[editors note on Nov 20, 2011: This post was partially lost in our initial move to Squarespace. Our apologies for any confusion. We have fixed the text back to the original article. This was originally written before the kickstarter launch, so please view more recent posts for any up to date information.]
Printrbot could be your first 3D printer. If you have seen the Prusa Mendel, or the Makerbot printers, you may be intimidated by the complexity of these kits. I have built a Makerbot Cupcake and a Prusa Mendel, so I can tell you – they are rewarding, but hard to build and time consuming. I am good at building things and have all the right tools… my 3D printing friends are “makers” and “geeks”. Building a Prusa or Makerbot is pretty tough, even for us maker geeks. 3D printers won’t be in every school or home until a) they are cheaper to buy ASSEMBLED or b) they are easier to build in kit form. The Printrbot meets both requirements.
Inexpensive Assembled Printrbots and Printrbot Kits
The Printrbot design has broken new ground on the cost of building a 3D printer. The absolute cheapest, bare-bones Prusa Mendel can be self-sourced and built for around $350, but make no mistake, it is time consuming and will leave you wanting to make some upgrades. Makergear.com has a great Prusa kit for $825, but that is a little pricey for some and still an intimidating build. By buying parts in bulk, sourcing parts locally to avoid shipping fees, and leveraging a minimalist design, I can build Printrbots for under $300 for the cost of goods. I have actually broken the $200 barrier on another version called the Printrbot, jr., but more on that another time. Since there is a significant amount of labor involved in getting the kit ready, I need to mark the kits up a bit, but will still be able to offer the kits, for a limited time, at a great value: $499. We are doing a limited run of fully assembled & calibrated Printrbots for $750 (watch for the kickstarter). If all goes well, we will pass on any savings to consumers eager to get into the 3D printing world. The ultimate goal is to ship fully assembled printers for $499!
Because I believe that every school should have a 3D printer, I will be launching a campaign for schools: “Printrbot Goes to School”. For a limited time, any verified school will be able to get a Printrbot kit for $300! We are calling out local RepRappers and makers to help build and support these kits. It is our way of “printing it forward”, so to speak.
An All-In-One Kit that is Easy to Build
Printrbot Kits (soon to be on Kickstarter.com) come with fully assembled electronics and a fully assembled hotend — no soldering required. The part count is ridiculously low and the design is extremely simple. Admittedly, I am the designer, but I can put one together and have it printing in under two hours. I will post a video of the entire build process in the next couple of days to back up this claim. The whole philosophy of my Printrbot design was to simplify and shrink the size down to be a true desktop printer – accessible to the masses.
Purebred RepRap but with Options
Many emerging 3D printer designs have opted for laser-cut wood designs. While there are good reasons to go this route, the first Printrbot model will be a purebred reprap (reprap.org). That is to say that a Printrbot can print another Printrbot. You can self-source all the needed parts – or just order a “bare-bones” kit (sans printed parts) from us – to build another Printrbot with your first Printerbot. One of the reasons I designed the Printrbot was to speed the growth of 3D printers in the wild. My hope is that every Printrbot will at least print one “offspring” and GIFT those printed parts to another interested party. Even better, BUILD a complete Printrbot and give that fully assembled bot to a local school! Printrbot is small and intended to be your FIRST printer. The print area is roughly 5″ x 5″ x 5″. It does make a few sacrifices to keep things simple, but it is designed to be upgradable and expandable. You can easily increase the build area to whatever size you want. You can mount it inside a box or frame for rigidity. The included hardware is “full-sized” and on par with the Prusa – the current high-resolution champ. While Printrbot could happily serve your 3D printing needs sitting on your desk in your office, right next to your computer, it could also be the seed that spawns a never-ending series of upgrades to a bigger and better 3D future. You’ve got options.
Future Designs and Fun
Our top priority is to get a simple, small, cheap, RepRap printer to market via Kickstarter.com. After this first phase runs it’s course, we will offer 2 or 3 other Printrbot models that are designed to handle manufacturing scale a bit better than our current Printrbot farm (yes, Printrbots are printing Printrbots). Specifically, we are working on a laser-cut / 3D printed hybrid design and a 100% metal design… crazy, I know. These new designs will dramatically reduce, or eliminate, the print time and, in turn, reduce the cost of assembled printers. The market for people who want a 3d printer, but will never build one is huge. I also have a design for the smallest 3D printer ever… the aforementioned Printrbot jr…. it will be more for novelty than utility, but will be perfect for that 3D “fix” when traveling. Imagine 3d printing in your car, your hotel room, or at a friend’s house without the bulk associated with the large printers that are currently out there. One thing is for sure, we are looking forward to 2012 – “the year of the 3D Printer” – and want Printrbot to be an important part of that future.
Keep watching this site for videos, FAQs, and more. Printrbots ARE in the wild, printing and undergoing testing as we speak. Two schools, one in Lincoln, CA and one in Berkeley, CA, will receive one soon. They are real – not vapor ware – and the design is nearing the “Gold Master” stage. We expect minor changes during the kick starter attempt, but will post and open source the original files and the STLs after the last kickstarter reward ships.
We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. Brook@printrbot.com