The cost of 3D printing is falling at an amazing rate. Just a few years ago it was hard to find a quality printer that would run straight out of the box for much less than £1,000; now there are dozens under the £300 mark, and some mid-range kits that don’t need too much assembly for £200 or a bit less. But now a San Francisco-based startup is launching a kickstarter for a fully assembled 3D printer costing just $99. That’s a comparable price to a decent inkjet printer or entry-level laser model; if they get it to market, home additive manufacturing will be truly affordable.
You might have heard of the company behind this new design already. It’s Kodama Inc, and late last year they released their Trinus, the first all-metal 3D printer costing under $500. This is also a crowdfunded design – it reached its initial target in less than an hour – and it packs in a lot of capabilities. As well as a 120x125x125mm print volume it can be reconfigured as a laser engraver, making it an ideal option for small businesses that can’t justify the cost of a high-end professional printer but do need to deliver professional quality.
The new model is called the Obsidian, and as you’d expect for the price it’s slightly more modest in its ambitions – the base model doesn’t have a heated bed, for example. It still has a very respectable 120x120x120mm print volume though, and in preview videos it looks like a lot of the structure is still metal. The whole unit is a neat cube, open at front and back, with the filament spool mounted on one side. The print head moves in a large opening in the top, and the filament is fed to the head through a protective tube.
With a head temperature range of 180-250°C, the Obsidian will use most of the common filament types. It can manage layer thicknesses from 350µm down to 50µm. Other standard features include a quick-detach bed, LED-illuminated print area and quick release nozzle.
Kodama are offering three versions of the Obsidian. The base model is priced at $99 and has the full print volume and resolution specifications, but it’s fairly bare – it only works when connected to your computer with a cable. Add an extra $50, though, and you get the Plus model with an Android-based touch screen plus ports for SD cards and USB flash drives. Finally, for $249, you can opt for the Obsidian Deluxe; this has all the features of the Plus, as well as a heated bed and a camera that lets you monitor the print remotely. The Plus and Deluxe models also have a power outage recovery feature, so if there’s an issue while you’re printing you can pick up where you left off.
All the Obsidian models look like excellent value, and prints from the prototype machines compare well with the results you’d get from much more expensive devices. The basic Obsidian looks like the most exciting one, though, simply because it’s a well-specified plug and print solution at a very, very attractive price. Kodama hope this will be the device that finally sends 3D printing mainstream, and if the Obsidian lives up to its billing they might just be right.