37PM
>>>>What do you think affects Handibot's popularity compared to the Bantam (othermill) or Nomad or Carvey?

I’ve thought about this all day and I think that I may be uniquely unqualified to answer this.

I mean I choose the Handibot twice over other cnc projects.

I think a lot of things factor in but I’d love to hear from someone who seriously considered the Handibot but went with something else.

For some, the prospect of saving a few hundred bucks makes it worth it to them to assemble a box of parts. For others they only see the project in front of them with no insight into what might be needed for future projects.
Take indexing for example, Vcarve handles this extremely well and it can extend the usefulness of a limited sized machine greatly but I think most people overlook this. Ted and you guys get this, both the Bridge and the simi full sized Buddy are based on intelligent indexing. Most gantry machines don’t even mention this capacity.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 22, 2020 11:53AM
Thought I would pick up on this thread, as forum distressingly quiet, and Brian and Mark have done so much to make the Handibot a success.......but it did not break out. What went wrong?

I think the original vision of a $1k open source machine made from 'proper' linear motion components was spot on. But it didn't work out that way:

Open Builds and their V slot, skate wheels and arduino/gbrl controller has made the running as a platform for innovation with designs evolving to today's Workbeee being a pretty capable machine. Ironically now with profile rails and ballscrews dropping in price, many of the latest designs use v slot with linear rails mounted to them. A real driver seems to be the Maker Store that makes all the components available.

Size matters! The move of Shapeoko and Openbuilds to larger formats shows the demand is for work area. Despite the weaknesses of bigger gantries and the flexibility of tiling as Mark points out. This is compounded by the problem that costs don't scale with size.....once I am paying for Hiwin profile bearing cars, why put the on a 6inch axis when they can ride a 4ft axis for a few $ more.

Products vs platforms: Handibots design makes it a product. The advantage to the user is a fully refined design but it contains many bespoke parts, so despite being open source it is practically impossible to build yourself. It is also well optimised so it is difficult to modify and extend. However the cost advantages of a manufactured product don't seem to have materialised. It costs more than a 4x4ft I2R from Axiom, I guess because it has much the same parts on a smaller scale as is not built in China.

I think we are going to see much of Brian's vision realised by the team at Shaper Tools. Their Origin tool benefits from the unconventional approach, where significant electronic and software challenges are rewarded when solved by enabling lower part costs. They have also managed to reduce the CAD/CAM barrier to using the tool in a way FabMo planned to but hasn't.

Technology vs Applications: Computers are amazing technology but to get sales to take off, you needed to find a 'killer' app that allows consumers to justify the investment. This is where I think Shaper have been very good in presenting uses cases. Handibots was always a tool looking for an application. Mark had some good ideas and demonstrated and inspired, but nothing ever took off.

So as you can see, probably got too much time on my hands, but we learn from mistakes....Handbot was a great initiative as befits an enterprising business like Shopbot. But in summary it failed as it was too expensive, unavailable (outside US), too proprietary, unclear applications and without a community (sorry guys, but there are not many of us here are there!)

Some of this is luck...volume might have solved all these.
Of course intend some of this to be provocative (but hopefully constructively), so come back at me.....
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 22, 2020 12:31PM
Hey Andrew G -- Thank you for your post! Everything you bring up is on my mind constantly! So I'm excited to have a chance to share my thoughts. Give me a little while to write it all out!

Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 22, 2020 02:05PM
I think that cost is a big issue. Within ShopBot, Handibot has occasionally been described as a “loss leader” -- and for the first couple years of its existence, it definitely was a “loss” -- but leading to what exactly? Leading customers to get their start on the shopbot system and graduate to a bigger tool one day?

I started working on Handibot in early 2015, after the kickstarter launch and after the original engineer working on the project had departed to take a teaching position at a local engineering high school. Handibot was at a bit of a crossroads at that point; sales had dropped off after the buzz from the kickstarter settled down. And we’d always been saying that the first iteration of handibot was only a “rough draft” -- that we’d need to refine it and respond to feedback from our customers with a new design.

I made a pitch for the future of handibot that I based around my photography hobby; anyone who’s had an SLR camera probably knows that you might spend $500 on a camera body...but you’ll end up spending $1000s on lenses. Each lens opens up new possibilities with your camera and that’s what makes that process of accessorization fun with your camera. So I thought that with Handibot, we should focus on accessorization and try to make it profitable by getting the tool out to as many people as possible at near break even; then earn a long term profit by continuing to release new, cool accessories.

As I was designing the “V2” handibot I was trying to build in a bunch of open-ended features that would allow for future accessorization. The Y axis motor was reversed and capped with a removable piece of plastic so that it could be replaced with any size motor in the future (the bridge eventually made use of this). The router bracket was easily removable so different “heads” could be attached. The magnet array in the bracket was designed to be able to receive a number of different accessories like the plotter pen and laser sight (oscillating knife and laser cutter never quite got out the door). We also just made a lot of options from V1 standard on the V2 like the hood/enclosure, z-zero plate, dust foot and metal reinforcement on the Y bearings. The new Handibot design actually came in slightly cheaper than the original handibot -- but adding in the new hardware for FabMo boosted the cost by about $200; so we raised the price $100 to $2795 which was probably a $300 profit (just to keep the accountants from totally losing their minds!)

The V2 Handibot launched on March 16, 2016 and sales got off to a pretty good start. It was the first time that we had shipped a tool with our new control software “FabMo” and it was definitely a little rough -- for the rest of 2016 I probably spent 15hrs a week on the phone answering some variation of “how do I connect?!”. The software guys were hard at work on making improvements and I tried to solve things from the hardware side by putting together a kit with a samsung tablet that was set up to automatically connect to the tool and later with a raspberry pi powered tablet that docked on the front of the tool.

I definitely think that our struggles with the software took the wind out of our sails a bit -- for something new to be adopted by people it has to be easy and FUN (Shaper is FUN to use!) but what’s fun about spending your first day with the tool sorting out how to connect?

In our shop here at ShopBot, all of the tools (big and small), run on fabmo and I love it. I can control the entire shop from my desk up front and queue up files on each tool before even walking out to the shop floor. I once even did a demo while in Japan, controlling one of our tools in North Carolina over a remote connection -- it’s so cool! But for daily use in a garage; there are an awful lot of “features” that just get in the way of simply running a file -- which is what most of us want to do.

I usually tell people that my favorite tool is the chisel -- because it’s a tool that requires absolutely no planning or measurement to use. You just pick it up and you can immediately go to work shaping any surface -- on the wall, on the floor, ceiling -- trimming, cutting moritises, bevels on the edge of things. It is the ultimate user friendly tool. And I think that CNC should aspire to that level of user friendliness, just pick it up and start using it; design as you go. Again, Shaper seems to have this same philosophy which is what makes their tool so fun to use. However, the one fault that I find with it is that once you’ve done something once with the Shaper, you can’t turn it over to a fully automated process. The benefit of CNC is that once you get a cut working -- recreating the cut becomes so much easier and faster.

So by late 2018 it was time to either make handibot pay for itself, or stop making it. There wasn’t enough volume of accessory sales to cover the staff, shop space and marketing of Handibot so we had to make sure that we were making back our expenses on each tool at the time of the original sale. This meant a price tag of around $4800; ouch! As Andrew mentioned -- you just can’t get away from the fact that bearings, motors and electronics do not get any cheaper just because you only want a 6x8x4 cut area.

To make myself feel better about suddenly asking for this much money for a Handibot, I wanted to do one last thing to try to set people up for success with the software. This was designing the little raspberry pi touchscreen and keyboard combo that would live on the front of the tool and boot up/connect automatically whenever the tool was powered on.

The problem with trying to add features to justify the price of something is that you are also adding complexity. And for a small company that probably tries to manufacture a much wider range of products than is practical; complexity really costs you in the long run. When we introduced the Bridge Edition, I felt so bad about asking our assembly guys to do *one more* new thing that I said I’d make the first batch -- and I ended up building every single one for the entire life of the product because I just wanted them to focus on regular handibots.

Now it is 2020 and we’re all stuck at home and no one is going to school and businesses are shut down. As ShopBot was implementing a work from home policy; everyone was grabbing tools out of the shop to take home and work on youtube videos on their days out of the office. I don’t really have space for a desktop tool in my shop and didn’t really feel like lugging it out to my truck anyway. There were a bunch of half built handibots on the bench in the “handibot lab” and I thought I’d throw one together real quick to take home. It didn’t have any of the plastic frame or electronics or accessories; just the motors and rails. So I pulled up the handibot frame cut files and kinda hacked away at them for an hour, eliminating all the extra, complex stuff so that I could just get the thing built to bring home. I also simplified the electronics, so you just plug it in and it turns on; no relays or switches or sensors.

Since I brought it home, I’ve actually been having a great time working with it. Not having all the extras hasn’t bothered me a bit and less parts means less things that can go wrong. And it’s got me thinking that all those value-adding extras really shouldn’t be there. Just make the least expensive, simplest tool possible and get it into people’s hands.

We had a call with the MITs Fab Foundation the other day and we’re all trying to figure out what education is gonna look like next fall -- and how we can continue to get tech into kids hands so that they can learn about making and programming. They’d love the $300 “Prusa” of CNC -- which handibot can never be … but possibly it could be the $1500 or $1900 CNC -- with a design that is sustainable to us in the business sense and also not burdened with extra features that get in the way of just simply using the tool.

I had a little bit of a brainstorm last saturday and threw together this thing: [www.youtube.com] which is about the most barebones way to link up a set of motors and get really rigid XY motion. I’ve been working to add in a Z, to make it a decent desktop milling machine. Or maybe the stripped down handibot is the way to go. It’d be good to make it easier for our guys to build -- and I’ve definitely found a new appreciation for the tool in its simplified form.

It’s been a time for reflection around the ShopBot office with less people around from day to day and a bit of a lull in orders while businesses hopefully get back on their feet. I still really think that a small tool like Handibot has a place and an application. I’d really like for the tool to be FUN to use -- it has definitely kept me sane while I’ve been stuck at home!
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 22, 2020 11:13PM
Wow, Andrew,

Great post with a lot of things in it that I had been planning to post on. Now it looks like I need to do that post here.

The first thing is I am deeply honored to be mentioned alongside Brian. I mean, I've tried to be Handibot's best fan, but Brian is an engineer and damn good at it.

There is nothing in your post that I vehemently disagree with, I just don't know how much of a "fail" this experiment was? No, it didn't go where Ted nor any of us would have liked it to go, but I'll bet it paid for itself in terms of lessons learned.

Let me tell a little story here: it was almost seven years ago now that I saw an announcement for the HandiBot Kickstarter, and I knew right off this was the project that I had been waiting for. When it arrived, I knew absolutely nothing about digital fabrication. I got in and read the Vcarve instructions from front to back and did a "hello world" or two. The very first part I made for real broke because I didn't understand grain. I watched every video they posted and learned. I'll never be a world-class maker, but I think of how far I've come, and I am just a little giddy.

In the years following, I have added a laser, a 3d printer, a Shaper Origin, and a bunch of dumb tools to complement the smart tools.

The HandiBot had been down for a while, and when I went to fix it a few weeks ago, the farther in I got, the more I realized that it would not live again as a HandiBot. The electronics all seem to be okay, so it will most likely live again as some type of open source cnc of extruded aluminum.
Yeah, I have a Shaper Origin, but as wonderful as it is, it is strictly 2.5d. So it is excellent for making furniture but has severe limitations. Besides being limited to 2.5d, it has to be pushed everywhere it goes. That is great for cutting a cutout for a handle but horrid for making 28 of the same thing!
After the Handibot introduced me to 4 axes and 3+1 cutting. With those two and yeah, 3+2, if you ever need it, I never did. You have virtually a 3d printer that can render in any material a cnc router will cut.

Some of the most fun I've had has been due to buying and getting in deep with my HandiBot. I tested the original creeper that Ted designed and had great fun there, but through my feedback, I basically killed it. Then Brian came up with what was to become the Bridge edition, a much better solution, and I beta tested that as well. The coolest thing, though, as far as use cases is that once I saw what could be done with the 4th axis, I got in and did a lot with that. I can see myself doing a lot of 4 axes and 3+1 cutting in the future.

Something people don't realize until after the sale, and this is why I will always plug Shopbot to anyone that is looking in that price range, is that Ted built a company with some of the most helpful and most creative people in the industry. I have NEVER had a bad experience when I have needed help.

Besides following Brian, everyone should follow Bill Young anywhere you can find his writings.

Finally, let me say that I am not going to abandon the forum. This is my first home as a maker, so as long as they keep the site up, I will check in from time to time.

Edit: I see that while I have been working this up, Brian has posted. Now anyone interested can look at this from two, no, three, including Andrew's points of view.
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 23, 2020 01:20PM
Brian and Mark,
Thanks for sharing so much in your responses, and taking my comments in the spirit they were intended.....and wow, so many directions to explore.....wish I had started a new thread for it with appropriate title now!

Brian, I think your instincts were and are right. Building an ecosystem around the machine was a good strategy (bet Shaper's accountants are pleased about the tape!). However the danger is complexity and the basic machine concept has got a bit buried. I'm in the UK and so getting hold of a Handibot is not economic. I would love to build something based on the Handibot approach, but find it hard to locate all the info and understand the design choices. I do wonder if selling a kit would have allowed the Handibot to access more overseas markets and attracted more attention from the Maker movement whilst triming the costs. Could a basic machine be speced for self builders like me?

And I feel for you over the troubled launch of FabMo, that really takes the wind out of your sails. Again the vision was right but now there are people using Octoprint for their CNC routers because it has those advantages and is proven in the 3D printing world. Still no apps to drive wider adoption. Where now?

Business strategy, product strategy, open source design, killer app identification....next iteration? Where's does this discussion need to go Brian? We want to support and encourage. Shopbot has a great reputation, clearly some great people....(wish you weren't so US centric prehaps)
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 26, 2020 06:57PM
Andrew, much of what you have said rings true on so many levels, but before I get into that, I want to praise Ted and Brian on their honest, straightforward support of the Handibot user base. Without Ted and Brian’s insight and support, the Handibot would have followed many Kickstarter projects from empowering their dreams into fueling nightmares. I was one of those supporters, and to be honest, it was one of the few times I think I made a smart Kickstarter decision. I have owned a Handibot V1.0, v1.1, and now a V2.0. I was very tempted by the Bridge upgrade, but the additional weight (and cost) scared me away, but I do have a long list of Handibot accessories several well-used others collecting dust.

At the same time, I am possibly on the wrong side of the Handibot story, as I am not in the US either. Fortunately, I live close enough to the US to make picking items up there as possible but hardly convenient. Of course, with COVID-19 closing the border, even that option is gone.

Like Mark, thanks for all your insight along the way, the Handibot was my first personal CNC machine, I bought into the idea because I saw a use case for its form factor, that is a CNC machine I could take to the material. I am NOT a professional, purely a hobbyist. Any “professional” out there would likely laugh at the struggles I have had and the many missteps.

That said, I can’t guess at the number of jobs I have done for which the Handibot was ideal for, at least for me. To list a few: countless ceiling tiles I routed for lighting, smoke detectors and speakers, not because I couldn’t do the job some other way, but because the Handibot could do it perfectly time after time after time; perfect bowties joints into large tabletops and islands; in place Japanese joints; carved faces on tree trunks, (the stumps of trees that were fallen) totem pole style; and used the rotary access to duplicate antique finials.

Could I have done these otherwise, of course, but the Handibot has remained the go-to tool for these types of repeated tasks.

To be clear, I have a WorkBee 1010, which allows me to do many of the jobs I had initially envisioned using the Handibot would do. But as convenient as the larger format machine is, I still turn to the Handibot for many tasks.

By the way, v-slot extrusions may have helped fuel the maker arena, but they have also opened a whole new market for conversions to linear rails, as the plastic v-wheels wear quickly and are affected significantly by dust. Leading to many OpenBuild owners having commercial level price tags surrounding their machine builds. Take a look at things like CNC3D’s QueenBee, CNC4Newbie’s WorkBee-Slider & NEW-Carve CNC, Franco CNC Build (which is a whole series of updates) or even OpenBuild builds like Jacob Lotter. Franco never converted to linear rails but spent a fortune on ClearPath Servos and a Centroid Acorn Controller; ironically, he sold his WorkBee shortly after building it. Yes, as you mentioned, cheap Chinese linear rails are helping to fuel that change, but the line between low cost and junk is blurred even when buying from the same company.

A few weeks back I went to do a job, and the Handibot was not working, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the issue was and with help from Brian, we have narrowed down the problem. The point is, with the Handibot not working, I needed to find a way to finish the task at hand. The job is beyond the WorkBee’s capacity, and the material was already in place/use. So, even if I had a larger capacity machine, I would have to remove the target item to get the job done. That job is now back to the bottom of the Honey-Do-List!

But I digress.

Controller problems are not unique to the Handibot, or Shopbot, unfortunately, they are a general CNC problem. Even if you build the best controller ever, it is only a matter of time before something with fancier lights comes along. Centroid has created a whole business behind retrofitting new controllers into old machines, including some Shopbots. I think controller issues hurt Handibot specifically because the Handibot, promoted as a new type of “tool”, is expected to “just work”, you plug it in throw the switch and magic happens!

Yes, I was one of those many Brian had to help with communication issues to the point where I only use the Handibot hardwired network. Hardwired connections are not unique to Handibot; generally, you end up doing this with most controllers as WiFi interference seems to be an issue in most places I have tried to use the Handibot.

I realize I have not helped answer any of the many questions that surround the future of the Handibot concept. However, I did want to state the Handibot has a unique use case that even the Shaper Tools solution fails to address, at least not entirely. Of course, my humble opinion (having never used one) is there is nothing the Shaper Tools solution does I can’t do with a router and template/jig.

I am much further along in my CNC knowledge growth than I was when I supported the Handibot Kickstarter campaign, would I buy a Handibot today? Probably not, mostly because of cost. Would I give up the Handibot I have? Not willingly, or at least as long as I have some usage for it!
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 27, 2020 02:28PM
Very interesting thoughts everyone -- thank you so much for sharing! It’s actually really gratifying to know that there are people out there who got their CNC start on Handibot and keep coming back to communicate with us.

Some thoughts on stuff mentioned above, in no particular order:

V Rails -- I like V wheels and rails -- especially the extruded aluminum kind. The extruded rails fulfill ⅔ of the basic necessities for a CNC; structural and bearing … they’re just missing a surface on which you can press a pinion gear to drive the machine around. If you look at a ShopBot Gantry tableside -- it is pretty much doing the same thing … there’s a large piece of aluminum to which we mount a steel v rail and a piece of rack -- we need all three to get structure, bearing and drive. I’m always messing around with ways to combine those three elements into just two or even one part.

“Linear rail bearings” are great because they “grab” the rail from top and bottom -- which means you don’t have to find a way to maintain force on the bearing during motion. Again -- big ShopBots have to worry about the same thing -- and they deal with it by having the pinion pushed up against the rack, pulling the v wheels down onto the rail. They used to even have the motor plate spring loaded to keep even pressure throughout the motion of the tool. Now things are made precise enough that we can just compress the pinion gear into the rack during assembly and rely on everything being straight enough to maintain pressure.

The way I’d want to do it on handibot would be to design some kind of flexure that would pinch a v-slot extrusion between two sets of rollers. One roller would be stationary; the other mounted to a flexible piece that would keep constant pressure on the rail. It just needs to be simple enough that we can tolerate a bit of variability in the extrusion, wheels and other components (otherwise we’re back to paying higher prices for precision made parts or harder materials).

Parts kits -- I’d be interested to see how other companies do this; I should buy an X-Carve and build one. There are two things that have always puzzled me about selling a kit of parts rather than a tool… 1) how are you not just on the phone all day, every day with customers helping them build their tools? 2) how do you bring together a kit of parts, package and label them well, pack them into a container -- including assembly tools -- and save enough money over hiring someone to build the tool to make it worth dealing with #1? This is probably just a consequence of how ShopBot is set up -- we don’t have any “low skilled labor” in our shop, so really anyone we can pay to pack kits of parts would also be qualified to build an entire machine.

This is, of course, missing the point of making the design more accessible to people that are far from ShopBot. In general I try to design all tools to use parts that are either a commodity item that is available from multiple vendors, or something that can be fabricated somewhere within 30 minutes of our shop (like your local machinist). This saves you the headache of having some special custom part that you spend a couple months going back and forth getting made through a larger manufacturer; only to have them eventually back out leaving you with no quick options to find another way to have it made.

The other challenge is sharing the designs with people. I once got into an argument with an “Open Source Consultant” over beers at Maker Faire about how much effort someone has to put into making things accessible in order to call them open source. His position was that all CAD designs, toolpaths, software -- had to not just be shared, but designed and shared in a format compatible with open source design software so that people could download and collaborate without paying to purchase Solidworks (which I don’t use...but agree is a huge cost barrier to getting into design). It seemed like you could have someone whose whole job was just maintaining an open source repository of current designs (I guess that’s how this guy made his money!). It is admirable; but can be really impractical for a small team when the tools we’re supposed to use for open source are not our preferred tools for creating stuff for ourselves.

To that end, I’ve tried to find ways to adopt open-friendly software while also improving the way I do work internally. I’ve found that a great place for this is in documentation -- everything that is hosted on the handibot.support site is a live doc that lives in a google-drive as a ppt presentation; I can print them 4 slides to a page for paper docs, I can share them as presentations for mobile or desktop users, I edit and upload quickly and the changes are live immediately. I’ve also started doing this for design/assembly information. We recently worked on a little project with UNC to develop a low cost ventilator and I wanted to share the design in the same way that I’d send it out to our production department here to build: [docs.google.com] You’ve got cut files, models, build docs etc. And as I revamp production docs on handibot stuff; I’ve been uploading them all here: [www.handibot.support]
It turns out that production assembly docs are often helpful references when trying to explain to someone how to disassemble or troubleshoot part of their tool!

Handibot applications -- I used to get so frustrated that people wouldn’t make the connection that you could do everything that a bantam (othermill) could do on a handibot -- you just need to bolt it to a piece of wood to use as your “table” -- you can even add a vise! [www.youtube.com]
But it really doesn’t have to be everything to everyone. Like the others here...I’ve found that there are some jobs that I really prefer the handibot for...and I’ve got daily access to every tool that ShopBot produces. Handibot allows you to handle odd shaped or sized material, it is the only tool we make that is convenient to take home for the weekend and it is easy to create jigs for. I’ll have some more videos up on ShopBot’s youtube page soon of all the endwork I’ve been doing with my handibot; it’s seriously addictive and it’s all I want to do on my weekends now!

A trend I’ve noticed with handibot customers is that it either clicks for them, or it doesn’t. Some people get a handibot and really don’t ever get into it and I get a call 2 years later saying “yea it’s been in the box since I got it and I just figured I’d try to turn it on...how do I connect” -- but for other people it clicks, and I’m just astounded at how integral it becomes to their business or hobby. The woman for whom I did that brass stamp engraving video just emailed me recently trying to find out where I got the vise I sold her with the handibot because she’d worn out the screw on it. It blew me away that she’d been just cranking out brass stamps for the last 3 years on her handibot.

So I think we’ve gotta do a better job of showing what handibot is really best for. Trying to sell it as a tool that’ll do anything just leads to customers who don’t ever use them, which is sad and ultimately bad for business. If people want a low cost desktop mill; we could make that too...and in my garage I’d actually like to own both -- an open base handibot type tool and a little desktop mill -- maybe they could each cost $2500 instead of $5k for just the handibot.

Software -- I think that we’ve all got the sense that there just aren’t many purely mechanical innovations possible on a small CNC that can really help you “corner the market” -- all of them are pretty much the same, carbide3d, inventables, bantam, shark, handibot...the real innovation in how we make stuff is going to come from software. Shaper’s innovation is their software. The “autocorrect” is cool -- but you take the same software and integrate it into a handibot and you’ve got a machine that you could toss anywhere on a 4x8 sheet of plywood and have it cut out that section of the design; no tiling or jigs needed -- that’d be cool! And more efficient than a shaper!

I think that is the general feeling around ShopBot -- that to be relevant in a world where component prices are coming down for everyone; and you can do a decent business importing (quality!) tools from china -- you have to be the easiest tool to use, or find some other way to set yourself apart with your software and the experience of using your tools. We’ve been thinking about that for a really long time and it is the thing that Ted spends the majority of his time working on and thinking about.

Earlier on in the development of FabMo, I think we may have been a bit more preoccupied with having the “flashiest lights” (Wifi connectivity), but the development that I’ve been seeing in the last year has been all about simple user experience. Snappy manual controls, reliability, simplified interface. That makes me happy and I’m excited to see them reach their next milestone and get it released on desktop tools.

So what does everyone else think? What are some good examples of open source tools and how have they gotten you involved in their community? Do you see handibot as part of your workflow or does it need to be the one-stop tool for everything? What has been your struggle with FabMo?

Thanks for chatting with me -- I’ve really been enjoying having a chance to express all my opinions about this stuff and reading yours!
Re: Brian out of office til 5/19
May 28, 2020 11:21AM
Thanks moretoyswins for weighing in, your views and thoughts support exactly what I thought looking in from the outside (and profile rails on V slot is all sorts of wrong, but something better will emerge from these Openbuilds experiements).

Brian, glad you seem fired up as the community will need you to move things forward.
So three conclusions

1. Brian, the documentation from handibot is a strength you have got that right (I've got plenty of stories about SOPs from my days in factory management and product development!). However
- Great video on Youtube but it does not mention Handibot (I only found it as I follow Shopbot too)
- If Fabmo lives, an update on the Handibot App Developers Forum is long overdue !
- The Shopbot.com community is full of spam, maybe better to remove it if it cant be supported.

2. I want to start a new thread on a lowcost DIY Handibot and probably another on software - will pick up some of your machine and software thoughts there.

3. Everyone reading this with an interest in Handibot needs to post their support/ideas on the forum. A big reason for Shopbot success (In my view anyway) besides the quality engineering and customer support, is the support and ideas shared on the vibrant forum. Where are you all...even if your Handibot still in the crate it came in?

spinning smiley sticking its tongue out
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