ProDesk3D botObjects Full Color 3D printer

ProDesk3D UPDATE: Head Turning Has Worked, But Does the 3D Printer?

By April 29, 2013. 3D Printers, 3D Software, Featured, News

UPDATE: So that vibe I was talking about — seems it could well be a mixuture of wishful thinking and what’s currently missing from entry level 3D printers. That saying, ‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is’ now seems to apply.

Joris Peels “called Shenanigans” on this printer on Twitter last night. “I’d love for this to be true but it doesn’t feel right.” Joseph Flaherty seemed to be in full agreement. As was Kevin Quigley who promised to run naked through the streets of Shrewsbury if this was the genuine deal and launched in June.

Others, including @RichRap3D, @rhysoj and @Dizingof were also sceptical, with a hint of optimism that this would be fantastic IF it was real.

The lack of a video of a beta machine working and pictures of any 3D printed parts is not helping botObjects’.

I’m hoping they are just over-ambitious in their introduction and not out and out rogues, but I urge them to respond to this with some answers.


Original post: Published on: Apr 29, 2013 @ 0:01

A Head-Turning Introduction — The New ProDesk3D — A Full Colour, Prosumer 3D Printer

botObjects has been around on Twitter for a while now (@botObjects) with a profile saying: “We are launching the world’s first Full Colour Desktop 3D Printer – stay tuned for more updates.” Well, it’s time the guys at botObjects, based in NYC (New York seems to be emerging as the hub for 3D Printing), updated their profile because they have just gone live with the site and more in-depth information about the ProDesk3D — a state-of-the-art desktop 3D printer that produces full colour models.

There have been many (oh, so many) new 3D printer launches this year already, and it is sometimes hard to get excited about the later ones. However, this one is definitely one to sit up and take notice of, I think. It has a completely different vibe about it and has a couple of USPs that really set it apart.

First up, the colour options: the ProDesk3D uses a proprietary 5-colour PLA cartridge system, which is capable of mixing primary printing colours to generate the colours of choice for the object you wish to print.

The ProDesk3D is also offering improved accuracy with printed support material, delivered via a PVA-based Support Material courtesy of a proprietary dual-extruder head.

Another brow-raiser is the claim of fast automatic set-up, with a self-calibrating build platform. The team states that it is true plug-n-play without any
complexity in set up — plug it in, click on automatic software download, insert cartridges, load a 3D design and print it!  The auto software is the key here. botObjects is also a software development company and has worked specifically on providing powerful, yet simple to use, non-technical – 3D printing software.

Anyone else really liking the sound of this?

In terms of output, the ProDesk3D is said to be capable of printing down to 25 microns, at “industry leading speeds” with PLA and PVA support material. And a cutting edge tri-fan system is an added feature that has been incorporated to ensure consistency of airflow within the enclosed casing, which in turn facilitates consistent printed results.

ProDesk3D botObjects Full Color 3D printer

The aesthetic is pretty good too, albeit familiar, and in the absence of any pricing material for the ProDesk3D, which should be commercially available this summer, it looks set to compete in the prosumer space (think Rep 2/Form 1).

The goal of the team behind the ProDesk3D is commendable and I look forward to seeing a machine later this year to see if it meets their own standards, stated as: “We wanted to demystify the process of 3D printing, while keeping the technical jargon under the hood – enabling everyone to load designs and get them printed easily with just a few clicks. The ProDesk3D ProModel software does just this.”

Source: botObjects

  • As has been said on Twitter, this all sounds fantastic, but until they show us some parts printed on their development machines ( and if it is launching this year they must have some) this is starting to smell a bit fishy.

    If it is genuine then what are they hiding by not showing parts? There is nothing proprietary about end parts. Also they claim to be patenting but I can’t find any references to them in the USA patent office database.

    The puzzling thing is if it is fake then what are they trying to prove/ gain? Maybe they are making a documentary on “The 3D Printing Hype Machine- How we fooled the world!”

    I want to believe it is genuine but better people than me are pointing out obvious issues that lead me to think otherwise.

    • Great….now I’ll be the rube in the documentary…. :) Ah well…so be it then, sign me up!

    • So I think this might not be impossible. I know it’s hard to believe, but bear with me. If I had to build a machine to get close to these specs, here’s how I would go about it:

      1. 25 micron resolution: that’s not all that hard. Our own printer is able to position all three axis down to 20 microns. I’ve measured it on the prototype machine with about +/- 10 micron repeatability. We’ll be at Bay Are Maker Faire in 2 weeks – stop on by for a demo, bring your own calipers. But here’s the thing: since our nozzle is conventional at 350 micron, this level of positioning accuracy is largely meaningless. We print successfully at 100 microns, and we’re not going to claim anything better for the production machine. But given our own experience, I think it’s quite possible to build a 3D motion platform that has this positioning accuracy of 25 micron with +/- 10 micron repeatability.

      2. Multicolor: NB that they’re saying “dual extruder head”. They’re not saying “5-6 extruders”. This could mean that they have one extruder for the PVA support material, and the other one for the main filament. IMHO that’s a great idea. PVA is reported to be compatible with PLA and removes easily with limonene, or even with hot water and agitation/ultrasound (but that takes more time). We’re planning to do that for our machines, too. So what about colour mixing? This is where I agree with the sceptics: I can’t see how they can do it in the small envelope by going the “one extruder per colour” route. I certainly wouldn’t. I would use a single white/translucent filament, and add pigments, probably in some sort of suspension, at the very bottom of the melt chamber. To avoid colour trickling back up the melt chamber, the plastic would have to be fed into it under greater than conventional pressure, I would think. Might there be some kind of a warm gear/screw drive feeding the filament or pressurizing the melt chamber? I think this is at least plausible. This is what we’re looking at for the advanced extruders later down the road – maybe next year. So if that’s the mechanism, their patents won’t stand – it’s obvious to a competent practitioner – namely, me.

      3. Autolevelling build platform – the conventional method would be to use 3 motors on the build platform itself – possible, but expensive and heavy. I think it might be possible to do it simpler by using the pressure from the extruder nozzle itself to drive the platform down at 3 points, springs to move it up, and the use a simple solenoid to lock it down at each point. We haven’t gone down this road yet, but if the market demands, that’s the first thing we’d do.

      4. Finally, speed. Well, TANSTAAFL. If you want tiny resolution and a lot of start/stop for colour changes, either move the print head at light speed :-) or accept longer print. Frankly, after all the time we’ve spent on getting our machine to print fast, I don’t envy the engineer that has to do that with a bulky/heavy print head and in such a small space. Our printer is much bigger, and we barely have the space to tuck in all the gear we needed to go fast. Basically, I can’t see how to make this item co-exist with the others.

      So 3 out of 4 might be doable together. All 4? Darn hard. Even with two years to work on it, this would take one heck of an engineering team to do. But who knows, maybe they have one? If they pull it off, and I hope they do, I’d buy them a a round of beers any time they’re in NJ.

  • Thanks for the update Rachel! I have contacted the company and really hope they have a material option that is direct ‘castable’ aka the lost wax process. Full color printing below 50microns isn’t enough….some idiot always wants more… :)

  • I sincerely hope botObjects meet their claims. If they do it’s a true step forward for the industry. However technically I just can’t see it. We’ve done a little bit on FDM/Colour mixing before. At best I can’t see a way to achieve a resolution beyond choosing what colour you want entire sections of a part to be. I just can’t see us achieving true full colour like an inkjet or Mcor to be possible with FDM. In addition Stratasys have at least one recent patent that covers colour mixing.

  • So I briefly thought I had found a video of the new 3D printer on Vimeo. Sadly not, what you will find at the following link is an audio interview by EngineerVsDesigner with Brits Mike Duma and Martin Warner, CTO and CEO of botObjects respectively. As you’ll hear, the guys do exist and they are talking excitedly about this project and its development over the last 2+ years.

    But still, no solid evidence per se. There is mention of a “summer demo party” though.

    Josh Mings subsequent Solidsmack write-up: is peppered with cautionary narrative.

    Having tried to make contact with Mike and Martin through the night, I’m not getting any responses.

    Love a bit of intrigue, but would like definitive answers even more.

  • So many things just don’t add up about this printer or the ‘soft launch’ –

    It looks like from the concept images that the print head would be fixed in the top with X/Y movement and the 5 x PLA + Extruders etc, must also live in the top too, does not look enough room to fit even 200g x 5 of PLA in that machine – it would be totally pointless having less than that in the ‘cartridge’ with a stated build area of 275x275x300

    “Cartridge system is reusable – eco friendly” – How unless you have rolls of PLA filament? we are not talking about an inkjet printer here, it’s claim is solid plastic being mixed and melted to do full colour – that’s massively complicated just to get the mix, let alone extruding it out without wasting 2x the material needed to ‘purge’ colours so a new shade can be printed without contamination – again molten plastic – not the same as ink jets.

    Working out the scale size from the image using the USB port the machine width is 335mm giving just 30mm perimeter around the 275mm x 275mm platform, that’s going to be a very tight fit for X/Y drive motors and print head – almost impossible.

    And why sell it for the same or lower than the Rep2? – if this product meets all the claims you could easily charge £10K+ for it. Get some early adopters and ride the wave to full low-cost consumer versions – not just go straight into competing with Makerbot and 3DS at $2500

    And a layer height of 25micron’s (0.025mm) would need to have very high precision machining to achieve consistently – not something I would promise from a $2500 machine.

    And it’s dual head with PVA support material, it’s like they have just thrown every modern 3D printer issue into the spec – almost improbable to resolve all these issues in the first machine.

    Would love to be proved wrong, but this machine can’t be working today with all this spec. – Gauntlet laid down.

    If they live up to even half of these expectations by June – I’ll be the first to give them a pre-order – but nothing other than hard proof will convince.

    Give it 5 more years and we may be getting close – I still very much doubt we will be doing it by mixing PLA to get ‘full colour’ prints.

  • To expound on Richard’s excellent comments, 25 microns is just shy of 1 mil aka 0.001 inch (Sorry, I’m American; I think in inches!). The finest resolution I’m able to find listed for industrial-grade FDM machines (Stratasys Fortus) is 0.005″, 5x what BotObjects is claiming theirs can do. BotObjects is making a pretty bold statement if they’re saying that the resolution on their consumer grade printer is 1/5 the finest resolution of any industrial grade FDMs. Machine precision aside, will PLA even extrude through that tight of a nozzle?

  • What botobjects is showing off looks like an SLA printer, not a FDM printer using PLA. The clues are the size, form factor, and the yellow UV shielding that is totally unnecessary on an FDM. This is clearly a scam and the NYC tag may be part of taking a stab at Makerbot and Bre Pettis’ evangelism (which is often long on promises…..).