Democratized manufacturing requires more than affordable desktop 3D printers. They can be used to make a lot of things, but not everything. Many projects need machined parts and custom electronics, and desktop 3D printers just can’t produce there. Oh wait, yes they can. They’re currently being crowdfunded, but circuit board and metal printers will be on the market very soon. And they’re not the only 3D printers stepping out of the plastics-only lane; the FABtotum puts CNC, milling, and 3D printing all in one machine. The Robox on Kickstarter takes that same path.
CEL is a UK-based design firm that already produces manufacturing equipment, and they’ve applied much acquired knowledge to the Robox. In case you missed it, he said the printer can detect filament feeding issues like stripping or clogging and automatically pause so that the issue can be resolved before resuming. It’s not likely that extrusion issues will occur though, as a proprietary counter-rotating gear system ensures a consistent feed. And blobs and strings are a thing of the past with a needle-valve nozzle system; it actually closes the nozzle when plastic isn’t supposed to be flowing. Incredible.
And the list goes on. There’s automatic bed leveling. An enclosed build chamber makes the unit safe around young hands and keeps print quality high and consistent. The dual-nozzle head houses a .3mm and a .8mm nozzle, so the smaller one can be used on external and small perimeters for greater detail and the larger nozzle can do infill significantly faster. Dual materials will be supported as well. And speaking of materials, the Robox will work with SmartReels, filament spools equipped with chips that tell the printer what print settings to use for that specific material and color.
But to make the Robox more than a 3D printer, the HeadLock system brings swappable heads that could be a stylus cutter, milling head, 3D scanner, and more. CEL will develop the heads as demand is voiced. A replaceable, ‘tape-less’ and removable PEI bed means prints stick and remove well, and switching to alternative beds (stylus cutting mat, milling fixture system, or turntable for the 3D scanning head) is easy. All these features make the Robox a portable workshop.
Everything is tied together with AutoMaker, custom software written to make printing as easy as possible while still including advanced settings for more experienced users. The communication with the SmartReels means users just have to select a quality setting (as good as 20 microns!) and click print. All this for under $1200. What. A. Deal.