It’s time for another Kickstarter campaign for a 3D printer, but hold on a minute, this one is a bit different. This one features a belt system. Printing on a belt is a technology currently sitting at the spearhead of commercial FDM printing, and that’s pretty exciting. That of course means the iFactory One, currently campaigning on Kickstarter, provides you with the possibility of continuous Z-axis printing that’ll theoretically just keep on going and going as long as you’d like it to.
iFactory itself is a new German company of around 16 people led by Artur Steffen and Martin Huber, who hope to get the firm off the ground by attracting enough backers to get its first printer – the straightforwardly named iFactory One – out into the wild.
The One has been in development since 2018. Of course, the continuous, uninterrupted printing that the Z-axis belt allows for is the headline feature, but there’s also an integrated HD camera, coreXY motion system, cloud capability, a Titan-style extruder, resume print functionality, and a 32-bit mainboard on the menu too. Let’s take a closer look.
CONTINUOUS LENGTH PRINTING
With the heated belt inhabiting the Z-axis, there’s really no upper limit to the length of items you can print, providing you have the space, of course. Aside from just printing really long stuff, this printer allows you to print a continual series of stuff, so you can print a small armada of Benchy test prints now instead of just the odd one or two at a time. If they don’t come off the end of the One’s belt naturally, they’ll be separated using an integrated scraper.
This setup is at the leading edge of FDM printing right now, so it’s going to be very interesting to see what is possible with this system. iFactory isn’t the only one playing with it at the moment though, let’s not forget Creality’s 3DPrintMill, also currently on Kickstarter, is almost ready to be released upon the world.
The print belt can reach temperatures of up to 100 C.
CoreXY movement is something that is starting to appear on more and more 3D printers now, and many high-end business printers using the layout. In theory, smoother, more accurate printing is possible with a coreXY, thanks to less vibration and improved head movements. iFactory will have to ensure that its belts are of a sufficient quality and tension to deliver a quality execution of this system though.
Mentioned in one of iFactory’s videos is the ability to send prints to the One from anywhere in the world. According to the founders, you can tell the printer to get to work from one location, and the printer will do its job in another, no matter the distance.
The system uses the Octoprint web app at its core, with an iFactory-skinned version serving as your browser-based portal to tap into and control the One. Presumably it is through this that you will be able to utilize one of the One’s more interesting, and hopefully seldom-needed, features – PrinterGuard.
PRINTERGUARD ERROR DETECTION
There’s currently work being undertaken by iFactory on error detection software that, using a Raspberry Pi camera and running through Octoprint, monitors the progress of printing and can automatically detect errors and take action to counter them. It’s a fascinating idea and could be a really useful string to the iFactory One’s bow, especially with a mind on long term batch production work.
TITAN STYLE EXTRUDER
It’s not explicitly said if it’s a genuine E3D Titan extruder, or another brand using E3D’s open source design. Regardless of origin, the iFactory One will ship a Titan extruder, and that’s certainly no bad thing. This extruder feeds a hot end that can reach a cosy 260 C, while the heated plate under the belt can reach 100 C. You won’t be printing tricky engineering-grade filaments, but then that’s not necessarily the kind of printing you’d want to rattle off in large batches anyway.
INTEGRATED HD CAMERA
Great for keeping an eye on how your prints are going if you’re away from HQ, particularly if you’re doing a big series of prints, which is a real possibility given that’s exactly what this printer is designed for.
t’s kind of difficult to be able to tell you exactly what this printer is going to cost you. Right now it’s still on Kickstarter, which means that it’s still on its way to being a product. As always, we caution that you should think carefully before handing over money to a campaign on the platform – you have less recourse that you would ordering a “final” product, should something go astray.
At the time of writing, there are several tiers to pledge into on the iFactory One Kickstarter page, with the entry level currently set at $749 for a kit you’ll have to assemble yourself. For an extra $149 the One comes 80% assembled.
Release and Availability
As mentioned, it’s a Kickstarter, so no promises. Right now, it’s looking like the company aims to have all backer rewards shipped by March 2021 – providing everything goes to plan. You can pledge $999 to the cause for a “guaranteed Christmas delivery”, with the promise of getting 50% of your money back if it doesn’t arrive in time.
- Mechanical arrangement:Cartesian Core-XY, continuous-Z
- Filament diameter:75 mm
- 3rd party filaments:Yes
- Compatible materials:PLA, PETG, PC, TPU, ASA, Nylon, ABS
3D PRINTING PROPERTIES
- Layer height:1-0.3 m
- Feeder system:Bowden
- Extruder type:Single nozzle
- Nozzle size:4 mm
- build volume:290 x 180 x ∞ mm
- extruder temperature:260 ℃
- heated bed temperature:100 ℃
- print speed:100 mm/s
- Closed print chamber:No
- Bed leveling:Factory leveled
- Print bed:N/A
- UI:5-inch touchscreen
- Connectivity:SD, USB, Wi-Fi
- Built-in camera:Yes
- Resume print:Yes
- Filament sensor:N/A
- Recommended slicer:Cura iFactory3D
- Operating system:Mac OS, Windows, Linux
- File types:N/A
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT
- Frame dimensions:710 x 640 x 540 mm
- Weight:18 kg