No Coding Skills Needed: Zortrax 3D Printer Out of the Box
Before and after smoothing Zortrax 3D-printed objects with acetone vapor.
Unlucky number 13? Not anymore. Zortrax is poised to become the 13th successful 3D-printer project on Kickstarter. With 10 days left in its monthlong campaign, an engineering team from Poland has received well over its $100,000 funding goal. The first printers are scheduled to ship this August.
At $1,900, Zortrax’s price tag is on the high end of 3D printers designed for hobbyists, but its sturdy design, included software and out-of-the-box readiness mean users don't have to be computer programmers to become 3D-printing enthusiasts.
"When you order a garage-made 3D printer, you usually receive a box of plastic parts with vague instructions made of Google links," Pawel Bienk, one of Zortrax's team of four, said in his Kickstarter description. "You spend loads of cash on spare parts and then spend weeks or months trying to make the printer work."
The Zortrax 3D printer uses a heated print bed, which is a requirement for ABS, but because it's preassembled, users don't have to fiddle with making the bed level — which had been a common complaint with DIY 3D printers .The Zortrax team has spent the last two years designing and testing both the printer and its software. The printer has an aluminum frame that takes up about 14 x 14 inches on a desk. The 3D printer uses ABS plastic filament, as opposed to PLA. (Both have pros and cons: PLA is more eco-friendly, but ABS tends to stand up better to heat, which means your kids won't end up with misshapen toys if they're left in a hot car.)
But it's the software that sets Zortrax apart from other popular 3D printers in its price range, such as the Replicator 2. ZSuite was built from scratch for the Zortrax printer. It includes design tools; the slicing engine (slicing refers to the process of translating a design into the thin layers of plastic that make up a 3D printed object); additional supports for fragile pieces that are later removed; and quality and speed selections (Zortrax can print up to 100 millimeters per second).
The software comes on an SD card, which also contains several ready-to-print design files. It's compatible with Windows PC systems from XP to 8, and can be used with any open-source 3D printing project files. (Bienk recommended Blender, Google SketchUp and 123D.)
The team has pledged to provide regular software updates. "Also, if something does go wrong, you won’t get stuck with half a ton of coding books and the possibility of a very long weekend," they said.
Zortrax's Kickstarter campaign ends June 21. The first units will ship in August, but only to those backers who paid the extra $1,000 for the privilege. Others will receive their 3D printers in September and October. If you didn't get in on Kickstarter, you can snag a Zortrax 3D printer when the company launches an online store this fall.