Emerging tools are allowing makers to efficiently test and refine their designs over multiple iterations to ensure that the final product effectively meets the needs of its end users.
Archimedes, the Greek mathematician credited with calculating pi, is also known for making “Eureka!” the go-to exclamation for anyone who has arrived at a moment of great insight or inspiration. Makers experience this moment over and over, and the corresponding rush of dopamine can make the creative experience highly addictive.
But when the eureka moment is followed by long hours of slogging away with little progress towards bringing a great idea to life, the experience loses some of its joy. To keep makers moving forward, a raft of new technologies are appearing to enable quick, affordable iterations on the original idea. This trend promises multi-approach prototyping for the creative community.
To explore this trend in greater depth, we spoke with Jens Windau, CEO of AIO Robotics. He described how their new ZEUS 3D printer was designed precisely to enable faster production of 3D objects and keep makers in the eureka zone.
In 2013, AIO Robotics raised more than $100,000 on Kickstarter to launch what they have dubbed “The world’s first 3D copy machine.” What has drawn attention is the way ZEUS fills a gap in the 3D-printing market that, for many, represented the magic moment for mass adoption of 2D printers — the all-in-one machine.
Says Windau, “We envisioned that future 3D printers will offer scan/print/copy/fax functionality of 3D objects with just the push of a button. Why spend hours on CAD modeling an object, if you could conveniently just 3D copy a clay model, an art sculpture, or any object instead?” Even with the rapid rate of innovation within 3D-printing technology, ZEUS represents something entirely new — the elimination of separate machines to model an existing 3D object, to print that model, and to distribute the model to other machines for replication.
Additionally, says Windau, ZEUS incorporates ease of setup that is unique in the industry. “On-board scanning, scan data processing, slicing, printing can all be done with the touch of a button. ZEUS comes ready out of the box, initial setup time is less than 10 minutes.”
This is an aspect of 3D printers that has historically slowed the process of innovation and iteration for many makers. By building in an element of artificial intelligence, the machine self-adjusts and eliminates time-consuming calibration.
Says Windau, “Users no longer have to spend time on bed-leveling their printing surface for hours over and over again.” For designers and DIYers, this presents an opportunity to get started much faster, going from inspiration to creation in minutes.
To Windau, ZEUS represents a leap forward in the 3D-printing promise: “Quicker, cheaper, and more customized making. 3D printers allow shorter design cycles, whether it is for households or schools.” These shorter design cycles are essential for makers who are layering innovation on innovation as they tweak projects towards a final state.
Zeus allows that process to advance quicker and more smoothly. “The critical part is the content service,” says Windau. “Customers need to be able to create 3D model content, modify it, share it, and be able to print it easily.”
Tech researcher Gartner, Inc. projects the sales of 3D printers to reach 1.1 million in 2017, with plug-and-play capability being the dynamic which will unlock the consumer market. This confirms what Windau believes about where ZEUS is headed — namely, to fill a need among makers which, for all of 3D printing’s hype, has yet to be met. “We know that [so far] a total of only 150,000 3D printers got sold worldwide.”
With onboard scan-and-print functionality, ZEUS will jump-start the process of innovation for many makers by speeding the work of modeling from existing objects.
Additionally, the cycle of tweak-test-re-tweak is shortened with the self-adjusting aspects of the printer. And with the ability to “fax” an object from one machine to another, makers who are collaborating on production of an object can actually put prototypes in the hands of their peers instantly, no matter where team members are located.
Innovators like Windau are harnessing the maker mindset in service to their fellow tinkerers and DIY creatives. Increasingly, they’re putting the means to quickly and cheaply produce a working prototype into the hands of makers everywhere, extending the eureka moment well past the initial flash of inspiration.