A mere 24 hours into its Kickstarter campaign, the ZEUS all-in-one 3D copy machine had raised $90,000 of its $100,000 goal. A product of Los Angeles-based tech startup AIO Robotics, the ZEUS can scan, print, copy and fax, all in 3D. The company's stated mission is to make 3D copying as easy as 2D copying.
When initially announced in the RepRap forums, it was met with a combination of interest and skepticism. It seems the community is leery of printers being CGI-marketed before they exist and some thought the ZEUS might be another example. Within days, AIO Robotics posted a slick teaser video demonstrating the device and silencing the doubters.
The ZEUS comes with a 7-inch touchscreen that looks familiar to anyone who has ever used a 2D all-in-one fax/copier/scanner/printer. The similarity in presentation is undoubtedly intentional and provides an easy one-touch operating vibe. The spiffy UI is driven by an onboard computer, allowing the printer to work without being connected to a desktop machine. The 1.7 GHz ARM processor handles the scanning, slicing and printing duties, although there is optional cloud availability for potentially increased performance while crunching scanned data.
The printer has a minimum layer height of 100 microns. Its scanning/build envelope is 26 x 18 x 15 cm (10.2" x 7" x 5.9"). The typical gantry for personal FFF 3D printers incorporates 8 mm rods, while the ZEUS uses a beefier 12 mm rod. For materials, it employs standard 1.75 mm PLA filament. Interested parties are asking about ABS, but it remains to be seen if the creators of the ZEUS can be swayed down that path, as some other campaigns have been. ABS is significantly more prone to warping, even with a heated bed, and then there is the added expense of coming up with a heating method that would work on a platform that also serves as a scanning turntable. In spite of the obvious hurdles, it isn't hard to predict the ABS request becoming more vocalized if the campaign starts to reach numbers frequently associated with stretch goals.
The fax feature requires two ZEUS machines. One can send to another via secure connection and users have the option to confirm the file before it starts printing. The 3D scanner consists of an auto-rotating turntable, an HD camera and a swiping laser, for which AIO Robotics touts model generation of millions of points – more than the MakerBot Digitizer. The copy function activates the scanner and printer at the touch of button, as well as the internal software driving them.
Resolution notwithstanding, the ZEUS' built-in scanner is similar to MakerBot's Digitizer in a couple ways. Its scanning software includes model repair. It is able to fill holes in models generated by the scanner, making them 3D printable. However, like the Digitizer, it also suffers difficulty scanning reflective, fuzzy or dark objects. This is simply the nature of laser/camera scanning systems.
The ZEUS continues the late 2013 trend of all-in-one 3D units hitting the market, but it also follows a trail blazed by the Kossel Clear – automatic bed leveling. It could probably be more accurately described as automatic platform tilt or imperfection compensation, because it is handled by a probe and software instead of servos turning bed screws, but no matter. The team at AIO Robotics rightly understands that "user-friendly" means addressing the platform leveling issue.
There is no USB connection, but the ZEUS has a built-in WiFi adapter.
AIO Robotics is providing an API with access to the unit's sensors and motors for hackers to enjoy.
At the time of this writing, there are a few Early Bird discount pledges still available for $1,999. After those are gone, the price goes up to $2,499. This is considerably less than the cost of a MakerBot Digitizer and Replicator 2 combined, but there is one caveat – the ZEUS isn't projected to ship until the summer of 2014. If this is the result of AIO Robotics simply providing a more accurate estimate of the time it will take to get everything done, then it could be seen as a good thing. Crowd-funded technology that requires mass production is frequently delivered late.