Best Handheld CNC Router-Shaper Origin Review [2021]

Best Handheld CNC Router-Shaper Origin Review [2021]

Best Handheld CNC Router-Shaper Origin Review [2021]

If you have ever wished for a CNC router machine at your job site but found traditional CNC routers too heavy, then a handheld CNC router might be what you need.

A handheld CNC machine lets you do precision CNC cutting for on-site work such as cabinetry, flooring inlays, sign making, boatmaking, and prototyping.

There is currently only one handheld CNC machine available for buying and that is the Origin Handheld CNC Router from Shaper Tools.

Due to the incredible complexity of the technology, all other manufacturers have tried and quit the market.

Although a handheld CNC router looks similar to a normal router, it has incredible technology embedded in it that turns it into a professional CNC machine.

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Through this review, I take an in-depth look at the Origin handheld CNC router by Shaper Tools.

What is Shaper Origin?

Shaper Origin is a handheld CNC machine made by Shapertools for creating 2D or 2.5D cuts on a wide range of materials. Simply put, it brings CNC-like precision and speed to the work area rather than having to take the workpiece to a CNC machine.

You cannot create 3D carvings using Origin as it only supports 2D and 2.5D machining.

Manual routers cut according to the path we direct them on and the depth of cut is manually controlled.

In the Origin CNC router, the movement, depth, and speed of the router are directed by the controller in the CNC.

Once the design is made, all you have to do is guide Origin through the approximate location of the cut.

Origin will then make fine adjustments to the spindle to cut according to the design.

This brings incredible precision, efficiency, and the ability to make complex cuts to your projects.

Also, unlike a desktop CNC router, the Shaper Origin has no workpiece size limitations.

How Does Shaper Origin Work?

Cutting using Shaper Origin
Cutting using Shaper Origin

Using the Shaper Origin is done in three steps- Scanning the work area, placing the design, and making the cut.

1. Scanning the Work Area

The first step in using the Origin is to scan your work material for the CNC to identify the work area.

For the Origin to scan the area it relies on fiduciary markers called as Shaper tape.

Stick the tapes in parallel on your work surface.

Fixing Shapertape in the work area
Fixing Shapertape in the work area

Next, turn the scan mode on and move the Origin once over all the shaper tape that you fixed.

Scanning using the Shaper Origin
Scanning using the Shaper Origin

Origin scans the entire area, makes a digital map of the work area, and stores it for use during the cutting process.

2. Placing the Design

The next step is to place your CAD model into the work area.

You select your CAD file, look through the display panel of Shaper Origin and place the design visually on your work material.

Placing the Design (Map of USA) on the Work Area
Placing the Design (Map of USA) on the Work Area

Care must be taken to place the design with the correct orientation and location.

You can also use the shapes in the library to make designs on the machines directly. It can save a lot of design time when you need to make simple cuts.

3. Cutting Mode

Once the design is placed, you can initiate the cutting process.

Origin will display the cutting surface and various settings like spindle speed, and depth of cut using a live camera feed.

Cutting Mode on the Shaper Origin
Cutting Mode on the Shaper Origin

All you have to do is guide Origin according to the path shown on the screen.

Note that you are only required to move the CNC along the path with reasonable precision, the cutter of the CNC is what maintains the precision of the cut.

If you move the CNC outside the corrective range (with an accuracy of 1/100"), the cutter will retract and stop the cut to prevent straying.

Corrective Range of the Shaper Origin
Corrective Range of the Shaper Origin

Therefore unlike a manual router, you don't need to be dextrous enough to guide the Origin CNC with precision.

The machine is intelligent enough (through computer vision) to maintain accuracy regardless of your skill with a router.

Origin will instruct you to adjust the course if you veer off course, and if the deviation is significant, the bit is retracted instantly and prevents damage to your workpiece. 

The retraction can sometimes be a bit slow, causing minor cuts on the edges, which can be corrected using some filler or epoxy.

However, those mistakes happen usually when you are new to the machine.

With a bit of practice, it is possible to achieve an accuracy far higher than 1/100th of an inch using Shaper Origin on a consistent basis.

Origin has an offset feature that helps you make cuts and pockets for common hardware elements with precision using the pre-designed templates.

Shaper Origin Review

I reviewed Shaper Origin considering various important parameters such as build quality, material capabilities,  spindle, electronics, interface, software, accessories, and customer support.

1. Size and Build

Size of Origin
Size of Origin

The Shaper Origin looks and feels like any other regular handheld routers but brings full-fledged CNC capabilities to the table.

At the top part of the router is a high-quality screen through which all operations are managed.

Origin has a size of 13 ¾" x 7 ¾" x 11 ¾" and comes in a systainer carry case with a dimension of 15 ½" x 11 ½" x 17".

There is no limitation on the work area available as it can work on workpieces of any dimension.

However, the depth of the cut is limited to 1.75" due to limitations in z-axis travel length.

The carry case can fit the Origin and its accessories within it and makes it easy to carry the machine around.

Shapertools has made sure to keep the machine's weight under 14.5 lbs to enable comfortable handling of the device while cutting.

The packed carry case weighs around 23.5 lbs which is light enough to carry around.

It has two handles on the top of the machine for holding and maneuvering the machine over the work surface.

Additionally, it comes with a universal dust extraction port with a 1.13" inner dia and 1.54" outer dia. Thus, you can connect any US-standard wet/dry vacuums.

You also get a 6.5' long adaptor hose with a 2.25" outer dia with Origin for dust extraction.

A chip tray is built into the machine that collects and holds the chips created during machining.

2. Material Capabilities

Origin can work on a wide variety of soft materials with good precision and repeatability of around 0.01".

It can also cut non-ferrous metals, but the cut depth and feed rates are quite slow.

The materials that Shpaertools have tested for cutting on Shaper Origin are:

  • Softwood
  • Plywood
  • MDF
  • HDPE
  • Hardwood
  • Cork
  • Corian
  • Soapstone
  • PVC foam
  • PVC
  • Linoleum
  • Delrin
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Acrylic
  • Acetate
  • Polycarbonate
  • Aluminum

You can check out this table I made for the speeds and feeds that can be used for some of these materials:

MaterialCutterSpindle Speed (RPM)Feed Speed (ipm)Depth per pass (inches)
Softwood and MDF1/4", 2-flute, Upcut Spiral22,800100.25
Hardwoods1/4", 2-flute, Upcut Spiral19,600100.25
Non-ferrous metals1/8", single flute13,20040.04
Thin Acrylics (<1/8")1/8", single flute19,600100.125

Speeds and feeds for different materials on Shaper Origin
Shaper Origin Carry Case
Shaper Origin Carry Case

3. Spindle

You get a Shaper SM1 spindle with Origin. The spindle comes pre-installed on the machine.

It has a variable speed range between 10,000 to 26,000 RPM making it suitable for most applications.

The spindle is a brushed DC spindle made by Festools specifically for the Shaper Origin and has a maximum power of 720 W.

The spindle features soft start and overload cut-off capabilities to protect the spindle and ensure long life.

The default setup comes with a ¼" collet. It also supports ⅛" collets, but you will have to buy them separately.

You get a plastic extrusion to lock the spindle in place while transporting to prevent unnecessary movement of the spindle.

4. Electronics

Origin works on a 120 V AC supply at 60Hz and draws a maximum current of 7 A, which means it can work off any standard socket.

It has a non-removable capacitive touch screen that lets you control the cutting process.

The handles on the Origin have a couple of buttons that you can use to navigate the menus on the touch screen.

It has a camera built into the machine that lets you watch the cutting surface while cutting.

Origin has built-in WiFi and USB support for easy transfer of design files.

You can use the machine in dimly lit environments as it has a built-in LED light for illumination.

5. Interface

Shaper Origin Interface
Shaper Origin Touchscreen Interface

The main interface between you and the machine is the touchscreen provided on top of the machine.

You can use the screen to scan the work area and create a digital image of the work area.

But, for doing that, you will first have to mark the boundaries of the work area using the tape that comes with Origin.

The machine can detect the tape and save the digital image of the work area. You can then use the touchscreen to place the designs onto the surface and resize them.

You can transfer files between your computer and the machine using a USB stick or by uploading them to your Shaperhub account, which adds more flexibility to the machine.

The USB file transfer allows you to use the machine even without an internet connection.

6. Software

Shaper Origin uses proprietary software developed by Shapertools. The latest version being Inverness.

You get a license for the software at no additional charges with the machine with access to regular updates.

You do not require an Internet connection at all times to use the machine. However, it needs to connect to the internet for initial setup after unboxing.

The touchscreen display and the software let you do all the design work on the machine itself without the need for a computer or design software.

However, you can use any design software of your choice on a computer and then transfer the design files to Origin using a USB stick or a Shaperhub account.

Origin accepts the design file in SVG vector format, a format used by most design software programs.

Additionally, it eliminates the need for CAM software or Control software.

7. Accessories

To improve the capabilities of Origin, Shapertools offers additional accessories that can be purchased from their website.

1. Shaper Workstation

Shaper Workstation
Shaper Workstation

It is a tool for easy work holding and working. It comes with the Shaper tape pattern pre-attached. 

The work area available on the Workstation is 18.3” x 20.3” x 9.8”.

It weighs around 21.5 lbs and attaches to the edge of most tables. It makes aligning and positioning your workpiece easier.

Shaper Workstation costs around $450, but if you buy it bundled with the Origin, you can save $50. 

You can improve the precision and speed of your work with this accessory.

2. Shaper Tape

Board with Shaper Tape applied
Work area with Shaper Tape applied

Shaper Tape helps Origin recognize and scan the work area, and the precision is improved with the amount of tape you use.

You get two 150' rolls of shaper tape with Origin. If you run out, you can purchase it for $18 from the official website or Amazon.

However, people have used tapes that they printed at their home with Origin without any issues.

3. 1/8" collet and nut

If you intend to use Origin to make precision cuts and inlays with a good finish, you will need to use ⅛" shank tools. To do such works, you will need the ⅛" collet you can purchase for around $46.

4. Router bits

Shapertools sells bits for the Origin, and the average price of the bits is around $20. 

8. What's in the box?

Shaper Origin Accessories in the box
Shaper Origin Accessories in the box

You get a decent amount of accessories and tools with the Origin. The tools and accessories included with the purchase are:

  • A Tanos Systainer to carry the Origin and its accessories
  • A 4mm T-Hex wrench for removing the spindle
  • two rolls of 150' Shaper Tape
  • tool pouch
  • USB flash drive
  • 6.5' long adaptor hose (2.25" outer dia) for dust collection
  • A 19mm wrench for removing the collet

Additionally, you get three router bits provided in the box:

  • ¼-inch up-cut spiral cutter 
  • ⅛-inch up-cut spiral cutter
  • 60° engraving cutter

9. Shaper Hub

Shaper Hub is an online platform made for the users of Shapertools products. With the Shaper Hub account that comes with Origin, you can access the online community of users.

It also allows you to access the project files shared by other users and use them to create products.

Furthermore, you can use Shaper Hub to transfer files between your computer and Origin by uploading design files to your account and accessing them on Origin via WiFi.

10. Assembly

Origin arrives assembled and requires no assembly process. However, you need to connect Origin to the internet via WiFi for software updates during the initial startup.

The setup process is easy, and you can start making chips within 30 minutes of the arrival of Origin.

11. Warranty and Customer Support

Shapertools provides a one-year warranty for the Origin. In addition, Origin has a 30-day trial period. You can return Origin within 30 days of purchase for a full refund. However, you will have to pay the shipping charges.

Shapertools has a reliable and efficient support team available through e-mail. In addition, the online community of users are highly active with solutions to most of your problems.

The official YouTube channel of Shapertools provides tons of videos on using the machine with tips and tricks. 

You can find feeds and speeds for most materials and jobs from their official website or YouTube channel.

12. Shaper Pro

Shapero Pro is a suite of add-on features offered by Shapertools that you can opt for around $600.

The major advantage is the additional year of warranty you get, extending the warranty period to two years.

You get Live-phone support for Origin. The regular users only get e-mail support, which in my opinion, is sufficient when you have an excellent online community and great tutorial videos.

With the Shaper Pro, Shapertools promises immediate shipment of replacement parts to prevent downtime in your work.

The immediate shipment guarantee makes the Pro upgrade worthy for people running a business.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Shaper Origin handheld CNC router is an excellent machine for hobbyists and professionals who need a CNC machine to carry around and use at the job site.

With no limitations on the work area, the possibilities are endless.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does Shaper Tape leave marks on the surface?

No, the Shaper Tape does not leave any marks on the surface. Shaper Tape uses specially formulated adhesives that stick to the surface well but are also easily removable and leaves no mark.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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