Right now 3D printing curriculums, if they exist, are fairly sparse. Putting a two thousand dollar machine in front of a grade schooler usually ends up in a lot of 3D printed Yoda heads and not much education while the learning curve for most 3D design tools is steep. That’s what the founders of NVBOTS, AJ Perez, Forrest Pieper, Christopher Haid, and Mateo Peña Doll, are looking to solve.
Their product, the NVPRO, is a 3D printer with a few interesting features. The two most interesting are the automatic removal system which pops parts off of the build plate when they are done and a built-in print server that allows you to print from any device. This means you can run large batches of prints from different users with each part popping off as its printed. This means a class of students can send jobs to a printer and then pick them up just as they would a laser printer.
The printer also supports a central “admin” who can check jobs before they are printed as and offers a set of pre-made objects for makers to use in order to build their own things. When you put it all together, you get a sort of one-stop-shop for 3D printing.
The company has raised $2 million in funding and has 74 users right now testing the service and printers.
“We have developed the only 3D printer that can run 24-7 without human interaction and that can be simply controlled from any device. Every other product on the market requires a skilled human operator to baby sit the machine and requires the use of a dedicated computer,” said Perez. In short, rather than requiring a special caste of engineers to manage 3D printers, the NVPRO can be as simple to use as a copier.
The team started the project when they ran into the frustration of 3D printing in a college environment (they went to MIT). Rather than design apps for existing printers, they built their own printer.
You can’t go out and buy one of these things, however. The company is essentially selling a subscription to use the printer and also sells the filament. An educational package costs $2,999 a year and allows for unlimited users and access to the part library. If this sounds pricy, consider that a standalone printer costs about the same and offers little in the way of support. Sure, a school could buy a $599 printer and set it up somewhere, but NVBOTS hopes to offer a bit more.
“NVBOTS is focused on helping students bring their ideas to life. Most 3D printing processes are far too cumbersome for students and teachers, prohibiting widespread adoption of a technology that offers a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to education,” said Perez.
It’s a fascinating idea and one that could take some getting used to – just like 3D printing itself.