3D printing might be awesome, but so far it's mostly been the realm of design geeks and passionate tinkerers. The Zeus from AIO Robotics seeks to merge 3D scanning and printing with the push-button simplicity of today's consumer all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machines. In the process, the company also created the closest thing we've seen so far to the Star Trek replicator, with the added bonus of what you might call "ToIP" – Teleportation over Internet Protocol.
Yet another 3D printer that began as a Kickstarter project, what sets the Zeus apart is the fact that it is a standalone piece of hardware that does not need to be connected to a computer to function – most 3D printers print from a CAD file on a computer. Instead, Zeus runs off an onboard Exynos-based quad-core 1.7 Ghz system operated via a 7-inch touchscreen.
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Using this simplified interface, any object less than 9 inches in diameter and 5 inches tall (228 x 127 mm) can be placed on the machine's turntable, where it will be scanned using what AIO calls "swiping laser triangulation" technology. The resulting data gets stored either in 8GB of on-board storage or onto a MicroSD card.
It's what happens next that begins to move us into the realm of very low-level Trekkie tech. The Zeus can either print the scanned object on that same turntable using extruded PLA, or it can be "faxed" via an internet connection to be printed elsewhere on the planet. Combine both abilities and you have a replicator with teleportation (over IP) capabilities, like something out of the 24th century.
OK, so it's a very slow replicator. AIO cautions that the scanning process can take up to 30 minutes and it might not perform so well with dark, reflective or fuzzy surfaces.
I got a first-hand demonstration of the Zeus at last month's Bay Area Maker Faire, which you can see in the photos. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it does appear to operate with as little effort as advertised and is in fact even simpler than many of today's 2D copiers.
The quality of the print was also competitive with many other 3D print-only machines in the same price bracket as the Zeus, which is now available for order for US$2,499. That's a huge breakthrough when you consider that similar, industrial-scale 3D copiers from the likes of 3D Systems could cost 10 times as much.
AIO is only shipping Zeus to the United States in the beginning – sorry international 3D printing fans. But if you've got an American relative that's interested in the technology but lacks design skills, this could be the product to bring 3D printing and scanning to a broader audience. It features easily replaceable extruder cartridges not unlike the inkjet cartridges we all know. For an extra $350, you can add the "AIO Care Package" with a year of free repair service, shipping and replacement parts.
Get a full walk-through in the video below.
Source: AIO Robotics