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aether1Most 3D printers are made for a particular function. There are printers for metal, printers for plastic, food printers, bioprinters, but for the most part, they’re each limited to one material type. There are exceptions, of course. ZMorph and their multi-extruder 3D printer/CNC miller/laser cutter come immediately to mind, but now there’s a new player in town that may put all other multipurpose 3D printers to shame. Want to print yourself a nice chocolate dessert after a long day of 3D printing human tissue? Meet the Aether 1, a new machine that is, yes, both a bioprinter and a food printer – and so much more.

Technology company Aether is based in San Francisco, and their newly developed Aether 1 is a dekstop printer for the true Renaissance person. Everyone has that one obnoxious friend who’s good at everything, and the Aether 1 is the printer equivalent. It’s a bioprinter with eight syringe extruders plus laser-assisted bioprinting and droplet jetting capabilities. It’s a food printer that can print with chocolate, cheese, or pretty much anything else you can think of. It can print electronics. It has two FFF Bowden extruders that can print simultaneously with print with “any 8 viscous materials and 2 filament materials, all together in one print, all from one simple 3D file.” It can CNC mill and laser cut. It can…do calligraphy.

“Aether 1 is the most versatile tool ever created. There’s never been anything like this before,” said Ryan Franks, CEO of Aether. “Aether 1 is over 10 years ahead of what other companies are developing, but we’re selling it at an extremely low price to get it into the hands of as many innovators as possible. We think what the early innovators are going to make with Aether 1 is going to be absolutely incredible. Imagine a single machine that can make beautiful art in entirely new ways, turn photos into paintings and sculptures, even turn food into a work of art, that can also be used to save lives, conduct critical research, and pursue the integration of biology and electronics. People will use this to do big things.”

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That “extremely low price” hasn’t been announced yet, but it will be somewhere in the region of $9,000 – considering that high-end bioprinters can go for at least $250,000, that’s practically a steal – especially because it has twice as many syringe extruders as a typical bioprinter. As a food printer, it’s extremely versatile as well – the Aether 1 allows you to print in as many as eight different food materials in one print. (Maybe 3D printing a pizza isn’t so far off after all.)

Like the ZMorph, the Aether 1 can be used as a CNC machine and laser cutter, but it takes “personal fabrication” to new levels with its robot art capabilities. It can paint, draw, write, and even do calligraphy – just upload your design, attach your paintbrush, pen or other tool of choice, and the Aether 1 will create a fine art masterpiece. You can also combine CNC milling or laser cutting with your painting and extrude ceramic materials. There’s a “photo to fabrication” feature that utilizes a built-in digital camera so that you can instantly snap a picture and have it 3D printed, painted, sculpted, or turned into food:

ezgif.com-video-to-gif3“Photo to Fabrication allows a restaurant to take a photo of a customer when they arrive for dinner, and print their portrait in up to 8 materials for dessert,” Aether suggests.

Other features and specifications include:

  • Automatic air pressure calibration – the first of its kind according to Aether
  • Automatic stage leveling with optical sensor
  • Dual automatic nozzle cleaning and unclogging stations
  • Automatic retraction of inactive syringes and tools
  • Optional high-resolution motors capable of reaching a 0.4 nanometer Z axis resolution/minimum 50 micron layer diameter
  • Sterility filter to create sterile environment for food printing
  • Full color LED lighting, including blacklights for glow-in-the-dark materials and fluorescent bio-materials
  • Wi-fi enabled 7-inch 480p touchscreen display
  • Printer dimensions: 24” x 17“ x 15”
  • Build size: 12.4” x 9” x 5.2”

Despite the complexity of the design, the printer is made to be user-friendly and easy to operate. A mobile app allows for remote print monitoring and control, and – rejoice! – Aether wants nothing to do with proprietary materials. Use whatever you want, mix materials together, attach your own tools. An optional microscope is available for those working with microscopic bio-materials; attach it to the print head and it will stream magnified images or videos to the display screen or to your own computer or mobile device.

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The Aether 1 is perfect for schools who wish to teach 3D printing in a variety of disciplines – there’s no longer a need for separate departments to have separate 3D printers. Education is clearly what Aether had in mind when they designed the printer, and they’ve announced that they will be donating several beta units to schools and universities – plus chefs and artists – in May. The printer will be available to everyone sometime in the second half of 2016, and Aether will be launching a file-sharing site in April. Is this a machine that interests you? Discuss in the Aether 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.

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