As those who have experimented with flexible filaments know, 3D printing with the rubbery stuff can sometimes prove difficult. Due to the loose nature of the material, guide tubes and direct drive extruders may be required to prevent the filament from tangling and to ensure a steady flow onto the printbed. And, while some 3D printer owners have found workarounds or the perfect print settings to print with flexible filaments, there are those just entering the world of 3D printing who want to fabricate squishy items right off the bat. As if in response to those needs, on Indiegogo right now, there’s a new Spanish FFF 3D printer that has been specifically designed for handling flexible filaments.
The Lewihe 3D Printer is the product of a group of architects, designers, and marketing experts who have spent the past 14 months developing a machine that they believe fills in the gaps left by other desktop 3D printers. Running on SAV Mk-I electronics, the Lewihe is capable of printing 1.75 mm filament with layer thicknesses of 50 microns, according to the manufacturer, and a print volume of 185 x 185 x 185 mm (7.28 x 7.28 x 7.28 in), without a heated bed. With an early bird price of $499 for the Lewihe kit and $995 for a fully assembled machine, the Lewihe is designed to be a plug-n-play printer with such optional features as a wi-fi remote control and camera. The printer also uses a specially designed hot end and extruder for flexible filament, particularly FilaFlex from Recreus.
Ignacio García, CEO of Recreus, tells me that he’s been involved with the Lewihe team, saying, “I have been collaborating with hotend development and test the printer, and I only can say that it´s awesome!!, It never gets clogged during 1 month testing, pretty easy use and the best it´s the quality and speed.” On the campaign page, García can be seen describing the benefits of the printer with his FilaFlex filament, saying that the PTFE tube, included in the extruder, helps prevent clogging. The filament feeding tube also seems to help guide the material into the extruder, to prevent it from snagging.
In addition to touting the machine’s print speed of 150 mm/s, García seems to be a fan of the electronics board, saying, “Another important thing is the heart of LEWIHE printer, SAV MKI electronics design by FRANCISCO MALPARTIDA, that gives to Lewihe printer and great electronics stability, it doesn´t burn out after 3 whole days printing!!!” He adds that the Lewihe ProXL, which has a build volume of 320 x 250 x 185 mm (12.6 x 9.84 x 7,28 in) and priced at $2,500, is large enough for anyone wanting to start a shoe farm with his FilaFlex filament.
While García obviously has a vested interest in the machine, his participation in its development may ensure that the Lewihe can handle a filament as flexible as FilaFlex. García says that his material is the most elastic in the desktop 3D printing market and, having seen it myself, I think that it may be true. The stuff is quite limp and stretchy, compared to materials like NinjaFlex. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any prints made with it in person, so I can’t attest to its applications, but if it is softer and rubberier than its competitors, it may ideal for such items as shoes and sandals, as the company suggests.
If you don’t want to go all in and purchase a Lewihe, there’s still the option of buying their extruder and hotend for $149, which may be enough to print with elastic materials. And, with all of this talk of flexible filament, I should mention that the Lewihe is capable of printing other materials, too, like PLA, Laywoo-D3 and Laybrick.
Whether you’re interested in buying the machine or just to learn more, you can head over to their Indiegogo campaign. And, at the very least, you should watch their campaign video below, which has a nice, funky 3D printing beat.