Evidence has arisen indicating the upcoming PodoPrinter project may make use of a belt-driven 3D printer.
Astute reader Rob writes:
“LutraCAD, developers of design software for insoles posted a Youtube video, showing integration of Cura into their software, allegedly meant for printing insoles directly from their software on a Blackbelt printer or Podoprinter (Sole?) The video shows the slicing, lengthways layered at an angle, This suggests FDM printing on a belt without support material.”
Hold on, there’s a lot going down here. Let’s list out the pieces of this puzzle.
Blackbelt 3D is a Netherlands-based startup that is developing a powerful belt-driven 3D printer that can print objects continuously by printing at an angle on a moving belt. The company has produced 3D printers and they do work quite well from our in-person examination last year.
PodoPrinter is another Netherlands-based startup that intends on producing 3D printed footwear. It was “announced” with a mysterious and subtle post by colorFabb CEO Ruud Rouleaux in January. Rouleaux’s post showed an image of a 3D printer supposedly to be used by the project. As of this writing, PodoPrinter’s website is still in “Coming Soon” mode.
Helian Polymers’ colorFabb brand is (yet another) Netherlands-based company that has long produced high-quality filament materials for 3D printing, and in particular has often explored radically new approaches to 3D print materials in advance of the competition.
LutraCAD is a software company that produces specialized CAD tools specifically designed for creating insoles and shoe lasts. You guessed it, they are also based in the Netherlands.
One more puzzle piece: Blackbelt 3D got their start in colorFabb, as one of the staff designed and built the first device. To this day, Blackbelt 3D shares a building with colorFabb.
LutraCAD PodoPrinter Video
Now that we know the pieces involved, what happened? Fabbaloo reader Rob found a video posted by Lutra3D earlier this year that is quite interesting:
The video clearly shows, in addition to insole CAD design, 3D print slicing (in Ultimaker Cura) intended for the Blackbelt 3D’s unusual belt-driven printing system.
The implication here is that PodoPrinter is to use a Blackbelt 3D system for footwear production, presumably using LutraCAD as the software tool.
That’s all fine, but what bothers me is that the previous image of the PodoPrinter from Rouleaux doesn’t seem to look like a Blackbelt 3D printer in the slightest.
The Blackbelt 3D system is actually quite large due to the presence of the long belt, and is very different from the upright, desktop design in the January PodoPrinter image. They can’t be the same device. Even if the belt system were somehow “inside” the January image’s system, it would make for a very large machine that probably isn’t sitting on a tabletop.
There are a couple of possibilities here.
- PodoPrinter abandoned an early tabletop design for a 3D printer and switched to the proven Blackbelt 3D device.
- Blackbelt 3D has designed a new form of their belt-driven system that resembles the January image.
Either scenario is quite interesting, as one of the above is almost certainly true, since LutraCAD has gone to the trouble of building belt-driven 3D print slicing specifically for the “Blackbelt 3D / PodoPrinter”, which ever it turns to be.
I’m going to keep watch on this to see whether we’ve got a new Blackbelt 3D device or an expanded Blackbelt 3D customer base.
Will PodoPrinter use a belt-driven 3D printer? The answer is yes, but we don’t know which one.