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The Cube arrives!
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Our Cube prints on the TCT + Personalize's Euromold stand
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First layer goes down
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Our first finished part!
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Installing the Cubify platform — easy as drag and drop on the Mac
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Midway through build No. 1
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Ready to Roll...
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Building a plant pot to house my herbs
When 3D Systems first announced the Cube 3D Printer and the Cubify 3D printing content-to-print platform, we were initially surprised. On TCT we have been used to following the ebb and flow of 3D printing’s largest company from a firmly industrial perspective for 20 years — that is to say people using their machines in the course of their business. We had seen the growth of 3D printing in the maker market too, and had watched with interest at the rapidly growing ecosystem of lower priced printing systems aimed at ‘makers’.
When the Cube arrived however, it was clear that this was not aimed at either group, but at the consumer directly. Making the distinction between what is a professional system, a non-professional system, a maker machine, a production machine, a prototyping machine… well, it’s all a little nebulous (which is good, as that is one of my favourite words). It’s hard to pigeonhole a particular 3D printer as in different hands it becomes something different — like a PC can be a spreadsheet munching business machine one minute, and a high-end gaming platform the next. So is a PC a business machine, a recreation tool, or both? Admittedly you can categorise on price and spec: want to crunch a few numbers and a cheap-as-chips low end PC will do you; want to hook up your gaming chair, headset and webcam and immerse yourself in another world and you’ll need to part with some more cash.
After the first day with the Cube — in fact after the first 30 mins — it’s obvious that 3D Systems have strived to make this printer easy to use. Incredibly easy in fact. Insanely easy, others might quip. With just a cursory look at the setup documents the Cube is out of the box and printing within minutes. Everything is designed to be intuitive — from the removable build plate to installing a new cartridge of plastic. This is a device that needs no prior knowledge to use. If you had never heard of 3D printing before you’d not be at a disadvantage. The printer even comes with a USB stick containing some files from Cubify allowing you to print them directly without even needing to fire up your PC (or Mac as the Cubify platform now runs on your Apple.)
Combine these facets and you have a 3D printer that opens doors to the world of 3D. It’s never going to compete with more expensive systems in terms of versatility, print quality or hackability. Likewise, cheaper systems don’t have the immediacy, the lack of barriers or the… fun, of the Cube. As an enabling device however the Cube stands out from the crowd and is helping to grow 3D printing from the bottom up… I wonder how many Cubes will appear under the tree this Christmas?