DURHAM, NC - A small manufacturer in Colorado called Donek designs tailor-makes snowboards for Olympic competitors and world cup winners. B/E Aerospace, a leading manufacturer in North Carolina is changing the status quo by introducing leaner, more affordable methods to the assembly line. A high-school teacher in upstate New York is awakening underachieving students' interest in math, science and engineering.
What do these people have in common? They think about their work - and do it - in innovative ways. And they all use ShopBots.
Innovation is in the DNA of ShopBot Tools, Inc. The Durham, NC-based company was founded 15 years ago around a simple idea: to democratize emerging digital fabrication technology -- making it more widely accessible. As ShopBot CEO Ted Hall said, "It's like taking mainframe-size technology and putting it in a desktop PC; we've oriented the amazing power of these fabrication tools for use by individuals and small shops."
ShopBot's core business has been to design and build CNC routers for cutting and machining wood, plastics and aluminum ("subtractive" technology), serving small to mid-size manufacturers as well as in educational settings. The company offers a range of ShopBots from "personal" desktop size to 48" X 96" and larger shop-sized tools. And recent years have seen ShopBot continually innovating to serve growing interest in "additive" digital fabrication technologies such as 3-D printing.
One great example of ShopBot innovations is its 5-Axis PRSalpha CNC router. This subtractive digital fabrication tool, selling for just under $40,000, is a remarkable advance in multi-axis production capability at an affordable price (traditionally, 5-axis routers have price tags upwards of $150,000). The ShopBot 5-Axis PRSalpha performs production cutting, drilling, trimming, and prototype- and fixture-machining in a large work envelope, accessible from all angles.
Another recent development is the ShopBot Desktop, delivering precision and performance in a small space. Starting at $5000, the ShopBot Desktop's CNC router cuts wood, plastic, aluminum, styrofoam -- just about anything. And it's a flexible platform for add-on capabilities that are in development such as a Rotary Indexing Head for turning objects (available now), 3D Printer Head, and Laser Cutter.
Frank Smith, who heads up ShopBot's technical support team, notes, "We are finding our database of long-time ShopBot owners growing and growing. The feedback we receive is, that our tools perform well over the long haul - and we're proud of that. But ShopBotters appreciate our help, too." When customers do need technical support, it's always available free of charge. The company also hosts training sessions throughout the year at their Durham headquarters as well as in live webcasts.
A great way to learn about the ShopBot's capabilities is from its customers, such as those mentioned at the beginning of this article. Meet Sean Martin of Donek Snowboards, Chris Koontz of B/E Aerospace, and Ed Wall of the Elmira, NY School District, in interviews at shopbottools.com.