1 of 3
2 of 3
3 of 3
A mask printed on the K8200
The news that Maplin were to become the first high-street chain to sell 3D printers has garnered plenty of column inches over the past few weeks. The printer, a K8200, is also a first for the Belgian electronics developer of 36 years, Velleman and it costs just £700 ($1040,€814).
Monday saw the product's official launch at Maplin’s Monument store, Personalize were invited along for a demo and a chat with some of Maplin and Velleman’s men in charge of this leap into 3D printing. The printer is exclusive to Maplin on the UK high street but has been available previously in another guise the '3Drag.'
Maplin Commercial Director, Oliver Meakin informed us that they chose Velleman due to a long-standing partnership with the firm: “We’ve an on-going relationship with Velleman, we buy a lot of our products (electronics) off them and they approached us with this printer. I think it is a fantastic bit of kit, even though the price is lower than most printers, you’re not compromising in quality.”
As for the printer itself, it may just look like a RepRap kit and the fact that you have to assemble it yourself may allude toward that but this is a machine is made of sturdy stuff. It is designed in Belgium using European parts, something which Velleman’s Pieter Nartlis is very proud of: “…the quality of our machine is completely different (to RepRap kits). You will find some companies make a machine with a machine, the quality can be variable but this is produced in Belgium with a European design and European parts.
“The first test we did with this machine was at a show in Hong Kong, there were three 3D printer manufacturers there including us. Not only was our machine the cheapest but we had the best specs too, people were most impressed with our £700 machine next to a £1,500 one and a £40,000 one.”
Those specs are nothing ground breaking but the build area of 20cm x 20cm x 20cm is quite impressive, as is its maximum print speed of 300mm/s and a 0.781µm Z-axis. It prints in both PLA and ABS, we saw it demonstrated with PLA. For the price, this is a handsome bit of kit though there is some assembly required…
“The printer comes as a kit, it takes anywhere between four to ten hours to assemble depending on your skill level.” Said Mr. Meakin “The assembly process fits with Maplin’s ethos, our customers build their own computers, it’s about doing stuff for yourself, electronic DIY. It’s half the price of anything similar and we believe the quality is even better than those machines at twice the price.”
While we were chatting the machine was whirring away in the background, diligently going about its job as it had been all day, printing a particular model in just 32 minutes, working every single time. It has to be said the quality of the PLA model we were given for 32 minutes was exceptional. Though, as we all know, nothing in 3D printing is plain sailing and Maplin are prepared for that: “We have a contact centre with a technical help desk, Velleman have got step-by-step guides for set-up and troubleshooting sections.” Product Manager Alphonse Madamombe interjected “One of the things that will also be huge for us is putting a community together so people can share their ideas and give each other hints and tips.”
The interest in the product is certainly there, Maplin had over 25,000 hits on the 3D printing page as soon as they announced it, Mr. Meakin told us that 25% of their first order with Velleman is taken up by pre-orders for the machine: “The only place you can get this machine on the high street is here at Maplin, they’re available to order now, we’re expecting our first batch anytime, we’ve already got a lot of pre-orders to fulfil but once those are despatched, we are going to have five demonstration units in Central London, and customers will be able to order in-store. We’ll also be stocking the filament at £30 a kilo in a variety of colours”
Desktop 3D printing may have plenty of detractors but the arrival of this printer on the high-street and the interest it has already reaped shows a real demand from the public. Maplin are first who will be next?