During this years EuroMold, German company RepRap presented its new 3D printer NEO as well as the brand new electronic board RAMPS 1.4.2. The new printer will be delivered as a ready-to-print device and the design goals were as following: “unpack, set-up and print”. In other words: an easy-to-use printer designed for the masses. We spoke to Florian Bautz, Managing Director of German RepRap GmbH about RepRap’s new technology and about the future of 3D printing in general.
What is the main important innovation about your new NEO 3D printer, do you think?
FB: “The important innovation is that it’s not a DIY kit, but a ready-to-print assembled device for a rather reasonable price. This gives people without deep technical knowledge a chance, to easily start with 3D printing. It is still RepRap-based which means, we do not use proprietary technology and filament. We use PLA filament, which can be bought at various sources, which keeps the material prices low.”
With the RAMPS 1.4.2 board, RepRap keeps adhering to the open-source hardware spirit. Why do you think this open-source is so important?
FB: “Open-source means that our printers and therefore our customers benefit of the developments of a big community sharing their knowledge about 3D printing. If someone develops something, he gives this knowledge to the community and everyone can build the same things. This ensures future-proof products. Referring to our RAMPS 1.4.2 electronics, we used the Open Source RAMPS 1.4., made it better and more reliable by changing the fuses, adding suppression capacitors to the end-stops and a new external reset connector and 2 stepper motor connectors per sockets.”
Open-source leads to creative DIY-things, but also to things which some see as dangerous, such as 3D printing guns. How far do you think we could go with 3D printing? Will we be in need of any limitations for the future?
FB: “I think there will be regulations about printing things, such as weapons. Another concern might be, how to protect your copyright. But I think 3D printing is unstoppable. We will print our spare parts, our toys, our ideas. It just has begun.”
Right now RepRap is targeting on professional customers. Do you mean companies or also customers?
FB: “With the X400 we are targeting companies, designers, architects, etcetera. The new NEO ready-to-print 3D printer is designed for private users.”
Private users, that’s interesting. When will be the breakthrough year for 3D printing, do you think? When will unprofessional customers have their own 3D printers?
FB: “Unprofessional customers need ready-to-print devices. We think 2015 will come the breakthrough.”
And what will be the main things 3D printing could help society with?
FB: “3D printing will change a lot. We will be less depending on companies providing us things. We’ll just print them. This will lead to more individualized products and – from a company point of view to a growing market of mass customized products.”
The first 3D printing shop in Berlin – Botspot – has just opened doors. Does this make you think about opening an official RepRap store in Germany?
FB: “At the moment there are no plans.”