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MakiBox A6 aims to bring affordable 3D printing to the desktop


March 5, 2012

MakiBox designer Jon Buford shows off the 3D printer's compact size

MakiBox designer Jon Buford shows off the 3D printer's compact size

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Over the past few years, the price of desktop 3D printers has been falling thanks to devices such as the uPrint, MakerBot, Printrbot and Cubify ). But designer Jon Buford's thoughtfully-conceived MakiBox looks to be the least expensive yet. He and his team have now pre-sold enough of the device to make the move from prototype to market and the result looks rather promising. If all goes well, the US$300 printers (plus US$50 for global shipping) could be available for delivery as soon as the end of the month.

The 280 mm x 210 mm x 210 mm (11 x 8.27 x 8.27 in) self-contained MakiBox has a footprint about the size of a piece of standard letter paper, yet can build objects up to 150 mm x 110 mm x 110 mm (5.9 x 4.3 x 4.3 in) in size - about a quarter of the printer's overall volume. Replicator G, an open source 3D printing software application compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, drives the printing process during which spooled 1 mm (0.04 in) diameter polylactide (PLA) plastic filament is melted and extruded in thin layers at 60-80 mm (2.36-3.15 in) per second.

The MakiBox will ship as a relatively easy-to-assemble kit that Buford says is "no more difficult than IKEA furniture." That means the the most difficult parts will come pre-assembled - no soldering iron needed. It comes with 1 kg (2.2 lb) of 1 mm PLA stock on two 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) spools. Extra plastic, also available in 3 mm (0.12 in) and 1.75 mm (0.07 in) diameters will sell for $20 per kilogram, a significant saving over the price currently charged for competitor 3D printers.

Now that the MakiBox A6 project is fully funded, it will be available through Makible, a crowdfunding site similar in concept to Kickstarter that Buford co-founded to help quickly fund and get products to market. He's kept the development process of his team's 3D printer unusually transparent as evidenced by the frequent video posts (see below) and blog updates on his site, perhaps to reassure investors who took an appreciable leap of faith by laying out the cash for an as-yet non-existent product. Makible claims it'll refund all investor money for projects that don't achieve their full-funding goal.

"I've got the extruder system almost complete," Buford told Gizmag. "The next step after that will be to do a final revision using what I've learned from this current prototype to make the production design, and start the production up. At this point, all the production parts will be CNC and lasercut parts, so will be very quick to go from final design to production." Indeed, it'll have to go speedily to make the late March deadline, but Buford is a man with a mission who seems seems determined to make it happen.

Check out the videos below to learn more about the MakiBox A6 from Jon Buford.

Source: Makible

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic!   All articles by Randolph Jonsson

Is the plastic used in 3D printers biodegradable? I love the principal but have concerns about the environmental implications.

6th March, 2012 @ 05:20 am PST

LOL @ biodegradable. Your mere existence for a week will generate a greater impact on the environment than the tiny amounts of plastic one of these will ever generate. If you had a genuine concern, versus being an armchair hippie, you'd develop, or point us to, biodegradable, extrudable, plastic filament.

6th March, 2012 @ 11:04 am PST

Yes PLA (polylactide AKA polylactic acid) is made from plant material and is bioderadable (so don't make parts for your washing machine etc that will be exposed to water and heat - and expect them to survive too long).

Lindsey Roke
6th March, 2012 @ 11:51 am PST

I want one..... to print Lego kits for my Nephews. It's got to be cheaper in the long run hasn't it?

6th March, 2012 @ 11:55 am PST

@Lindsey Roke - I think the fact that the first thing you think of is to print Lego shows one of the biggest issues that will come if 3D printing does reach the household... Lego is a product that exists and creating copies of them with your own 3D printer at home would probably be illegal.

8th March, 2012 @ 03:10 am PST

Actually, the only thing that would make it illegal to make Legos bricks would be if you were to sell them. And as a matter of fact, there are MANY generic versions of the bricks out there today.

Robert Jaykus
8th March, 2012 @ 06:15 pm PST

@KyleP why should it be illegal to print my own LEGOs? As long as i don't sell them. I can build my own BMW if i want to, as long as i don't call it BMW and sell it.

Btw - for discussing this, we have a Forum now:

Nils Hitze
9th March, 2012 @ 09:20 am PST

Mega Blocks are dimensionally compatible to LEGO and will connect with LEGO blocks.

LEGO lost a lawsuit some years ago against Mega Blocks because the design patents had run out on the dimensions of the pegs and holes and their arrangement to connect together.

LEGO's money maker since has been the name and designs for new shapes of blocks and other features aside from the block to block connections they can patent.

So yes, you could print and even sell plastic building blocks that can connect with LEGO and Mega Blocks, as long as you don't exactly duplicate the *entire* shape of specific blocks other than the exactly square or rectangular ones, or special shapes where the design patents and renewals have expired.

Gregg Eshelman
28th January, 2013 @ 07:46 pm PST
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