A new product launched this week from OmniMaker is said to “solve the problem of obsolescence and lack of versatility in rapid prototyping machines”.
The startup company has developed a rapid prototyping machine using interchangeable tools. The product is actually a base unit providing mechanical movements and a build surface accompanied by a series of “plug-and-play modules” that perform different functions. OmniMaker currently offers a “filament extrusion 3D printer” and “CNC router” modules and mentions the possibility of future UV resin 3D printing, laser scanner digitizer, carbon-fiber printing, cake frost printing, candy or chocolate printing, laser sintering, vinyl cutting, PC board making, spray painting and something they call an “experimenters XY module” for developing your own functional module.
The idea is to pick a base frame, which comes in three possible sizes, and at least one function module. The build volumes range from 280 x 203 x 190mm for the “small” size up to 432 x 381 x 406mm. In other words, they’re big!
The minimum cost to get started with one of these units would be to purchase the small base in kit form for USD$499 and a module kit for another USD$499. So, about USD$1,000. However, the pricing goes up as you select assembled versions, larger base units and additional modules. Due to the machine's modularity pricing can get a little confusing. Here are some pricing examples they propose:
- Small base & module kit = USD$998
- Medium base & module kit = USD$1,298
- Large base & module kit = USD$1,548
- Small base & module assembled = USD$1,498
- Medium base & module assembled = USD$1,798
- Large base & module assembled = USD$2,048
One interesting aspect is the ability for you to design your own module and resell it to the OmniMaker community. This could stimulate the development of new and unusual modules for this machine. However, they reserve the right to enforce such sales only through their store.
We see this as a rather ambitious project. While design, development and construction of the base units seems achievable, we’re concerned by the number of modules. The functions indicated by OmniMaker are quite diverse, and while they might share XYZ movements, the differences are significant, particularly the specific software required to effectively operate the various modules. OmniMaker will have to ensure this aspect works really well and it’s not easy. Consider the image provided by OmniMaker of some 3D print samples above. If the quality is not equivalent to other options, they could have a difficult time moving forward.
On the other hand, if OmniMaker succeeds it could be an excellent platform for building all kinds of items. Just make sure you have a drop cloth around it to pick up the shavings.