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Kickstarter of the Week: RoBo 3D Printer

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 11:08am
David Mantey, Executive Editor, PD&D

RoBo 3D nearly doubles Replicator 2's build volume (800 cubic inches compared to 410 cubic inches) and offers better overall layer resolution.Today is the final day of funding for the RoBo 3D Printer on Kickstarter.com. RoBo is the latest low-cost, open source printer to be received with great fanfare on the crowd sourcing site, retaining the support of 1,100 backers and raising more than $590,000, blowing away the upstart’s $49,000 goal.

The RoBo 3D printer is the brain child of three young men, a seemingly perfect mix of two engineers and a lone marketing specialist, each with a passion for 3D printing. Coby Kabil, Mike Pilkington, and Braydon Moreno built their first 3D printer back in 2009 and have since become “obsessed” with the process.

The trio’s open source printer has set its sights on similar consumer products, such as Makerbot’s Replicator 2, by offering greater specs at a fraction of the cost (see spec comparison chart at the bottom).

“We decided to build RoBo 3D because we felt there was a gap in the marketplace for a low price, quality 3D Printer,” says Moreno, who brings a management degree with a specialty in entrepreneurship to the team. “People cannot necessarily afford to spend a couple thousand dollars; our goal was to fulfill that gap with a comparable machine.”

Replicator 2 has a $2,199 price tag, while the Robo 3D is priced at $520. Not bad, since it nearly doubles the build volume (800 cubic inches compared to 410 cubic inches) and offers better overall layer resolution. Both RoBo and the Replicator 2 print in 100-micron layers at the high setting, but RoBo bests Replicator 2 at the medium setting by 100 microns (170 microns) and the low setting (280 microns).

As the trio aspired to build a more powerful product with a lower price point, successful design and development came down to a proper mix of component specification, the appropriate manufacturing processes, and careful material selection. Robo prints in both ABS and thermoplastic polyester derived from renewable resources.

“We really tried to build a printer that we could make somewhat inexpensive, but still create some of the same quality of the expensive printers,” says Kabili, who has a B.S. in Bioengineering from San Diego State University. “Our printer is very basic, but we give you the ability to add to your printer in the future. That is our strength.” Kabili previously worked on micro-electromechanical systems research.

Now that the new startup has met its goal and exceeded initial expectations, they are excited to begin manufacturing the machines and delivering them to backers. With about 1,000 printers already promised (assembled and as kits), it may seem like an overwhelming task, but the team is confident in their ability to meet deadlines. In previous Kickstarter campaigns, startups have often over-promised backers, and under delivered when it came to on time distribution.

“The reason [delays] happen is because businesses really do not know how long certain processes may take,” says Moreno. “For example, with a 3D printer, we are sourcing parts from all over the world — and dealing with Chinese New Year at this time of the year. We are doing everything in our power to deliver according to our requirements, but we would rather over deliver with the best RoBo we can, [rather] than try and rush. With that being said, time is of the essence so it’s back to work for us.”

According to the RoBo team, they have struggled with part compatibility and communication throughout the process. “The biggest engineering challenges have been making everything interact perfectly,” says Kabili. “The slightest fault can cause problems. We are still tinkering with a few things here and there so we can deliver a comparable 3D Printer. I want people to be astounded with RoBo 3D because of its quality at the low price point. That will make for a great business.”

A few levels of funding remain, ranging from backer bobbleheads ($100 contribution) to a non-assembled RoBo 3D printer ($475) or a fully assembled and calibrated printer ($520).

PD&D covered the RoBo 3D printer in Engineering Newswire 21 (jump to the 5:20 mark for the segment).

RoBo 3D nearly doubles Replicator 2's build volume (800 cubic inches compared to 410 cubic inches) and offers better overall layer resolution.

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