When we asked "How practical is the Shaper Origin" and invited you to ask questions, we knew Shaper would answer them. But we didn't know they'd go the extra mile and answer with video demonstrations!
Here the team tackles the things that are better shown than talked about. We've cued the video up to each specific question, so you can easily find yours:
How is the workpiece indexed to the cutting head when creating the box joints?
How do you zero the bit to the worksurface (Z-axis)?
How many unicorns does it take to build one?
How was the knot-filling patch created?
Does the locating tape leave a residue?
Can the camera be obscured by dust?
How efficient is the dust extraction?
How quickly does the bit raise in the event of operator error?
I like that they took the time to show everything, like when the plug didn't fit the first time around, then he shows you how to expand the cavity slightly. And that yes, the bit can nick the top of the outside surface if you steer out of it too quickly. The tool isn't a perfect, magical artifact, but it looks pretty darn amazing. More importantly, by taking the time to answer your questions in this kind of detail it shows that they're interested in engaging with you guys and gals, the target market.
Some of the questions you asked are better answered in text. Here they are:
Question: If a board is warped, will it affect calibration?
Shaper: Origin is currently designed to work on flat surfaces. In actual practice, we have found Origin capable of accommodating a moderate amount of board warpage with no problem.
Question: Can you use a keyhole router bit?
Shaper: Absolutely. This is such an excellent way to produce undercut features; e.g. for nail hangers in picture frames.
Question: Will wood density/knots affect the gantry?
Shaper: We don't technically utilize a gantry design. But the root question is whether or not non-homogenous materials impact cutting performance. The short answer is "yes", varying material densities and irregularities can contribute to inferior cuts - we are not inherently changing any laws of cutting physics. We've found that one of the nice things about being involved in the cutting process, though, is that you're able to see and/or feel anomalies and are therefore able to make adjustments (to speed, bit offset, etc) if you are aiming for ultimate cut quality.
Question: How is it possibly fast enough at pulling the bit out in a case where you move it to far too fast or make a mistake....as it claims to in one of the videos? Is there a limit to what it can catch?
Shaper: It is still possible to make mistakes. The limitations to what Origin can correct are based on depth of cut and the speed at which you go out of bounds of the corrective range. If you are cutting a reasonably shallow depth and you do not fly out of bounds, the bit can retract quickly enough to not leave a mark. If you are drilling a 1-inch deep hole and push aggressively out of the corrective range, the bit will almost certainly leave a mark as it retracts out of the material. We are continuously making improvements to bit retraction speed and also our algorithms to help improve cut quality, for example via predictive motion path compensation. But if cut/finish quality is the paramount concern, we recommend performing bulk material removal at an offset from the final intended path, and a finish pass where only a small amount a material needs to be removed by the cutter. The ability to return to the workpiece to shave off just a hair more of material is really one of the magic qualities of Origin that change the way you're able to create.
Question: Are all those official videos where parts are fitting together "right off the tool" or is there sometimes some sanding needed?
Shaper: This is highly dependent on the material you are cutting and the cutter you choose. It is not uncommon for us to perform light sanding operations on pieces to remove fuzz before fitting them together.
Question: I did see mallet use. I guess as other have asked I want to get an idea of how precise this tool is. Can you quantify the precision vs. some existing CNC router tables that are somewhat similar in terms of price range?
Shaper: It's difficult to compare specs directly with other CNC routers since a human is involved in the cutting process with Origin. Experienced Origin users are able to achieve cut quality and precision very comparable to a gantry-based CNC. With a small amount of practice, you are actually able to achieve cuts far greater than within 1/100th of an inch using Origin. But we've decided to state that number as a more generally achievable range to help bound the conversation. It should also be noted that even a total newbie is able to take Origin and start making precise cuts much more quickly and easily compared with a more typical CNC router. With features like on-tool path modification, we're really focused on making the entire experience more intuitive. We strive to be the tool in your workshop you reach for first when you want to get something done.
Question: Any kind of warranty? Will these things be repairable by you? It's pretty complicated and I could see wanting to repair it. My aforementioned 3D printer has really good service and that's one of the things I love about it.
Shaper: Origin comes with a 12-month limited warranty. Any major issues encountered will be addressed by authorized return and Shaper will either repair or replace your Origin. We aim to stand behind our tools and our reputation.
Question: I mean, the big and really straightforward questions is obviously: Can it cut a dovetail faster than you can by hand?
Shaper: The answer to this depends on who is doing the cutting, what their level of experience is, and what kinds of fixtures or tools they have access to as an alternative to Origin. Origin doesn't do anything on its own, but it provides capabilities for traditional joinery and newer digital joinery techniques to nearly anyone. And beyond specific joint designs: the most important takeaway is the fact that Origin enables you perform complex cutting operations in ways that you would not be able to with a traditional bed router; for example, cutting feature into the end grain of a long board clamped to the side of a workbench.
Thanks again to the folks at Shaper for taking the time.