If the holy grail is full delocalization of production, true portability of desktop 3D printing is one goal on the journey to achieve it. A new project called By Flow is taking another crack at it, and it is arguably one of the most ambitious and yet likely to succeed, INO. The FFF 3D printer project undertaken by 3Dbyflow folds and sits comfortably inside a small case, requires no plate calibration and allows for direct SD Card 3D printing with filament as well as plastics, ceramics, food and even metal.
The By Flow 3D printer weights only 7 Kg and has a build volume of 215 x 220 x 160 mm, using 1.75 mm diameter filament. It can produce a layer height between 50 and 400 micron. Its full size, folded up in a comfortable to carry briefcase, is 440 x 325 x 460 mm, with an aluminium chassis, which means you can definitely carry it on board as hand luggage on any low cost flight (as a matter of fact you could even take two of them).
Closing it up also prevents any dust or dirt finding its way inside the mechanisms, which could be useful if you are planning on doing your 3D printing in some extreme sites, which, by the way, is exactly why you might invest in a system such as this. Once you have the 3D model in STL, OBJ or G-Code format, no external computer is necessary, as you can simply set up the print from an SD Card and the LCD display menu, just like you would do in many of the less portable systems currently on the market.
The By Flow supports all the most commonly used open source slicing software and its building/extrusion system is designed to be as minimal and sturdy as possible, with a fixed plate and only the printing arm moving along the high precision linear guide rails. For maximum feedom of creation, the company developed a line of interchangeable extruders which will let users create objects using a wide range of pastes: these, as By Flow demonstrated at Rome’s Maker Faire, already include chocolate and clay/ceramics.
Since the team behind the By Flow is already planning on using it to print with metal (and it could already use colorFabb’s metal enriched copper and brass PLA filament), this means that a sufficient number of By Flows could theoretically allow you to set up a factory, anywhere in the world to make pretty much anything you need.