By David Boles
Photos by author
3D printers have been losing some prominence to laser cutters and mills in recent years, but they maintained a large presence at Maker Faire Bay Area last weekend. Many established companies were on display, including Form Labs, Printrbot, and Prusa, but there were a surprising number of new, smaller companies, and even some dedicated to simply providing support and improvements for other companies’ printers.
New Matter Inc’s ModT 3D printer made for one of the most eye-catching displays. This was probably because its visual aesthetic was created by Frog, the world renowned design company that worked with Apple. The fully assembled, easy to use, and connected printer was obviously made for consumers, and the $299 price tag makes it seem likely to catch on.
One of the most interesting products at Maker Faire was Prusa’s new Multi Material upgrade kit for the i3 MK2. Rather than the usual multi material solution of simply mounting multiple hotends to the moving carriage, Prusa has opted for merging four bowden tubes into one hole before entering into a single hotend. This means that no additional calibration is needed, the printer stays fast, and your build area stays the same size. Our own Matthew Morley, the owner of an i3 clone, calls the “reliable and accessible” technology a “big step forward for the FDM printing community”.
Some of the other new tech that was on display came from See Me CNC, a company that specializes in delta (rather than cartesian) printers. Their Orion and Rostock Max printers both feature the new HE280 hot end, which, as the name implies, reaches temperatures of up to 280°C (536°F) and also includes a built-in accelerometer auto-leveling probe. The latter printer also features a new, “floating” bed mount.
See Me CNC also showed off a couple other delta printers, including the Eris, which debuted last year and is intended as an entry-level option for schools, as well as the Hacker H2 which is an easier-to-modify version of the Orion.
Printrbot, one of the older players in the 3D printing space, has returned to its roots with the Smalls Kit. It’s open, hackable, and cheap like their original laser cut wood printer kits but features in-house machined aluminum. In that vein they even offer an “Bare Bones” version for those that own an older Printrbot and want to upgrade without paying for new electronics and are willing to print a few of the needed parts themselves. Printrbot also officially launched the Simple Pro this last year.
Form Lab’s resin printers is making a big splash as the technology becomes more widely adopted and Z-Vat Industries is improving the experience of owning one. Their first time at Maker Faire, Z-Vat was mainly displaying their replacement beds for the Form 1, 1+, or 2. Made with a borosilicate glass bottom and polycarbonate frame, the bed is scratch and chemical resistant, optically clearer, and easier to clean. Z-Vat also had a jug of Yellow Magic 7 on display, a non-toxic, reusable cleaning alternative to isopropyl alcohol for UV resin based printers.