When it comes to desktop 3D printers that can easily fit in with modern office styling and workflow, there aren’t many options: Replicator 2, Cube, Form 1, and arguably Afinia. Several others will be available soon though: Zortrax, Buccaneer, FABtotum, (the controversial) ProDesk3D, and Zeus to name a few. Looking sleek and approachable is becoming more important for desktop 3D printers. The DIY RepRap crowd is mostly satiated; those that are the tinkering type and like the technical challenge of tuning something they built either already have a 3D printer or have plenty of options, from full kits to plans. I love the RepRap community as it paved the way for desktop 3D printing, but for the technology to transition to commonplace, common folk need to be able to use it.
That isn’t to say most people couldn’t learn to print with a RepRap, it’s simply a matter of time and interest. Having a desire or need for 3D printing doesn’t necessarily mean that someone wants to learn the mechanical principles of cartesian robotics or how slow the hotend needs to move to print at 100 microns. Or maybe they’d love to learn it but don’t have the time. The point is, not all designers that could use 3D printing are engineers with computer skills. This is why there are more and more printers popping up with aesthetics and usability as top priorities — smooth housing, custom software, and autoleveling are all approaching the status of standard features. So I’m not surprised to see the Zim on Kickstarter.
The C shape of the Zim is not new, but the aluminum body is a nice touch. The C shape provides stability, space to hide electronics, and a nice presentation. There are plenty of electronics to hide too, enough for wifi, on-board slicing, and a camera. Yes, you can now monitor, record, and stop prints remotely with the built-in camera. And the interface for the printer can be accessed through a mobile browser, so preparing prints is as simple as sending CAD files over a wireless network. As far as I can tell, the zeepro team is tying together typical RepRap software like Slic3r and Pronterface into a single, user friendly GUI with preset configurations. There will be Auto and Expert modes to give users simplicity and control. Its general specs are:
Filament size: 1.75mm
Filament type: PLA, ABS, PVA
Machine size: 16” x 11” x 13”
Build volume: 5.9” x 5.9” x 5.9”
Max print speed: 110m/s
XY precision: N/A
Minimum layer thickness: 0.025mm
Other features: dual extruders, on-board slicing, on-board camera, sealed filament cartridges
Yes, dual extrusion. That means two-color prints or water-soluble PVA supports. The filament cartridges also protect filament from moisture and debris. I know what you’re thinking, “Booo to proprietary cartridges.” But they’re refillable, so any filament can be loaded into them. All that for $799? Yep.