However, for some reason, 3D printing still isn’t a commonly used technology.
What’s the reason, you ask? Well, one major reason is the high cost of 3D printers.
Prices of good printers start from $1500 for small, plastic extrusion printers and go up to more than $100,000 dollars for large metal printers making them unaffordable for most people.
Printrbot, a company started as a Kickstarter project two years ago, wishes to overcome this obstacle by providing everyone with simple, low-cost additive printers (priced as low as $350).
The Kickstarter Project
In September 2011, Brook Drumm, a web developer, had an idea about bringing 3D printing to the masses. To collect funds for his idea, he started the Printrbot Kickstarter Project. Actually, he wanted to create a 3D printer that was both cheap enough for everyone to buy and simple enough for everyone to assemble and operate.
He set his initial funding goal at $25,000. At the end of the donation period, perhaps even he himself was surprised when he achieved a total donation of $830,000, more than 30 times his original target! This made Printrbot the highest funded technology project in Kickstarter’s history.
The Printrbot 3D Printers
Building upon the momentum and funds from the Kickstarter project, Brook Drumm created the Printrbot Company, specializing in the manufacture and sale of low-cost 3D printers. As of April 2014, the company offers 4 different types of 3D printers at varying prices. Furthermore, these printers are available in assembled and kit forms:
- Printrbot Simple: With a build volume of 4x4x4 inches, its price is $349 for the kit and $449 for the assembled printer.
- Printrbot Junior: It has a build volume of 6x6x6 inches and its price is $599 for the kit and $699 for the assembled printer.
- Printrbot Plus: Its build volume is 8x8x8 inches and price is $899 for the kit and $999 for the assembled printer.
- Printrbot Go: Its build volume is 8x7x6 inches and its kit and assembled printer are both priced above $1000.
An all-metal Printrbot Simple is just starting to become available too at the time of writing this.
So, how do these printers work? Well, objects are first designed using computer software and then sent to the printer using a specialized software called Pronterface. The Printrbot 3D printers then print them by using the Fused Deposition Modeling technique in which plastic (either PLA or ABS) is melted and deposited layer by layer.
Each new layer cools down after some time and fuses with the layer below it. This process continues till a complete three-dimensional object is formed. Brook Drumm aptly explains his company and printers on his YouYube Channel
Printrbot vs Other 3D Printers
Perhaps you’re thinking here: “So what? There are hundreds of 3D printers out there. Nothing new here.” Actually, the Printrbot printers enjoy several advantages over the other 3D printers in the market.
Firstly, Printrbot models are among the cheapest 3D printers you can find on the market. Starting at $349, these are ideal for the consumers who have a limited budget or who are just beginning with 3D printing.
Another major problem with most 3D printers today is that they’re too complex for ordinary people. Either their assembly or their operation requires a lot of technical knowledge so they are really intended for professionals instead of hobbyists.
The Printrbot solves this problem too. Brook Drumm claims that Printrbots are the simplest printers available today; so simple that even kids can build complete printers from kits. Also, while most other 3D printer kits take hours to build, the Printrbot kits can be assembled in less than an hour. Brook Drumm explains these features in the following words:
“These Printrbots really address a couple of problems that I see with the printers that are out there today: One is the build time … and the other is simplicity”
With Printrbot, Brook aims to do a lot more than simply provide printers at low prices. He has his eye on several daunting long term goals:
- A Printer in Every House: The first thing that the Printrbot project aims for is to make 3D printers so common that every home and Every School of the world has one. Brook wants Printrbots to be the first printers kids see and operate in their school. He wants all people to print out Plastic Parts Such as Toys in their homes instead of buying them from shops. He writes:
“(I am) in pursuit of the dream of ‘a printer in every home’… (for this) we will soon focus solely on pushing the price of these printers to the absolute lowest sustainable retail price for kits and fully assembled printers.”
Needless to say, this is easier said than done. However, if his dream is realized, the 3D printing revolution will reach every corner of the planet.
- The RepRap Purpose: Another thing that Brook aims for is to make Printrbots into True RepRap Machines. This means that he wants all Printrbots to be able to print more 3D printers. How will he do it? Simply by reducing the complexity of 3D printers. He wants individuals, companies and schools to buy Printrbots, make more printers themselves and donate them to other people. In his own words:
“I believe in the original RepRap.org purpose: To build a self-replicating machine.”
This will also go a long way in making 3D printers more common.
A World Full of 3D Printers
While several challenges need to be overcome before 3D Printing Becomes Mainstream, projects like Printrbot are promising to overcome them.
If Brook’s dream becomes a reality, then a decade or two from now, we’ll be living in a world where there will be no shortage of 3D printers. It will be a world full of 3D printers, full of Printrbots.
Will you buy one of these Printrbots for yourself or your kids? Let us know in the comments section, then share this article with your friends.
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