CEO of AIO Robotics Jens Windau working on the Zeus prototype
AIO Robotics success has been in no small part down to a dedicated team who have worked tirelessly over the past five years to bring the machine to market. An update on their Kickstarter page details how the Zeus has evolved into a sleek user-friendly device that is dominating the headlines.
One of the members of that team is co-founder and CEO Jens Windau, a young man with quite an interesting track record in robotics. From soccer playing robots to robots that can identify the surfaces around them Jens has been creating robotics for all purposes, for some time.
Personalize grabbed an interview with the CEO to see why he’s moved into 3D printing and what we can expect from Zeus and AIO Robotics in the future:
Hi Jens, tell us a little bit about who AIO Robotics are and how it came to be?
We (fellow co-founder and CTO, Chin-Kai Chang) got to know each other in a Robotics lab at the University of Southern California in 2008. We have been using 3D printers over the years and we realised that 3D printing needed a lot of manual tuning and engineering knowledge, so we set out to simplify and automate the process.
On that note, how important was it to create a machine that is not just for the makers of the world but for everyone?
Right now, only a small percentage of people have the technical know-how to operate 3D printers. This is because the setup process for 3D printers is still complicated. We believe that 3D printing should be as easy as 2D printing. As the technology improves, there will be a greater demand for 3D printers worldwide. This is what inspired us to design the ZEUS, we wanted to build the 3D printer of the future.
The sleek design is an important factor in that isn’t it? It’s all very well having a well-functioning machine but if it doesn’t look good people won’t want it.
Absolutely, the exterior design as well as the UI design is what make the ZEUS so unique and easy to use.
When you launched on Kickstarter did you expect to be fully funded in such a short space of time, just one day in fact?
We did not expect it, but we secretly hoped for it. Recent 3D printer projects on Kickstarter quickly raised money, and we thought Kickstarter would be a perfect market entry platform for us. Particularly for hardware projects, the step into the market is difficult because you have high manufacturing cost but no clear idea of the number of units you have to produce. Kickstarter solves this problem.
Quite a lot of 3D printing related Kickstarter have faced substantial delays due to such high demand, how are AIO Robotics prepared for demand?
We are working very close with a global hardware manufacturer that produced over 10 million 2D printers over the last decade. Thus, we are very optimistic that there will not be delays due to high demand.
The difficulty for 3D printing related Kickstarter projects is to set up a realistic manufacturing timeline until the delivery date. We chose nine months until the ZEUS ships, knowing that our supporters have to be very patient during this time. However, we want to be very transparent with our manufacturing process from the beginning on. We did not want communicate false promises and tell our supporters that we would deliver within half a year but then actually delay for a couple of months, as it is common for lots of 3D Printer projects on Kickstarter.
How do you foresee the faxing facility working? The pitch video shows a young man sending a clay model to his father but on a more serious note prototyping companies could actually find this incredibly useful to send models to clients couldn’t they?
Exactly, this will transform the prototyping phase across the board. There will be no need to send prototyped models in the mail; ZEUS will allow businesses (architects, design firms, etc.) to instantly send prototypes to different parts of the world with a touch of a button.
We’ve seen a company called Fabulonia demonstrate software, which streams files directly to printers so as the end user never actually gets hold of the STL file, they say this could stop copyright infringement. Will the faxing feature have a secure feature?
This is technically possible, and we are considering to have the option of a "secure fax".
In terms of business The Zeus really comes into its own if a company has more than one does it not? Are you hoping to get contracts from firms who have offices across the globe.
3D Faxing is only one unique feature of ZEUS. In a lot of industries ZEUS could also help by just duplicating objects (3D copying) instead of 3D faxing. But yes, we are hoping to enter the market with firms that are willing to connect their global offices more efficiently by using the fax feature. We see a day where there will be 3D printing stores in almost every city (sort of like a Kinkos), we believe the ZEUS will be the best overall capable machine to complement that.
Is the software in the QuadCore on-board computer upgradable? Will it be possible in the future to manipulate scale and orientation on the printer itself without having the need for a computer at all?
Yes, all 3D models on the computer can be scaled. Even a limited degree of manipulation is possible via the touchscreen. However, if you would like to do complex changes on a 3D model, you should use your computer. The ZEUS and its 3D scanning data can be accessed via a browser-based interface.
There seems to be a trend to different materials for 3D printing now, Nylon filament is becoming increasingly popular, will AIO Robotics be creating new filament?
We are not working on creating new filament at the moment. However, we will observe the market for filament and offer upgrade solutions to use those, as long as they work with the FFF-printing technology of ZEUS.