Shaper Tools Will Blow Your Mind

Have you ever wanted to own a full-sized ShopBot? What if some geniuses somewhere made a tool the size of a coffee maker that had the same capabilities? Does an augmented reality, real-time feedback, interactive, handheld CNC router that can make objects ranging in size from a pillbox to an entire conference room table sound like a thing that even exists? It didn’t to me at first, but then I visited the Shaper Tools office in San Francisco and they blew my mind with their flagship tool, Shaper Origin.

This table and the spool holder sitting on it was made with a machine the size of a coffee maker.
This table and the spool holder sitting on it was made with a machine the size of a coffee maker.

It’s impossible for me not to sound like a fan boy. Using Shaper Origin was one of those experiences where you just don’t know what to say afterwards. This is what the future looks like.

I’ve used a lot of CNC tools in my life, from my first home-built CNC conversion, to 1980s monstrosities that ran off the floppy kind of floppy disks, and all the way over to brand new state-of-the-art vertical machining centers. I had to shake a lot of that knowledge off when they demoed the device to me.

Origin is a CNC router built into the form factor of a normal wood router. The router knows where it is on the work piece. You tell it where on the piece you would like to cut out a shape, drill a hole, or make a pocket. It tells you where to go, but as you move it keeps the cutting bit precisely on the path with its three axes of control.

It’s easier to show than explain so don’t miss the embedded video at the end of this post of [Ben Krasnow], who is one of Shaper’s beta testers. He is using the tool to mill out some plates for a CNC conversion he’s performing on an old knee mill. This is actually how I found them. I saw him use the tool, googled Shaper, found out I was going to be in the same area as them, and emailed them asking if I could come check it out. Fortunately, they were all long-time Hackaday readers, who we’ve covered a few times, and were kind enough to oblige.

Shaper Tools even made us custom fiducial tape. Look closely.
Shaper Tools even made us custom fiducial tape. Look closely.

In the video you can see the basics of its operation. The first step is to place some of their non repeating fiducial tape onto the work surface. The tape is inexpensive and basically sold at material cost. Shaper Origin looks at the tape to keeps track of its position; it is surprisingly precise. Next you move Origin over the material and simply press a button when you’re over the area you’d like to cut. After that, tell Origin what tool it’s holding, how deep you’d like to cut, and press go. Origin will help you do the rest.

I suppose I wouldn’t be as impressed if it were just a cool tech demo, but this tool really works. It’s well-built. The interface is polished and intuitive. The machine I used had been in service for a year and was still going strong.

We’ll be covering the tool in a lot more detailed article soon, but we wanted to get this post out before the Bay Area Maker Faire where Shaper will be demoing the device. If you’re headed to the Bay Area Maker Faire this week you need to play with the tool yourself over at their van in Zone 10 near the east gate entrance. If you get a chance to use it I’d love to hear if your experience matched mine in the comments.

Filed under: cnc hacks, Hackaday Columns, tool hacks

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