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Not another 3D printer company?!?!

Posted by Chelsea - QU-BD 
Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 26, 2012 10:00PM
Yes that's right, my two friends and I have quit our day jobs and jumped head first into forming our own indie 3D printer company.

We have been working for several months towards our goal and will be doing the big reveal at the San Mateo Makerfaire!

Before I go any further I want to say upfront that we are 100% for contributing to the community as a whole. We want to be as Open-Source as possible with our ideas. We will be releasing dimensioned drawings in .PDF format as soon as they are finalized, so everyone, even those without expensive design software can read the files. Also we will have COMPLETE drawings that are not missing details, material specs or the like. What we create internally will be available externally, in full.

As soon as we are able to we will be hiring someone to answer the phones. We experienced major frustration when we initially sourced all the components for our two Mendels, what we would have given to talk to someone on the phone for just a minute! It would have made ordering and setup that much more pleasent.

Every product we sell will be available as individual components. I hope that being able to buy a single part of an extruder or other part will help spur innovation. Also if you already have some of the parts, there is no need to buy them a second time. People that purchase a full printer from us will also receive a permanent discount for all parts, for replacement or upgrade (as well as filament). We figure that you have already invested in us and we want to thank you for that.


We hope that our first product to be released, will help lower the overall price of all the 3D printers available by offering an extremely high quality extruder at a price point lower than everything else on the market. We want to get 3D printers into as many people's hands as possible and we can't think of a better way to do it than by reducing the cost without sacrificing quality. We have made up a small production batch (8) of the extruders and I will be taking pictures of them alongside their inspirations (Makerbot MK7 and Makergear Plastruder) very shortly. Essentially what we did is take Makerbot's open-source design and improve reliability by replacing the hobbed gear with a 20 tooth spur gear (ala Makergear) with a groove machined into it which centers the filament along the axis of movement; this majorly cuts down on any slipping or stripping. We also changed the 'plunger' to allow for varying tolerances of filament by spring loading it (with adjustable tension). The extruder is also ready to go for dual-extrusion for those that want to experiment, you would just need to get two of them instead of one! All the parts of the extruder are CNC machined in house at our mini machine shop. Here is the kicker...we will be offering the COMPLETE extruder without motor (we figure a lot of people will already have a NEMA 17 laying around) for $34.00 USD; complete extruders with motors will be $49.00 USD (or possibly a bit less depending on what kind of deal we can get on the motors in bulk).

We need your help to make this a reality. We are hoping to get a Kickstarter campaign (or IndieGoGo) approved and going shortly, we just have to finalize (and cleanup!) all the drawings and take some pretty pictures!

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I am really excited about hearing your feedback.

-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 26, 2012 10:06PM
Sounds excellent. Having another option is never a bad thing. Just don't do what others have done and sell product that you don't actually have yet.

What type of cartesian axis setup are you using? Print area? etc. I hope you are aiming for a high-quality printer, unlike the printrbot which sacrifices print quality to be cheap.


Cameron

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Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 26, 2012 10:32PM
As far as 'our' extruder goes, there is nothing revolutionary about it except for the price point. I can say that it is at the very least comparable in quality to the highest quality extruder currently available.

Our printer, of which #00001 and #00002 are being machined right now, is not finalized as there are a lot of little things that we have to address before we do our reveal at the Makerfaire (wire routing, packaging etc.). With that being said we are 95% of the way there with our printer.

Our printer is 100% CNC machined (in house) metal. There are no plastic or wood parts at all. The structure is steel with aluminum panels which are primarily cosmetic.

We are using a leadscrew although we had to 'invent' one as we could not get the speeds with conventional forms that we wanted, so we made one up. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is a VERY odd ballscrew with a ridiculous lead.

The build area is 12.125"-X 12.25"-Y 10.875"-Z, the overall footprint is 16"x16".

The build platform is fixed with X and Y moving along Z. The build platform is also heated.

We are using RAMPS electronics with NEMA17 motors.

It is really pretty, I can't wait to show you guys!

-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 12:39AM
Can't wait to see it!

PS. If you fancy sending a sample unit to Ireland for independent testing & review, I'm sure I could clear space in my busy schedule to accomodate you. spinning smiley sticking its tongue out
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 06:42AM
smiling bouncing smiley or sending one to Florida so a newbie who has never seen a 3D printer in person
(only videos and what I've read here) to see how easy it is for me, the newbie, to build
and run yor printer.


__________________________________________________________________________
"I like to be, what I like to see, in you and me.
I am the Stallion, Mang."

ISTAR Scope Club
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 07:46AM
I must admit that I do think... Not another 3D printer company?!?!

But you have a good atitude in wishing to be part of the community, I hope you do well.


Random Precision
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 10:37AM
Are you going to be located in San Mateo or just unveiling at the San Mateo Faire because it is the closest faire around?
Just mail-order or are you going to have a small store front too?
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 12:18PM
I'll buy your extruder when it's ready for sale.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 27, 2012 10:34PM
Sounds excellent! Having an all-metal construction is nice, as it allows for higher-temp printing as well as doing a heated build chamber. I imagine it is also quite rigid. I can't wait to see it!


Cameron

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Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 28, 2012 10:07AM
We are actually located in Little Rock, Arkansas. We will be flying into SFO for the Makerfaire and staying with friends in Petaluma. At this time we don't have any plans to open up a retail store, although I think it would make a lot of sense to do if the demand is there.

We are also working out the details for a program to get out printer into the hands of educational institutions as well as hackerspaces at a highly discounted rate, hopefully it will get out to Florida and Ireland in a public setting quickly!

The all steel structural parts of the machine are solid, not tubing. It is very rigid!

-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 28, 2012 02:25PM
So you are going to make a cheaper printer with more expensive materials? How does that work? How do you hope to keep up with demand with your home mini machine shop?

Will this machine be rigid enough to do CNC milling? If so, will you design its parts so the machine itself can make them?

That would be a good step forward. Otherwise, I don't see why having metal parts made by a machine shop is better than wood parts that one can make at home. Sounds also like it would cost a fortune to ship.

Good thoughts but... Maybe too early to quit your day job? Will be excited to see videos.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 28, 2012 04:17PM
Our pricing will be very competitive with the market. We are able to keep pricing low (relative to the quality level) because we won't have an excessive markup on our products (which I do believe is happening a lot in the marketplace); also since everything is made in house we won't have to outsource and thus pay for someone else's profits.

Our parts are machined in house, not in a house. By micro machine shop I was more speaking of square footage (about 1000sq/ft), we have the capability to produce all these parts efficiently and accurately, in our commercial warehouse space. David, one of the partners, has 35 years experience in CNC machining. I will take some pictures of our CNC machines and tooling and post them up.

The machine was designed with milling in mind from day one. We weren't going to mention it until we got a little closer the Makerfaire but since you brought it up... In fact we are preparing two different packages for milling, one using a dremel motor and the other using a real 1HP spindle with VFD.

As far as shipping goes, yes, it will certainly weigh A LOT more than the other printers on the market, however at least initially the shipping will be included in the price for early adopters.

-Chelsea

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/2012 04:20PM by Chelsea - QU-BD.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 29, 2012 01:18PM
Sounds pretty cool. I am going to try and be at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May. If I can make it I will definitey visit you.


Cameron

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Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 29, 2012 07:23PM
I took a couple pictures...

The first shows our nozzle, a Makerbot nozzle and a Makergear nozzle right next to each other for size reference.

The second shows our grooved spur gear that we are using in place of a hobbed bolt. The groove keeps the filament from walking side to side during fast retracts etc.


I'll post more soon!
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 30, 2012 10:07PM
That spur gear looks dubious to me... I've asked this before and I'll ask it again: Why not just hob a bolt? It's really not that hard especially for a machine shop to do. Hobbed bolts are guaranteed to bite into the filament and provide way more grip than your extruder motor can push (which is good! Nobody likes stripped filament)

I think that gear's going to have a lot of slipping/stripping issues, and is going to require a lot of idler pressure, thus putting more wear on the extruder than is really necessary.Trust me you probably want a hobbed bolt.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 30, 2012 11:14PM
destroyer2012 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think that gear's going to have a lot of
> slipping/stripping issues, and is going to require
> a lot of idler pressure, thus putting more wear on
> the extruder than is really necessary.Trust me you
> probably want a hobbed bolt.

Or at least a machined insert that has sharp teeth.


Cameron

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Just click "Edit" in the top-right corner of the page and start typing.
If you are feeling adventurous, take on some of the requested to-do items yourself. Anyone can edit the wiki!
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 31, 2012 04:28AM
destroyer2012 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That spur gear looks dubious to me... I've asked
> this before and I'll ask it again: Why not just
> hob a bolt?

Pushing the filament with a gear that has a larger diameter than the hobbed bolt's 5 or 6 mm has the advantage of gripping the filament over a larger area. It's a perfectly valid design, I (and many others) have been using something similar (mendel-parts.com's V9) and it works just fine. The sharpness of the teeth has nothing to do with the driver being a bolt or a gear, since you can machine whatever teething you need in either case. Some of the softer materials work better with larger and blunter teeth than are possible to create with a M4 tap on a M8 bolt.

The groove is probably useless, though. I'm pretty sure that proper guiding for the filament in the extruder solves the same problem better.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
March 31, 2012 10:03AM
We have found this to be resist slipping much more than a hobbed bolt at high speed.

ttsalo - you are right that the groove is not necessary with a proper filament guide which our extruder has, however it does help in initially feeding it into the guides with a new spool of filament and it created two 'biting' surfaces from a single gear tooth. I know it looks like the teeth are 'flattened' in the gear but the gear actually catches the filament at the edges rather than the flats.

-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 01, 2012 08:43AM
I am interested to see how this turns out. The cheapest printer on the market I know of is the Seemecnc H-1 at about $350.

Quote

Our pricing will be very competitive with the market. We are able to keep pricing low (relative to the quality level) because we won't have an excessive markup on our products (which I do believe is happening a lot in the marketplace); also since everything is made in house we won't have to outsource and thus pay for someone else's profits.

That worries me slightly, because I've seen a lot of people making a similar claim (ie. they think margins are too high). When they start shipping significant quantities they find lots of unexpected costs, and either can't meet demand, or put up prices or both.

The printrbot is a case in point. The promise of good and cheap has ended up being not particularly good or cheap, and they are also struggling to meet demand. There is really a big difference between making 10 and 1000.

Good luck anyway, looks like you are bringing in some new ideas which is always a good thing.
TC
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 03, 2012 07:53PM
Just to echo the comments others have already made I'll suggest you read through this series of blog posts if you haven't already.

http://blog.ponoko.com/2010/11/16/ten-rules-for-maker-businesses-by-wireds-chris-anderson-%E2%80%94-rule-1/

This is sound advice. I hope you'll find your way to success.

TC
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 04, 2012 12:56PM
TC Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just to echo the comments others have already made
> I'll suggest you read through this series of blog
> posts if you haven't already.
>
> [blog.ponoko.com]
> ker-businesses-by-wireds-chris-anderson-%E2%80%94-
> rule-1/

That's a great read, thanks for posting that!

A friend who started a small business learnt those rules the hard way! He is on top of it now, and managed to keep his marriage intact too.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 04, 2012 06:06PM
What I mean is.. you have a lot of flat surface on those teeth. If you are putting some force on your filament to mash it against that gear, it's all being wasted on pressing the filament into those flats! A larger diameter drive gear is definately better for higher speed but in my opinion it needs sharp teeth. I get that the edges of those flats bite into the filament (what else, magic?) but that still leaves a lot of flat area and very shallow teeth.

So are you saying that your flat-tooth gear is better at not stripping the filament than a hobbed (with a tap) drive bolt of the same diameter? I find this hard to believe.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 05, 2012 04:18AM
Sharp teeth bite into the filament easily but they also cut pieces out of it more easily when they rotate while pushing the filament along. Especially when the extruder does retractions. That's a harsher test for the driver than just plain high speed printing.

I have done some drive bolt testing recently (12 and 16 teeth accurately cut into M8 bolts, with some different tooth roundings) and noticed that square teeth are the worst. The sharp edges bite off bits from the filament in retractions very easily. Rounded teeth don't do that and they press just fine into something like ABS as long as they are small enough.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 05, 2012 10:26AM
Thanks TC! That was a good read!

When the spur gear contacts the filament, it is actually catching on the edges of the flats. As it continues to rotate to the point where the flat is parallel to the filament it it has already engaged at the edge of the next flat. There is a lot of pressure and surface area in contact with the filament and it does leave little ridges pressed into the plastic.

If you have the tension adjustment screw really 'dialed' in, I have been able to get it to 600mm/s of filament feed without it stripping or binding over a 1kg spool of filament. Of course extruding reliably at that speed is another issue, but the limiting factor is not the spur gear.

We finalized our heated bed yesterday...I think you guys are in for a treat! It heats up REALLY fast even though its a lot larger than other non-custom beds out there at 12"x12". We will be offering a smaller one with the same build size as the PCB Heated Bed as well. I will post details soon.

Makerfaire can't come soon enough! I will get some more pictures up here ASAP! Thanks again guys you have given us a lot to think about!

-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 09, 2012 08:30PM
Here is a picture of the z-screw that our 3D printer uses next to a standard 5/16" threaded rod that was leftover from building our Prusas. Our z-screw is 5/8" diameter 304 stainless steel and has been ground and polished for super smooth movement...its pretty too!



-Chelsea
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 10, 2012 11:34PM
Closeup of 1.75mm ABS filament that was pulled through the extruder with our grooved gear. The gear deformed the teeth into the filament which really helps traction during fast retracts.


Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 11, 2012 12:17AM
Do you have a website already? Looking very interesting.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 11, 2012 09:25AM
I would be concerned about that much grooving in the filament as it goes through the hobbed bolt/gear driver. Since on a line of extrusion the extruder will run at one speed (meaning the filament feed speed calculater by the slicer), mashing the plastic around will then mean there's a periodic change in volume of filament over the length of the filament. I imagine then you will have a periodic change in extruded width along the line.

I'm sure you could just dial the tension back and I would feel better about it.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 11, 2012 09:51AM
We are working on it! We will have something available before the Makerfaire in may with basic information. We are trying to get everything situated for a Kickstarter campaign for the extruder at the moment. Right now there is just a splash page at [www.qu-bd.com].

Yes, the tension is 100% adjustable, I wanted to show that there was positive displacement going on with our grooved gear even though from outward appearances it doesn't look very 'grippy'. It happily extrudes consistently at very high tension levels with ABS.
Re: Not another 3D printer company?!?!
April 11, 2012 02:08PM
Ok now that I've seen that picture I'm convinced. What kind of tensioner do you have that it doesn't squish the back side of the filament? Seeing that makes me want to change my extruder gear... SO does this work with PLA too or does the PLA break under that level of distortion? That's the only problem I can see; the filament being weakened and breaking when trying to retract or something...
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