Dremel unveils consumer 3D printer
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3D Idea Builder to retail at Home Depot, Canadian Tire for under $1000.
Dremel, the makers of every tinker’s favorite rotary cutting tool, unveiled its latest play for the Maker crowd’s hearts and minds with a sub-$1,000, PLA filament 3D printer called the Dremel 3D Idea Builder (3D20).
“Dremel 3D will enable people to take 3D printing to new levels, from imaginative projects for the home, to inventive projects that may impact the world,” said John Kavanagh, president of Dremel.
Intended for home use, the UL certified 3D printer offers some decent specs for a consumer price-point system. It’s enclosed build space measures 230mm x 150mm x 140mm — smaller than the MakerBot Replicator 2 or Tinkerine Studios’ DittoPro, but at half the price ($999 SRP) of prosumer machines.
Similarly, layer resolution varies between 300 microns (.3mm) at the low resolution and 100 micron (.1mm) at high resolution. It also includes a built-in SD card reader, integrated print software and a color touch screen to allow the printer to work without being hooked up to a computer.
However, since the 3D20 is targeted at the consumer market, it sacrifices flexibility and choice for push-button simplicity. As far as it has come, 3D printing is still a bit of a dark art that requires users to futz with build table calibration and proper extruder nozzle care not to mention enough mechanical design know-how to create parts that won’t fail mid-build.
To help new users avoid a negative experience, the company has restricted or simplified some of the nitty-gritty details and options common on similar printers. For example, the 3D20 only works with PLA filament (not ABS) and only Dremel-brand build material. According to the company’s FAQ page, using filament from another supplier may void the warranty.
In addition, the printer itself doesn’t build STL files directly. Instead, it only accepts the company’s propriety .3drem or .3dremel file formats, although the 3D20’s build software accepts and converts both STL and OBJ formats. In addition, the build software will warn users if their model is too large for the build space but doesn’t provide feature analysis or any indication if a particular design will fail. The company says the printer will ship with a set of “Dremel-approved” files that have been tested to build correctly on the machine and will maintain an expanding catalog of 3D files on its web site.
The real utility and allure of a 3D printer, of course, is building parts you’ve designed yourself. In place of traditional CAD software, the company is partnering with Autodesk to make its 123D suite of design software available to Idea Builder owners. In addition, users can create files using TinkerCAD’s browser-based, primative-oriented modeler or the University of Toronto-developed 3D sculpting tool, MeshMixer, now owned by Autodesk.
While there are many other similar 3D printers for the consumer market available, Dremel’s printer is unique in that it’s available for pre-order from common retail chains, including The Home Depot and Amazon. Better yet, the system will also make its debut in select Canadian Tire locations and canadiantire.com by the end of 2014, the company says.