In college, I worked in both the costume and scenery shops for the theatre department, and one adage I heard over and over again in both of them was “Measure twice, cut once.” Of course, even when a piece of wood or a length of fabric is meticulously measured and marked, that still doesn’t protect them from a multitude of potential disasters – shaky hands, attention slips, overconfidence, etc. There were many piles of scrap materials lying around both workshops, and while amateur college students may be guilty of more errors than professional designers, no one is exempt from mistakes resulting in costly material waste.
Alec Rivers was a PhD student at MIT when he found himself getting frustrated by his attempts to build a picture frame. Despite his skill, he was unable to get the corners of the frame to perfectly line up without a gap. A computer science student, Rivers began messing around with an idea: ‘auto-correct for the hands’. That was in 2011, at which point Rivers probably had little or no idea that his concept would lead to the formation of a successful startup called Shaper Tools. Five years later, the company, which has amassed a staff of talented employees with backgrounds working at companies like Apple, Amazon and Google, is unveiling the final version of Rivers’ idea: the Shaper Origin.
Origin, described by Shaper as the world’s first handheld CNC machine, is a unique tool that uses augmented reality to ensure perfect cuts, every time, in any shape. Users simply apply ShaperTape, included with the machine, in the outline of the area they want to cut, and then scan the surface with the Origin, which creates a virtual map of the area. Once the design is set, the user begins cutting, following along the lines via Origin’s AR camera. The tool itself keeps track of your progress, as well – if you slip or begin to go off course even a little bit, the Origin automatically self-corrects to keep going along the pre-set design.
Even if you need to pause in your work, Origin will remember exactly where it left off, so you can easily start up again, keeping a smooth, continuous line. It’s not only a cutting tool, either – you can use it to create your design, as well. You can import a CAD file from your own design software, choose from the ShaperHub design gallery, or use the Origin itself to draw directly on the surface, thanks to its built-in CAD tools.
While the Origin is compact, it’s extremely versatile, capable of machining objects of any size thanks to its portability and variable router speed. It can also work with multiple materials including wood, plastics, composites, and even soft metals. It’s Wi-Fi connected to make design sharing and updates easy – and updates and improvements will be coming regularly, Shaper assures.
The Shaper Origin is currently available for pre-order for a reduced price of $1,499; once that limited batch is gone, there will be more available for $1,699. Full retail price will be $2,099. You can learn more about how the Origin works below, and discuss further in the Shaper Origin & AR Camera forum over at 3DPB.com.