The world of the microfactory is fast approaching, you might even say, it’s already here. I’ve been promoting the idea of creating, building and just making things yourself for well over a decade, but in the last couple of years, the pace of innovation has accelerated, making tools available that a short time ago were simply out of the range of small businesses and hobbyists, if they were available at all. The NexD1, is one of those tools. It’s a 3D printer that can use six different materials at the same time while creating your prototype and it can even create a fully functional printed circuit board with very low resistance circuit traces and it will print everything with an accuracy of 10 microns, all at a price the hobbyist can afford.
Up until this time, creating a printed circuit board was a project all on its own, you made your project and then figured out how to incorporate the electronics into it, designing the PCB, manufacturing it and afterwards, if it didn’t fit or you needed to change the circuit, you had to go through the somewhat lengthy process of redesigning and then producing another. With the NexD1, you modify the design and print a new one with the same machine you used to make the rest of the project.
Yes, even motorcycle builders should pay attention
Suppose you’re building a new electric motorcycle and you’re busy trying to package the electronics into a very tight space. With the NexD1, you design the printed circuit board to fit and push print. Need an enclosure to protect the circuit from the elements, you can design exactly what you need and print that, too. Builders of many kinds of projects might build what they do best and then cobble together the rest, sometimes ugly, but hopefully hidden away from view, often, those are the things they don’t have the tools to make properly, but now you can produce everything you need with a professional look right in your own shop, your own microfactory.
Things like this make it possible to produce a professional quality product for very small production runs. Maybe you’ve designed a new electronic device for an older bike, perhaps bringing current technology of some sort to a ten or twenty year old classic. Now you design the circuit and print it on demand as new customers order one. Your inventory never runs out, then you can come up with another design, maybe the same device with a unique configuration to fit perfectly in a different bike. Once the design is done and tested, you do another. A huge catalog of custom circuits boards and no inventory on the shelf. Cool. Once you begin to think about what this can do, the ideas start to pop up.
Press release follows:
(Berlin, December 13, 2016) – Today Next Dynamics launched a Kickstarter campaign for a multi-material and electronics 3D printer called The NexD1. The device is capable of printing fully functional circuits, opening the door for high end electronics prototyping. The NexD1 is fast, precise, and fits on any desktop. It is available starting at $2,499.
The NexD1 uses a technology called DigiJet, which is similar to industrial PolyJet technology. DigiJet prints a wide range of materials at a precision of 10 microns, including special resins with nanoparticles and pigments. It prints fully functional low resistance circuits, by galvanizing a nanoparticle infused resin. The nozzle and pre-heating system ensure a super precise flow and accurate deposition of the material that gets cured by a high powered, wide UV laser after each layer. This results in highly conductive layers with a constant and low internal resistance.
“Unlike other 3D printer manufacturers that buy their printhead technology from big companies like Ricoh and Xerox, we have developed our own proprietary printhead,” said Co-Founder Ludwig Faerber. “This allows us to drastically reduce production costs, increase the capabilities of our printer and offer unrivaled value to backers.”
The NexD1 can print six materials at once and combine them for limitless characteristics. The cartridges can be hot swapped and materials can be changed on the go. This includes a large array of photopolymers and third party materials with characteristics ranging from conductivity, transparency, flexibility, high strength, high temperature resistance, color and support materials.
- Electronics – Print 3D, low resistance circuits
- Wi-Fi – Connect with any smartphone, print from anywhere
- Touch Screen – Easy and intuitive access
- Ultra-High Resolution – 10 micron precision in xyz
- Multi-Material – Print and combine 6 materials at once
- Build Volume – 20x20x20 cm build volume
- On board slicer – Slice and print with the touch of your finger
- Size – A compact 42x42x42 cm will fit your desktop
- Smart Refill – Smart and easy swapping of cartridges
- Support Material – Eco friendly, non-toxic water soluble support material
- Silent – Silent operation for a noise-free environment
- Eco – Cheap, non-toxic additive manufacturing
“We like to think of the NexD1 as a “start-up starter”. You can create and iterate almost anything. We hope that our tech will become a launching point for new businesses to explore the potential of 3D manufacturing,” said Faerber.
3D printing has come a long way since it first appeared, printing little plastic figures of low quality and low resolution. Major manufacturers have advanced the technology to the point where production ready parts are being printed, GE, especially, is pushing the process by 3D printing a lot of jet engine parts as well as complex parts for medical diagnostic equipment.
The beauty of printers like the NexD1 is that the small shop and hobbyist can now begin producing much higher quality parts using a wide variety of materials and even printing electronic circuits, which is pretty darn cool. You can build a rapid prototype of your creation with a variety of materials that can be flexible, transparent, high strength, high temperature resistant or in a wide range of colors then rapidly iterate until you get it just right. These new tools didn’t exist in your father’s workshop or anyone else’s for that matter, but it might be time to begin thinking about putting a few of them in yours.
NexD1 Kickstarter page I think the early bird pricing will sell out fast, so if this is something you might have a use for, don’t wait too long.