Moscow, Idaho-based entrepreneur Chris Walker is making 3D printing more accessible, and is giving a whole new meaning to the concept of vending machines.
Walker’s startup company, Element Robot Inc., has created a vending machine featuring a 3D printer. This vending machine, known as “SkyForge,” features a Tritium 3D printer, also developed by Element Robot. This printer creates large elements out of PLA and is capable of printing designs as large as a basketball. The printer is considered a “plug and play” device, offering the capability of 3D printing to those who don’t have their own printers.
Walker graduated from the University of Idaho in 2012 with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. His dream was to make 3D printing more accessible, and more reliable. Together with John Feusi, another mechanical engineering graduate, the two set out to make this dream a reality. Having found the university’s 3D printer too much of a hassle to use, they set out to change this.
The SkyForge is currently located in the Gauss-Johnson Engineering Building, and is targeting students at the University of Idaho. So far, the machine has been successful. According to Walker, 80 users signed up in the first two weeks, and 235 designs were uploaded. Walker said the average price has been between $5 and $30 on orders.
Walker says that they hope to become the “Redbox of 3D printing.”
“I see the cornerstone of our business as making 3-D printing accessible to everyone,” said Walker. “Right now, the best way to do that is this vending machine.”
For now, Element Robot is leaving the machine open to the public, to collect data as a sort of test run. Feusi says the machine will be left for the semester, and then the data will be collected and changes will be made as needed.