'Our dream is to see a Robox in every school, office and home worldwide'
29th Nov 2013 | 16:00
3D printer uses 'Plug and Print' technology
Another day, another 3D printer company cracks open the champagne after reaching a dizzying Kickstarter funding goal. This time it's UK-based CEL (based in Portishead), which has seen its Robox 3D printer rack up an impressive £100,000 (around U$163,290 or AU$179,429) to surpass its target in just eight days.
We recently wrote that CEL is aiming for Apple-like simplicity with the Robox, and it seems that the 3D printer's 'Plug and Print' ethos is appealing to a wide range of creative types. Achieving its funding targets means that the company can ship the first Roboxes to backers in March 2014.
We caught up with CEL's founder Chris Elsworthy to discover more about the company and its creation.
TechRadar Pro: Can you give us some background on CEL and why buyers should feel confident backing the Robox?
Chris Elsworthy: CEL is a product development company based in Portishead near Bristol, we also have offices in Hong Kong and China. As a company we are massively passionate about designing and making things and we have already seen a lot of success from our first major product – the POWER8 workshop.
We now have over 15,000 POWER8s in use worldwide, and have a proven history of bringing high-quality, hard-wearing and innovative products to market, with excellent after sales customer service. This tool was featured on Dragon's Den and received a lot of positive feedback and media attention. We hope this will increase buyer's confidence in our brand and make sure they believe we can deliver what we say we will.
TR: Why did you choose Kickstarter to launch the product? And congratulations on reaching your funding target.
CE: Crowd funding seemed like an excellent choice for us as a company, allowing us to get in touch and start dialogue with our future customer base whilst raising money for development at the same time.
As Kickstarter is the largest platform internationally, it seemed like an excellent place to go. By having direct interaction with our beta test group, we can ensure that the product we release to market is fully realised and tested by a range of potential users and early adopters. We're not looking for only experts and geeks – we want everyone to get involved.
Things have gone extremely well for us! We hit our target of £100,000 yesterday with 22 days still to go! Without sounding big-headed, we know our product is good, we've been using 3D printers for years and watching the market closely and there isn't much that comes close on spec and for half of the cost of our closest competitor.
TR: With a 3D printing 'boom' imminent, how does Robox stand out from competing products on a technical level?
CE: First and foremost, Robox is the first 3D printer where the user is able to just "plug and print". Unlike other printers on the market, no prior assembly is required and is it perfect for home use. It's packed full of technical innovations meaning that it holds its own in the commercial environment as well in the home.
Robox has been designed to be the very best 3D printer – simple, accessible and reliable to everyone at home and in any workspace. It has a unique dual nozzle system meaning that it can produce not only higher quality but faster prints.
Robox also has a whole range of features which separate us from our competitors – namely a dual nozzle system, automatic bed leveling, a 'tapless' PEI build surface', automatic material recognition and a quick-change print head.
Print and go
TR: Is the Robox more geared toward consumers or small business owners?
CE: While we hope that Robox is geared towards everyone, we have simplified the process of printing as much as we can, removing the technical barrier for home users.
The AutoMaker software is designed so that it only takes three or four clicks to go from a 3D model to the real thing. This quality and ease of use means that Robox will produce the items that you ask of it without the hassle of advanced programming regardless of whether it's being used at work, at school or in the home.
That said, the printer still includes many advanced features which makes it suitable for more technical commercial use if desired.
TR: What 3D objects is Robox particularly good at making?
CE: Whether users want to create their own designs or follow pre-existing blueprints, there is already a whole range of 3D models available online which are ready for printing straight away, and 3D design is becoming more accessible all the time with services such as TinkerCAD and 123d Design.
In the future, Robox will support a whole range of different heads for performing different functions, allowing it to cut sheet material such as vinyl, paper, leather and card for craft, or printing in clay or silicone for flexible or ceramic parts. One day we dream of the Robox even being able to print using chocolate and other foodstuffs! The HeadLock system means that any new head we develop will be compatible with the existing platform allowing for a whole range of new uses.
TR: Is 3D printing going to be just a fad or will it have a serious impact on consumers and business?
3D printing technology has been around for years but the presence of a whole raft of patents has so far prevented it being used outside of industry.
Recent years have seen 3D print technology evolve dramatically and we created Robox to make this technology accessible to everyone. Our dream is to eventually see a Robox in every school / college, designer / architects' office and in homes worldwide. By making the technology more accessible we hope that this will help the 3D printing industry to continue to grow.
We believe that in order for society to take advantage of this technology, education is one of the most important sectors – we need our kids to understand and be excited by this technology, creating a new generation of practically-minded engineers, designers and scientists. We need to begin designing things which are best made by 3D printing techniques, rather than adapting mass manufactured designs to be produced in this way.