Even as industrial 3D printing is exploding, the desktop 3D printer market is starting to soften a bit, so many 3D printer manufacturers are looking to find new ways to sell their printers. One of the most successful alternative markets is the rapidly expanding STEM education market. Schools and libraries are starting up fully stocked makerspaces at an ever increasing rate, and manufacturers are scrambling to provide 3D printers to them. As as the education market continued to expand, especially with President Obama offering up $10 billion to help schools develop makerspaces, many manufacturers are actively starting to produce products aimed specifically at this emerging market.
Japanese 3D printer manufacturer Bonsai Lab, Inc. launched their latest at this year’s CES in Las Vegas: a 3D printer called the FabPod as well as the Unity-based 3D printing software FabPodUI. The FabPod was specifically developed for the STEM education market in order to fulfil the desire for safe, durable, user-friendly, high-performance and low-cost 3D printers. While Bonsai Lab did not have any exact pricing or release dates, they did say that FabPod 3D printer is expected to cost less than $500 and should be shipping in Spring of 2016. The FabPodUI software will be available for free, and will be compatible with other 3D printers.
The FabPod was designed to be the digital fabrication center that is part of the envisioned smart house of the future when most homes will have a 3D printer. In order to make the printer easy to use for beginners and experienced users alike, Bonsai Labs has created a “voice navigation” feature which is the first of its kind to ever be included in a 3D printer. Advanced users are still capable of altering and adjusting settings manually, as well as customizing voice commands. The Japanese-made FabPod was developed in conjunction with high-end Japanese industrial machinery parts manufacturers and suppliers like THK, Minebea, and Mitsuboshi Belt.
In order to develop their cutting edge 3D printing software, including the voice control features, Bonsai Labs worked closely with software and video game developer Interactive Laboratories. The FabPodUI software was developed using the powerful and versatile Unity video game development platform which will offers users the ability to quickly adapt their printers to new 3D printing trends and technologies. It will also allow Bonsai Labs to quickly roll out new developments and advancements to the software.
The FabPods software incorporates IBL (Image Based Lighting), a CG technology that will allow the FabPodUI to perform realistic part and model rendering in real time so users will soon be able to experience 3D printing using virtual reality. There are also plans to incorporate augmented reality features as well. The FabPod is expected to be fully compatible with both Microsoft’s HoloLens technology and the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform and hardware.
Bonsai Labs plan is to make their 3D printers a key part of the new smart house system, and they are building the advanced UI/UX to make their printers smarter and more user friendly. So far there were not any specific specs or details available for the FabPod, but we are expected to hear more about it in the coming months. In addition to exhibiting their new voice responsive FabPod at CES 2016, Bonsai Labs also showed off their new concept 3D scanner which offers fast and high-quality visual data analysis. Discuss this new machine in the FabPod forum thread on 3DPB.com.