Here’s a basic reality about consumer 3D printing right now: It’s still too expensive.
Consider the recently launched Replicator 2, a well-designed device with an eye-popping $2,00o price tag. If there’s a reason consumer 3D printing hasn’t exploded yet, price is certainly it.
Here, then, is a solution: The Portabee, a $500 3D printer that aims to go where no other 3D printer has gone before: the realm of affordability.
“If we want to get this revolution moving, we need mass adoption. And that hinges at the moment on price,” Portabee business lead Daniel Warner told me via email.
Devices like the Replicator 2 may be amazingly groundbreaking, but they are going exactly nowhere unless they reach a price that entices the average consumer.
And then there’s portability. 3D printers are, almost as a rule, about as portable as a microwave. But the Portabee is different. At 6.2 pounds, it’s almost impossibly light for what it does. More, it’s designed to fold up, making it fairly easy to carry around.
“We consider our machine the first ‘laptop’ of the 3D printer era,” Warner said.
As expected, that portability comes with a few caveats: While the Portabee can create objects that are bit larger than a mug (roughly 120mm cubed), that output is dwarfed by the capacity of the Replicator 2, which can print out objects with dimensions of 28.5 x 15.3 x 15.5 cm.
Another missing component is an outer casing, which would help protect the Portabee’s exposed electronics. Warner’s reasons for ditching it? Minimalism and engineering efficiency.
“We looked at the range of other printers that covered the axis with extra casing, however this really just adds to the bulk of the machine,” he said.
In all, the Portabee represents the compelling, cheaper future of 3D printing, and we can only hope other 3D printers follow suit before long.