Just over a month ago, we showcased a product with the potential to revolutionize the still-new 3D printing industry: the ProDesk3D by botObjects. Hailed as the world’s first full-color 3D printer, the ProDesk3D allows designers to pick a desired palette and quickly print the final product with a five-color, re-usable PLA cartridge system. Since the ProDesk3D is only in the pre-order phase (and we were eager to know more), Inhabitat reached out to botObjects founders Martin Warner and Mike Duma to dig deeper into the development process of this ground-breaking product. Read on to find out why the ProDesk3D pushes the boundaries of 3D printing technology, and how it was designed to make self-fabrication accessible to a larger audience.
INHABITAT: If the launch of a full-color 3D printer has even a fraction of the impact that full-color television had on society, the ProDesk3D is going to be huge. How do you see your product changing the way designers think about what they’re printing?
This is a great question. Just like the printing press, television, and PC revolution, 3D desktop printing is not only the most exciting technology to be talked about in 2013, but it is the timing of the desktop version, mainstream awareness and the scope of device technology—that meet the needs of mainstream audience. Owners such as designers, and just about all creators, will benefit.
The ProDesk3D brings full color, speed, accuracy, simplicity and significant advancement that arms not only technical consumers but all consumers with even limited 3D technology printing experience with a printer and software that can achieve so much more than what was previously on the market.
Moving the industry from hobbyist/engineer to power use—enabling a diverse set of experiences to descend upon our product—that will create designs that will literally change sub-segment industries forever. The power of designers of all types will flourish and proliferate as a result of 3D desktop printing.
INHABITAT: What items have you been able to create with the ProDesk3D that wouldn’t have been possible (or attractive) on a traditional one-color printer?
Color simply changes everything. For most users, industrial 3D printers cost 10s—and sometimes over 100—thousand dollars to purchase. An important distinction here is that we aim to give massive advancement to everyone for a 3D printer that can exist on the desktop.
We released some official product samples (on our website) that couldn’t be printed by any current 3D desktop printer. One was a vase that beautifully blended color to create a vibrant existence for flowers.
We also created a musical instrument—a recorder with lovely colors. Recorders were typically boring yet functional objects, but now they are fun and interesting to collect and personify themselves with the owner.
Lastly, another example that we recently hinted at on Twitter is a ‘planetary set of gears’ with color transition, metallic, translucent and fluorescent colors. These special single cartridge colors will bring endless possible suggestions to what could be created—such as toys, tools, instruments and more—while giving us a totally different context to color mixing.
INHABITAT: You say that your PVA-based support material eliminates the need for a messy finishing set or any chemicals. Can you tell us more about how this material works?
If an object requires support material, the ProDesk3D uses PVA, and when the object is finished, you can just dissolve it in water— no chemicals are required and there are no gloves or highly concentrated alcohol-based chemicals to contend with either.
INHABITAT: While many people are excited about the idea of 3D printing, it requires at least a working knowledge of pretty complex software. You claim that using the ProDesk3D is as easy as setting up an ink printer. How is this possible?
botObjects is not only a designer and manufacturer of a 3D printer, but it is also a software development company. We have spent a considerable amount of time and investment creating the ProModel Software that comes with the ProDesk3D. To achieve the simplicity of approach required to ultimately print the object, the software has to anticipate and validate the printer’s conditions and cartridge consumption availability in order to suggest, and in many cases, automatically instruct the printer to undertake actions.
We envisioned that a mature 3D desktop printer needed to act more like the ink-based printer of today if we wanted it to appeal to the mass market. The ProModel software does all this and more—unlike any 3D printing software on the market. We allow the non-technical user to have an uncomplicated and fun experience. The ProModel software tackles color mixing and rendering very well, and it is a great editing tool too.
INHABITAT: You say “The ProDesk3D can print to 25 micron layer accuracy” at “up to 175mm per second” what does that mean for the non-technical reader? How does it compare with other 3D printers?
We simply would not create a printer if it couldn’t make some simple advancement that would appeal to the mass consumer. One was the time to print—hence an industry leading 3D desktop printer speed of up to 175mm per second. This is important because this means that many objects can be printed reasonably quickly. Also, we wanted to create professional finishes for our objects because it would create more use cases for the ProDesk3D. Delivering 25 microns was essential; you get an incredibly smooth finish. If desiring 25 microns, you need speed too, or the time to wait increases. We achieved a great balance that is unique in the 3D desktop printing market today: A mature printer that makes the necessary leap from hobbyist market to mass consumer and professional grade markets.
INHABITAT: Tell us more about the software that you’ve integrated with the ProDesk3D—what makes it different from other 3D printing software already on the market?
We touched on this issue previously, but simply put: better validation of users needs, much more auto-detection, auto-leveling build platform triggered by our software, auto-repair, and suggestions for incomplete CAD data will improve the quality of the printed object, color options, and more.
INHABITAT: Your product looks beautiful and seems like it’s jam-packed with functionality that will revolutionize this still-new industry. When will it be ready for purchase?
It is available for early order via telephone now on our website. The first shipment of the ProDesk3D will be October 1st, 2013.