The Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is for technically-minded folks something like a theme park for kids. Having experienced one some years ago, it is about the only reason I’d make a visit to Las Vegas – they can keep the gambling casinos!
If the current show was any indication, 3D printing and scanning is certainly getting more and more attention. Despite what manufacturers think we want and the prices they hope we will pay, the marketplace will eventually sort it all out. In the technical goods world, the model over time is clear: as the technology becomes more adopted, features expand, prices shrink. As we are still in the early days of consumer 3D printing, this trend is just starting to show up, and I believe there will be some clear winners and losers over the next few years.
As someone who always shops for the most bang for the buck, I’ve formed some opinions on the new crop of 3D FFF (fused filament fabrication) printers. What becomes clear is that some models are way overpriced for their capabilities. However, one difficult to measure parameter is the true value of the “ecosystem” that the manufacturer provides. Few provide data on noise levels or expected life of extruders, heaters, etc. My source of information comes from what the manufacturer has published and not from real life tests – as of this writing, most of these machines have been announced but not sold. However, my long experience in this area gives me some confidence that I am close to reality.
So what machines, as of early March 2014 are on the horizon? The 5th generation Makerbots have started to ship this week. Cubify 3d generation machines are still not open for orders. I have heard early April may be the time. The DaVinci 1.0 machine, which takes the prize currently on low price and competitive specifications ($499) does used chipped cartridges like the Cube 3D unit. At $28/600g of filament that is better than the other currently chipped consumer model. After more than a year in the making, the Makibot A6 at $300 as a kit is now shipping [mine is currently in transit as of late March]. And don’t forget Kickstarter projects Zeepro Zim, CEL Robox, and EZ3D Phoenix are soon to launch into the consumer space!
Also, the emergence of low-cost 3D scanners is upon us this spring, with the Makerbot digitizer, the Matterform unit, and the Rubicon 3D.
Rather than give you my own impressions, here are the links to the product pages for the above. Happy researching! I suggest you compare things like build volume and price, material choices, the “ecosystem” offered [client software, etc.] and any warranty after the sale. I have my favorites, but that might change as I test them – more to come!
Fused Filament Machines (fully assembled)
Zeepro Zim: www.zeepro.com
CEL Robox: www.cel-robotics.com
Makibox: www.makibox.com [as of summer 2014, Makibox is bankrupt and did not deliver all orders]
Note that all three of these scanners use laser lines and a camera to measure the object and create a point cloud. Where things get interesting is in the client software, so while the hardware is fairly easy, the data processing part is not.