Singapore-based company romscraj has just released a portable 3D printer, the Portabee, but it is by no means the only one of its kind on the market. Tantillus, for example, is billed by makers Indiegogo as a 'truly portable opensource 3D printer' and the first batch is due to ship to customers this summer.
Tantillus developed as an evolution of the RepRap 3D printer, but, unlike the printer that inspired it, will fit into a case measuring 240 x 240 x 300mm. Weighing in at less than 4kg, Tantillus will print most items on the Thingverse site, up to a maximum size of 100mm cubed. An LCD screen and SD card slot plus its own power supply all ensure that Tantillus will print on the move without the need for a PC. At C$850 (£530) for a kit and C$1500 (£935) for a fully assembled model, Tantillus isn't exactly cheap but, as it is self-replicating and can even print its own case, you'll only ever need to buy one.
Slightly larger and heavier than Tantillus is the UP! 3D portable printer from Delta Micro Factory Corp, or PP3DP. The UP!, it has to be said, does look more elegant than Tantillus and, according to its makers, requires no special training to use. At $1499 (£960), the price is comparable to Tantillus, although a 'mini' version for $1000 (£640) has just been announced.
All of which brings us back to the Portabee, which may just be the smallest and cheapest portable 3D printer currently available. 3D printing technology is moving rapidly and the fact that you can now buy a portable device for the price of a mid-range colour laser printer is testament to that fact. Portabee, though, takes affordability and portability to another level entirely as it weighs just 2.8kg, fits into a laptop bag and costs just $480 – that's £307!
Just as we're getting used to the idea of practical, affordable 3D printers becoming commonplace in the home, it seems that 3D printing on the move will soon become commonplace too. What's next, we wonder?
by Anthony Morgan