Imagine using a router to cut a pattern on a sheet of plywood and cutting it out perfectly, freehand, even if you stray from the line. Sounds impossible? The Shaper Origin is a new handheld CNC router that aims to help you do just this.
Shaper calls the Origin an “auto-correct” for your hands, but it seems to be much more than that.
Using the Shaper Origin requires a little bit of setup.
First, you must apply “ShaperTape” to the surface of your material. Shaper says this about the tape:
ShaperTape is a uniquely patterned tape that allows Origin to very precisely know its position. Apply it randomly to your workpiece around the area you wish to cut. When you’re done, just peel it off and recycle it.
And no, you can’t just print your own tape or labels. They say that printing your tape won’t provide the same dimensional accuracy.
Once your tape is in place, load your design to the tool and you’re ready to start cutting. Move the Origin router around your workpiece, following the pattern on the screen as best you can.
The router spindle is connected to its own 3-axis control system inside the machine, allowing it to automatically correct for any errant movements you make. It does this by using it’s “vision” to locate itself exactly on the work piece, which is why you need the special tape.
If you stray from the path, the Origin can move the spindle independently to continue to follow the path. If you stray beyond its ability to adapt, it will quickly raise the bit so you don’t ruin your work. Once you move the Origin back into position, it’ll just continue right where it left off. You can even go to another part of the design and it can figure out where it is and what it needs to cut.
The Origin accepts SVG files, and also supports files created by programs like Inkscape, Illustrator, Sketchup, Solidworks, and AutoCAD. You can transfer your own designs to the tool wirelessly or via flash drive, you can also download designs from their “ShaperHub” right on the tool itself. You can even create a design right on the tool itself.
You can use the 14 pound Shaper Origin on pretty much any material that you can use a normal router on. It has a 1/4″ collet so it can accept most 1/4″ router bits.
As for accuracy, the control system can keep you to within 0.01″ of your path.
And just so you don’t make a huge mess of your shop, the Origin can be connected to a vacuum for dust collection.
When it finally ships, the Origin will cost $2100.
Want to be among the first to buy one? It’s also available right now for presale, and there were several different discounted packages to choose from. As of now there’s just one package left. For $1500 (28% off the expected retail price), you get the Shaper Origin with router spindle, 2 rolls of 150 ft ShaperTape, a quickstart guide, a 1/4-inch upcut spiral bit, a 1/8-inch upcut spiral bit, engraving bit, tool change accessories, and a 1 year free subscription to Autodesk Fusion 360.
Shaper is only doing a limited run of the first generation Origin. Delivery is expected to start sometime in September 2017. They say you can get a full refund up until the day the product is shipped to you.
Pre-Order(via Shaper Tools)
Check out one of Shaper’s demo videos that explain how the Origin works. They have dozens of other videos on their channel.
I’ve known about the Shaper Origin for a while, but was hesitant to post about it because it was something you might find at select venues like Maker Faire, and there was no product available. There have been hundreds of cool sounding products I’ve followed that never made the step from prototype to marketable product.
So what’s changed? For one, they have tools on pre-order and a tentative delivery date. Second, they are actually releasing a few out in the wild to some prominent YouTubers, like Jimmy Diresta and Applied Science.
With a traditional CNC, no matter how large of a machine you buy, there’s always a project that you want to make that is too big for the machine. The Shaper Origin doesn’t have a size limit. Shaper says that the “Origin tackles projects of any size,” but there has to be some practical limit of how far the machine can see. But, I think the practical limit is probably based on what material you can buy. For example, in their demo videos you can see that it can handle a full sheet of plywood.
The engineer in me loves the precision of CNC, but the amateur woodworker misses the connection with the tools and the materials. You setup a CNC and just let it run while you go do something else. With the Origin you don’t set up the cut and walk away, you’re an integral part of the process. You move the Origin around the material and it acts as a high tech router bearing following a virtual pattern — you are providing the motive power, it provides the precision.