In recent years, the advent of 3D printers has made the idea of a Star Trek-style replicator seem not too far-fetched, as scientists experiment with printing tools, buildings and even organs. The idea of being able to print more than just a word document from your printer is intriguing enough. The idea of actually owning a 3D printer, however, seems unlikely for most individuals and schools on tight budgets, with non-commercial 3D printers costing upwards of $2000. Yasick Nemenov ’16, however, is working with a team of Brooklyn-based undergrads on Deltaprintr, a project
that could make a 3D printer an affordable reality for the College. With Deltaprinr’s price tag coming in at just under $500 for an unassembled kit, it is well on its way.
The first prototype of Deltaprintr was born after Shai Schechter, the “tech guru” of the project and a student at SUNY Purchase College, was frustrated that 3D printing at his university was too expensive to be truly integrated into the curriculum. Sure that he wasn’t the only student that saw this as a problem, Schechter applied for a grant to build a printer addressing this issue.
“Once the prototype was built we sort of said, ‘You know, I think that there is a place in the market for something like this and that we can sell it,’” Nemenov said.
Based off of the success of Deltaprinter’s recent Kickstarter campaign, the team was certainly right about there being a demand for an affordable
3D printer. In the first day of the campaign, they raised just under $70,000. By the close of the funding period on Jan. 4, less than 30 days later, Deltaprinter had raised almost a quarter million dollars.
Nemenov, who is an economics and math major at the College, is a self-described “numbers guy.” He has been mostly involved with the business and quantitative aspects of the project and was a driving force behind the immensely successful Kickstarter campaign.
The team chose Kickstarter primarily to avoid risk. Before a Kickstarter campaign is required to fulfill its promise to backers, the campaign has to reach a certain funding goal. “The risk we wanted to avoid was say that there was interest, but not enough: that only 100 people wanted to go and buy these printers,” Nemenov explained. “Buying parts for 100 printers is a lot more expensive per part than buying parts for 500. So we wanted to make sure that if we’re selling these for $500, we sell enough that we can buy parts in bulk.”
Nemenov identifies the main selling point of Deltaprintr as its price. “First and foremost it’s a lot cheaper than comparable products.” Deltaprinr is able to offer a cheaper price thanks to two small, but key characteristics. First, its simple design means it uses fewer parts than its competitors. Second, the team replaced the expensive belts found in most 3D printers with fishing line.
The low price of the Deltaprintr does not mean, however, that it lacks in features or function. The printer uses a “delta” design. This means that the printing arms hang over the print bed, moving up and down three supporting poles. The print head moves only where it needs to go, unlike conventional 3D printers that use Cartesian coordinates, so print time is reduced significantly. In addition, the open design of “delta” printers, compared to the boxed shape of traditional 3D printers, allows them to print larger objects. The clean, modern, and open look of “delta” printers also gives an aesthetic advantage over their boxy competitors. The Deltaprintr specifically has optional LED lights that have no effect on the function of the printer, but according to their Kickstarter page, the team “thinks are pretty cool.”
Each Deltaprinter comes with an automatic calibration probe, saving the user the tedious job of calibrating the printer themselves. According to Nemenov, “[The probe] maps a grid of all the points on the [design] bed, and if one point is lower than all the rest it will account for that. We’re not the first by any means [to use this technology], we didn’t design it specifically, but we’re using it in our printer and it’s pretty cheap to implement.”
While the Deltaprinter can produce objects a foot tall, much larger than those by other printers under $1000, the fishing line also allows the height to be expanded easily and cheaply. All an owner has to do is order taller aluminum poles, which will be available directly from Deltaprintr for around $15. If the base is too small for a user’s specific needs, it is slightly more complicated, yet still relatively easy and inexpensive, to address this issue. Larger print beds and corresponding tops and bottoms, will be available on the Deltaprintr website for a price that is yet to be determined, but will likely be around $25.
By offering a high quality printer at an affordable price, Deltaprintr hopes to appeal to both the consumer market and educational institutions. It is possible to buy a fully assembled Deltprintr for a still low price of $685, but the team sees selling unassembled printers as both a way to offer more savings and an educational opportunity. All Deltaprintr assembly kits will come with manuals that focus on more than just how to assemble the printer, but also on teaching consumers about 3D printers. And if this interests you, or perhaps if you think a desktop 3D printer is just what your dorm room is missing, Deltaprintr is taking preorders on its website.