While using desktop 3D printers can be both fun and profitable, after almost a decade of experimenting some rather common annoyances have started to be noticed. Most 3D printers are only capable in printing in a single types of materials like plastic or paste materials. And even printers with small print envelopes can be bulky, unwieldy, and difficult to travel with.
There have been a handful of attempts to address both of these issues by manufacturers to varying levels. We’ve seen a few quality printers made to fold up, making it easier to be moved, but most of them still leave delicate parts exposed and vulnerable to being damaged or disrupted. And there are all sorts of alternative 3D printing extruders that can allow users to convert their FDM machine into a printer that uses paste materials like ceramics, ice cream, or chocolate. Unfortunately it often requires a lot of work to swap the heads and usually suffers from the same problems of portability.
A new Dutch startup called 3D By Flow managed to address both of those annoyances with one product, the portable, multi extruder ready Focus 3D Printer. The Focus was just launched on Kickstarter and is looking for €50,000 — around $55,500 — to start the manufacturing process. Not only are the Focus extruders easily swapped, but the entire printer folds up into a cool carrying case that makes it as portable as a suitcase and protects it from damage or dust and debris.
When the Focus is folded up into its compact carrying case it makes the printer small enough (44 x 32 x 11 cm) to take virtually anywhere. It can be opened and set up in only about 30 seconds, and warmed up and ready to print in a matter of minutes. The Focus simply needs to be connected to a computer, or you can plug a SD card with the STL files into it.
The extruders are equipped with high powered magnetic connectors, so one of the Focus’ swappable extruders can just be pulled off and then a different extruder clicked on it its place. The printer’s software will recognize which extruder is attached to it, and display the printing options for those materials. At this time 3D By Flow has two extruders available, a standard filament extruder that can use a wide range of printing materials. The second is a paste extruder that can print using soft materials like ceramics or food.
Take a look at the Focus 3D Printer Kickstarter video here:
The Focus is built with a stationary printing bed that eliminates any need for print bed calibration or leveling. This makes the printer ideally suited for softer printing materials like ceramics or chocolate that can occasionally shift due to printing bed movement before they have time to set and harden. The printing bed is also fully heated, so with the correct extruder temperature the Focus can use virtually any 3D printing materials. Aside from the basic materials like PLA, ABS, and wood, it can also use high-temperature plastics like nylon and metallic materials.
Early birds can get their own Focus 3D printer by backing the campaign for €1995 (about $2,250), which includes the printer and a single extruder of your choice. Backs can also buy an additional extruder for €245 each. If you miss the early bird price the cost for the printer jumps up to €2,250. The expected early bird backer delivery date is October, with everyone else receiving their printer by December 2015.
Part of the funds raised by their Kickstarter campaign will allow 3D By Flow to research and develop new 3D printing technology as well as additional swappable printing extruders. They are currently developing an extruder that uses granulate (plastic pellets) materials so even more material options will be available to you. They are also working on developing two new 3D printers for use by dental and healthcare professionals or for fabricating prosthetic devices. Additionally a food 3D printer that is optimized to print using chocolates is also in the works. Let us know what you think about this portable 3D printer over on the Focus 3D Printer Kickstarter forum thread at 3DPrint.com.