A new 3D printing Kickstarter is going to change the world, maybe

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Ever since I learned that at-home 3D printing was a thing, I have been fascinated by it. I started my 3D printing journey and quickly realized I could make a little money by making small keychains that people could buy on Etsy. My demand quickly surpassed my ability to supply, so I invested in 2 more printers, and they cemented my love for the hobby. There are limits to how much you can print on a single printer — or even several printers — though you have to have a lot of space and money to invest in a print farm. Something is coming from Creality 3D that may change that dynamic for the better.

The Creality CR30, better known as Naomi Wu’s 3D PrintMill — named after the famous Chinese maker and YouTube star Naomi Wu — is the next logical step into the future for at-home 3D printing and offers you the chance to create your very own factory in your home. The Kickstarter is live right now, and you can get the PrintMill for a staggeringly low price.

While the basic premise of the Printmill is the same as just about any Core-XY 3D printer — the nozzle moves on the X and Y-axis while the bed moves on the Z-axis — there are a few key differences. The nozzle is angled at 45 degrees, and the print bed is a conveyor that constantly moves away from the nozzle. It’s that conveyor belt, though, that really intrigues me.

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With a conveyor belt system, you essentially create an “infinite Z-axis.” That allows you to print insanely long models, as long as you have the space to print it. Right now, the 3D printing world is obsessed with printing full-length cosplay swords on the PrintMill, and one maker has even printed a 20-foot rail, just to see if the PrintMill could handle it, which it could! While printing very long things could potentially be helpful in specific scenarios, it’s the mass production doors that the 3D PrintMill opens up that really excite me.

I first saw a belt system on a 3D printer when Karl Brown showcased his White Knight on YouTube and found the concept fascinating. Karl had designed his machine from the ground up in Microsoft’s 3D Builder and had produced a machine that pushed the boundaries of what I thought possible. It turns out Karl wasn’t the first. As far back as 2008, people have been trying to make them, with varying designs, but when a large company bought up certain patents, a lot of the innovation was stifled. Creality is taking a big risk creating this product — Intellectual property rights are no joke — but they are willing to try to get it out into the world. Naomi has especially pushed for this and is one of the reasons the project is being Kickstarted — without the promise of a lump sum upfront, I’m not sure any company would take the risk — so we will have to watch how that unfolds.

Why is it a game-changer?

Having an infinite Z-axis could change the way you mass-produce at home. To give you an example scenario, imagine someone who makes a 3D printed product with six separate parts. The current process would be to have a print farm of multiple printers dedicated to printing one of the parts each. Each time the print finishes, you would need a body to remove the print from the print bed and set the printer up again for the next round of printing.

With a PrintMill, you could, software permitting, print three different parts, one after the other, on separate parts of the belt. As they print, they would slowly move to the end of the belt and fall into buckets at the end. With this method, you could print six parts on two PrintMills and have them continuously printing as long as there was filament in the hopper. You would only need one person to start the machine and replace the filament. It is possible to buy 10kg rolls of filament which would reduce the number of times it would need replacing. For a small business or a single person trying to start a business, this would make their overheads considerably less.

This is not to say the 3DPrintMill is for every 3D printing enthusiast; it isn’t. Unless you are looking to mass-produce, or you want to print swords and staffs, you will be better served by printers like the Creality Ender 3 or the Prusa Mk3s that can offer fantastic print quality at a much smaller footprint. But if you want to push the boundaries of what mini-mass-production can mean from home, then I would urge you to join up for the Kickstarter while you can. It will feel like you are living in the future.

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