3D printing has, in many ways, been a smash hit technology. People around the world have used it for everything from prototyping to medical assistance, and there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t see some clever new use for it.
But when it comes to finding 3D printers in our homes, the story is a little different. Last year, market analysts were warning that the technology could take another 5-10 years to make it into homes, and it is rare to find someone that has such a device outside of businesses.
However, that could change, with the launch of a suite of 3D printers from newcomers XYZprinting.
For one thing, they are a lot cheaper than many rivals, starting at only £299/$349, but have also been designed to be very simple and easy to start using, something many cheaper 3D printers have not prioritised.
At the entry-level end of the range is the da Vinci Jr, which is the first 3D printer we’ve encountered that’s as easy to operate as a microwave.
XYZprinting has done away with the need to calibrate the machine, and even the biodegradable PLA filament self-loads once it has been clicked into place. It’s the kind of device you can see families buying to use with their kids, and would probably make an awesome source of rainy day projects.
Other touches, such as the bright design that is reminiscent of the first iMacs and the cover that prevents tiny hands and dust from getting where it shouldn’t also help to make this highly accessible to non-techy users.
Appealing to the regular person is something a lot of 3D printer brands claim to do, but when you get to the detail, the majority don’t actually follow through.
By contrast, XYZprinting has gone to more effort than some might seem reasonable, providing an array of tutorials on everything from how to unbox the printer to how to work it, alongside a hefty library of free 3D models. There’s even an SD card in the box to transfer the files.
Provided it is well marketed, this device will serve as a kind of litmus test for 3D printing. If it fails to sell, then families really aren’t ready for 3D printers. But we will be surprised if that happens.
For those who consider themselves a bit more capable, there are also more complex models, which again have been priced low enough to make other brands a bit concerned.
For £599/$699 you can bag a da Vinci 1.1 Plus, which allows you to browse and print designs directly from the printer, or through a paired app that also lets you check on the progress of your print via a built-in camera, as long as you are on the same network.
The plus also lets you print with PLA, ABS or TPA filament, the latter of which produces flexible objects, making it perfect for jewellery, or – if you fancy – wellies.
The print quality is really very good on both, especially considering the price, which the company says is kept so low because all their r&d and manufacturing is done in-house.
Unlike pretty much every other 3D printing company, XYZ’s parent company has been making regular printers for brands such as HP for years, so they’re not exactly new at this kind of thing.
Finally, the premium model, Nobel 1.1, is the product people looking to do serious printing will want. Unlike a lot of printers it uses a method called stereolithography, which involves forming the print upside down out of liquid resin using a UV laser beam.
This means it can print objects of more-or-less any shape, including with protruding sections at angles the typical layering method cannot achieve. The resulting detail is really impressive, rivalling what you’d get if you paid thousands for a professional print shop’s work.
This model is £1,500 in the UK, but even with the £100/kilo resin added, it works out a lot cheaper than paying someone else to print things for you. Plus when its running the printer itself looks like it’s been borrowed from several decades in the future, which is always a plus in our book.
With all three models launched in the UK later this month, and coming to the US later this year, 2015 really could be the year home printing takes off.