On August 28, 2013, Mebotics, LLC launched the Microfactory – which quickly began to gain notoriety as the “world’s first machine shop in a box” – on Kickstarter. According to the press release, “The Microfactory will be the first, widely-available machine which joins additive and subtractive manufacturing, and integrates machining with 3D printing into a safe, self-cleaning, networkable unit.”
The Microfactory has been designed & built by the Mebotics team during the course of the past year, and their Kickstarter funding goal is set at $1 million. For more details you can read the press release in its entirety after the break.
“After putting so much effort into what we truly believe to be a revolution in accessible 3D printing technology, we’re thrilled to be ready to share it with the public,” said Jeremy Fryer-Biggs, one of the four co-founders of Mebotics. “The beauty of the Microfactory is its broad range of applications. Imagine being able to do most of your prototyping work, including machining parts and etching circuit boards, on a single machine.”
The Microfactory has a total of five “heads”, four of which are devoted to printing, & placed on two separate heaters. This allows for printing in four colors of the same material, or two colors on two different materials, and on the same part. The fifth head is specifically for milling, which is capable of cutting and etching wood, plastic, and some metals (with an optional upgrade). The user-friendly features are designed to bring a deeper level of industrial capability to those with smaller workshops.
Also included is a vacuum port to remove all debris created during milling, an air filter, a highly visible emergency-stop button, encased belts and motors (to keep clothing from getting entangled in moving parts) and noise-reducing housing (to keep late-night enthusiasts from getting caught by those angry neighbors!). Drawing upon multiple years of experience building and using industrial tools, the Mebotics team aims to create an easy-to-use machine for anyone who is serious about 3D printing / machining.
Unlike many other 3D printers, the Microfactory has a built-in, on-board computer, giving it many unique capabilities. Due to its Internet connectivity, the Microfactory allows users to view the progress of projects in real-time from a phone or tablet, start and stop jobs remotely, or network multiple machines together for a more efficient production speed. All of the software components used within the Microfactory are open-source, and every piece of hardware is designed to be upgraded and / or modified by more intrepid users: The gantry itself is intended to support multiple head attachments, and the entire left wall of the machine is easily removable, able to support additional modules.
“The Microfactory is an open platform designed to be adaptable to the needs of its users,” Fryer-Biggs explained. “Printing and milling seemed like the most obvious initial combination, but we envision people going a lot further — whether it’s adding a 3D scanning head, converting it to a computerized paint-shop, or making an innovative food-extruder.” He adds, “If anybody does use it for making awesome new food, they’re invited to bring it by the shop.”
Mebotics aimed to make the Microfactory the premier all-in-one factory for small businesses — biotech / design firms, architects, teachers — along with artists, early / new adopters, and avid hobbyists.
“We’ve tried to leave the door open for even some really extreme applications. With WiFi connectivity, the Microfactory can be run from the middle of nowhere: a research station in Antarctica, a basecamp in the Himalayas, or even a military outpost could download a file and make replacement parts on the spot.”
This highly creative spirit is deeply rooted within the company’s slogan: “Ask Me What I Can’t Make.”
To learn about the full range of the machine specifications and current upgrades which might be available, visit the Microfactory page on www.kickstarter.com. Backers can donate in amounts from $1-$9,995, with pre-orders of the Microfactory starting at donations of $3,995. To learn more, visit mebotics.com/microfactory or follow Mebotics on Facebook.
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