With less than 24 hours left in its Kickstarter campaign, the BlackBelt 3D printer has raised close to twice its funding goal. It was a good crowdfunding run, reaching its goal in only 15 minutes, and soon rewards will begin shipping to backers. The popularity of the BlackBelt isn’t surprising. It’s an exciting concept: a 3D printer that prints on a conveyor belt for parts of unlimited length. The conveyor belt 3D printer idea seems to be building popularity in the 3D printing world lately; while it isn’t a new idea — MakerBot toyed with the idea in 2010; Andreas Bastian’s Lum Printer was developed in early 2014 — 3D printers built around the tech are starting to pick up this year. Teased recently on social media and debuting today, Printrbot and Polar3D have teamed up to develop a new 3D printer called the Printrbelt, and although it’s compact, its build size is extensive.
The Printrbelt features a conveyor belt as a build platform, enabling a build area of 6″ x 6″ by “Infinite Z,” as Printrbot calls it. The 3D printer’s dimensions are small, at 16″ x 24″ x 16″ and only 19 lbs, but the conveyor belt allows for the printing of objects of any length — and any number. Once a part has finished printing, it simply drops off the end of the belt, making room for the next object, so that the user can print continuously.
Polar3D developed its own conveyor belt 3D printer recently called the Polar3D Flash, which you can see at work in the video below:
While the Flash seems to be still in the prototyping stage, Polar3D contacted Printrbot and asked if they wanted to develop their own conveyor belt-style 3D printer, for which Polar3D would supply the cloud-based software. Printrbot responded with enthusiasm, and worked overtime to develop what would become the Printrbelt.
“Our cloud platform allows you to have a single printer that takes the place of many, many, many printers. So instead of having a whole slew of printers printing all your parts, you can send all the jobs to the print queue for the Printrbelt, and it will print all of them successively,” explains Bill Steele of Polar3D.
The Printrbelt is the latest example of a 3D printer that’s designed for batch production, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see evenmore conveyor belt-based 3D printers pop up in the near future. The question on manufacturers’ minds right now is “How can 3D printing better compete with traditional manufacturing techniques?” and we’re seeing a trend towards more automated 3D printing as a result — whether it’s through robotics or through newly reimagined 3D printer designs.
The Printrbelt prints at a speed of 30 to 60 mm per second, with a recommended layer height of 0.2 mm. The conveyor belt itself is made from stainless steel covered in Kapton, and the printer prints with 1.75 mm PLA.
You can purchase the Printrbelt from Printrbot’s site. Normally, it will retail for $1,999, but it’s currently on sale for $1,699.15. Printrbot will be fabricating the machines one at a time and shipping them in order, starting in two weeks; after a few more weeks’ time, they plan to ramp up production until lead time drops to the next day. So it could be a while before your printer arrives, just as a forewarning — but if you want to take advantage of the sale, order now. Printrbot is also running a general Fourth of July sale – everything is 15% off until July 4th at midnight PST.
See the Printrbelt in action below:
Discuss in the Printrbelt forum at 3DPB.com.