When it comes to 3D printers, they can be used to make all sorts of objects, via additive manufacturing. However, many ‘makers’ (people who utilize their creative abilities to ‘make’ things) use more than just 3D printers when trying to visualize their ideas in creating tangible objects. CNC machining, as well as laser engravers are used by many individuals in creating complete products, made from a multitude of materials and processes. One problem with this, is that all of these processes currently require individual machinery. For example, many ‘makers’ end up needing to purchase, store, and operate a 3D printer, a CNC machine, and a laser engraver, if they wish to be able to construct objects of their liking.
A man named, Samer Najia, of Alexandria, Virginia is well on his way to solving this dilemma. He has created and is in the process of fine tuning a new 3-in-1 machine capable of 3D printing, CNC machining, and laser engraving. He also has hopes of implementing Sagar Govani’s 3D metal printing extruder, on his hardware, to make it even more comprehensive of a machine.
Najia’s machine is mostly composed of aluminum, and it features replaceable heads, that allow it to function, not only as a 3D printer, but also a CNC machine, utilizing a Dremel Flex Shaft, and a laser engraver.
The printer is capable of printing using the traditional fused deposition modeling technique. When the 3D printing extruder is switched out for the CNC head, it becomes a machine capable of cutting, grinding, sanding, sharpening, polishing and more. If the user then wishes to engrave something, he/she can then switch over to the laser engraver, which locks the Z-axis in place, and begins engraving.
“The idea is to mill light wood, plastics, acrylics,” says Najia. “I don’t see it milling metal. It is not for industrial CNC jobs, but for smaller jobs and well suited for 2D (e.g. in cutting flat stock). I will, of course, be testing the effects on soft metals (like aluminum), but I will likely have to add Z-support for anything hard.”
“I expect the printer to be customizable,” Najia told 3DPrint.com. “In building it, I have kept my costs low by machining all my metal myself. In all, I would say I’ve spent about $200 on materials and motors and I am using a $20 hot end. The extruder is part of the body of this thing, so I didn’t have to buy one.”
The machine utilizes a Sanguinololu board, and runs Repetier/Slic3r. Najia started out with an 8″x8″ build platform/table, but has since switched to using a 20″x14″, which allows the X-axis 10″ of traveling distance. “I am limiting the travel in Z [axis] to about 4″ because the cutting head would introduce torsional loads on the X and Z rods if you don’t limit the height and length, but that’s done in software and you can slide down the ZMax stop wherever you want,” he explains.
He also notes that it is easily possible to change the platform size by using a larger table, and longer rods. The final product will either be able to have metal walls, or transparent acrylic so that the user can see inside while it is operating.
If all goes as planned, Najia hopes to sell these machines in various configurations, which include:
- 4 different table sizes
- Different types of walls (and colors if choosing acrylic walls)
- Different heads (you can buy it as a printer and configure it later to do the rest)
- Different colors for the plastic parts
Najia tells us that the heads on the machine must be manually switched out, but this is easy to do, by simply unscrewing the rod clamps and mounting the replacement head.
He plans to eventually sell these machines, once he has finished perfecting them. With the price of 3D printers and CNC machines in today’s market, you would expect a product like this to sell for well over $2,500. Najia doesn’t plan on charging nearly that amount.
“Based on the time spent to assemble (about an hour), we think each base unit will be in the $400-$500 (and more likely the upper end) range,” he told us. “I would offer options including different colored acrylic walls, an LCD controller if desired, bigger rods and a bigger table. None of the options will crack $100 individually and fully stocked you shouldn’t get past $800. The model would not include the Dremel and flexshaft, but would include the laser module. I plan to use the same module that LittleBox uses. I would offer the unit fully assembled or as a kit.”
This will surely be an attractive machine to those looking to have a 3D printer, CNC machine, and laser engraver in their work space, but don’t wish to have three separate machines taking up their precious space. The price point will also make this a super attractive piece of hardware for just about anyone. Najia’s build of his machine should be finished soon. Please note that the photos seen here are not of the final product.
What do you think? Would you consider purchasing this 3-in-1 machine? Discuss in the 3-in-1 3D printer, CNC, Laser forum thread on 3DPB.com