3D printers designed for the desktop can often be quite touchy when moved from one place to the next. Ask any maker who travels with his 3D printer regularly how much fun it is to dismantle and reassemble his machine and you’re likely to hear some foul language followed by muffled whines and grumbling. Especially when their machines are self-built or assembled from kits. And while there have been a couple decent designs for folding or collapsible printers over the last few years, they are often still large and unwieldy to move, just large and unwieldy in a slightly more compact form.
With extreme portability in mind, a Belgian 3D printer reseller and service company called 3D Printers VDB has been developing a compact and easy to move collapsible 3D printer called the Foldie 3D FFF Printer. The Foldie 3D has evolved through a few iterations in the last few months, but two things remain constant. Almost all of the parts on the printer are completely 3D printable, and it has the ability to be fully collapsed and tucked inside a standard 19 inch laptop bag. And that includes everything that it needs to run, including the printer’s power source and a spool of 3D printing filament.
The reason 3D Printers VDB CEO Yvan Van den Bossche decided to create the Foldie 3D was to offer younger makers, students or those new to the technology access to an affordable DIY 3D printer kit. While he hasn’t completed the retail kit yet, he estimates that anyone choosing to build their own from his files could easily do so for less than $340, and that’s provided that you don’t skimp on the few non-3D printable components. The only non-printable parts are six glider rods, a single threaded rod, the four stepper motors, the electronics and a handful of screws, bolts, washers.
“Since we still are in Dev fase, I can’t disclose too much, except that Foldie will stay open source, and a crowdfunding will be raised with all components sourced neatly together in a kit. The parts and firmware will be made public and free, available via Thingiverse and Instructables to ensure an even more accessible approach than GitHub for example,” said Van den Bossche.
Once he’s ready to launch the retail version, Van den Bossche will be crowdfunding a kit that will include some pretty great extras. It will include a 160mm borosilicate (high heat tolerant glass) printing bed that can be optionally heated. He expects the printer to be able to print objects around 150mm high, although the exact printing envelope is still being developed. To keep costs down, the non-heated print bed option will include a universal laptop-power-plug as a power source, however if the kit is upgraded to the heated bed option a more powerful power supply will be included.
The Foldie 3D can be be run with an optional tablet that will come preinstalled with several open source or free software packages, including repetier host, meshmixer, SketchUp, and 3D printing essentials added to the browser, like Microsoft’s Netfabb online repair service. He expects to use a powerful tablet with 8gb ram running Windows 10 with an upgraded cost of a little over $400. The base kit price has yet to be determined, but with so few parts that are not 3D printed it is certainly going to be an affordable buy-in price.
While his primary project is currently the Foldie 3D, Van den Bossche is also developing the Foldie 3D Qubic, a large-scale version of the Foldie. Before turning to 3D printing and design, Van den Bossche graduated school as a chocolatier and baker, so he plans to combine his two passions and develop what he calls the world’s first real chocolate 3D printer.
“Why ‘real’? Current companies claiming that title don’t print chocolate, but cocoa paste. I intend to create a printer that brings the chocolate (real and Belgian) tempered in front of the nozzle, So the end product cracks and melts in peoples mouths as our famous Belgian Chocolate should.” he explained.
Foldie 3D is printed entirely in biodegradable PLA materials, and Van den Bossche encouraged anyone printing their own to do the same. He designed the printed to be perfectly sturdy and dependable with PLA parts, so he says that there is no need to use ABS unless it is absolutely necessary. He said that he would hate to see his design made from a material that could potentially pollute the planet any further than it already is. Let us know what you think of this portable 3D printer design over on our Foldie 3D Collapsible 3D Printer forum thread at 3DPB.com.