Tiko 3D printer.
You’ve heard the one about every room in your home in the next ten years having a 3D printer, right? Well, though that may not be necessary, accessible 3D printing is becoming a real thing. Machine prices are lowering, 3D creation platforms are on our mobile phones and what’s more 3D printers are starting to look like something we might actually want on our kitchen counter.
However, despite the fanfare, 3D printing is not for everyone, and one company that recognises that is Tiko 3D, developers of a brand new, low cost desktop machine that with less than 10 days to go, has already raced past its humble Kickstarter goal with over $2 million pledged on top of its target.
TCT spoke to Tiko 3D founder Matt Gajkowski to find out why he wants to shift the focus back to providing people with the tools to create amazing things and why great technology comes with great responsibility.
“We saw a number of other affordable 3D printers come out and target themselves at consumers and try to convince the whole world that everyone needed a 3D printer right now,” Matt explained. “We have a great machine for the right audience. When you look at our campaign it’s very much geared towards creators and inventors, people who can really maximise the potential of 3D printing technology.”
Tiko is a unibody delta 3D printer, created to enable simple, accessible and dependable 3D printing and available for the attractively low price of $179. Readers used to seeing the waves of low-cost desktop printers offering the world for under $300, come and go on crowdfunding sites, will likely be quick to question how Tiko is any different. Refreshingly, the response is honest and the result is a smart, unique machine.
“Its really just a hot glue gun moving around some rails, it’s not that complicated a machine,” Matt explained. “If you’re going to try to make it a consumer product you have to design it like one. We’ve seen a number of other 3D printers, even the consumer ones which are still very complicated machines so really the price was the goal but the way we went about it was by reducing the complexity.”
Tiko is a delta 3D printer, ideal for unibody design.
The unibody structure is the first fundamental part that allows Tiko to achieve this. By designing the frame as one single piece, it is easy to manufacture and tackles any alignment issues, already stamping out two key issues. In fact Tiko has almost no parts in common with any other 3D printer, which means that all components have been designed specifically for the machine with inexpensive manufacture in mind.
“It’s an old Albert Einstein quote, ‘we cant solve problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’,” Matt commented. “We weren’t afraid to try new things and part of it was because we already had our own 3D printer so instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront prototyping our ideas we could just try them. By creating all these amazing new ideas we were able to explore the things that no one had tried before.
“Once we had this unibody everything sort of fell into place. There’s no other consumer product-like delta printer out there which is a shame because it's a great platform and then of course there’s the passive cool hot end that really minimises the amount of complexity, it improves performances and makes Tiko more size efficient. Then from there there’s just countless little innovations, some are on the inside and they’re a little bit secret and some are on the outside like the flexible print bed.”
Though it’s a low cost machine, Matt insists this by no means signals low quality and believes high tech and high quality do not need to be mutually exclusive from affordable. The printer is capable of printing as fine as 50 microns using non-proprietary 1.75mm filament which means it is the ideal platform for first time makers or engineers eager to experiment with those all-important first iterations.
Tiko's flexible print bed.
That’s where Tiko 3D is at, providing a platform for future engineers and inventors to power the creation of some amazing things. Yes the machine is low-cost but they’re not asking the whole world to jump on board and buy one so they can start printing phone cases, they’re trying to make it accessible for people who are already interested in the technology. TCT recently included Tiko in a list of 3D printers that cost the same or less than the price of an Xbox One. Whilst, this could encourage some people to ask for a 3D printer instead of a game’s console next Christmas, Matt thinks there’s a much more practical market for the machine in engineering and design education sectors where $179 might be the cost of a single textbook.
“What if first year of an engineering or design course, instead of giving a student a textbook we gave them a printer,” Matt suggested. “There’s been so many incredible ideas out there and I can only imagine some of them never made it to market because someone couldn’t afford the prototyping or because a student had a cool idea but they ended up being stuck with coursework and let it go. I can only imagine how many technologies will come from people owning this.
“Who knows we could send some 3D printers to a school today and 5 years from now those students might be prototyping ideas for a manned mission to mars.”
With just under 13,000 backers pledging to support Tiko, it’s clear there is a lot of interest in this smart, affordable machine, much of which has apparently come from parents who want to introduce their children to the technology. Matt says though he knew people were waiting for this technology, he continues to be inspired by the volume of backers and the community that have really got behind Tiko. The project is set to be funded on April 30th with shipping set to begin in November but right now Matt says the team have a huge responsibility to get the machine right and then make sure its gets into the right hands.
“We feel a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders. There have been many technologies that have been unfortunately sabotaged by accident because they came out before they were ready,” Matt explained, referring to a few before-their-time technologies like virtual reality and even Concorde. “Having created this affordable machine that we can now give to people we have to be very careful that we don’t try and enforce on everybody because its not 100% ready. A printer is great but FDM technology has its limitations and so we really have to be responsible with who we encourage to buy 3D printers now. There’s still a long future ahead of us where the technology really will belong in everyone’s home. It’s just a matter of time.”