The Shaper Router: Hand Tools with CNC…

CNC has been undergoing rapid evolution lately, especially at the entry-level part of the spectrum.  Mere mortals can have 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, and CNC Mills in their garages these days.  Even the Apollo Space Program never had so much access to CNC as the average maker does today.  We are nowhere near finding our way through this innovation spike–there are years of new developments to come.  The amazing thing about one of these innovation spikes is that you can never predict where the next innovation will come from.  This article is all about how a group of brainey MIT students are creating hand tools that are CNC tools in disguise.  Their company is called Shaper Tools, and the product is the Shaper Origin.  They’re extremely easy to use and they produce results that are nothing short of incredible–especially for those who want to accomplish the same results without having a tool like this or a CNC machine at all.

We covered this a few years ago while the gang were still at MIT:

The original prototype…

They’ve come a long way, and if all goes well, they hope to have the product out in 2016.

The idea behind it is deviously clever–the router is mounted on a sub-chassis whose position is adjusted via stepper motors.  The screen shows you the pattern you’re tracing.  As you guide it with your hands, a camera behind the screen is tracking patterns applied with tape to the workpiece.  The Shaper uses those patterns to determine the actual movement your hands make versus where you want to go on the pattern.  The stepper motors continuously adjust the true position of the cutter so that you’re precisely following the pattern.  No more shaky hands and botched attempts!

Here is a video of it in action cutting a gear:

[youtube width=”800″ height=”540″][/youtube]

Cutting a gear with the Shaper Origin…

The video shows how the router itself is moving independently to compensate for errors the human hand makes while tracing, and even how it will retract the cutter suddenly if you get too far off course.  Hard to imagine cutting that gear out without something like Shaper to help.  The possibilities for a gadget like this in the hands of talented craftsmen are endless.  Here’s a very fancy bit of joinery done with the Shaper Origin:


Joint made with Shaper Origin based on a design by the C…Lab of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach, a project headed by Prof. Jochen Gros and Designer Friedrich Sulzer…


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