In the future, 3D printing will be everywhere. It’ll be in your homes, in your garages, at the office, and in your briefcase for that 1,000 mile trek across the Sahara Desert…. Wait…. What? If one man, named Philip Haasnoot, and his partner Corey Renner get their wish, even this crazy idea, could become a reality. Haasnoot and Renner are in the process of building what they call the TOME 3D printer. It is a completely portable and self-contained FDM 3D printer, capable of being used literally anywhere… Even in the Sahara Desert, if you choose.
Although only 25 years old, Haasnoot is not an amateur when it comes to creating elaborate and comprehensive electronic devices. He has worked for companies like Motorola, and is currently employed by Local Motors, as a Senior Electro-Mechanical Engineer, with experience in helping them build the Rally Fighter. His motivation for creating a portable 3D printer comes form his work experience. “I started my career working as an electro-mechanical engineer in Aerospace, and often found myself finding portable versions of my electronics test equipment, as my job would often require me to run diagnostics on aircraft in cramped working conditions,” Hassnoot told 3DPrint.com. “Being able to be an Electro-Mechanical engineer and get my job done anywhere at any time became a huge priority for me.”
Not too long ago, Haasnoot purchased a Solidoodle 3 3D printer, and almost immediately became frustrated over its lack of portability. “Nothing about current ‘Hobby’ grade 3D printers are portable,” he told us. So, Haasnoot set out to create his own portable 3D printer. He sees it as the next logical stage for the technology, in the same way the laptop has, for many people, replaced the desktop PC. It all began in 2012, when he developed his initial concept, and prototyped 50% of its drive mechanism. He had created the battery pack, which was designed with LiFePo4 cells, and started the electrical schematics. The project was then put on the backburner in 2013, when he decided to move from New York to Arizona. The two engineers that had been working on the project with him ended up losing interested after the move. After some time, however, Haasnoot met a man named Corey Renner, as they were colleagues at Local Motors. The timing was impeccable, and when they saw the launch of the Hackaday prize contest, they decided that the TOME would make for a viable entry.
The dimensions of the TOME are currently 4″ X 8″ X 11″ when folded up, and it includes a maximum build size of a 5″ cube. It will feature a battery pack, with 4-6 hours of print time capability, and a removable filament reel cartridge. There will be two filament options; the standard will hold enough material to print a solid 3″ cube, while the extended will hold enough for the printing of a 5″ cube. The printer iteself will print using PLA and include a heated print bed. It will also be Wifi enabled, most likely with the ability for “print sharing”, where users would be able to request prints from one another. Haasnoot hopes to make multiple version of the printer available, including a rugged version for field work, as well as an injection molded, leather wrapped version for everyday use.
While 3D printing on-the-go, for normal everyday people, is part of the reason that Haasnoot set out to create the TOME, he believes that the real benefits will come from field hospitals that are short on supplies, as well as nomadic engineers, scientists and the military. He uses the example of a field hospital that is in need of a brace for a broken man’s arm. Utilizing not one, but several TOME 3D printers, the emergency workers would be able to print out an arm brace in several small pieces that could then be assembled and used.
“Field hospitals for instance could charge the TOME via solar, wind, or even something such as the BioLite campstove; and have the capability to print medical devices that would be too bulky to travel with,” Haasnoot told us. “Scientific researchers out in the field could fix or retrofit their tools to suit the current situation and expand research capability. Consider traveling with pallets of assorted devices that may never be needed, or traveling with a few TOMEs and a few rolls of filament. Having the ability to bring 3D printing technology with you will also lead to a a new mindset surrounding 3D printing, and will inevitably lead to new uses and push the technology further.”
To build the printer, Haasnoot and Renner are using their own FDM based 3D printers to make some of the parts, but they are planning to use 3D printing service Shapeways to have many of the parts for the prototype made. While the printer is not yet built, he seems extremely confident that the project will get completed soon, and that it will be a success. Currently they are on track to have a full working TOME 3D printer by the end of July. They then hope to be the first ever to 3D print medical devices, such as splints in the field. Surely not everyone believes that this 3D printer will end up becoming a reality, but that doesn’t bother Haasnoot. “The worst thing anyone can tell me is that I can’t do something, because it only makes me try harder,” he emphasized.
When we asked Haasnoot if he plans to patent the technology behind the TOME or leave it open source, we found out that he is a huge proponent of the open source movement.
“This project is being developed on Hackaday.io as an open source project, and will remain an open source project,” he stated. “3D printing for home use took a large step forward during the advent of affordable FDM printers, but once those companies began to adopt closed-source business strategies the advancement slowed considerably.”
The current estimated build cost of the TOME, is coming out to be around $4,500, however, this number includes machining time, several runs of prototype parts from Shapeways, and many off-the-shelf electronics. The current plan is to be able to sell the TOME for less than $1,500, while including options for expanded filament cartridges, larger battery packs, a heated print bed, interchangeable hot ends, and more. Haasnoot told us that him and Renner are not primarily concerned with profits, rather they see this 3D printer as a “gateway to forge new paths in the 3D printing community.”
“We hope that this project will inspire others to find as many uses and upgrades for the TOME as possible,” he continued. “If the TOME ends up going to market we will be adopting a ‘Roadmap’ style update system for the community to propose changes, vote on which changes they would like to see next, while giving us the opportunity to keep them updated with whatever support issues we are working on.”
To fund the mass production of the TOME, Haasnoot and Renner will consider several options, including a possible Kickstarter campaign. They must first gauge community interest and see if they can convince investors that this product has a valuable future. In fact you can contact the group via email, with any feedback or to inquire about how you can support the project.
What do you think? Is this a 3D printer that you would like to own? How much use do you think this would get by scientists, field workers and the military. Discuss in the TOME Portable 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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