With easy-to-use devices like the Buccaneer and the Cube hitting the market, we're beginning to see a growing trend of 3D printers aimed squarely at the consumer. Now Zeepro, a design team spread across Switzerland, France, and the US, is adding another desktop printer into the mix that promises to give users an even more elaborate set of tools to work with. The Zim is one of the few pre-assembled 3D printers that offers dual print heads and a greater resolution to create more complex objects, as well as a camera to monitor print jobs through a smartphone.
Zeepro designed its sleek-looking desktop printer to be as user-friendly as possible, so it comes equipped with its own ARM PC board and doesn't require any drivers to be installed on a separate computer. Once it's connected to the internet through a WiFi or Ethernet connection, object files can be sent directly to the printer from any PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone.
The Zim also uses a cartridge system that automatically loads printing material into the nozzles, which makes refilling the printer much easier and safer. The company plans to offer cartridges containing a variety of colored filaments made from ABS, PLA, and PVA plastic, as well as refillable cartridges that will accept most 1.75 mm filaments. With this system, users can monitor exactly how much material is left and receive alerts when they attempt to print a project without the right amount of filament loaded.
According to Zeepro, the entire printer has been designed around a dual-headed setup, though the company does plan to offer a single-headed version for anyone who wants to save some money. Thanks to the separate extruders, though, users can create objects composed of two distinct colors or materials. The developers have also pointed out that one head could be equipped with PVA filament, which is soluble in water, to build a support structure that can be washed away later, allowing for more complicated designs.
Objects can be constructed within a 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 in (15 x 15 x 15 cm) space with printing speeds up to 110 mm/s and a layer resolution as low as 80 microns. The 3D printer is capable of over 20 different printing modes, ranging from automatic to an expert setting where 3D printing veterans can tweak the Zim's performance, including the height of each individual extruder.
One unusual feature on the Zim is a built-in camera that allows users to monitor a print job even when they're away from it. After the printer has been connected to the internet, they'll be able to remotely activate the printer and then check on its progress to ensure it printed correctly.
There's still some extra work needed to begin mass producing the Zim however, which is why Zeepro is now running a Kickstarter campaign to raise US$300,000. Any backers interested in pre-ordering one of the first 3D printers off the line can contribute $599 for a single-headed model and $799 for a dual-headed model, amongst other options. The company expects to begin shipping the printers in April of 2014.
Until then, you can watch the Kickstarter video below to see some footage of the Zim 3D printer in action.
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