A new Kickstarter campaign launched the other day: the Formaker “4-in-1” device combines a CNC Mill, Laser Etcher, PCB Maker and 3D Printer all in a single machine. The project is from Zhuhai CTC Electronic Co., Ltd in the city of Zhuhai in China.
Let’s check out each feature, which is enabled by simply changing the tool head, which they describe as a simple process.
The 3D printer toolhead is dual, and evidently is capable of printing not only the usual PLA, ABS and similar plastics, but also polycarbonate and carbon fiber filaments. Presumably this means they include a stainless steel nozzle, but it does not appear so in their images.
The print volume is 225 x 145 x 150mm, similar to a MakerBot Replicator’s size. The campaign also explains the all-in-one offers the:
Highest Quality FDM Prints on the Market (0.04mm!)
Highest Speed in the Industry (120mm/s to 170mm/s)
It’s possible they can hit 40 micron layers, but we’re not sure that is the finest quality available in the market. Similarly, they are definitely not the highest speed printer either, as we’ve seen much faster equipment, such as the Dynamo3D.
The laser toolhead provides an ability to etch some materials, like wood, plastic and possibly glass, but its low power will let you cut only paper, cardboard and similar materials (Wood, Acrylic, Lexan, Brass, Aluminum, Plastics).
The CNC toolhead permits you to subtractively mill material from wood or other soft substances in 2D or 3D patterns. However, since the mechanics are only in three dimensions, the mill’s bit will not be able to produce overhangs or complex geometries.
It’s a bit hard to tell from their description, but it may be that the PCB etcher is in fact the same toolhead as the CNC mill; you’re simply milling 2D paths on copper plates to produce the required electrical traces.
We’re a bit concerned about the software for this machine. Their video explains that the software provided is very user friendly, but you must remember that we have FOUR tools here. This means that they must have produced friendly software capable of guiding you through four very different workflows. For example, CNC milling requires knowledge of the size of the bit installed in the chuck so that appropriately spaced toolpaths can be generated.
The other question raised by this offering is this: who is this style of machine for? Many 3D print enthusiasts may have little interest in messy CNC milling, and even fewer would have the electrical engineering skills to design their own PCBs. Sure, there are some people who happen to have all of these skills - and interests, but it would seem to us that their target market is a small percentage of consumers.
However, for those of you who do wish to use four different functions, you can pre-order an assembled Formaker from their campaign page for USD$999, set for November delivery.