In 2018, the 3D printing industry lost one of its most popular companies. Printrbot was popular in part because of its very inexpensive, simple 3D printers, but also because its community was so supportive and enthusiastic. At the head of this business was Brook Drumm, who embodied this community with his own passion for technology and the relentless support of open source hardware.
Although Printrbot closed in part due to the advent of low-cost Chinese 3D printers, we knew that Drumm couldn’t stay out of the industry forever. Now he’s returned as part of a new team led by Ian Wilding to launch a new low cost 3D printer on Kickstarter, Plybot.
At first glance, Plybot might look like another Printrbot Simple, with a matte black finish. Upon closer inspection, you may find that the machine’s arms are completely unique – well, maybe not quite. This design has been experimented with in the RepRap community, but we don’t think it has ever become a final, commercialized design before. The arms not only make a fascinating movement as you print, they also serve a purpose. According to the Plybot team, this design allows the system to print larger prints faster and more reliably.
“Do you see the print bed? 60% of the printer is printable! Gone are the days of gigantic machines that stutter for hours to produce a tiny paperweight, ”says the Kickstarter campaign.
The design was developed by Josh Mitchell, who won British Junior Engineer of the Year in 2018 for his first version of Plybot at the age of 18. The goal was to make a flat-packaged 3D printer out of plywood that could print high quality parts in a year at low cost. On his way to Stanford University, Mitchell Brook picked up drumm as the design was refined. Ian Wilding is known for “bringing it all together” and eventually launching the Plybot Kickstarter campaign.
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The features include electronics that manage to inhibit the volume of the machine. It is Wi-Fi / USB / SD capable and can also be controlled via the iOS or Android app. However, it can also be managed with other software. The build volume is 7 “x 6” x 5 “and the achievable layer thickness is 0.2 mm. Early risers can catch the Plybot for only 299 US dollars, but the standard price is not much higher at 329 US dollars. Both of them come with The team claims they do not anticipate any order fulfillment issues when manufacturing the systems in Irvine, California.
The printer is actually an “asset” of Ian Wildings Hangar 75, a “venture factory” that is investing in multiple projects including a real estate platform for connecting tenants and landlords, a 3D model marketplace and a financial wellbeing application belong. While Hangar 75 was founded in 2018, the closely related Radical Company has been operating since 2010, developing digital products and services with customers around the world.
The companies have built $ 1.5 billion worth of new products and services and have worked with such strong names as Barclays, Lloyds Bank, the London Stock Exchange and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. In other words, the team behind Hangar 75, Radical Company and Plybot are seasoned professionals.
So, not only should we expect the printers to be built and delivered on time, but that this is likely just the start for the company. We can assume that a 3D model repository will also be released soon. The question is, how will all of this differ from previous consumer 3D printing projects?
Between 2010 and 2014 there was a lot of hype surrounding consumer 3D printers that wasn’t exactly successful, but catalyzed interest in industrial 3D printing. Now industrial additive manufacturing is about to be implemented. Is it time to revisit consumer 3D printing?
Factors that likely need to be addressed in order for entry-level desktop additive technology to play a role include ease of use, practicality, cost, security, speed, and material diversity. Basically, normal consumers must be able to click on “print” and see a functional object produced in a relatively short time without toxic fumes making them sick. With that in mind, the materials, practicality, and safety don’t seem quite there in my opinion.
If Hangar 75 can create a library of very practical objects that can be 3D printed with base materials, that may change a little. However, desktop printers can only make plastic items while volatile organic compounds and ultrafine particles are released into the air. We have to ask Editor-in-Chief Joris Peels what is still missing before widespread consumer adoption of desktop 3D printers is possible.
Even so, it’s inspiring to see a new RepRap design appear on the market. I really miss the days when RepRapper conceived every possible 3D printer architecture just to see what was possible. What happened to fully 3D printable RepRaps or foldable RepRaps? Perhaps Plybot is exactly what we need to usher in a new RepRap revolution that solves all of the above consumer-facing 3D printing problems.