Go Back to handibot.com
sign up or log-in


shopbot vs handibot whats best for a newbie to CNC

Posted by WallyS 
as i mentioned in the shopbot forum im a CNC beginner looking for my first CNC to learn/have fun with.
Currently I'm trying to decide between the shopbot desktop or the handibot because thats around what my budget is.

In my CNC newbie opinion right now it looks like the handibot is the better machine, considering it can be moved to the materials and you can use the indexing jig to do bigger surfaces
I don't see why the desktop is worth more money, but the fact that it is the more expensive option makes me wonder if there are benefits that I'm not aware of

is someone able to give me the pros and cons of each so I can better make decision(like is their speed differences ? Or things one can do that the other can't etc.)

also with the handibot I'm curious about the new controller board mentioned in the "new guts" topic
when will those start being put into the handibot? or are they already (I'm just the kind of person that would go crazy not waiting an extra month or so when something gets updated)

I'm also curious about the fourth and fifth axis addons Will they work with all models of handibot or only ones with the new guts? and is there a estimated release date and/or price for those add ons

my final question is should i be wary about the handibot being a developer edition?, Do you get anything extra because it's a dev edition or is it just the title for it because all the features aren't nailed down yet.
Would you recommend a person who doesn't plan on developing apps to hold off on it because it's a developer edition?

Hi Wally,

I'm sure there will be other opinions on this ... but I'll just jump in with a few thoughts.

Despite a similarity in mechanical elements and motors, the Desktop and Handibot are very different tools.

The Desktop is a traditional CNC tool, oriented for benchtop use. We think of as a mature product. It has a very rigid frame and deck and is designed for serious machining of plastic, wood, and aluminum. It has been reviewed in comparison with a number of other table-top CNC's and is generally recognized as offering the highest quality machining in its category (from early reviews in American Woodworker to current enthusiasm from Core77(see link), and others in-between).

The Desktop comes with either a 2.5HP router or a 1HP industrial spindle. If you can handle the cost, the small industrial spindle provides a better range of speed and power than the router, smoother cuts because it has less run-out, and it is much quieter. In a number of businesses, a ShopBot Desktop with industrial spindle is used as a production tool. We use several of them to produce Handibots here at ShopBot.

So ... this is the Handibot forum; and we love these new tools. But note that the Handibot is very much a work in progress. Because of its portability, the Handibot is a new form factor for doing CNC. That's good and bad. It's liberating that you can take the tool to your material, and that it will reach down into it. This gives all sorts of new flexibility in how digital tools are put to use. And, jigging up for projects larger than the small, 6"x8"x4" work area is possible. We learn new things about how to accomplish larger projects with Handibots everyday, but using a Handibot is much less efficient than doing the project on a larger tool. Indeed, this reflects on the more general concept that the Handibot is explicitly an experiment to explore new ways to use robotic tools. As such, it is more a work in progress than a mature product. We call it a "Developer Edition" exactly because we are inviting the community to help us evolve this new form of (digitally-enabled) "smart" power tools.

As you note, the evolution theme holds in particular for software and control-electronics. We believe that there should be easier and more straightforward ways to do digital fabrication than the current CAD-to-CAM-to-CNC workflow. We are moving forward on an entirely new system for running digital fabrication equipment (additive and subtractive, and robotic assembly). This new system will allow the development and use of straightforward, job-related "Apps" for getting tasks done and for doing customized projects. Such development work seems to always take longer that one would would like, but we are making good progress and are documenting the work on our Github site (previous link). We are planning a release of a beta-package for the full system in the next month, and expect that by December we will be shipping the new electronic hardware as well as software. However, I am not making any promises of specific dates here.

This description of the two tools should give you an idea of our very different visions for them. In addition, I should note a couple of other details not yet mentioned. The Handibot ships with a 1hp trim router and so has less cutting power than the Desktop. It also has a lower voltage power supply (24v vs 48v) which means it has lower speed capabilities, but because of the short distances in the work area this is not a problem for projects within the standard envelope.

We are just now finishing up a rotary (4th axis) indexer for the Handibot that is similar to that for the Desktop. We expect to offer it as an option in the next month. We are also working on a 5-axis accessory (trunion with rotary table) for Handibot, though we are unlikely to have this available before January.

I hope to have answered a few of your questions. Maybe others will elaborate ...

Ted Hall, ShopBot Tools
I wonder if Ted or anyone else here would like to provide an update (that was October 2014) to his helpful comparison of
the Handibot to the Shopbot Desktop.

Now FabMo is out. Handibot V2.0 is out. What else has changed?

I am at the point Wally was then, wondering what to get for my first CNC.
My situation is complicated by the fact that I will soon be relocating to Ireland, so there is no reason (in fact, a disincentive) to go
with an American company.

I see that Handibot V2.0 comes in a 230V version, and I can get a UK router for it.

Are the accuracy of the Handibot and Desktop (or Buddy) comparable?
Has anyone measured repeatability, actual precision of cuts?

I have a newbie to CNC arriving in seven days. It can cut complete size material or considerably greater and the cost is correct.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.