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Cube: 3D home printer starts shipping in days (cubify.com)
122 points by fhoxh on Apr 29, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

I'm excited to see what happens here. 3D Systems is releasing a printer with a proprietary filament cartridge[0], proprietary interface, and commercial ecosystem of downloadable solid model files[1] into a world that has inexpensive commodity filament spools[2], open interfaces and software[3], and a community of mostly open source solid models[4]. Can they really put the cat back in the bag?

[0] http://cubify.com/cube/store.aspx

[1] http://cubify.com/store/model_list.aspx?searchtext=&minp...

[2] http://ultimachine.com/catalog/print-materials

[3] http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page

[4] http://www.thingiverse.com/

Sure they can; but only if it "just works."

Wifi; a sexy form/structure; an easy to use interface; it seems that Cube (or someone else) has the potential to be the Apple of the 3d printing world.

I could see my father buying something like this; while he would never end up with a reprap.

For myself; and most of HN I would imagine they would go the open route; but there are a lot of people (This thing needs to be in Sky Mall) that I think are potential customers here.

The thing is, this isn't something that your average joe would even consider buying even if it has the 'sexy form'.

To make use of this the person would need to know what 3d printing is, know where to get models or make 3d models (doubtful), get materials and then spend time printing and perfecting.

Not something the average user would do no matter how "sexy" the packaging is for this. If they really wanted something made that they'd managed to design, they would likely go with one of the many online companies that offer 3d printing as a service and offer a wide variety of materials and sizes (without the person having to invest in a 3d printer up front or learning how they work).

As another poster mentioned above, I personally would much rather go with something like the Solidoodle machine which is half the price; not as sexy but I'm not sure that the target market for 3d printing at this time is looking for "sexy".

One day when 3d printing becomes more mainstream and much cheaper (200-300 range and buy it at Best Buy/Target), I could see the sexy form factor and wifi becoming something to have.

Not only that, they need to provide some better examples of what you can do with it. Looking at the examples shown on their home page, i.e. bracelets, toys, etc. I am wondering why I would pay $1,300 for this device instead of buying those same things for $1/dozen down at the "Everything For A Dollar" shop.

They aren't competing with RepRap so much as Makerbot, who ship an assembled "just works" open source printer and who are behind Thingiverse.

Ultimachine filament is mildly overpriced: http://www.3ders.org/pricecompare/

I wouldn't recommend the Chinese ABS, (the thickness QA is so poor that whatever money you save buying cheap plastic is then spent constantly recalibrating your printer to account for the thickness changes) but 3dprinterstuff is good enough.

Ah, it seems prices have nearly doubled since the last time I bought from there. MakerGear had a similar price increase, and Rick posted a notice:

" 4/9/12 - Please note that we have experienced a significant increase in pricing from our supplier. The above pricing partially reflects this increase. We hope that the increase is temporary and that as more suppliers come on-line, that pricing will be able to be reduced."

That is unfortunate, as I believe everyone in the US was getting PLA filament from the same extruder in Ohio.

Could the Cube be used to make replacement filament cartridges for itself?

Recipe: Print one filament cartridge, fill it with remaining filament. Repeat until you have several empty filament cartridges.

Everyone thinks you mean cartridges with filament in them. Yes, you might be able to print new empty cartridges.

Can an inkjet printer make more ink cartridges?

No, the 2d printer can't print 3d objects.

-3 points? Ha ha, HN, humorless as always.

The joke, here, of which there are two, is that of course you can't print another cartridge. You'd spend 5kg of plastic to print a 4.9kg cartridge.

The second joke is that while you could conceivably print a cartridge housing, and fill it with counterfeit filament, it still wouldn't work. This because Cube uses the same business model as HP or Stratasys (I assume) where the printer's cheap, but the cartridges are expensive. Both HP and Stratasys use cartridges with chips in them that keep track of how much filament's been used, and it's probably too much to hope that Cube cartridges will be as easy to hack[1] as Stratasys cartridges. A $5 cryptocard chip more than pays for itself if it doubles your profit margin, and if the printer phones home, it'll be real hard to break the scheme.

1: http://haveblue.org/?p=938

Windows only: The cover photo shows a MacBook Air, but the tech specs say the software requires Windows operating systems.

Yeah, why do so many developers show a Macbook Air these days when 90% of the PC's are Windows laptops? It's especially weird when it doesn't even run on Macs, like in this case.

because a Macbook Air is probably the nicest looking computer on the market right now.

I caught on to that too. I can't see this reaching a whole lot of hackers if it's a Windows only device. Maybe someone will port the software to Linux/OSX.

.. or Cube makes their printer compatible with one of the many OSS toolchains that already exist.

Why would people bother with reverse engineering their proprietary (and expensive) system, when you could go ahead and spend the time improving the fully open systems that are out there?

... because it might work better? Have you been living under a rock the past ten years? How do you even envision industrial designers improving 3d printing software?

This is cool, but I'm more intrigued by the Solidoodle[1]. It's less than half the price ($499) – a much better entry level for the average consumer. It's not as pretty or have wifi, but it does have an extra half inch of print space.

[1] http://www.solidoodle.com/

I'm skeptical of the Solidoodle. Why on earth is it so cheap? And it looks of such high quality.

I'm kind of wondering how a 3D printer could be so expensive ($500). I've made homebrew cnc machines before at around $200 or so.

and i bet if you added the overhead of running a business on top of that $200, $500 would be quite reasonable. packaging, customer support, sourcing, assembly, returns, advertising/marketing, all add up.

$499 model doesn't have a heated bed, which means it can only print in PLA, or very, very small ABS prints.

It doesn't specify what the head speed is, so think "slow". 50mm/s, if that.

The one with the heated bed is only $50 more. So still cheap. I was looking for reviews and the only thing I could find was this one:


"A review of the Solidoodle after numerous hours of printing. But for a few tuneup adjustments here and there, it has been problem free. If only there was a heated build platform the prints would be totally awesome (instead, as you might expect with ABS on a cold piece of acrylic, the first few layers are not even)."

I might take the plunge and get the $549 version. Although I must admit, I have no idea what I'd make with it.

There's printerbot too, for the same price.

Uh oh, it doesn't mention head speed, or volume throughput. That's a bad sign. The frame doesn't even look as stiff as the Makerbot Replicator, which is pretty miserably slow compared to some of the bleeding edge designs. (ORDbot, Utilimaker) 3d printers with small motors and light frames can be excruciatingly, unusably slow.

It also doesn't say how large the cartridges are. Or how much they cost. It's also got a pretty small build volume, and a completely proprietary toolchain, including model files. (???)

It actually does mention the price of the cartridges, in the store. $50 each, with discounts if you buy more than one.

Ah, so it does. Still doesn't say how big they are. ("1 Cartridge prints 13 to 14 mid-sized creations" is a magnificently useless piece of information. The only number that matters here is kilograms. How many kilograms does it mass? Why doesn't it say?)

It also doesn't give the x or y resolution, unless I missed it.

I liked the design of their pages so I went to look at the source and noticed every page is wrapped in a top level form tag, can someone explain why they would do this?

It's because they used ASP.NET to create the site. More: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3038217/why-does-asp-net-...

It's because the site is made with ASP.NET webforms, which requires that top level form tag.

People haven't yet been turned on to the market of enriching everything them around them with pretty finishings.

This is one of the great potentials of even these mini-3d printers: you can truly de-homogenize your indoor environment and make it very interesting.

I'm inspired by Black Rock City to see all the forgotten parts of our lives more beautiful. 3d printing will help :)

These look amazing--does anyone know how the resolution compares to say a MakerBot?

The Ultimaker prints down to 0.1mm, vs 0.25mm on this one. I'm curious how they achieve the smooth look with a standard resolution - maybe it's just the pictures.

As far as I can tell, there aren't any closeup pictures or videos of actual prints on the Cubify website. The images all appear to be renders. That should be a good clue as to the print quality.

I saw them in action at CES, and the quality was pretty poor compared to what the Replicators at the Makerbot booth were doing. Perhaps they haven't improved since then.

Wow, I didn't realize how high the resolution is on the Ultimaker: http://i.imgur.com/NQHLd.jpg

I've been shopping around for 3d printers for a few months now, and this is the best resolution I've seen.

While this is very cool (minus the proprietary drawbacks), what can I make with this $1300 printer that I couldn't buy for $1300? I would have liked to have seen that in their marketing material.

You are making the market/future for 3d printing.

Check out some of the others like makerbot to see them without the proprietary drawbacks.

Will only their designs work with their printer? Or is it some kind of open format, so I could get 3D models from somewhere else and then build it with their printer?

The MakerBot Replicator is 50% more expensive, but it can make larger objects and in 2 colors. I think it's the best one out there currently. They say they have 15,000 object models in their catalog on http://www.thingiverse.com .

How fast can these things make the objects, though? Does it take minutes or hours? Could you build a small business selling toys and stuff with one of them?

Typically speed depends on how much material the object uses, the complexity and the build quality. For small, low-fi object it could take 10 minutes. For something the size of a baseball, it's probably about an hour or so, but for the largest FDM (this style of 3D Printing) machines it's been known to take days on really big builds.

On other commercials machines, like SLA/SLS, that use lasers to quickly build material, they're more based about how tall the part is when it's built and the detail required.

Small business wouldn't be based around just printing - this is really tough. You're really going to need to offer other value-adds to actually make money as small plastic 3DP parts are basically a commodity at this point.

This looks quite interesting. I am not much informed of it. Can anyone share an overview of the technology underneath? Also what kind of things it can print, what and how much the raw material would cost?

Also the page show the image of a sandal in free creations section. Would it be possible use it as an actual footwear?

If they're using PLA or ABS, I don't think footwear usable due to comfort. (ABS is the same plastic that Legos are made of, so imagine how inflexible they would be, and PLA is going to be similar)

Given that the build envelope is only 5.5 cubic inches, I also don't think you could actually make adult size footwear.

I wish that the print surface was larger. 5.5" is just an awkward number, I would love if it was something like 6, or 8.

For aesthetic reasons, or because 5.5" limits the usefulness in some way?

5.5" limits the usefulness, a lot of the parts I want to make are going to be 6.1+" - I'm primary thinking of things like cable holders, replacement HDD holders, etc..

I guess it's more like 140 mm

Awkward name collision with the Google Maps app from 12 hours earlier.

"Material: Tough Recyclable Plastic" - Does anyone happen to know exactly WHAT plastic it uses? I'm also curious about the whole activation requirement for the printer. It made me raise an eyebrow.

Probably ABS - that's the most common, but PC, PP and PLA have all been used before.

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