At CES we discussed the design of 3D System’s new CubeX personal 3D printer with Ian Adkins, the original developer of the BFB line of 3D printers. Adkins now works for 3D Systems after Bits From Bytes was acquired a few years ago.
It turns out there are a number of subtle improvements and changes in the CubeX over its predecessors, the 3DTouch and the BFB 3000.
A very visible change is the presence of plastic filament cartridges. These cartridges are not the same as those used in the Cube, although they look quite similar. They are electronically keyed to identify the type of material they contain (e.g. ABS or PLA) so that the printer “knows” what’s loaded. This is unique for a personal 3D printer and overcomes the “Oops, I loaded the wrong spool and caused a print disaster” problem.
One change that you might not notice is the size of the build platform appears to be smaller. But it’s not really. The platform is definitely shortened on the right hand side to accommodate the new plastic cartridges. However, when three extruders are present, the left-hand extruder cannot print any further to the right anyway, and that area of the platform was effectively unused. Meanwhile, the Z-height has been increased because the print spools are no longer under the platform as they had been in previous models. The end result is that due to the increased Z-height, the print volume actually increases.
The extruder mechanism is entirely new and now uses the smaller filament. The thinner filament travels more smoothly through its feed tubes and is far less susceptible to cracking, something that happened occasionally to PLA in our BFBs. Meanwhile, the procedure to change a filament is vastly simplified, even including an “unload” function from the front panel.
It’s quite a machine, and that’s probably why it won CNET’s “Best of CES” award in the Emerging Tech category.