Tiko, a new budget 3D printer seeking funding through Kickstarter, takes a number of interesting design choices to minimize costs without sacrificing the quality of the print – chief among these is the use of a cheap, single-part "unibody" frame that requires very little calibration.
Ordinarily, the frame is one of the most expensive components of a 3D printer. To allow for precision printing, the multiple beams that make it up need to be machined to a high standard and then regularly aligned during their lifetime to ensure a consistent performance. This raises costs and makes it so that users often need to spend time calibrating the beams before they can start using their printers.
The Tiko gets rid of these complications with an enclosed "unibody" design that incorporates the pre-aligned beams on the inside of its frame. According to its creators, the result is a strong and lightweight chassis that is virtually impossible to misalign and that can 3D-print with accuracy (down to 50 microns) despite the lack of high-precision components.
All in all, the Tiko seems to be an exercise in cost-cutting while keeping print quality high. Besides the unique frame design, which is reportedly where the most savings took place, the Tiko also sports a low-part-count delta (parallel arm) mechanism to guide the nozzle, custom electronics, a small heat-insulating titanium nozzle that gets rid of the insulating barrel, and a liquefier that can extrude PLA plastic without active cooling and replaces expensive and loud fans with heat vents.
The build chamber is enclosed for safety, and an onboard accelerometer (which has the primary function of automatically calibrating the printer) also doubles as a safety valve by interrupting the printing process whenever the device is disturbed. When the printing is done, you can remove your creation from Tiko's flexible bed.
Remove the top of the printer instead and you'll be able to insert one of the supported filaments – standard 1-kg, 1.75-mm PLA as well as ABS, nylon and high-impact polystyrene.
Connectivity plays a big role in Tiko, as the printer sports its own Wi-Fi access point and browser-based software for increased portability. Another interesting feature is the printer's ability to, with the user's permission, measure its own performance and send back data to its creators that will be used to improve the firmware and slicing software.
Tiko is 390 x 221 x 237 mm (15.4 by 8.7 by 9.3 in) in size, weighs only 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) not including the filament spool, and has a total print volume of 2.27 liters with a layer resolution as fine as 50 microns.
A single day into its Kickstarter campaign, the Tiko has already surpassed its crowdfunding goal of US$100,000. The printer is available for a pledge of $179, which includes a 1-kg PLA filament (worldwide shipping not included). Final delivery is set for November this year, assuming it reaches production.
You can watch the Tiko's promotional video below.