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The Robox at CES
The machine won an Editor's Choice award from reviewed.com
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Missing: Black Dynamite Model
This model printed on a CEL Robox machine went missing. It wasn't us!
The journey from TCT Towers to International CES 2014 was quite the schlep; waking up bleary eyed at 4.30am to set off from Chester – three taxis, two flights and a monorail later we arrived at our Las Vegas Convention Center destination to set up. Fortunately, through no doing of our own, we’d picked a flight direct to Vegas from London Gatwick and not got stuck in the Polar Vortex mayhem.
This, unfortunately, was not the case for many of the other 3D Printing TechZone exhibitors who had become trapped by the apocalyptic weather gripping the East Coast of the US. Beijing TierTime, for instance, had half of their machines stuck on the east coast and had to do without on day one, Mcor’s Julie Reece was stuck in Boston missing out on the first day too and our friends from 120 miles down the road in Bristol, CEL Robox, had a connecting flight cancelled having to spend a night in Houston.
The British team and their boss Chris Elsworthy arrived in the nick of time to set up but they were not only greeted by a friendly TCT 3D Printing TechZone sign but the shadows of two 3D Printing monsters, “When we arrived and saw that we were right next to MakerBot and 3D Systems booths I did gulp a little.”
Startups rubbing shoulders with established players is what the 3D Printing TechZone at CES is all about. This is such a burgeoning industry in the consumer sector that nobody is quite sure who their competition is just yet, “Everyone is so friendly,” said the CEO, “we’ve had guys coming up to us from 3D Systems and MakerBot as well as the smaller guys congratulating us on the innovations in our printer.”
Those two giant stands from perhaps consumer 3D printing’s two biggest players might intimidate most but Chris Elsworthy embodies the British spirit of the underdog and simply saw this as a challenge. They came out fighting with their well-built machine, excellent looking parts and a knowledgeable team.
Though their seven-strong team may be small in comparison to their venerable neighbours, the British connection leverages them some pretty lofty coverage. As I was talking to Chris he asked (politely of course, he is British) if he could be excused to take a call. Happening to glance at Chris’ smartwatch, he is at CES after all, I couldn’t help but notice the call he was taking was from the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones: “Rory has been great, we told him about our horrendous journey and the crappy motel we were staying in and that was it, he wanted to come and see us there for his story.” Chris was then interviewed on the BBC with our logo perched nicely in the background.
But being British doesn’t get you anywhere with the folk of CES, they’re here to see your product. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, which the ambitious Elsworthy was a little disappointed in, CEL Technology were able to show off their printer with features such as 20 micron layer resolution, automatic bed-levelling, automatic material recognition and incredible speed.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think we had the best machine,” Chris explained, “We’ve used 3D printers before and we knew the pitfalls and limits of other machines. We set out, as experienced industrial designers, to pack this machine full of innovation and make an incredibly easy-to-use, complete consumer product.”
Clearly this isn’t just an inventor blowing his own trumpet as reviewed.com – the official editor’s choice award for CES 2014 – handed the Robox an Editor’s Choice Award stating, “Start-up CEL outshines the established brands through innovation and open thinking.”
That ‘open thinking’ oozes through everything Chris does, while their two neighbours, MakerBot and 3D Systems released their fifth and third generation desktop 3D printers respectively in as many years, Chris wants the Robox to be future-proof: “I don’t want these initial backers to be punished further down the road when we come up with more innovations. The head is completely removable and although we’re just concentrating on 3D printing at the moment let me tell you, this machine is capable of doing all sorts, from laser cutting to CNC milling.”
He’s even taken into account the feedback from those open-source fans on Kickstarter, “When we launched the product on Kickstarter there were grumbles from a few that we were tying them in to using our filament by including a smart chip on the spool, so even though we source our filament and it is priced really competitively we are allowing users to reprogram the chip and use their own filament.”
It wasn’t just us and reviewed.com that were clearly impressed by the printer and the parts on display at the Robox stand as the Black Dynamite model that adorns the picture above went walkies on the final day of the show with Chris informing us on twitter: “There was a guy who claimed to know Michael Jai White (the actor who plays Black Dynamite), and had his number in his phone, maybe he took him to present it to Michael?”
This British sense of humour , Chris's flexibility and ingenuity makes the Robox an extremely likeable machine, one we think will be around for a long time.
The Robox is on schedule to fulfil their Kickstarter orders in the first three months of this year, the machine will then be available to buy in March. We look forward to getting our hands on one.