One of the great advantages when it comes to 3D printers is that such machines are able to use additive technology to build objects from the ground up. This is opposed to technologies like CNC mills which cut material away to fabricate an object. The amount of waste attributed to 3D printing is little to none, making fabrication oftentimes more affordable than other means of manufacturing.
With that said, not every task can be accomplished solely with a 3D printer. In fact many fab labs and small businesses oftentimes have multiple machines such as CNC mills and laser engraving equipment in addition to a 3D printer. Owning multiple machines can be both costly and a real consumer of valuable work space.
Over the last 12-18 months we have seen numerous machines come to market which integrate both CNC milling and 3D printing, as well as sometimes other processes into one compact device. Since both CNC mills and 3D printers can usually share the same Cartesian-based movement system, such machines are possible.
One company based out of Caldwell, Idaho called Advanced Tech Engineering is seeking to launch a new CNC mill/3D printer combination tool called Limitless, via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Limitless isn’t your typical 3D printer/CNC tool. It’s large, uses an industrial grade control system, and each of its stepper motors has its own motor driver and power supply.
Unlike many similar machines we have seen in the past, there is no swapping of toolheads required. If you wish to switch from using the spindle tool for milling to the extrusion tool for 3D printing, the tools are already connected and ready to begin their work. The Limitless package comes with all of the following, and features an enormous build envelope of 23.5 x 20 x 14 inches:
- 1/8” Collet
- 1/4” Collet
- 3D Extruder
- Computer with installed software
- Semi-auto zero
- Vacuum control
- Regulated compressed air connection
The machine is, simply put, a giant, with four spindles to hold four different filament spools. Although the Limitless machine currently is only equipped with a single extruder for printing, the company plans to eventually launch machines with multiple extruders (up to 4 or even 6) dependent on what the customer requires. The company also has stated that they are in the process of developing their very own extrusion system which can use granular pellets consisting of multiple different materials such as HDPE, PVC, PVD, and polypropylene, as opposed to spools of filament.
Finally, for those who prefer printing with a heated bed, Advanced Tech Engineering will offer a large 24 x 24 inch heated platform for an additional $400. The platform, which is constructed out of a mixture of silicon, G-10 and aluminum, is very high quality and fits perfectly onto the machine.
Advanced Tech Engineering is seeking a total of $57,500 via Kickstarter so that they can begin the mass production of the Limitless machine. In doing so they are offering a special price of $4,000 to backers who wish to purchase this multi faceted machine, or $4,400 for the machine with the heated build plate included. The Kickstarter will run until May 28th.
Let us know if you’ve backed this project and what your thoughts are. Discuss in the Limitless CNC/3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out a video below featuring the company’s founder, Jered Adams, showing Limitless off.