Today Toronto-based Panda Robotics officially launched its Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 for the PandaBot, a 3D printer designed to be affordable and user-friendly enough that anyone could use in their home. While 3D printer companies like Makerbot already offer desktop models for $1700, the PandaBot will retail for $800. If the funding goal is met, the funding will go to manufacturing and helping the company go through regulatory approval processes and certifications.
The product was created with everyday users in mind and is built to sit on a desk just as a 2D printer would, and is designed to help students, creatives, researchers and others to adopt 3D printing technology. Co-founded by Felix Tang and Kelly John Rose, who met in Toronto’s HackLabs, the PandaBot was a result of their frustration at how existing 3D printers had yet to be made with less technically inclined consumers in mind, and often required an advanced engineering or mathematics degree to operate.
“They wanted to redesign, re-architect, and conceive it initially from the ground up as a consumer electronic product. Thereby, completely changing the design and engineering choices, it’s conceived completely as a product that enables people to have a tool to print objects rather than be a robotics hobby for engineers,” PandaRobotics’ product development lead Graeme Hein said in an interview.
The PandaBot is two pieces out of the box, which consumers snap together to get it up and running. It requires no upfront setup or tuning, and is self-calibrating, meaning it’s ready to print as soon as it’s assembled. From a software perspective, consumers will have the ability to control production speed and the quality of the end object just like they would with regular 2D printing. As well, they will be able to dive deeper with an advanced tab that will let them experiment with GCodes, which is the common format used to describe the input designs.
“There is a real need for software and tools that are approachable, and we are more about making this a tool for artists, designers, crafters, and creative people who wants to print objects. People who instead of buying jewelry on Etsy or Fab, will want to just download the design and print them at home,” Hein added.
3D printing is a trend that is edging closer and closer the tipping point where both hardware and software would become simple enough for everyday users to take advantage of. From brands engaging in rapid prototyping of potential products to a local hardware store printing out nuts and bolts to fix up an older washing machine on demand, the possibilities for disrupting how manufacturers create and how consumers shop are endless. The PandaBot isn’t the first 3D printer to make its debut on Kickstarter, Cambridge, MA company Formlabs’ Form 1 set a $100,000 goal and managed to reach well over $1 million in pledges for its 3D printer targeting professional creators. Others include EventorBot!, an open source 3D printer.
With a vision of seeing a 3D printer on virtually every desk, Panda Robotics is one of many companies looking to change how objects are conceptualized, manufactured, and consumed. In addition to adding their voice to the marketing process, as social media has enabled, consumers will now be able to play the role of designer and manufacturer. With companies like Makies that enable 3D toy printing to an existing community of 3D product enthusiasts at Shapeways, it appears to be only a matter of time before 3D printing will see wide-spread scale and adoption.