We wondered what would happen to Bits From Bytes (or "BFB") as they were known. They last updated their 3D printer line with the 3DTouch about a year ago. Would they announce a new printer in 2013?
Yes and no, it seems. Parent company 3D Systems announced the new CubeX personal 3D printer, the big brother to the original Cube. At first glance, it seems like a brand new 3D printer, but when you look closer, it seems to be a lot like the 3DTouch. It's actually manufactured in the same factory as the old BFB's, too.
When questioned about the machine's heritage, 3D Systems reps insist it's a new printer.
And it really is. While the case, frame and overall design concept is pretty much a BFB 3000, the innards are quite different and much more capable.
The CubeX comes in 1, 2 or 3 extruder varieties, priced at USD$2499, USD$3249 and USD$3999 respectively. The three extruders mean this machine can print in three colors at the same time, and this feature is fully supported by the printer's management software. One interesting observation is the "fourth" extruder on the left; it's not an extruder, but instead is an extra wiper to ensure excess plastic is more effectively removed.
What makes it more capable? Aside from a new extruder that takes the fine filament much more smoothly, they've re engineered the software to enable much faster printing. This life-size basketball was printed in only 22 hours. Yes, that's a long time, but we thought it should have taken 60 hours or so until informed otherwise.
The CubeX includes print cartridges, just like the original Cube and very unlike its predecessor machines. While these cartridges ensure correct operation thru precision filament size and chemistry, they do cost USD$99 each. How much material do you get in a cartridge? We couldn't find out, but from the weight of one, it seems to be around a pound or pound and a half. That's a little pricey, but perhaps worth it to ensure successful printing.
[UPDATE: We've just learned that the CubeX's cartridges contain a chip that indicates the type of material in the cartridge, ABS or PLA. This means the printer can detect whether you've loaded the wrong cartridge and prevent at least a few print disasters.]
And that seems to be the objective of this machine: avoiding the intermittent problems encountered during 3D printing. Print fails are common on most machines, making newbies doubtful of the value of a 3D printer. It seems that 3D Systems understands this and has taken action.
The new printer ships in February.
Via 3D Systems