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Bill Roberson

It’s a cultural expectation that everyone should have a hobby to be well-rounded and happy. From gardening to gaming to fishing to more creative and technical endeavors, most every hobby has something that fuels it and must be constantly replenished, feeding both the need of the enthusiast and the platform of the hobby itself.

For 3D printing enthusiasts, once you have a 3D printer secured, bringing that long list of exciting 3D projects to fruition ultimately boils down to materials, with a wide range to choose from.

The conversation about materials opens up a huge can of worms, from which is best, which is most affordable, which works with what printer, how to recycle everything, and the biggest consideration: affordability. While many companies and makers are brainstorming on how to solve the symptoms involved with materials usage issues, a select few, like Bill Roberson, are working on a cure. And then some.

fc027c6b58ef4a2ef84e52957163070c_originalWith Roberson’s 3D Sidekick, now on Kickstarter as he hopes to raise $35K by May 7th, the bar has been elevated on a number of levels. This machine, a self-extruding large format 3D printing head, offers not only the benefit of saying goodbye to traditional filament but also a host of other innovative benefits.

First of all, the 3D Sidekick, which Roberson refers to as the sidekick to everyone’s CNC machine ‘hero,’ is designed with a pellet extruding print head, allowing you to forget the hassle of trying to make your own filament or purchase expensive spools. With this scenario, you can use any polymers that are capable of melting, from bulk pellets to recycled plastics. Expensive spools of filament can be replaced by bulk pellets which can be purchased by the pound at minimal expense.

“PLA, ABS, Nylon and PET polymers are just the beginning,” Roberson states. “There’s no need to buy reels or cartridges. No more filament machines to make your own. Fill the hopper, set your heat and you are ready to print.”

Other benefits are just as important, like the option to use the 3D Sidekick to turn your gantry or overhead CNC router into a large format 3D printer. With this add-on, you can use your existing space efficiently, as well as using the controls and system on your current machine. Without a lot of expense or even making many large changes, you can completely expand your production experience.

The Sidekick can be used as a spindle replacement or an add-on, printing in low resolution—choosing the 2mm print head for accelerated build speed and thickness.

photo-originalOther features are:

  • 13.5mm extrusion chamber
  • Hot-end temperature of 256 C
  • Easy control of nozzle temperature and extrusion speed
  • Twin 6mm X 30mm heat cartridges
  • All aluminum print head
  • Stand-alone digital temperature controller
  • Interchangeable brass nozzles in varying sizes and blanks

Roberson, having already obtained a provisional patent, is planning to use Kickstarter funds to refine the design and mechanics, improve controls, and manufacture the product.

Rewards, spanning pledges from $10 to $2,500, begin with the opportunity to receive a substantial $400 early bird discount on the Sidekick at the $399 mark, with a limited edition first run model. Things get more interesting at the $799 mark, as you have the opportunity to beta test and evaluate the Sidekick, using it for 30 days.  After that amount of time, you are asked to return the Sidekick with your comments, and have the opportunity to buy the updated production version at only $100.

Supporters at the $2,500 level receive a production run Sidekick with a polished aluminum finish, and also the addition of an invitation to Nashville with a free hotel stay to attend the “First Run Shipping Party.” A hard case for the extruder is included, along with 10 lbs of pellets.

Is this a Kickstarter campaign you are planning to support? Which aspect of the Sidekick 3D appeals to your 3D printing needs most? Share with us in the 3D Sidekick forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

 

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