We ran into a new inexpensive 3D printer that supposedly will be launched later this year, the PlyBot.
I must note that this product has most definitely not launched, and we’re working off of the decidedly brief information on their website. In fact, we don’t even have a decent image of the device, although we extracted an enhanced but still blurry image from their website that seems to show the basic structure of the machine.
The most distinguishing feature of this proposed device is its price: £79, or about USD$110. If this is true, the PlyBot could indeed be one of the least expensive 3D printers ever sold.
What is the nature of the PlyBot? It’s hard to tell based on the scant information provided, but we can tell at least these things:
- PlyBot is provided as a do-it-yourself assembly kit
- It uses the standard filament extrusion process, and seems to offer only a single extruder / hotend
- It likely prints only in PLA or PLA-based materials
- Its frame is made from laser-cut plywood (hence its name)
- They say it can be printing only 20 minutes after opening the box, so this may be a very easy-to-assemble kit. I’m not sure how they manage this
- Layer sizes as small as 0.05mm, which is pretty good. However, print quality is more than just layer size
- Print speed is said to be up to 150mm/s, which is pretty quick
I’d be a bit skeptical about some of these claims, at least until we can see the device. The print speed, for example, is likely not achievable except in special situations and the effective print speed for reasonable quality prints could be less, probably near to typical machine speeds.
The print quality as seen in one of their images, appears OK, but not exceptional. That’s to be expected in a machine of this price range. However, the plywood frame could be subject to vibration that might compromise quality. This is why many more expensive machines use welded or bolted metal frames.
There have always been inexpensive 3D printer kits, but the majority of them have been far too complex to meet the needs of the general population. If the PlyBot’s simple assembly process proves out, this could be a big attractor.
IJD Technical Solutions Ltd, the company behinds the PlyBot project, says the project will be launched “this summer”. That’s when the interesting stuff will occur.
In the past, ultra-low cost 3D printers have attracted enormous attention from the public, and there is huge potential for this company to suddenly receive a vast number of orders, perhaps well beyond their capacity to deliver. This is the moment of truth for the management of such startup companies, where they must balance their thirst for additional revenue against their manufacturing capabilities and expertise.
Very often in the past low-cost startups end up on the wrong side of success.
Hopefully, PlyBot will find another path.