3D Printer World drops by the Monstr Garage for an up-close and personal visit with the 3DMonstr, and the family that created It.
The 3DMonstr large format 3D printer is the brainchild of Ben Reytblat, a software professional, amateur rocket scientist, and passionate Maker whose hobbies have gotten seriously out-of-hand. It's also one of the best examples of a new breed of machines emerging to fill the gap between the capabilities of consumer/hobbyistproducts and the full-fledged professional products.
As the kickoff for the 3DMonstr's official product launch and its associated Kickstarter funding campaign drew near, Ben invited 3D Printer World to visit him at his modest ranch-style family residence in the wilds of Suburban New Jersey which also serves as 3DMonstr's office/lab space. I knew it would be an interesting visit when I learned that most of the parts for the 3DMonstr prototypes come from the well-equipped machine shop that Ben somehow managed to shoehorn into the enclosed carport (aka the "Monstr Garage") where most sane suburbanites would park their minivans.
Even though 3DMonstr was originally Ben's obsession, it's become a mostly-family affair as his wife, Susan Mintzer put her background in marketing and corporate communications to work as the company's business and marketing manager. Even their kids Abby (9) and Danny (8), are enthusiastic members of Team Monstr, who enjoy helping assemble or rip down prototype units and do their share of booth duty at various Maker events. The team's littlest Monstrs even made brief cameo appearances in the video their parents created for the Kickstarter campaign. Team Monstr also includes Ed and Vlad Nesterov, a father and son team of mechanical engineers and roboticists from Toronto who handle the primary design and prototype work for the extruders.
Naturally I had lots of questions for Ben and Susan.
3DPW: Most of the hobbyist products I've seen lately are pretty well-built, but yours are more robust than usual and pretty industrial-looking. Is that the reason you refer to them as "prosumer" products? And besides their rugged looks, are there any specific features or capabilities which you'd consider defining elements for this class of printers?
Ben Reytblat: There are a number of reasons why we designed our printers to be as strong and rigid as they are. The first one is that we expect them to be in service for a long time - years, not months. And that's in challenging working environments, such as industrial manufacturing plants or garage workshops. The unit's overall rigidity, when combined with very precise motion control hardware (i.e. ball screws on all the axes) allows us to achieve the initial precision and repeatability needed to produce precise, predictable, high resolution prints across the 3DMonstr's full print size range. We've already demonstrated repeatable print resolutions as low as 40 microns and it looks likely we will be able do better than that.
Once the machines are in production, we will shift our focus to designing and building a large range of extruders, some of which will work with very high temperature materials. As for the size, it was initially driven by our own requirements of the rocket engine project we were working on. As we worked on the prototype, we discovered that we were not the only ones who needed a larger machine.
3DPW: That's very impressive, but who'd need such a large working volume and what types of applications are they intended for which so-called consumer printers would have a hard time doing?
Ben Reytblat: Well, anyone building life-sized objects might. For example, I know I'd rather build a trebouchet with a 2 foot arm, and can throw the payload 50 feet, than one that has a 6" arm, and can throw a much smaller payload 10 feet. Seriously though, several of our potential customers complained that, just as with other types of machines (mills, lathes, etc.), you can build a small part on a large machine, but you can't build a large part on the small machine. It's also easy to see that our large capacity will be of interest to people involved with theater, film, cosplay, craft, and education.
With the follow-on extruders we're planning for next year, we'll expand the application to include mold making and direct printing of large ceramic objects which will make it a great tool for anyone who makes mechanical and automotive prototypes.