Kickstarter is proving to be the launching pad for every new piece of 3D printing kit that comes along. Each week we get a few forward thinkers throwing their 3D print concepts up on the crowd-funding site and, more often than not, surpassing their targets within a matter of hours. In fact, instantly smashing your goal has become such a feature of these campaigns that one must see any project that fails to do so as a bit of a flop.
Anyway, the big Kickstarter story of last weekend was the Peachy Printer, the brainchild of Canadian start-up Rinnovated Design. The claimed goal of the project is to create both the smallest and cheapest 3D printer and scanner ever to hit the market, making the technology accessible to the widest possible audience of end-users.
Yes, yes – it’s a goal echoed by many other projects and products before it. Yet the Peachy Printer uses such a fascinatingly out-of-the-box method and Rinnovated Design are so quirkily hardcore in their commitment to democratising 3D printing, that it’s a project that demands the market’s attention.
How it works
The Peachy Printer is a handheld photolithographic printer, meaning it cures light sensitive resin into a hard, prescribed shape using carefully controlled beams of light. Users create the object on free 3D design software Blender. Then, using a Blender add-on written specially by Rinnovated Design, users convert the file into an audio waveform. This track plays to the printer through the connected computer.
When the printer ‘hears’ the audio file, the sound drives two electromagnetic mirrors in the Peachy Printer. These mirrors reflect and control the printer’s laser beam, which precisely shapes the resin on the platform into the figure on the X and Y axis. The Z axis, however, is controlled by a drip system, which siphons salt water through the system to set the height of the object.
To be honest, we’re a little bit confused by the whole process, so check out Rinnovated Design’s video below. Unlike this article, it was put together by genuinely clever people.
According to the Kickstarter page, the Peachy Printer will double up as a pocket-sized 3D scanner. All users have to do is combine it with a simple DSLR, video camera or webcam and rotate an object in front of its lasers. It will accurately record the distance of each pixel from the rotational centre-point of the object, for a precise scanned file.
In just four days since its launch, the Peachy Printer has been backed with $337,259 worth of pledges from an ultra-enthusiastic crowd. Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of the 2,542 backers are pledging $100 or upwards, as this level of investment gets you the Peachy Printer kit itself, giving you everything you need to make your own device plus a portion of resin. The projected sales price for general release is $116, which will certainly make it one of the most affordable devices in the game.
It should be noted, the resin used by the Peachy is pretty expensive when you buy it separately. If you buy through Rinnovated Design you can pick it up for about $60 per litre. When you consider a pretty detailed, small object can be fired off for about 30 cents worth of resin that is not a bad turnaround.
A quick look down its Kickstarter page also reveals that Rinnovated Design is awfully eager to make sure we all know how bien-pensant its is.
“We want to run our business on a set of specific moral principles,” begins one section of the pitch. “Some of these are: Using Freedom Respecting and Open Source software and hardware,” it continues before going a bit mad and shouting “We will NEVER close our source! We will never betray our community!” like a sheepskin-coated trade union activist standing outside a coalmine in the early 1980s.
Yet, for all its wide-eyed idealism, there is a refreshing honesty to Rinnovated Design’s Kickstarter page. For example, a little further down the text comes the following frank admission, “We need money to invest in improving the product, specifically the software end.”
So, rather than telling everybody that the product is ready to hit the shelves and blow the world away, Rinnovated Design is open and frank enough to admit there are still big improvements needed in the crucial software.
Right now, the Holy Grail for manufacturers of 3D printing machines is to put out the first device that truly brings the process to the masses, not just to the hardcore tech-enthusiasts. Is the Peachy Printer the device that will win this particular race? Well, it is certainly one of the most interesting competitors to join the field this year.