A £99 3D Printer? Apparently So
I’m looking at a Kickstarter launch for the Axis 3D Printer, priced at the rock-bottom price of £99 (US$122).
Yes, Kickstarters for low-cost 3D printers should generally be avoided, but this one seems a bit different.
Axis 3D Printer Launch
The Axis 3D printer is produced by Birmingham, UK-based Makertech 3D, a known vendor of previous 3D printers. Thus this launch campaign is likely not one of those fly-by-night operations we see in the headlines from time to time.
Is this really a US$122 3D printer? Well, yes and no.
First, it’s a kit, not an assembled unit ready to go. You’ll have to use your mechanical and electronics skills to build and test the machine.
Secondly, the £99 price level is only for an extremely basic device. That is to say, only a single extruder, non-heated print surface, no control screen, etc.
Axis 3D Printer Specifications
The good news is that most of the missing function can be added to the device at relatively low cost. For purposes of this analysis, let’s focus on a “fully loaded” Axis 3D printer.
The fully loaded device would include:
Large build volume of 300 x 200 x 200 mm
Crisp minimum layer size as low as 0.04mm
1.75mm filament format
All metal hot end capable of 270C
Ability to 3D print PLA, ABS, PVA, PETG, Nylon and ASA
Swappable nozzles of various sizes for finer/slower or coarser/faster prints
Automatic bed leveling
Steel & aluminum frame
Marlin control firmware
LCD control screen
SD card interface
Flexible/removable steel build plate
Heated print surface up to 110C
“Silencer” stepper drivers
Dual extruder using Y-shaped hot end with single nozzle
Octoprint with WiFi interface
24V power system
Here’s what the machine looks like in action:
The print samples appear quite good, and there’s even an example of a flexible TPU print. That’s surprising given the all-metal hot end, which might be problematic for flexible materials.
What is of interest to me is the somewhat extensive list of features. In past years when we were presented with a “US$100 3D Printer” they were usually little more than a hot end and a cold build plate. Features such as automated leveling would be laughable at those price levels.
This machine seems a bit different. There are a lot of features present in a machine that, with all the optional features installed, is still priced very low at only US$186. Under US$200!
Axis 3D Printer Design
How has Makertech 3D managed to get such a low price? Have they compromised on something? Certainly so, but one way they talk about is the use of a different motion system. They don’t use linear rails, but instead use a folded metal guide lined with HDPE and PTFE grease. That’s quite simple and likely works, but probably require cleaning and maintenance periodically.
Who is this device for? I suspect the target market is hobbyists who are DIY-capable and seek the features usually found on more expensive devices, yet can’t afford them.
If that’s your scenario, then you might consider backing this campaign.