Shaping A Movement
At the encouragement of a friend, I sat in a coffee shop, watching a video of what looked like a tool from the first Aliens movie glide over a piece of plywood—it was the Shaper Origin. I’m unsure as to whether or not it was the coffee or the prospect of endless possibilities that gave me a surge of energy, but I knew I had to see the Shaper Origin in person—if not for myself, than at least for another potential buyer.
I made my way to the Shaper Tools workshop, in the Mission District in San Francisco, for a private demonstration event. Upon entering the building, I noted the relaxed and incredibly un-pretentious vibe of the place. I maneuvered around a girl with green hair and made my way through a sea of rolled sleeves and goggles, to one of the machines. I could smell empty bottles of beer and could feel the humidity wafting from anxious geeks, perspiring over what would be (for some) the beginning of a long-held dream and new tool to obsess over.
I first spoke with the unassuming CEO of Shaper Tools, Joe Hebenstreit, who's enthusiasm for the Origin put him right on par with everyone who had submitted a pre-order. I asked if I could photograph the Origin and the event and he enthusiastically replied “Of course! That's what this is all about. We want to show you where your money is going." Transparency is key when you've got $1500 invested in a product you’re not likely to receive for another year. I've got to admit though, the wait would be well-worth it.
I think Co-Founder Alec Rivers saw how distracted I was with taking photos, when he asked me if I had tried the Origin. After hearing that I hadn’t, he insisted that I throw on a pair of safety glasses and give it a go. Looking for a state on the demo plank that hadn't been cut out already, we set our sights on Montana and fired up the Origin. Gripping the device comfortably with both hands, I quickly dragged the unit from right to left, up and down. Almost a minute later, we had finished carving out the state of Montana in fine detail, on a piece of plywood. I was able to accomplish this while being completely distracted with how cool the device was, listening to Alec brief me on the capabilities of the Origin, and scanning for possible photographs— a feat surely credited to the brilliant design of the machine.
In addition to cutting wood, the Shaper Origin can also work with metal and plastic, lending itself to unlimited possibilities for prototyping or even producing full fledged concepts. Combined with the movement of your arms, the Shaper Origin behaves like a full-fledged CNC machine, absent the large display, lack of floorspace, and terrifying price tag. By comparison, the Origin is as inviting and easy to maneuver as a video game console.
What's most intriguing about this device is the doors it will open for the Maker Community. With tools like this, a person wouldn’t have to wait six months, simply to have their idea funded and manufactured. Tools like this empower creators to act on their ideas and provide the ability to make products on demand, greatly reducing the cost of items produced in smaller quantities. This in turn allows makers to implement improvements on any given design, as they see fit, without having to rely on outside party implementation.
Given the current interest in handmade goods and the growing Designer-Gone-Maker Community, tools like this are entering the market at just the right time. Entire shops can be formed simply by getting together a group of enthusiastic creators who want to help people bring their ideas to life in a tangible form. The possibilities are endless and the Shaper Origin is only getting started.