Flux 3D: A cheap, modular 3D scanner, printer and laser engraver

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The Flux, a modular all-in-one 3D printer that goes for under US$700, has just hit Kickstarter

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A Taiwanese team has developed the Flux 3D, a cheap all-in-one 3D printer, scanner and laser engraver that, thanks to its modularity, also leaves room for further expansion. The device also allows users to create, share and download designs directly from their mobile devices and connect to the printer via Bluetooth for more convenient operation.

It wasn't too long ago that buying your own personal 3D printer would set you back a small fortune. These days, though, prices are dropping so quickly that even those of us on a modest budget can afford a good quality all-in-one 3D printer and scanner – something that was unthinkable only a few years back. First came the $2,499 Zeus, then, just a few months ago, the $1,395 Genesis.

The $679 Flux picks up where these two left off, giving you arguably the best bang for your buck yet with a multi-purpose printer, scanner and laser engraver that's not only cheaper than the rest, but which can also be further augmented by adding separate modules as they are developed.

According to the developers, the Flux's printer uses high-resolution stepper motors to achieve a layer height of just 0.05 mm and an XY resolution of 0.02 mm to build objects that are up to 18 cm (7.1 in) tall and 17 cm (6.7 in) in diameter, printing at a maximum speed of 100 mm/s. As the object is being printed, three cooling fans help increase printing precision and reduce the risk of overheating.

To switch from printing to scanning, you simply remove the plastic base and expose the 1.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, which can be used to scan small objects as they sit on a rotating platform. The people behind Flux tell us that the scanner can acquire 3D models for objects up to 8 cm (3.1 in) tall and 14 cm (5.5 in) in diameter.

The optional laser engraver is the first of the several planned interchangeable modules built for the printer. It's a 200-mW laser head that lets you burn patterns on various surfaces, including foods (steak, toast, vegetables), wood, plastic and leather, as well as cutting thin materials like paper and cardboard.

According to the creators, you'll be able to switch modules quickly and without tools, as they're held in place by a system of magnets. That's good news, because there are plans to add more modules in the future. The creators tell us that several types of extruders (specifically a dual extruder, a ceramics and a pastry extruder) are currently in the works.

The Flux will pair with your smartphone or other Bluetooth-enabled device, allowing you to download and share designs from an online store, as well as create simple 3D designs directly from your mobile device. Proprietary software, currently in development, will also allow more advanced CAD designs.

Assuming it reaches its Kickstarter campaign goal of US$100,000, a pledge of $499 will get you an early-bird Flux with the printer and scanner functionality, while with a $679 pledge you can have the laser engraving module as well. The team is aiming to deliver the printers by July 2015.

The team's Kickstarter pitch video can be viewed below.

Source: FLUX

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