There’s a new 3D printer Kickstarter that’s attracting a lot of attention, both good and bad.
The new KOKONI SOTA 3D printer has been launched on Kickstarter. While we generally don’t report Kickstarter 3D printer launches due to the high likelihood of campaign failure, this one could be different.
But there are also many questions raised.
KOKONI is a brand of Hong Kong-based CreaTech, which has previously launched 3D printers on Kickstarter successfully, shipping apparently 20,000 units. It’s possible they may succeed on this campaign, too.
Key Specifications of the KOKONI SOTA 3D Printer
The printer itself is rather different from the run-of-the-mill FFF devices you’ll see for sale everywhere in several ways. Let’s take a look at the device’s key specifications:
- Print speed: up to 600mm/s
- Extreme motion system acceleration: 21,000mm/s/s
- Enclosed build chamber
- Activated carbon filter for exhaust air purification
- Dual extrusion
- Up to seven colors possible with optional 5-spool “Filament Tower”
- Low vibration design
- 0.1mm layer size
- High resolution onboard camera system
- Ultra quiet: 30dB
- Remote control via app
- “Optical Radar” sensor for calibration
- “AI Modeling” app feature to capture 3D scans
- Closed loop motor controls
- Wireless networking
- Cloud printing solution with model library
- Fully assembled
- Free shipping to many countries
- One year warranty
- “Guaranteed Delivery”
The Most Unusual Feature: The Upside-Down Printing
However, by far the most unusual feature is that this FFF 3D printer prints upside down! The extruder points upwards and the print plate is on the top. Evidently their system design leverages this orientation to reduce vibration, which is quite possible.
The Price of the KOKONI SOTA 3D Printer
The price of this high speed, multifilament system is relatively inexpensive:
- Lite version without enclosure: US$450 (early bird price)
- Standard enclosed version: US$600 (early bird)
- Seven-color tower version: US$800 (early bird)
These prices will rise later, as the company lists the MSRPs as US$749, US$999 and US$1299.
Questions Raised About the KOKONI SOTA 3D Printer
But there are some questions raised as I read through their campaign material, which are always important on a Kickstarter campaign.
For example, they talk about “optical radar”. Is this actually LIDAR, but poorly translated? My expectation is that LIDAR will eventually become a standard approach for FFF 3D printers, so it’s good to see it installed on the SOTA.
The speed tests listed include a #3DBenchy printed in about 20 minutes, which is impressive, and several other small items of similar speed.
One benchmark is a two-color pylon, only 33mm tall, which was printed in 11:34. There doesn’t seem to be benchmarks for other multicolor objects, particularly for those involving more than two filaments — which means the Tower system must be engaged somehow.
It is not explained how the multicolor capability is implemented. It appears that there is only a single nozzle, and so one would expect that purging is required each time a color is swapped. But there does not appear to be any purge blocks shown in the campaign videos. How does color switching actually take place, then?
Because the filament tower system is external, it’s very likely that filaments will be pushed and pulled between the devices during a multicolor print. Having some experience with such systems, they are notorious for requiring interventions and incurring failures. Precise levels of calibration are essential to make them work properly. How is this done on the SOTA? It is not explained.
Strangely, they don’t even indicate the build volume of this device, a very key detail that is shown on every machine’s spec sheet.
[UPDATE] The specifications for the KOKONI machines are located here.
Another question is the high speed printing. While it may be possible that the the upside down configuration could be less subject to vibration, it isn’t really shown how this takes place.
The key issue with high speed printing is “ringing” due to vibration. In other high speed systems vibration is reduced by using the input shaping feature of Klipper firmware, which is becoming much more popular among 3D printer manufacturers.
In this case, however, there is no mention of the firmware being used on the SOTA. Is it Klipper, which would provide some confidence that high speed printing would work to satisfaction? Or is it the standard Marlin, which would be less likely to succeed at these print speeds? We just don’t know.
Regarding the videos, they are a bit suspicious because they are either of single-color printing or fanciful advertising pieces where beautiful people gracefully lift a print from the bed and immediately being using it as a rocket or animated toy. This is fantasy, upside down prints will be stuck quite well and will need to be pried off somehow.
Because of these videos and the emphasis on their app ecosystem, it appears that the company is targeting general consumers. This seems odd because there are many highly advanced features in the system, such as high speed printing, LIDAR and more. The general consumer audience would have no understanding or appreciation of those features.
There are many aspects of the campaign that address superficial aspects of the SOTA 3D printer, rather than diving deeper to provide clear evidence of a feature. This is somewhat concerning.
Many Kickstarter campaigns have failed miserably, leaving their backers without equipment nor their money, so any questions that arise have a bit more weight. However, since the company has apparently previously succeeded, that does take a way some amount of risk. On the other hand, the SOTA is quite and advanced machine.
In spite of these questions, the KOKONI SOTA is drawing much attention. It’s very likely they will close in on over a million dollars of pledges before too long, meaning there are many people that are attracted by their campaign presentation.
It’s certainly possible to order one of these 3D printers and get the early bird pricing, but some may wish to wait until there is additional confidence that the features do indeed work as advertised.