3D printing is booming, with new printers appearing on the market every week.
All well and good, you say, but what can you actually make with your printer at home? At present, you're limited to plastic creations, with limited opportunities to use multiple materials and create complex machines – much less electronics. Until now.
The Microfactory has arrived, and it's arguably the holy grail for “makers”. Because not only is it a 3D printer, it’s a milling machine as well.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, it means for starters that your projects aren’t limited to using plastics, as is the case with regular 3D printers. The Microfactory’s milling element means you can use wood and metal too. And it’s all crammed into a machine small enough to put on your kitchen table.
So it widens your scope for building things?
Precisely. The Microfactory’s designers Mebotics believe that within a few years everyone will want to be building stuff in their garages with machines – and won’t want to be limited to using 3D printer-compatible materials. There are, after all, some things that you can’t make out of plastic. The Microfactory could cut you a new set of door keys, or machine you a swanky new candlestick. You can even etch microchips inside the box – making home-made electronic gadgets a tantalising possibility.
Let’s talk specifics...
The Microfactory comes with a variety of printer and milling heads. The former can be loaded with four different colours of plastic, or two different materials at once.
It has an on-board computer and Internet connection, which allows you to remotely start the making process as well as download designs from the web. You can, of course, load up your own designs.
Doesn’t it get messy?
While 3D printing is a fairly clean process, machining is not, with sawdust and metal bits flying everywhere. Luckily Mebotics has thought this through, and the Microfactory features not only a door to prevent all that stuff getting onto your Axminster, but a port to which you can hook up your vacuum cleaner. So you can suck all that dust away before you even take your new creation out.
Sold! When will it be available?
There’s the rub: the Microfactory is currently essentially still in its prototype phase. The good news is that Mebotics is planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon with the aim of raising enough money to take the project into full production.
While you're waiting for the Microfactory to arrive, you can dip your toe in the waters of 3D printing by entering our competition to win a 3D printer.
[Source: New Scientist]