Note: This article has been updated to reflect clarifications made the following day by BotObjects in a press release. The updated information is at the bottom of the page.
There is a lot of buzz in 3D printing circles about the advent of a personal class 3D printer that will utterly turn the industry on its head – the ProDesk3D by BotObjects. Its messianic feature list is so amazing, some are having difficulty believing the printer really exists. One thing is clear. If it does exist, the ProDesk3D will go down in history as the printer that put every other personal class 3D printer and a significant portion of professional class 3D printers out of business.
It is said to have a self-calibrating platform. If that means auto-leveling of the build platform, this feature alone would probably be enough to crush all other printers in its class. Another first is the inclusion of a second nozzle which emits water-soluble PVA as build support material. If that isn't enough, the printer's stats boast a 25 micron layer resolution. Combine those three features with proprietary software for ease-of-use and a revolution would definitely be born. But, wait. There's more.
The coup de grâce making everyone question the printer's existence is full color PLA printing. Theoretically, the ProDesk3D melts and mixes PLA from CMYK cartridges, enabling it to print full color. While it is fairly easy to conceive combining a Filastruder-like system and 3D printer in order to print any single color this way, it is hard to imagine printing full color, for a very basic reason. When plastic is extruded through a nozzle, some of the plastic is left in the hot end and nozzle. That remaining plastic would be of a specific color, even if that color had been created by mixing plastics together in a previous melting chamber.
This means the system probably couldn't work by employing the thermoplastic extrusion techniques we are familiar with today. However, if the plastic remains melted at all times prior to being laid onto the build surface, the technology would be similar to polymer multi-jet 3D printing – a professional class standard. Implementing such a system with melted PLA may be possible, but one would think any print job done this way would be mind-numbingly slow. The colors would have to be melted and mixed together prior to each droplet being produced and any previous residue would somehow have to be removed before this could take place.
If BotObjects has successfully created a new PLA full color printing solution, it isn't just a game changer, it's a whole new game. It would be easy to understand a lack of willingness to divulge technological trade secrets in this regard, especially if patents are pending. However, those patents better come through fast, as the printer is said to become available within the next couple months.
The guys at EngineerVsDesigner (you can find their youtube channel here) interviewed BotObjects' Martin Warner recently, trying to find answers to some of the many questions being raised. Mr. Warner wasn't willing to provide detailed specifics for everything, but he certainly seems familiar with the 3D printing market and sounds confident about his product.
3D Printer World has emailed BotObjects, requesting video of the printer in action. While it is tempting to simply assume this printer is not real, we aren't ready to make that judgement. Martin Warner is a British individual. He has discussed technology on numerous television programs and appears professionally legitimate. He has founded multiple ventures as has his partner, Mike Duma, also British. Previous associations include enrecruit.com, wefund.com and talkbiznow.com. Granted, these are internet start-ups, not hardware based, but some appear to be successful, nonetheless. The fact that each of these men are listed as currenlty being officers in several different companies may or may not be relevant. Both have hundreds of connections on their Linkedin pages.
UPDATE: BotObjects has just issued a press release that clarifies some of the concerns presented here. The clarifications are as follows: Yes, what they were calling a self-calibrating platform means auto-leveling of the build platform. Additionally, the term, "full color," does not mean full color 3D printing. BotObjects now explains that the DeskPro3D is able to pull from a full color palette, allowing you to choose a single color for printing. While it could be argued that the proper term for such a feature would be "custom color" and not "full color," that clarification alone removes the printer from the probably-not-possible category. The rest of its features are still amazing, particularly the auto-leveling platform. We are anxiously awaiting video.